Mohanlal Image Credit: Supplied

Due to the ongoing pandemic and closure of cinema halls across India, several big-ticket films premiered directly on Over The Top (OTT) platforms skipping the traditional theatrical release route.

South Indian superstar Mohanlal’s thriller ‘Drishyam 2’ was no different, releasing on Amazon Prime Video in February. However, the movie will have a different growth trajectory in the UAE.

On July 1, the celebrated drama will release in select theatres in this region. Lead actor Mohanlal believes that a film like ‘Drishyam 2’ was purely meant to be watched in a darkened theatre, projected on the big screen.

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'Drishyam 2' Image Credit: Amazon Prime Video

“It was a movie that was always meant to be watched in a theatre ideally. Unfortunately or fortunately, it first came out on OTT … It was a movie that was so beloved, but watching it in the theatres would have been a different feeling altogether,” said Mohanlal in an exclusive phone interview with Gulf News.

He also revealed that he intends to roll out the film in theatres across the globe.

“There’s a huge request for it to release in the United States and the rest of the Middle East. We want to release the film in theatres in Kerala too. We are planning it all and the UAE is our first stop,” said Mohanlal in Malayalam.

But one of Kerala’s most beloved actors is aware that even the best laid plans can go awry.

“When we decided to do the sequel of ‘Drishyam’, we wanted to make a cracker of a film expecting people to return to theatres in full force. There’s no denying that our OTT release was a blessing in disguise, but we had to put it out on OTT because we couldn’t hold the film any longer since we had other films lined up for release. Even my ‘Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham’ has to release in the theatres soon and we couldn’t hold onto this anymore,” said Mohanlal.

His upcoming warrior epic ‘Marakkar …’ was scheduled to release on May 13, but the fierce second wave of COVID-19 in India, which led to cinema halls closing its doors once again, put all their plans on hold.

Mohanlal in 'Marakkar' Image Credit: Supplied

Even actor Fahadh Faasil’s ‘Malik’, originally intended for a theatrical release, has decided to opt for an OTT release.

More than 60 Malayalam films are waiting in the wings for a release and reports claim that more than Rs2.7 billion (Dh133 million) is at stake.

COVID-19 has been tough on all of us around the globe. Our entertainment industry is a huge industry and we are all praying that we make it all get to work again. It’s not just actors, but artists like musicians, magicians, Kathakali dancers, Broadway performers are all suffering. I hope we are all back on our feet again. We are praying.

- Mohanlal

While OTT platforms have come as a ray of hope for the ailing Indian entertainment industry, Mohanlal believes that certain films are meant solely for theatrical releases. Compromising on that front would be a disservice to those projects.

“‘Drishyam 2’ coming out on OTT gave the Malayalam film industry several opportunities, but it’s always better to watch large-scale, ambitious films with that perfect sound systems … While some films are meant for OTT viewing, not every movie is fit for such viewing … There’s no point in releasing films that are not meant for OTT on such platforms,” said Mohanlal.

A worthy sequel?

While he may feel cheated out of a glorious cinematic showcase for ‘Drishyam 2’, the actor is ecstatic about the film’s reception globally (many watched the original after watching ‘Drishyam 2’, says Mohanlal).

The proverbial curse of sequels being less impressive than the original film was lifted by director Jeetu Joseph. And what helped tremendously was that the solid script was enlivened by some great performances by all its actors including Dubai-based talent Asha Sharath and seasoned actors Meena and Siddique.

The ‘Drishyam’ series revolves around Georgekutty, a doting father of two young girls, whose idyllic familial existence is shattered when they get embroiled in a murder cover-up. The dead teenager is the son of a high-ranking police official, making it a massive case instantly.

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Mohanlal and Siddique in 'Drishyam 2' Image Credit: Amazon Prime Video

Safe to say, the twisty thriller and crime procedural has enough surprises to keep you hooked.

Georgekutty’s wily character has become emblematic of a middle-class man doing his best protect his family at all costs.

“The success of ‘Drishyam 2’ has to be pegged to the sheer brilliance in the script. The film relied heavily on the power of narration. It was so descriptive. Georgekutty has become this brand and people who watch him are somehow rooting for him to escape the smart cops. As an actor I feel so great that I could play Georgekutty. There were so many situations that I could play out as an actor,” said Mohanlal.

‘Drishyam 2’ remains one of the rare movie sequels that wasn’t a cinematic quickie that was looking at riding on the coattails of its original.

While the Malayalam-language original released in December 2013 and spawned remakes in other Indian languages, the second instalment took years to simmer and had an open ending, hinting at a third part.

Is 'Drishyam 3' in the works?

While Mohanlal isn’t ready to spill the beans just yet, he doesn’t rule out the possibility of a third part either.

“It’s going to be a big challenge to make a third part. Remember this movie ‘Drishyam 2’ itself saw more than six years in the making. So if we even intend to make a third part, it will be quite risky. We should be very careful because you are opening yourself to challenge and debate. It has to be more challenging than the second part,” he said.

‘Drishyam 2’ also holds the distinction of being movie aggregator IMDb’s highest rated Indian movie of 2021 so far, with Mohanlal’s superlative acting being appreciated universally.

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The sequel — which shows the police rekindling the old murder case with Georgekutty and family as its prime suspects — was a worthy follow-up. On the surface Georgekutty is this ultimate protective father figure, but his ability to hoodwink the police and outsmart the law also makes him crafty and diabolical.

“What’s Georgekutty as an individual and as a person still eludes me. I may have played and acted the part, but I still don’t know this character too well … He stands for both good and evil. He’s on a different plane … Nobody knows his true colours, not even the actor who played his part to the viewers,” said Mohanlal. His seminal character is like this formidable one-man-army against all evils.

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Mohanlal in Drishyam 2 Image Credit: Instagram/Mohanlal

While Mohanlal revelled in sinking his teeth into Georgekutty’s psyche, the actor impishly reveals that he’s ‘yet to figure him’ out. It’s one of those rare instances when the National Award-winning actor, who has acted in over several hundred films over three decades, has stopped to over-analyse Georgekutty.

“Think about it: when something happens in his life, he’s not capable of showing his real emotions because that might land him in trouble. Even the emotions that he displays is calculated and weighed upon carefully,” he said. “He doesn’t do anything incidentally and that makes him a tough person to figure out. But he is a brilliant character for any actor to play, but trust me I still don’t get him. Maybe that’s the charm.”

Don’t miss it!

‘Drishyam 2’ releases in UAE cinemas on July 1.

Did you know?

When this interview with Gulf News was conducted, Mohanlal was in an Ayurvedic treatment centre in Kerala and was aiming towards a clean and fitter existence. In his recent posts, he’s looking visibly leaner and more flexible. His secret?

“If you start respecting your body, anything is possible because our body will listen to us,” said Mohanlal.

On the work front, he’s also eager to get back on the director’s seat with ‘Baaroz’.

“All the actors are from the United States and just after five days, our shoot was halted. We hope to resume in August,” said Mohanlal.