'Bhramam' Review: Prithviraj Sukumaran Shines In a Dull 'Andhadhun' Remake
Film review of 'Bhramam' the Malayalam remake of 'Andhadhun' starring Prithviraj Sukumaran.
You remember that feeling you got when you watched Bhool Bhulaiya after seeing Manichithrathazhu? Or Hera Pheri after Ramji Rao Speaking? That curl of your upper lip and that sharp intake when you realised it was literally a scene to scene copy? That’s pretty much your viewing experience when you see Bhramam, if you’ve already seen Andhadhun.
The makers may have made it banking on the fact that most Malayalis may not have seen Andhadhun. The problem just might be that most may not have, but the target audience - the youngsters, probably have, since it’s quite a cult classic. Besides, Andhadhun is freely streaming, and we’re fresh from a lockdown/ pandemic/ stay-at-home situation.
However, if you haven’t seen Sriram Raghavan's original feature, this remake will interest you.
Cinematographer-director Ravi K Chandran’s Bhramam has stayed faithful to the original in his Malayalam remake. A bit too faithful. But let’s swiftly move on - Ray Mathews (Prithviraj Sukumaran), is a man pretending to be a blind pianist in Kerala to avail of the freebies he can get by being in that situation. He meets Anna (Raashi Khanna) by accident and she, seeing his talent, arranges for him to start performing at the restaurant she runs with her dad. Here Ray encounters a cheery, ageing movie star Udayakumar (Shankar), who is now a very successful entrepreneur equipped with all the trappings of success, including a young and glamorous trophy wife - Simi (Mamta Mohandas). They seem a happy enough couple each doing their own thing. Udayakumar spending his days watching, rewatching and wistfully enjoying his old movies, and Simi spending his money and arranging her own life using his contacts.
But the real story begins when Ray and Simi’s worlds bizarrely intersect one day, hurtling them down an unholy path of deception, intrigue and survival.
And that’s where you really cannot help but notice the differences between the original and the remake. Since Bhramam is such a blatant copy of the original, there is bound to be comparisons, so let’s just do one. Just to let off some of that pent up frustration.
Lack of Nuance
Andhadhun was memorable for the little things. The subtleties, like Ayushmann Khurrana’s meanness in his interactions with the kid in his building, Tabu’s unsmiling friendliness in the coffee scene, the nonchalant cat… Bhramam lacks any nuance. In staying true to the remake it loses subtlety.
Malayalam films have attained a godly status when it comes to acting. But here, you cringe watching some scenes. They unfold like a college play, predictable and stagey. The scenes at the police station for instance. Or Simi, when Ray actually loses his sight. Even Simi’s lover - Unni Mukundan, (Ray describing him as 'Muscle ulla Mandan' was a good one!) needlessly became a comical character. So did most of the supporting cast. A point that eats into the believability.
Not as Wild
In Andhadhun, the pace of the film was racy and the revelations seemed to twist you like you were on a roller coaster. Here, it’s not quite so wild a ride. Even if you haven’t seen the original, Bhramam clearly has a more languid style, which is not bad in itself, but for this story it ends up lacking the hard punch in the guts that's required.
The music in Bhramam lacks originality. Again probably because it tried to be true to the original and hence came through as a pale imitation. The song at the end was quite a let down. The original music was brilliant - whether the background score with jumpy bits of jazz or the piano pieces chosen to be performed to all the songs.
This is where Bhramam suffers the most. None of the actors are bad. But none of them could infuse anything extra into their characters in any way. So, it all comes out being ho-hum. It's not terrible, it’s earnest but doesn’t touch you beyond that. And at this scale that just doesn’t cut it. You have to have brilliant performances. Now, it’s the brilliance of the story that actually sees the film through. However, the one character perfectly cast, was that of yesteryear heart-throb Shankar as Udayakumar. The use of his song Mizhiyoram... is a good touch, though predictable, if you’ve seen the original. Also Menaka, who actually made a good hit pair with him in real life, speaking at the funeral was poignant.
Director Ravi K Chandran could have made Andhadhun his own with a different style or treatment. But he didn’t for whatever reason… so now it just looks like a watered down version of the original. Not a bad or hopeless version, just nothing brilliant or great. Begs the question - why was it remade in the first place?
The only element that lights a spark is Prithviraj Sukumaran. This role is not a hugely new direction in a comedy or thriller genre, yet he gives an entirely plausible performance. It doesn't give the sense of the actor being challenged and rejuvenated, but he keeps Bhramam watchable.
So, that’s really everything about this rather pointless remake in an era where so many others are etching originality, creativity and brilliance all over Malayalam cinema.
Rating: 2.5 Quints out of 5
(Sangita is a writer, active theatre person and deep sea diving enthusiast, you can connect with her on Twitter at @Sanginamby)
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