Georgekutty (Mohanlal) is an orphan who had dropped out of school after his 4th grade. Now he is a businessman running a cable TV service in a rural area. He is married to Rani (Meena) and they have two daughters, Anju (Ansiba Hassan) and Anu (Esther Anil). His only interest apart from his family is watching films. He spends most of his time in front of the TV in his small office.
During a nature camp, Anju gets photographed in the bathroom by a hidden cell phone. The culprit, Varun (Roshan Basheer), is the son of police inspector general Geetha Prabhakar (Asha Sarath). Varun is accidentally killed by Rani and her daughter when he comes to blackmail them. They hide his body in a compost pit, which is witnessed by Anu. Rani tells Georgekutty about the incident and he devises a way to save his family from the law. He removes the broken cell phone and disposes of Varun's car, which is seen by Constable Sahadevan (Kalabhavan Shajon), who has a grudge against Georgekutty. Georgekutty takes them out on a trip to Thodupuzha to pray in a church, watch a movie and eat at a restaurant. Geetha, seeing that her son has gone missing, starts an investigation.
After a preliminary investigation, Geetha calls Georgekutty and family for questioning. Georgekutty, who had predicted that this would happen, had already taught his family how to change their alibi at the time of murder. When questioned individually, they give the same replies. Georgekutty also presents the bill of the restaurant, the movie ticket and the bus tickets as proof of their alibi. Geetha questions the owners of the establishments they have been to and their statements prove Georgekutty's alibi. However, Geetha realizes later that Georgekutty had faked the evidence and established his alibi on the owners by going on a trip with his family to the same establishments later.
Geetha arrests Georgekutty and family and Sahadevan uses brute force to beat the truth out of them. Eventually, Anu gives in and reveals the place where the body is buried. After digging the compost pit, they find the carcass of a dragon, indicating that Georgekutty had moved the body. Anu reports to the media and complains against Sahadevan. The constable is suspended and Geetha resigns from her post.
Later, Geetha and Prabhakar (Siddique) meet Georgekutty to ask forgiveness for their rude and violent behavior. Prabhakar asks Georgekutty if he can tell them about their son. Georgekutty then reveals indirectly that his family has committed a crime. Now in remand, Georgekutty signs a register at the newly constructed local police station. As he leaves, a flashback shows him leaving the incomplete police station with a shovel in hand, indicating that he has hidden Varun's body in the foundations of the police station itself.
In July 2013, it was reported that Jeethu Joseph will be directing a film titled My Family with Mohanlal in the lead. In August 2013, Jeethu clarified that the film was titled Drishyam. A thread similar to that of Drishyam has been with the director since the early 1990s. He was inspired by a conversation he had overheard about the plight of two families involved in a legal battle. Jeethu had penned the story of Drishyam even before Memories (2013). He says, "I started working on the subject some two years back. But I wanted to stick to the planned order and hence postponed the project till I finished Memories". The script was initially planned to be filmed by another director but since that director could not find a producer, Jeethu took back the script and decided to direct it himself. Drishyam contrasts from the director's previous films. He says, "Different films require different treatment. I toiled hard while filming Memories as the film was full of twists and turns and the handling of the subject mattered a lot. But Drishyam is a complete script-oriented film that does not require any special effort. We shot the film sticking completely to the script, and the shooting was completed effortlessly."
Jeethu had initially approached Mammootty to play the lead, but he was unable to commit and asked Jeethu to proceed with the film with another actor. According to the director, Mammootty was instrumental in casting actress Meena for the film. The director, in an interview with The New Indian Express, stated that he wrote the screenplay with Mohanlal in mind and that the character was tailor-made for Mohanlal. He later added that no changes were made in the script when Mohanlal agreed.
Kalabhavan Shajon, who previously worked in the industry as a comedian and the sidekick of the lead actors, was chosen for the main antagonistic role. The director stated, "I had two-three actors in mind, but at last decided to pick Shajon. I was very clear that I did not want anyone who has played negative characters so far to do the role. Shajon was a total revelation." Roshan Basheer, who debuted through Plus Two (2010), was chosen after conducting a screen test. Prithviraj was rumored to play a cameo role, though this was denied by Jeethu. Asha Sarath was later signed for the role of a police officer. Child actors Ansiba Hassan and Esther Anil, along with Siddique, Irshad, Kunchan and Koottickal Jayachandran were also cast to play major supporting roles.
Drishyam commenced principal photography in the first week of October 2013. Mohanlal joined the sets only from 10 October as he was down with chickenpox. The film was shot at Thodupuzha in Kerala. The road-side house shown in the film, which was a major location, is situated at Vazhithala, near Thodupuzha. The shooting had to be halted for a while as Meena fainted on the location. Drishyam was initially planned to be filmed in 52 days, though it was completed in 44 days.
A reviewer from The Hindu noted, "The film takes off as a typical family drama. The first half of the film is intentionally slow-paced and shows to the audience the lighter moments in the family of Georgekutty. This half combines the elements of drama and comedy genres. The audience gets completely absorbed in the twist of events that begin to unfold from the end of the first half. The second half is more like a thriller and is about how the family, despite the vengeful villainy of a corrupt cop, stands its ground even as the law takes its course." When asked whether this change in narrative style post-interval was intentional, Jeethu replied: "I really don't understand when people say the first half lacked pace. A story or a film has its own way of progression and it does travel in a zig-zag away, capturing all the ups and downs of our lives. Right from the start if you accelerate the pace, sooner or later, the story-telling will lose its steam."
When asked whether he had kicked off a new Genre in Malayalam—family thriller, a genre which combines the elements of a family drama and thriller, Jeethu replied, "I still believe it belongs to the genre 'drama', not a thriller." He also stated in another interview, "We usually brand a film as a thriller, simply because there is some mystery in the narrative or the story unfolds through an investigation. But I don't subscribe to this. Although there are some twists in the tale and some suspense as well, Drishyam is essentially the story of a family."
The film has also been said to be inspired by The Devotion of Suspect X, a Japanese novel written by Keigo Higashino. Ekta Kapoor, who had purchased the Hindi movie rights of the novel, sent a legal notice to the makers of the film. However, the director clarified, "After Ekta's legal team sent us the letter, I watched the Japanese film, Suspect X, which is an adaptation of the Japanese novel. There could be similarities between my film and that Japanese film, but my film is neither an adaptation nor a copy. The Japanese film is also about a murder cover-up and hence the allegation. Similarities are quite common in the works of creators and that shouldn't be made into an issue." Rashomon (1950) was also cited as an inspiration for the film.
The film was criticised for the use of some "sexist dialogues" in the first half which were playing to a certain "new generation" audience. Sowmya Rajendran of Sify criticised the same and stated about one of such scenes in the film, "it is such banter, which we often dismiss with a laugh, that helps perpetuate rape culture." When asked about this, the director replied, "I firmly believe such conversations are part of our lives. I don't want to elaborate, but it also throws an insight into each character featured in the sequences. Yes, frankly, I was a bit worried how the family audience would react to those scenes. But then I read out that part of the script to a select group of women and they nodded their heads in approval."
There were also allegations that Drishyam might provoke murder. Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Senkumar claimed that two people accused of murdering a woman from Nilambur in February 2014 admitted that their methods for disposing of the victim's body and mobile phone SIM card were influenced by the film. The murder of a young girl in Irinjalakkuda by her father and his mistress was also said to be influenced by Drishyam.
The film features a soundtrack composed by Anil Johnson and Vinu Thomas, with lyrics penned by Santhosh Varma. The background score was composed by Anil Johnson. The songs were released on 20 June 2014 by Muzik 247.
Veeyen of NowRunning noted in his review of the film that the songs "have a refreshingly delightful tenor to them that deserve an applause for certain." The reviewer of IndiaGlitz called the score "refreshing" and stated that it "builds the tempo" for the film.
Drishyam released on 19 December 2013 in India. It also received a theatrical release in the United States, United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates on 3 January 2014. The film was passed with an 'U' (Universal) certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification. The film was selected to be screened in the Indian Panorama at the 45th International Film Festival of India. It also screened at the 8th Asian Film Festival held in Jeddah in 2015, representing India.
Drishyam was released on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and VCD on 9 May 2014. The film created a new record in the DVD and VCD sales on the first day of release itself. The film's satellite rights were reported to be bought by Asianet for a record amount of ₹6.5 crore (US$1.0 million). The record was previously held by Kadal Kadannu Oru Maathukutty (2013) which was bought for ₹5.75 crore (US$900,000) by the same channel. It had its global television premiere on 7 September 2014 at 6 pm. IST.
In August 2014, film director Sathish Paul filed a copyright infringement suit against the makers, saying that it had similarities to his script titled Oru Mazhakkalathu, written in 2013. The court passed an order saying that the movie had prima facie similarities to Sathish' script, but allowed the making of the Tamil version Papanasam to proceed, on the condition that the makers of Drishyam produce a ₹10 lakh bank guarantee before the court to ensure the compensation. The case was dismissed in March 2015 as it was proved that Jeethu had written the script in 2011.
Sify's reviewer rated the film as "Excellent" and stated, "It is not often that you sit in a theatre with bated breath, never wanting to miss a moment of the film on screen. Writer director Jeethu Joseph's Drishyam is one such film, a gripping tale that leaves you spellbound with its skillful craft." Veeyen of NowRunning rated the film 3/5 and commented, "In Drishyam Jeethu attempts a stunning mix of the real with the imaginary, and the result is an unpredictable cinematic artichoke that takes you by surprise at every turn." Rating the film 3.5/5, Paresh C Palicha of Rediff said, "Drishyam can be credited for bringing Mohanlal back to form and pushing director Jeethu Joseph into the big league as he has made a cracker of a thriller." Jabir Mushthari of The Hindu wrote: "It takes craft, intelligence, and the superior acumen of a genuine storyteller to pull off a film in such an engaging manner." He also noted that the film's "thread and treatment are new to Malayalam cinema in many ways" and its "principles go against the set rules film goers here are familiar with".
Shibu B S of The New Indian Express wrote, "For his latest outing Drishyam, Jeethu attempts a splendid mix of emotions, relationships, suspense and thrill. End result: a spectacular cinematic experience." Dalton L of Deccan Chronicle gave the film a 3-star rating, writing, "The limelight belongs entirely to Mohanlal. Like the versatile greats of Hollywood, this actor possesses such a vast repertoire that he isn't required to always attempt the radically new to stamp his towering persona." Mythily Ramachandran wrote in her review for Gulf News: "Drishyam is an unforgettable picture, shorn of irrational fight sequences and mindless dance numbers." Aswin J Kumar of The Times of India said, "Drishyam is an elegantly crafted piece of film which Lal and Joseph can proudly hold close to their hearts."
Unni R. Nair noted in his review for Kerala9.com, "The care with which the script is done, the finesse with which the direction part is executed and the characterization and performance plus the thoughtful placing of the songs makes Drishyam worth real appreciation. That the film has almost zero-'filmy' humour is also worth noting. It's the logical manner in which the story unfolds and the very convincing manner in which the characters behave makes it impressive." The critic rated the film three in a scale of five. IndiaGlitz's reviewer rated the film 8/10 and stated, "Drishyam is undoubtedly cladded with exceptional story telling combined with bravura performances. An undoubtedly exceptional film as far the content is concerned, the movie is a must watch for all the audiences of family and thriller movies." In contrast, Gautaman Bhaskaran of Hindustan Times wrote, "Scripted more or less in a convincing manner and mounted with finesse, writer-director Joseph fleshes out his characters. However, Drishyam often seems like a radio play, long dialogues mar its cinematic qualities, and like many other helmers, Joseph too does not know where to end his film. Cinema need not be so explanatory; certainly this is not how contemporary movies are made.
According to Sify, the film "started on a low key" but "swept the box-office" from its second day of release. The film grossed ₹67 million in its first eight days. In less than one month following its release, Drishyam became the highest-grossing Malayalam film of all time, beating the record of Twenty:20 (2008). The film ran for more than 150 days in Kerala, with collections of over ₹430 million.
The film also grossed around ₹100 million from rest of India. It showed for 100 days in Tamil Nadu. It also had a 100-day theatrical run in multiplexes in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad. The collection from the overseas markets was more than ₹40 million, with around ₹10 million from England alone. Drishyam became the second film to complete 100 days in the UAE after Titanic (1997) and later emerged as the longest running film in the UAE by completing 125 days, beating the 110 days run of Titanic. The film completed 100 days in 60 theaters in Kerala and rest of India.
Drishyam was the first Malayalam film to collect ₹500 million from its theatrical box office collections, remake rights, satellite and television rights. The film collected more than ₹750 million in its theatrical run worldwide. Drishyam held the record for box office gross until 2016 when Pulimurugan overtook it.
Drishyam was remade into several Indian languages. The remake rights of the film were sold for ₹155 million. It was first remade in Kannada as Drishya (2014) by P. Vasu and starring V. Ravichandran and Navya Nair. The Telugu version titled Drushyam (2014) directed by Sripriya featured Daggubati Venkatesh, along with Meena reprising her role. Jeethu himself directed the Tamil remake Papanasam (2015) which stars Kamal Haasan and Gautami. A Hindi remake was also made with the same name in 2015, directed by Nishikant Kamat and starring Ajay Devgn and Shriya Saran in the lead roles. All these versions were commercially successful. It was remade in Sinhala language as Dharmayudhaya. The film was directed by Cheyyar Ravi starring Jackson Anthony and produced by MTV Channel under The Capital Maharaja Organisation Limited.