Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Nishabd

I walked in for this movie expecting a disaster and was very pleasantly surprised. It’s a very sensitively made film with a very good script & simply outstanding camerawork and photography.

Nishabd is the story of a 60 year old person, Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan), a photographer who lives with his wife Amrita (Revathy) in a lovely tea estate. Their daughter, Ritu (Shradha Arya) visits them during summer break from college and brings along a friend, Jiah (Jiah Khan) for a visit. Jiah is 18, an Indian from Australia and is a sort of rebel / attention seeking / non-conformist person, a product of divorced parents. Vijay is a reserved character, very much in his shell, content to spend his time behind the lens and when not outside, continues to fiddle with the camera while listening to the conversation of those around him. The movie describes the relationship that develops between Vijay and Jiah and the impact this has on those around them. The only two other characters in the movie (with not more than 5 minutes screen time each) are Rishi (Aftab Shivdasani), who is Jiah’s admirer and closest thing to a boyfriend that she has, and Shridhar (Nasir), Vijay’s brother-in-law, but also his friend and counselor.

My pre-movie discomfort centered around two issues. The first was the fact that I had watched Lolita, admittedly only for a ‘closer’ look at Dominique Swain, but had instead got so repulsed by the plot / relationship between Jeremy Irons and Dominique, that I ended up switching off the tv. Thankfully, Nishabd is not totally based on Lolita and while it has borrowed some elements of Poison Ivy, it’s a different, more understandable interpretation of Nabokov’s story. The second was whether Ram Gopal Varma, more known for Rangeela, Daud etc – thrillers, crime movies, could handle a sensitive topic like this. He can…very competently…

What truly makes this movie very good is the way the characters are fleshed out. The story is mixed with a narrative by Vijay so it really helps understand (to an extent) what is going on in his mind. I was wondering a few minutes after Jiah made her appearance, what would be the moment when, for a person who is 60, he would start to look at Jiah as a woman instead of a girl-child ? And what would drive that change – surely it cannot be lust ? And sure enough, in a few minutes, Amitabh, in narrative mode, came on and gave his opinion on the exact questions above. Jiah’s character also comes across well – you get a very clear picture of a bored person, looking for excitement and attention, who quickly decides Vijay is the most interesting person in the household and then, in my interpretation, almost as a summer project / best way to kill time, decides to go after him / bait him / tease him to see what reaction will she get / how far she would be able to go. I’m not for one second saying that you understand or agree with everything that happens. There are some places where you wonder why the characters are behaving a certain way and I think the relationship between Vijay and his daughter is not clear at all. But overall, by restricting the characters in the film, you do get more depth…especially of the two central characters.

Amitabh is sensational in the movie. I’ve really been trying to mull over in my mind what makes him a great actor and I believe, especially in his present over 60 avatar, its his ability to convey a thousand expressions simply through his eyes / limited facial expressions and with minimal visible effort. He doesn’t look like he’s acting or that he is anything but the character he is portraying. He was sexy Sam in KANK, he was Eklavya, the man in a time warp in Rajasthan and now, effortlessly, he is Vijay, the reclusive photographer, slowly losing control of his emotions. Jiah is very good, breathing life into a very difficult role, where she has to alternate between being a girl (throwing tantrums, arguing playfully) and a woman (sexy, seductive) quite frequently.

Munar, Kerala, the location of the shoot, is definitely on my holiday list now, thanks to its enchanting portrayal through the lens of Amit Roy (photographer / cinematographer). The music, by Vishal Bhardwaj (Omkara director and music composer) is very good, definitely heightening the different emotions on display in the film. The overall mood is overcast in the movie – sombre, grey, as you would expect with such a storyline. The movie also does have lots of moments where the pace slackens, where you squirm in your seat and also sense a mass shifting in the seats of those around you. And, was it my imagination or were there more oldies (50+ people) than normal in the hall ?

Its not for the restless, looking for a thrill a minute but its something different…a tough subject, beautifully handled. We walk in the hall expecting to be disgusted. What makes Nishabd a good movie is that this expectation changes as we watch the plot unfold and it makes us ask difficult questions like ‘what would we be like when we are that age’, ‘could this happen to our parents, who are that age’ ? It makes us restless and uneasy, challenging our preconceptions. What makes the movie move from good to great is that, despite these predominantly uncomfortable emotions, we still enjoy the movie.

4 comments:

Aditi said...

hi,
i dont totally agree with u.. the movie has good performances but i am unhappy with the ending. ramu has handled the subject very well but the indian audiences are definately not ready for such a movie..
take care..

Apurv Nagpal said...

hi ! Aditi
its a fair point you make - about the ending not being palatable for you / indian audiences
However, without giving the end away, i think all its trying to show is that there are consequences of letting your heart wander - especially if you do so openly / indiscreetly.

Anonymous said...

There you are , with a good review , again. Only subtle differences. I expected a great movie from RGV , and I got it . For me its one of AB's top 5 performances ever.

Jiah khan is quintessential , RGV heroine , and he finds them all , the leggy sexy dames. He loves them like that.

And I think she knows how to act. Infact she was as good as AB , in what she was asked to do.

The movies was mesmerizing to say the least . For me , its been the movie of the year so far.


I was in Munnar , on vacation , while this movie was being shot. Take my advice and head for it

It will make this movie even special.

Karan said...

I agree with aditi that the ending was nt dat special... But Mr Bacchan's performane is absolutely fantabulous. Jiah is ok but still i think she can improve. I think the new generation is ready for movies like this. Good review