Sunday, June 22, 2008

nishabd: loud nothingness

As he works with a script that exposes a premise of promise, but fails to deliver much of interest, RGV also seems to have failed to make up his mind on how he wanted to shoot the film. Nishabd finds the maverick director in conflict, a conflict deeper and more perplexing than the one his protagonist is confronted with. The sound mix of RGV's recent films has been troubling: the background score often drowns out the dialogue in the scene (at times, the laser subtitles from adlabs were the only hint that you've missed something). Amar Mohile's background score employs an unsubtle catchy thundering motif and adds to the ills of the film (had the mix been right, it might have been less inadequate). This means that you note riffs that sound like Khaled's "Didi" or ishq hotaa nahii.n (from Jogger's Park, a film, ironically, about a man in a similar predicament).

Jiah Khan makes a confident bold début and the Big B, Revathy and Nasser throw in sincere performances that save the film from being a complete disaster. RGV has been a man more of the visual than of the spoken word, which means that ineffectual dialogue stands out even more annoyingly in his ouevre. The film works well in the quiet calm retrospective sequences where the Big B's character (named "Vijay" as a strange tip of the hat to the angry young man, who would hardly ended up as this Vijay) reminisces. The other bits that might have offered more promise are the sequences where no one says anything and everything is done with framing and expressions with the director making the audience a voyeur as guilty as (and perhaps even more than) Vijay. But that would have been a different film more faithful to the title and, one wagers, a more interesting film for RGV to have delivered.

But it's the camera that does the most damage. The tilted angles, the frenetic short-lived shots, the swooping descents and ascents make the beautiful Munnar often seem like a Lynchian suburb hiding a dark secret and also makes you wonder if this film was set up as a gangster film or a more intimate exercise in human emotion and social norm.

It's also a pity that Vishal Bharadwaj's rozaanaa is nowhere to be found in the flick (not even in the end credits). With a blend of U2 and Dire Straits, Vishal had exploited the most famous baritone in Bollywood to trace an ambitious melody of highs and lows along with the dangling whispery strands of dissonance that are on their way to becoming a trademark of this talented composer; Munna Dhiman's lyrics managed to make the most of simplicity while exploring the feelings of the old Vijay in a manner that eluded the film the song was made for.

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