Friday, March 02, 2007


Make it artistic, shoot at a heart-breakingly lovely location, cast India’s most revered actor opposite a Lolita-ish nymphet – the word for it is still paedophilia.

Ram Gopal Varma’s Nishabd, couched in heaps of psychobabble, cannot disguise the queasy-making content of a film in which a 60-year-old man falls for his daughter’s obviously mentally-disturbed 18-year-old friend. The chap is past mid-life crisis, making him say he couldn’t help it is unforgivable.

Then there’s the way Varma places the story – sets it in an isolated, rain-soaked tea estate where a photographer Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) and Amrita (Revathy) live in splendid isolation. The rain is a bit of a cinematic cliché to portray hidden passions, but let that pass.

The wife is a fat, frumpy, yelling-at-the-deaf-servant dumbo, which subconsciously makes at least the males in the audience feel that Vijay’s lust for a young woman is justified. Living in that desolate paradise with that woman for company is enough to drive a guy off his rocker. There is a suggestion of a social life but it’s kept off screen, so presumably Vijay has no other female friends.

Enter Jia (Jiah Khan), with the wardrobe of a street-walker and the manners of a slut, accompanying Vijay and Amrita’s daughter Ritu (Shraddha Arya) for the holidays. Jia is such a clichéd nymphet—when first seen she is seductively sucking on a lollipop-- her parents are divorced, she hates her mother and her step-father who live in Australia. Her poor little fatherless gal act gives her carte blanche to hit on her friend’s father, who, instead of packing her off with a call to her mother to take her to a shrink, gives in to her advances like a hormonally-challenged teenager.

There are bits in which he pathetically gives-- facing the camera, as if to the audience-- the silliest of explanations. Like age and impending death making a man get attracted to youth. The least Varma and his writers could have done is speak to a few psychiatrists and got better jargon.

Varma and Bachchan (no excuse for having done this sick part) claim in interviews that this is about real love etc., why then does Varma constantly focus on Jia’s body, specifically her legs and butt and why is she seen so often with her legs apart? Such juvenile sexual imagery not expected from a director of Varma’s calibre.

The film could be compared to American Beauty – the obvious source; also Blame it On Rio and the recent Venus. At least two of these had better developed characters and less sketchy, focus-on-girl’s-thighs plots.

Even those who are progressive and liberal would be revolted by Nishabd. Because even in the most promiscuous cultures, some lines are drawn between what is responsible and acceptable behaviour.


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