Perhaps the biggest credit to director Jeethu Joseph is how he drowns any lazy comparisons between Drishyam and Paapanasam. To stand up a remake and get it working for a Tamil audience (dead agains slow roast scripts) against a new wave of signature home-grown stock, is an phenomenal achievement.
Barely five minutes into the film, all memories of Drishyam were gone. I have watched Drishyam a few dozen times, so that’s quiet an achievement by Paapanasam. The only little tinkers that stand out were the subtle underplays and some added expositions to the original, which help smoothen the film’s flow.
Kamal has this thing with remakes, where he tries to elevate the script (in a healthy way), but mostly ends up messing with our experience. ‘Unnaipol Oruvan’ was such a misfire, in my opinion, where he goes too “Peter” with a “common man” role. To stand apart from Mohanlal’s George Kutty and deliver a character as though we’ve never watched him before is no simple act. Paapanasam is a showcase of what Kamal can do, with the right script and an equal adept director.
I would go a step further (with the clear risk of being blacklisted from any future Onam lunches) and suggest that Kamal goes one up on the character. This could very well be the advantage of a second performance. It could also be that Kamal’s suggestion to Jeethu Joseph that Paapanasam bear some “emotional” weight. Ghibran does not disappoint Kamal in that department. His background score keeps getting mature with every Kamal outing.
Can point out a few scenes where Kamal steals the thunder over. Most of them when he has to deal with inner turmoils wrought upon him trying to restore his moral compass. The one where he does a half-hearted convincing act with Gautami that they have done nothing wrong, while his conscience pulls him in the opposite direction, is as classy as an actor can get.
The supporting characters from the original have nothing new to prove here beyond a stellar repeat performance, but how the new additions step up is a triumph in both casting, acting and directing.
Kamal Haasan, once explained his complicated working relationship with his directors with this analogy, “If I trust my driver, I would doze off in a jiffy. If I don’t, I would never rest a moment”. His trust in Jeethu Joseph shines through with a performance that is vintage Kamal and hard to explain. Never emoting outside our comfort zone (watching Kamal) or trying to hard. We wish we have more such directors for Kamal.