Movie Review: ‘Durgamati’ (Amazon Prime)

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‘Durgamati’ is a film created for theatres, with tailor-made moments you can hoot, clap or gasp at with a large group of your friends and family. Watching a massy entertainer like this in your own living room takes away from the intended experience, but a movie should be still able to hold its own despite the size of the screen. ‘Durgamati’ does, but not without a lot of stumbling.

Disgraced IAS Officer Chanchal Chauhan (Bhumi Pednekar), in jail for allegedly murdering her fiancé Shakti (Karan Kapadia), is secretly placed under house arrest in an old mansion under the instructions of CBI Officer Satakshi Ganguly (Mahie Gill). Ganguly is hoping to find dirt against honest politician Ishwar Prasad (Arshad Warsi) in connection with the recent thefts of idols from local temples, and Chanchal, his former personal secretary, may have some answers. While her days are occupied by CBI interrogations, at night Chanchal is busy with an investigation of her own. Is the mansion she is locked in really haunted by Rani Durgamati? Among ghosts and politicians, there is a bigger conspiracy afoot.

‘Durgamati’, despite the clever twists and turns, doesn’t try to be the smartest crime thriller. It’s efforts are geared more towards providing entertainment than covering plot holes. The comedy scenes are amusing, but the horror – mostly pointless jump scares, cobwebs and shadows – is too heavy handed and obvious to work. Jostling between clever and fun, the film ends up being neither, which is unfortunate since the story itself has potential.

There is nothing subtle about ‘Durgamati’ and both Arshad Warsi and Mahie Gill rise to occasion with dramatic dialogue delivery and over-the-top portrayals. Their performances match the tone of the material, making them a joy to watch on screen. Karan Kapadia’s flashbacks are a welcome break during the dull scares of the first half. Bhumi Pednekar, however, sticks out like a sore thumb. Larger-than-life roles like this one require performers to go beyond acting, to shine through with their inherent presence, something that does not come naturally to Pednekar. Her attempts come off laboured, especially in comparison to Anushka Shetty’s effortless star power in the original ‘Bhaagamathie’ (2018). In Pednekar’s defense, she had huge shoes to fill. That is perhaps, the downfall of the movie.

As a remake, ‘Durgamati’ can be safely added to the list of inferior adaptations that Bollywood is producing. G. Ashok is not aiming to reinvent the wheel here, yet the vibrant sets and scenes of ‘Bhaagamathie’ are replaced by grand, dull hollowness. If you have seen the original, skip this. If you haven’t, just watch the original instead.

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