Durgamati: The Myth

wogma rating: Watch if you have nothing better to do (?)

quick review:

Story with spirits and politicians who want to possess. Tremendous potential for acting and writing. Acting delivers. Writing behaves like it's possessed—erratic, jerky, creates 🙄 drama to say what it wants, final want is predictable.

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Director: G Ashok
Running time: 155 minutes
Genres: Thriller
More Movie Info

A thriller’s very job description is to keep the audience guessing. How you keep them guessing might satisfy the audience’s quench of having watched a good thriller. Or it could annoy them. Durgamati throws reveals at you as shabbily and as on-the-face as any thriller could. There is little fore-shadowing, so any character-unveiling is a contrived attempt to shock. Even worse, the reveal is predictable even without the fore-shadowing.

The thickest of the silver linings is Bhumi Pednekar.

The set-up is actually done well. Both parts of the story—the creation of the political scandal and the haunted bungalow—create intrigue and are the right amount of complicated. From the beginning, you are looking for the connecting link between the two too. Actually, you know where it is, but you are wondering how it will connect. In relaying the ‘how,’ the writing plummets into convenient discoveries and logic-defying epiphanies.

As the film approached its last 45 minutes, I was wondering how they were going to tie up so many loose ends in such a short time. There was a corrupt son, a social activist, a woman murdering her lover, a lingering spirit who is unnecessarily troubling an honest civil officer, and more. Considering the unnecessary dramatisation so far, I was only expecting the climatical drama to slow the film down even more. And they picked the easiest way out.

The last forty minutes or so had the villain and the protagonist telling us what they did and how they did it. For one, it was utterly implausible that either of them got away with such an elaborate plan. Besides, neither needed such a grand show for what they wanted to. At a point, some characters, like us, are literally watching a recording of another character telling the story. And just when you are glad that all the tell-don’t-show is over, you have a character asking for further clarifications, and the doer obliges by telling some more.

This was when I allowed my mind to meander to look for silver linings. And there are a few. Sure, the melodrama begins from the word go. Bombastic music and commonplace thriller tropes like jump-starts and empty rocking-chairs rocking don’t let the drama rest either. Amidst all that, though, two women are trying to out-think each other. The protagonist herself is in a non-standard lead role. She even falls in love for reasons that make sense!

There is an attempt at political commentary too. While it is in-the-face, it is certainly better than nothing. There are jibes at people in power, calling anything they don’t like ‘negativity’ and asking people to not ask questions. People are asked to sacrifice because, development. Protestees set up violence to discredit protests. There is even a mention of the corrupt not deserving a second chance. At one point a neat equation is drawn up: citizens = God, No one > God, ∴ ruling party not > citizens. You also have a cute attempt at representing more than two states of the country. And the movie, especially the first half, is sprinkled with many such nuggets.

And the thickest of the silver linings is Bhumi Pednekar. From a little before the mid-point of the film till the very end, irrespective of what you think of the story, her performance is stunning. Not only does she oscillate between being one-note straightforward and possessed-by-a-spirit, but she finds a space to explore between the two extremes. At one point you wonder if the spirit-possession bit has sapped all her energy only to realise that her character is tired.

As the film approached its last 45 minutes, I was wondering how they were going to tie up so many loose ends in such a short time. And they picked the easiest way out—tell-don’t-show.

Unfortunately, the rest of it feels too gimmicky. Other characters fit in forcefully rather than organically. They go between being brave and scared-to-death within moments. It is difficult to blame the actors then. Even if the dubbing was not off-the-mark, the characters only offer that much room for engaged (and engaging) performances.

You have a prisoner brought to a haunted bungalow for questioning. And this non-VIP prisoner is given a bedroom, an on-call house-help, and a free will to move around the bungalow. And a person who has entered the bungalow to kill her forgets his agenda and starts to save her?

Some characters grow a conscience only for it to recede unexplainably. A CBI officer suddenly has just one scene with her daughter in the latter part of the film. Of course, it is yet another convenient trope. The attempt at humour through 90s-style comic relief, innuendo, sad jokes, etc. don’t let you take the film seriously either. The other mumbo-jumbo like black magic and psychiatry add to the facepalm-type of fun. The laughable attempt at playing with the timeline doesn’t help either. In fact, after the movie, when I laid out the events sequentially in my head, it created a stronger narrative.

All this unimaginative clutter is also responsible for the 30+ minutes beyond the tolerable 2-hour mark. Not only do these stunts try your patience, but they also test your willpower in keeping your mouse away from the “speed” button.

As I watched the film go from mildly engaging to how-much-longer, I realised why I couldn’t take to reviewing since the lockdowns began. Even a film you don’t enjoy has way too much effort going into it. I have so much to be grateful for. I have convinced myself, for now, that I am only writing about my experience of having watched a film. It dragged on too long giving me too much time to think about all that was going wrong.

- meeta, a part of the audience

20 reviewers(?) - 1 yays 7 so-so 12 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Joginder Tuteja, Planet Bollywood : ...All in all, Durgamati turns out to be one of those rare films (especially in the current times) that you can watch it comfortably with your family. Play it on and you won’t be disappointed.... full review

So-So, by Pankaj Sabnani, Bollywood Hungama : ...Durgamati is long, loud, inconsistent and doesn’t have enough in it to keep you involved. Trimming 20 minutes would have made a lot of difference.... full review

So-So, by Devesh Sharma, Filmfare : ...Spirit possession is the whole point of the film and we must say Bhumi Pednekar has put her heart and soul in those scenes. She has taken to the split personality routine to a T. Bhumi is actually the only actor in the film who has believed in the whole shambolic plot and given her all to it. She plays her part with an undying conviction and her acting is the only redeeming feature in the film. Mahie Gill, Arshad Warsi and Jisshu Sengupta are all talented individuals but are horribly typecast here and are further bogged down by the erratic writing. Kudos to them for not laughing out loud and going with the flow.... full review

So-So, by Madhuri V, Filmi Beat : ...While Thaman's background music in Bhaagamathie was a character in itself, Jakes Bejoy fails to recreate the same magic in Durgamati. Talking about the songs, 'Baras Baras' makes for a soothing hear, but the visuals fall short of being impactful. 'Heer' has forgettable lyrics.... full review

So-So, by Nairita Mukherjee, india today : ...So, should you watch Durgamati or browse for the Hindi-dubbed version of the original? Well, it really makes no difference, for both are exactly the same. Did you hear us say 'exactly'? The choice is strictly yours.... full review

So-So, by Ambica Sachin, Khaleej Times : ...The narrative is never gripping despite all the high octane action, and one never gets to feel the horror of what’s being played out on the screen. Admittedly the dramatic scenes where the sedate, mild-mannered Chanchal transforms into a fierce and furious Durgamati should have been the highpoint of the movie, but even that fizzles out.... full review

So-So, by Vaibhavi V Risbood, Pinkvilla : ...One of the biggest strengths of a thriller or horror is its background score. Unfortunately, in Durgamati, it falls short of expectation.... full review

So-So, by Pallabi Dey Purkayastha, Times of India : ...In a world where politics is often synonymous to hooliganism to some and egalitarianism is an alien concept (again, to some), ‘Durgamati’ does have a lesson or two to impart but the narrative and its storytelling technique is so bland that it slips through the cracks. A dialogue around strong ideologies including women empowerment is always welcome, but it could be delivered better.... full review

Thumbs down, by Rahul Desai, Film Companion : ...For 155 deafening minutes, Durgamati goes hammer and tongs to deliver what is essentially a 3-minute message. It’s the last month of a difficult year, and if this is still the future that awaits us on the other side, pardon me for saying: I don’t like negativity.... full review

Thumbs down, by Anna MM Vertticad, FirstPost : ...Durgamati has the feel of a project that evoked less interest than Bhaagamathie from the maker himself. There’s no other word for it but: ordinary.... full review

Thumbs down, by Bobby Sing, Free Press Journal : ...In all, Durgamati comes as yet another disappointment in the horror genre that just manages to make a saving grace kind of impact through the twist in its climax. Interestingly, that too reminds you of a cult English film’s culmination, mention of which will honestly ruin the entire premise of the film.... full review

Thumbs down, by Vishal Verma, Glamsham.com : ...Bhumi Pednekar disappoints in a big way in her worst movie till date. She charms initially but soon after entering the mansion her efforts to sniffle, snarl, fails miserably. DURGAMATI – THE MYTH was not her cup of tea at all. She is not as strong as Anushka Shetty and how can Amol Palekar do a role designed for Sunny Deol.... full review

Thumbs down, by Rohan Naahar, Hindustan Times : ...He films the simplest scenes in the most complicated manner — multiple cameras zigzag around characters as they make delirious speeches — and spells out every plot twist as if he’s a primary school teacher. And to think of the arrogance that must’ve gone into insisting that Durgmati should be 154 minutes long — that’s more than half-an-hour longer than The Exorcist, and roughly two-and-a-quarter hours longer than your average episode of Scooby Doo. The film is filled with ‘pardafaash’ moments, where characters abruptly pause the plot to cackle about their ulterior motives. Ashok thinks we’re all five years old.... full review

Thumbs down, by Umesh Punwani, koimoi : ...Durgamati is an all-over-the-place horror-drama. The intent of adapting and remaking a good story is clearly missing. It’s a horror of a film!... full review

Thumbs down, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...Yahaan kya chal raha mujhe kuch samajh nahi aa raha (I don't have the foggiest idea what is going on here), says one person. Exactly our point. Durgamati - The Myth is a horror story all right. It peddles a bunch of tawdry notions about vengeance and the occult, all served with an overdose of frenzied drama.... full review

Thumbs down, by Sukanya Verma, Rediff : ...Where Bhumi's misplaced restraint dilutes the hostile impulses of a true blue avenging angel, Mahie Gill's stiff upper lip speaking in a phony Bong accent is unbearably jarring.... full review

Thumbs down, by Nandini Ramnath, Scroll.in : ...None of the other performances is noteworthy, with the movie working purely on the basis of judiciously scattered red herrings, scary moments and its big revelation. The movie demands suspension of disbelief, but not where you expect it – its smartest trick, which has been lifted from that Hollywood film that we may not name.... full review

Thumbs down, by Vinayak Chakravorty, Sify Movies : ...The erratic storytelling affects the characters and, in turn, the performances, too. Bhumi Pednekar brings alive the haunting of Chanchal with the expected quota of bawling and rolling of the eyes, as a high-speed fan stays firmly pointed at her undone hair. She is let down by a ludicrous screenplay, as are the other proven artistes in the cast as Arshad Warsi, Jisshu Sengupta and Mahie Gill.... full review

Thumbs down, by Sayan Ghosh, The Hindu : ...To sum it up, Durgamati - The Myth lays down the blueprint of how a movie should not be made, be it a horror flick or otherwise.... full review

Thumbs down, by Priyanka Roy, The Telegraph : ...At one point, a psychiatrist uses the word Kakorrhaphiophobia, when just saying ‘fear of failure’ would have been so much easier. What I felt during the whole of Durgamati? Thaasophobia... the fear of being bored. That was pure horror. Even if the film wasn’t.... full review

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This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Loads of horror-style violence. Some of it gross too.
  • Language: Clean
  • Nudity & Sexual content: None
  • Concept: An civil service officer is called in for questioning to trap an honest politician.
  • General Look and Feel: Usual horror-style tropes. Nothing spectacular otherwise.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:

Durgamati: The Myth - Cast, crew, links

Lead Cast:
Music Director:
Costume Designer:
Running time:
155 minutes

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