Billed as “the first Indian film to be shot inside a single room,” Dhayam proves that some ideas are so inane that just maybe they aren’t enough to sustain a film. (In any case, there are multiple shots used throughout Dhayam involving the cast walking into said ‘single room,’ so the claim the filmmakers are making is patently false.) The room in question is host to an interview of sorts that involves eight candidates all seeking the position of CEO at some unnamed company — a company whose last chief executive committed suicide in the very room same space. The wide-ranging applicant field includes a nervous man who keeps biting his fingers practically every second he’s on screen (and who also sorta looks like Ray Romano); a hysterical clairvoyant, who’s liberally called a “retard” and might be able to see ghosts; a sadist villain who gets his own rap montage halfway through the film, used solely to demonstrate how much of a bastard he is; three interchangeable women who have little to no personality (one of them has, at an absolute maximum, five lines of dialogue, at least until the last 20 minutes); central protagonist Ashwin (Santhosh Prathap); and a mask-wearing man who turns out to be Ashwin’s clone. All eight are supposed to have but one objective: stay alive, and sane, for a full hour in this room in order to become the company’s next CEO. Suffice to say, that deceptively simple task becomes more complicated, as each hopeful reveals other intentions and their secret relationships with one another — all with the finesse and nuance one’s come to expect from a high-profile Bollywood entertainment.
Dhayam feels made-up as it goes along, with each twist being somehow more preposterous than the last nonsensical rug-pull. Is that to say Dhayam is bad? Actually, that’s hard to answer.
The vast majority of Dhayam is absolutely ludicrous across the board: every twist involves some character’s backstory or some grand reveal pertaining to someone who’s been pretending to be dead (that old trick gets pulled about a half-dozen times), and it’s all laughable in its execution, made even more so by an outrageous ensemble of mugging nobodies who apparently didn’t get the memo that they’e in a psychological thriller. Director Kannan Rangaswamy (who died shortly after this film’s release in India last year) spends more time at the beginning thanking his extended family, in a lengthy pre-credits sequence, than he does on establishing any stakes, nor does he even provide the most basic of contexts for anything that’s occurring on screen. For the most part, the narrative of Dhayam feels made-up as it goes along, with each twist being somehow more preposterous than the last nonsensical rug-pull. Is that to say Dhayam is bad? Actually, that’s hard to answer. Most of what transpires doesn’t make a lick of sense, even after Rangaswamy tries to tie everything together at the end — with a revelation that’s somehow a cross between Split, Mad Detective, and Saw, but isn’t nearly as interesting as that sounds. Frequently, Rangaswamy employs the most visually garish of tactics, constantly reminding viewers of information that they just learned minutes ago in brightly-lit, sped-up flashback sequences (which really take-up a good third of this movie’s runtime). And yet, Dhayam is engaging, if much in the same way as watching any jaw-dropping disaster might me, and enjoyable, just through the act of anticipating what will happen next, and waiting for some explanation of it all — even though that explanation is almost inevitably less than satisfying.
You can currently stream Kannan Rangaswamy’s Dhayam on Amazon.