Tag Archives: Bollywood remakes

Movie Review: Durgamati (2020)

1 Star (out of 4)

Watch Durgamati: The Myth on Amazon Prime

Durgamati: The Myth‘s intriguing first half is undone by its messy, twist-happy conclusion.

Writer-director G. Ashok stuck closely to the premise of his 2018 bilingual film Bhaagamathie for this Hindi remake. Bhumi Pednekar takes over the role of an imperiled bureaucrat from Anuskha Shetty.

Pednekar plays civil servant Chanchal Chauhan. Her long association with the squeaky-clean politician Ishwar Prasad (Arshad Warsi) brings her to the attention of the Central Bureau of Investigations. The CBI has been tasked with finding dirt on Prasad because his righteousness is making his fellow politicians look bad. Prasad has promised to leave the country in fifteen days if he can’t find the culprits who’ve been stealing ancient idols from remote village temples — a high standard other politicians don’t want to be held to.

Chanchal is an easy target because she’s in prison awaiting trial for killing her fiance Shakti (Karan Kapadia) — a crime that seems out of character from what little we know about her. Shakti’s vengeful brother Abhay (Jisshu Sengupta) is the police chief responsible for Chanchal’s safety after the CBI moves her to an abandoned palace in the jungle. Locals believe the mansion is haunted, so there’s no chance of anyone interrupting the CBI’s illegal interrogation.

Before Partition, the palace was the home of Queen Durgamati, known for merciless treatment of her enemies. Chanchal is locked in the mansion alone, only brought out during the day for fruitless questioning by CBI Director Satakshi Ganguly (Mahie Gill). Night after night, unseen forces torment Chanchal, psychologically and physically. A psychiatrist and a holy man disagree on the cause of the problem, but one thing is clear: Chanchal is not safe in Durgamati’s palace.

It’s hard to talk about any of the events after this point in the story without getting into spoiler territory. But we can examine what’s happened so far for indications of the kinds of problems that turn the ending into a total circus.

Take the plan to move Chanchal to the palace. The isolation is a selling point, but the mansion is huge and would be difficult to secure. It likely has numerous servants’ exits and other means of egress, but Abhay’s police team padlocks the front gate and calls it a day. Chanchal stays in the mansion alone, while the two cops assigned to guard her sleep in a shack beyond the gate. (The officers periodically get comic side bits that don’t fit the tone of the film at all.) Abhay has cameras installed in the mansion — hard to see how since the layers of dust inside are undisturbed and all the police are too scared to enter — but he doesn’t put one in Chanchal’s bedroom. No one from Satakshi’s CBI team sticks around to monitor the camera feeds overnight anyway. Chanchal could sneak out, and no one would be the wiser until morning.

The point of all this is that director Ashok wanted to use the palace setting no matter what, without thinking through all of the problems the setting presented. This inattention to detail gets worse as the story progresses, diffusing the sense of mystery built in the first half. Events happen for the sake of dramatic twists, and not because they would logically happen that way. Many of the solutions provided aren’t hinted at beforehand, but rather conjured as if by magic.

Gill and Sengupta are careful not to overplay their characters, both of whom undergo some welcome growth. Pednekar and Warsi are good in the parts of the script that allow them to be, less so in the moments that would have been hard for anyone to make convincing.

Throughout the film, elaborate plans like the palace interrogation scheme hinge on characters behaving in very specific ways. When a whole plan could come unraveled if one person makes an unexpected choice, says the wrong thing, or steps in the wrong direction, it strains credulity. Durgamati isn’t detail-oriented enough to be believable.

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The Split Screen Podcast Debuts

Big news! Shah Shahid — the man behind the multimedia review site Blank Page Beatdown — just debuted the Split Screen Podcast. Shah’s guest on the first three episodes of the podcast is none other than… ME!

SplitScreenPodcast

Here’s how Shah sums up the goal of the podcast:

The Split Screen Podcast will compare and analyze movies that are adaptations of other works, directly with the source material that they were inspired by. The goal is to essentially determine how good or bad the adaptations were and, most excitingly, going off on long winded, expletive laced rants when they’re bad.

Bollywood flicks are perfectly suited to such a podcast, given how many Hindi films are remakes of other movies. Shah is a lifelong Bollywood fan with a wide-ranging field of interests — including Hollywood films, comic books, and superhero TV shows — and he reviews them all at Blank Page Beatdown. Check the time stamp on his tweets, and you’ll notice that he stays up well into the night ranting about Dune or the latest episode of Quantico.

Though future episodes will cover films in other genres, the first three episodes are all about Bollywood (my realm of expertise). The initial episode is an intro to the podcast — labeled Episode 00 accordingly — in which we discuss Bollywood remakes in general. Episode 01 compares the Hindi film Ghajini to its far, far, far superior inspiration, Memento. In Episode 02, we rail against the horrible changes made to the female protagonist when Knight and Day was remade as Bang Bang!.

The podcasts are full of spoilers and some swear words, so be forewarned. Please check out the Split Screen Podcast and let me know what you think! Enjoy!

To keep up to date with new episodes of the podcast, follow Split Screen Podcast on Twitter or visit Shah’s website, Blank Page Beatdown.