Director: Hemant Madhukar
Cast: R Madhavan, Anushka Shetty, Shalini Pandey, Michael Madsen, Subbaraju
What is the use of lining up top actors, like Madhavan and Anushka Shetty as in Amazon’s new thriller, Nishabdham (Silence), in Telugu, Tamil, and Malayalam, and placing them in a plot which rests on the implausible? Here is what you can expect: dime a dozen murders, marital infidelity all across, ridiculous reasoning, an unstable policeman, an equally unbalanced musician and a jealous friend. To top all this, the so-called thriller is thrilling in the least.
Well, the story begins 47 years ago in 1972 on a Christmas night at Woodside Villa, 70 km from Seattle in the U.S. A young man and a woman are having wine and dancing to a record playing on a gramophone. The girl goes upstairs, and the boy steps into the basement. There is a flickering bulb and a demonic voice. The girl walks down and shrieks as she sees her boyfriend crucified and dead. The villa gets a haunted tag till 2019 when it is finally bought and refurbished. But the basement remains in a state of neglect with the wood painting of French Empress Josephine Bonaparte intact.
Cut to 2019, and we are introduced to a young deaf-mute girl, Sakshi (Anushka Shetty), who along with her best friend, Sonali (Shalini Pandey) has grown up in an American orphanage. Sakshi is a great artist, whose paintings are adored. In walks Madhavan’s Anthony, a celebrated cello player, whose dashing and debonair good looks attract an endless number of women. Anthony is smitten by Sakshi, and buys one of her paintings for a million dollars, half of which she says will go to her orphanage. Sakshi falls in love with Anthony, and they get engaged – in spite of Sonali’s apprehensions about him. Despite Sonali falling in love with a wildlife photographer, Vivek (Subbaraju), her almost suffocating attention on Sakshi remains.
I really would not like to go any further with the story, but let me affirm that the highlight of the movie is Madhavan’s brilliant piece of acting. A greying, handsome musician, he brings into his character glory, a fleeting sense of joyful fulfillment, disappointment, and frustration coming out of betrayal and disappointment. Admittedly, he does not have much of screen time, most of it going to Shetty – who is really pretty, but so wooden that she turns her character into an almost lifeless form. Let us not forget Sakshi suffers much, much more than Anthony.
Directed by Hemant Madhukar, Nishabdham, much like an earlier thriller, Penguin, also an Amazon original, totters through a multitude of characters, some of whom do not fit the bill. While Michael Madsen’s Richard Dawkins (best remembered for his parts in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill 2) as a Seattle cop is reasonably interesting as one who loses his sense of mental equilibrium after he catches his wife cheating on him, Anjali, as Seattle detective Maha, is totally unconvincing. Her’s is an obvious case of miscasting.
Lovely landscape, an alluring Seattle by night (captured through Shaneil Deo’s lens) and designer clothes notwithstanding, Nishabdham hardly gripped me. The plot tries in vain to rope in the supernatural element, but the writing lets it down. A case of biting more than what it can possibly chew!
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is author, commentator and movie critic)