Before I get into the bhramam review, I’d like to point out a great example of a filmmaker (christopher nolan) who put his own unique twist on the source material (insomnia, 1997) when he remade it. seemed cool while essentially telling the same story. one noticeable difference was in the way they ended. two different results, you’ll see.
I was hoping that ravi k chandran’s bhramam, the Malayalam remake of sriram raghavan’s andhadhun, would give me a similar feeling. It didn’t. There are noticeable minor differences confined for the most part to the visual choices and to a lesser extent to the third act of the script, but that’s about it. We’ll get to the latter in a bit. no spoilers, of course. First, the performances.
Let’s admit that andhadhun was not an exercise in acting. it was more about the plot, and the actors were there to serve it and not have their performances take center stage. but what worked in that movie’s favor is how all the actors managed to keep their performances restrained, even when asked to go wild. the acting and narration worked in perfect synchronicity.
There was no attempt on the part of one to outshine the other. everything worked like the beats of a great piece of classical music: piano, in this case. I remember being incredibly relaxed when watching andhadhun for the first time on the big screen because it was organized and edited in a way that kept you fully engaged in the narrative.
bhramam, on the other hand, has areas that test patience. even a versatile composer like jakes bejoy can’t do much in a movie confused about where to put his music. it’s like participating in a musical chair where everyone is always seated.
in andhadhun, the characters behaved as if each event in the movie was happening for the first time. the characters in bhramam seem to have been rehearsing their reactions to situations they had already anticipated.
the simi in andhadhun (played by the unique and irreplaceable taboo) seemed more complex than it lets on. this simi feels like the tiktok version in comparison. At one point, Ray Mathews (Prithviraj) calls Simi a “tiktok heroine.” well, you’re right. but the funny thing is that sometimes she acts like a tiktok star too.
Having said that, bhramam manages to be a halfway decent remake simply because the actors, including mamta, do well in parts. the culprits are directly from film noir. i also felt they did something interesting with ray, the blind (or not?) pianist who shows up in the wrong place at the wrong time. prithviraj does indeed oscillate between innocence and mischief, particularly in the first half. Ray is a weirdo who goes around acting like a saint.
for example, he would not indulge in adultery to achieve his goals, but he has already shown himself to be someone with unstable morals due to a particular habit. ray reminds me of that guy who secretly admires a sexy photo shoot on instagram but goes on twitter to talk about the objectification of women in item songs.
there are times when prithviraj reminded me of mohanlal and mukesh from the comedies of the 80s and 90s where the main characters used their charm to trick women. I also liked what they did with the unreliable narrator here. Unlike the original, the minutely altered third act makes us doubt the veracity of the flashback that Ray narrates “two years later” at the climax. If I remember correctly, this plot development was treated in andhadhun as if it were the truth.
unni mukundan as dinesh, the dubious cop with ‘muscles but no brains’, is quite funny in places. i liked that he didn’t try to imitate inspector manohar from manav vij in andhadhun. The humor sometimes comes from the idea that Dinesh is not as successful as Manohar when it comes to hiding his nervousness.
sometimes it’s the meta situation that does it, like when dinesh is trying to finish a dozen eggs while dodging questions from his wife (ananya, also funny). Anyone who knows unni’s fitness habits and her real-life personality will have a laugh or two right now.
At first I wanted to approach bhramam as if I was seeing it for the first time, but that is difficult to do when one has seen the original. having seen andhadhun twice, the images are still fresh in my mind. so when the remake is mostly a frame-by-frame remake, it just becomes a ‘find the differences’ game. maybe it will work for those who are not familiar with andhadhun.
the creators claimed that bhramam is more fun. i have to disagree yes it did make me laugh in places but the energy the movie had at the beginning fades the moment jagadish enters the scene, and it’s not his fault. he he is good. in fact, i was happy to see that vintage jagadish again. but it seems to me that the movie lost interest in its characters after a certain point.
It’s like waiting a long time for the auction to arrive and then they tell you that it arrived, did its job and is gone. andhadhun benefited from a relatively shorter runtime and more precise editing. bhramam made me look at the clock.
Michael Caine once said that only unsuccessful films should be remade, as long as a safe way to improve the original can be found. As someone who starred in a lackluster remake of one of his first brilliant vehicles, he should know.
director: ravi k chandran
Starring: prithviraj sukumaran, mamta mohandas, unni mukundan, raashi khanna, jagadish
streaming on: amazon prime video