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Monday, Oct 03, 2022

Gulshan Devaiah-Drashti Dhami’s Duranga is a bland, soulless adaptation of Lee Joon-gi’s emotionally volatile Flower Of Evil

As Zee 5's Duranga releases, here's looking back the original show, Flower Of Evil, which starred Lee Joon-gi and Moon Chae-won.

DurangaDuranga is an adaptation of Flower Of Evil (Photo :Zee5, Netflix)

In Flower of Evil, the original series from which Duranga has been adapted, Ji-won (played by Moon Chae Won) jumps into the swimming pool to rescue her husband, Hyun-soo (played by Lee Joon-gi). She doesn’t know how or why he has been kidnapped, tortured and left to drown in a pool. But, at that point, none of that matters and she just knows one thing — she needs to save him. She frantically performs CPR, crying hysterically, while Hyun-soo in his semi-conscious state just hears her screams. He muses over this scene later, he cannot quite comprehend his wife’s anguish as he can’t imagine that he would be so invaluable to someone.

Flower Of Evil is filled with many such scenes where the pain of the characters and their emotional turbulence felt visceral. It was far, far more than just a normal crime drama — it was a deeply uncomfortable look at human emotions, desperate attempts at redemption and the dilemmas of being caught between career and saving the one you love.

Duranga, despite decent acting from the two leads Gulshan Devaiah and Drashti Dhami, could barely skim the surface of the nerve-wracking turmoil and suspense that was present in Flower Of Evil.

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None of the complexity

Lee Joon-gi’s Hyun-so is a brilliantly complex character, a man trying to re-write his life, hiding beneath his raw vulnerability, desperately trying to lead a life that doesn’t really belong to him. He plays the happy family man for his wife and daughter, because somewhere he wants to convince himself that he is. He is deeply immersed in this falsehood, as it drives away the fears of his horrifying past. Yet, despite this little cheery façade, he cannot actually fathom overpowering emotions such as grief, until he experiences it much later.

Of course, in the first episodes we are also inclined to wonder whether he is actually a psychopath — till slowly, we put the pieces of his past together, along with Ji-won. The story switches between flashbacks of Ji-won and Hyun-so’s love story, their sweet moments after marriage and the present, which slowly begins to unravel. The artificiality is stripped away; there is an urgency to come to grips with reality.

Duranga lacks this frantic urgency. The story more or less follows the same pattern, alternating between the present and the flashbacks. However, while Gulshan Devaiah delivers a good performance, he is hardly convincing as a man playing a dual role. Gulshan’s Abhishek just seems to act in a rather suspicious manner, and in his effort to remain constrained, he just occasionally appears rather wooden even when he is playing the perfect husband and father. You almost begin to wonder why his wife Ira can’t pick up on the clues quicker.

In the original show, Lee Joon-gi’s Hyun-soo looks at YouTube tutorials to learn how to smile, in a scene that has some impact. Hyun-so is unfamiliar with many emotions and is trying to understand them, in order to fit in with the world around him. However, Duranga makers latched on to this scene and repeated it several times, to the point that it lost its meaning.

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On the other hand, Moon Chae-won’s Ji-won is a cheery woman with little quirks that flesh out her character—such as gently bragging about herself to an exasperated husband. She loves her profession as a policewoman and is quite the tough cop at work—though the strain starts showing, when she realises that her husband is linked to the serial killer that she is hunting. The little nagging doubts erupt into a firestorm by the middle of the series, and she becomes a woman caught between her husband, the actual truth and her profession. She is weighed down by her conscience and the love for Hyun-soo, and is wracked with nervous exhaustion. The devil is in the details, and it shows in the dark circles under her eyes and the slightly unkempt hair.

Drashti Dhami, in her attempt to remain calm and under control throughout, is unable to fully convince viewers of her character. She is constrained with emotions at the wrong times, and sobs when the scene requires deadly restraint, which in turn dilutes the overall impact of the show. The silent tears are not enough, and the chances where she could have portrayed raw emotions, are taken away from her. After her husband wakes up after almost being killed, she says that she has ‘died everyday’ waiting for him to recover—but somehow, these words, which should have been charged with frustration, sound blank.

The faulty storytelling and dialogues

In one of the best chase scenes of Flower Of Evil, Ji-won chases Hyun-so at night, unaware that it is actually her husband that she is following. It’s a long, tension-filled chase, and more importantly believable. In Duranga, Abhishek runs away from Ira in broad daylight, crossing numerous on-lookers in the middle of a busy street, which completely obliterates the mystery of his hidden identity. It looks rather foolish as well, because she’s almost within an arm’s grasp and is unable to catch him—and you know it’s just for the sake of the story that he’s not being caught.

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The haunting beauty of Flower Of Evil was its ability to keep you on your toes with the romance as well as the riveting, knotted mystery. The drama didn’t just relegate itself to unearthing the identity of a serial killer, but also the mystery of the protagonist, who is at odds with himself. He doesn’t have a grasp on who he really is, because somewhere he believes that his true self is too fragmented and broken. And so, he tries to be someone else in the only comfortable world that he has ever known.  It’s the little things that made the show such an intriguing watch—the bond between Hyun-soo and his daughter, the way he cooked for Ji-won, the small moments of affection between all three of them, as well as the slow build up to a suspense-filled mystery, full of twists and turns. In Duranga, it appears as if they were in such a rush to pursue a crime drama, that they quickly dashed through romantic moments that had the potential to add to the bitter-sweet quality of the show. As a result, it’s neither here nor there—the thriller aspect isn’t engaging and the storytelling seems very shoddy at points, and neither is the romance satisfying to keep you hooked.

The dialogue writing is so agonizingly bad at crucial points, that you almost want to ask them to not attempt a season 2 of the show. In Flower Of Evil, one of the most heart-wrenching moments of the show, Hyun-soo who has just recovered from his drowning experience, tells Ji-won to go and sleep. She’s furious at this futile suggestion and explains that she has been on edge every time the telephone rings because she was afraid that it was bad news about him. She yells, “Who even are you?” She’s livid, exhausted, because she is slowly beginning to realise that her husband might not be who he says he is.

Unfortunately in Duranga, the dialogues are reduced to cringe-inducing lines where Ira tells Abhishek, “Main instalments mein mar rahi hoon” and that she feels guilty because she could not protect him—-completely undoing the complexity of such a character. Everything is expository and spelt out for the audience, just in case you missed it. Ira rushes back from work because her husband is unwell, and tells her colleague, “Family is also duty.” There is no subtlety and nuance in the show, you are attacked with explanations and there’s no room for even a slight interpretation.

Duranga misses each opportunity to craft a deeply moving, impactful and suspense-ridden show. The storylines were literally served as ingredients on a silver platter—and in the end, it falls into the slew of forgettable crime shows that are just sweeping OTT.

First published on: 19-08-2022 at 12:37:27 pm
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