Saturday, March 17, 2007

postheadericon Nishabd: A very casual review

Duration: 1:50 hrs (approx.)
Genre: Drama
Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Story, Screenplay: Kusum Punjabi
Dialogues: Amrik Gill
Music Director: Vishal Bharadwaj

Saw Nishabd yesterday and I don't know what I was expecting before I sat down to view the movie, but whatever it was, I was disappointed.

So here's a man, Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) with an 18 year old daughter Ritu (Shraddha Arya) - he obviously had the child quite late in life because he is over 60 years old. One summer Ritu brings a friend, Jia (Jiah Khan), home for the holidays and Vijay is captivated by her youthfulness, her spontaneity and her zest for life. It doesn't help when Jia is equally captivated by him and goes so far as to tell him she loves him, which to my great horror he believes!!!!!!!!!

Ok, I am not saying an 18-year old is not capable of love, but for goodness sakes, if you have learned anything by the age of sixty, it's that love is a mutable, changeable thing. What seems like love today may change into respect or some other quality tomorrow, and the younger you are, the greater the possibility of that happening.

Anyway, so he falls crazily in love with her. Jia does perhaps remind Vijay of his youth and when he's with her he feels half his age...but is that good enough reason to throw your family over for a nymph? Or perhaps it is... when I reach 60, I will have to revisit the post to see if I still feel this way. But then again, being a woman, it is perhaps unlikely that I will feel like Vijay did. Who knows?

Is getting older really such a terrible thing? Do we have to fall down on our knees before youth all of the time? If we didn't worship youth so much, do you think we'd have fewer men wanting to have a woman half his age on his arm and will we have fewer women courting botox and other bizarre forms of cosmetic surgery?

What about in societies like India and China where the old are revered? Do the men and women there feel the same way when they reach their twilight years or are they too busy basking in the adoration of their family? Ironic question this, when you consider Vijay is an Indian man....but hey, that is Bollywood. What goes on in real life in those societies I wonder?

Nishabd has been promoted as Amitabh's "Lolita". I am now in the mood to watch Stanley Kubrik's interpretation of Vladimir Nakobov's novel Lolita, to see who really captured the essence of Lolita better. I think I already know who wins!

Oh and I know the concept of "older man-younger woman" isn't an alien concept in Indian cinema, however, no titles come to mind, can anyone suggest a few?

Finally, I have called this a casual review because I have not bothered to go into details about the acting, the script, music or cinematography - I just wanted to explore what I took away from the movie - society's obsession with youth.

However, I will say that Amitabh has excelled in his role as 60-year old Vijay. Was it deliberate or is he really looking his age in the movie?. There are more wrinkles on his face than I ever seen and noticable pouches under his eyes - I am guessing it's the makeup. Jiah is also quite convincing as the manipulative, and also misguided nymphette, but I found her high-pitched whine very irritating at times. The movie was shot in the beautiful tea plantations of Munnar, but everything seems to have been filmed through a blueish-green lens, which lent the movie a rather melancholy look. Perhaps a cineaste would appreciate it, I didn't.

Stay tuned for Stanley Kubrik's "Lolita"


Sanjay said...

I loved your review, and you brought out troubling questions about the depiction of men, especially older men and younger women in movies which do reflect society too in some ways.

This again comes from a male dominated culture. I wonder if there is a desi Mrs. Robinson and if she were would this even work at this level?

You are right though I think women do think differently. And indeed this is a youth worshiping culture especially in our neck of the woods here.

To offer a personal perspective...I see myself in the mirror with crows feet, lines and grays that were not there before, but I celebrate it and it is just me. I think the only thing different that I do is take more care of my body now and what I subject it to so that I can perhaps stay healthier at an older age.

If there are no joint families or if the children are away, I think life for older folks can be different. It sure is harder and certainly lonelier. If you get to watch Venus, it does touch upon that.

Oh and Vijay is a cliche for the name of a Indian leading man no? And not watching much Indian cinema I cannot come up with names of movies of the kind you mention.Sorry :)

A note about the use of bluish-green hues to convey melancholy. Melancholy can often be conveyed with a look (Peter O'Toole in Venus). Perhaps the makers of Nishabd felt the need for a more dramatic flourish because their movie was so lacking in message?
Don't know just a thought.

Again a most excellent post about how the movie spoke to you, and there in lies the power of movies both good and bad in that they can speak to all of us so differently no?

Lotus Reads said...

Hey, Sanjay!

Thank you for your comment. You always have such nice, insightful things to say.

A desi Mrs. Robinson has been on my mind a lot, but I think the topic warrants a separate post, so stay tuned! ;)

I think people watching "Nishabd" might come away with a slightly different perspective from mine. After all, it is meant to be more about this older man/younger woman relationship and how it affects his family. I, however, chose to see it for "why"? Why did he succumb? And the only answer I could come up with is that her youth (not her beauty) and spirit bewitched him. Some people might speculate that he was bored and unhappy with his life before she came along, but the movie doesn't suggest that. He was an avid photographer and lived in the beautiful tea estates of Munaar; while the passion in his marriage may have died, he wasn't unhappy with his wife, he loved her. Jia made him feel that way, hence he was an easy target. I understand how wonderful it is to feel young again, to feel alive again, but what I couldn't understand is why he would throw away everything for this 18-year old girl, after all, to quote some singer ( I don't know who to give credit to) are you really only as young as the person you're with? :)

From what you say, you have a healthy attitude towards aging...good on you!

And thank you for "Venus", yes, I must definitely make a point to see it.

Again, thank you for your comment and for offering a personal perspective to the discussion.

Sai said...

I absolutely loved your review. My sis told me about how "nishabdha" she was after watching this movie.

I can think of "Lamhe" which dealt with the concept of older man and a younger woman but it was more Yash Chopra candyfloss kinda theme.

I haven't seen the movie but it could be lust. Some men are insecure about their masculinity or virility so it could be validation of that as well.

Women are more nuturing and there was a marathi play years ago which deal with a Mrs Robinson kind of a theme. I cannot remember the name of it.

Sanjay said...

Lotus.. Thank you for your kind comments.

I look forward to a desi Mrs. Robinson post from ya. :)

I also think your comment further elucidates why you saw the movie differently. Thank you for elaborating.

Radha said...

I watched the movie too over the weekend. Let me start by saying I thought it was a boring movie, with a weak plot, too slow a pace & silly dialogues. Wasn't impressed at all.

But having said that; it didnt completele ring untrue to me that a 60-yr old man could fall in love with a 18-yr old. If two people fall in love; they just do. They're aware of the social taboo, of the families getting hurt, of the possibility that the other persons love may be fickle. But thats how passionate love is, isnt it?

Unconventional love stories often make me feel uncomfortable. i remember feeling uneasy when I saw 'brokeback mountain', not because im a homo-phobic. Simply because its something so unconventional in so graphic a form. Nishabd didnt make me that uneasy. I didnt even relate to the characters because it wasnt a great movie.

Radha said...

Hey, also, i dont think Nishabd was based on Lolita. There were no sexual overtones in Nishabdh, also Jia was much older than Lolita (who is only 12 yrs old). Lolita is much more 'perverted' whereas Nishabdh was meant to be a love story.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Sai

Thanks! Yes, you're probably right...I, too, would think this is more of lust than love, but you know, Bollywood has to sweeten everything so ishq is always disguised as pyaar.

Haven't seen "Lamhe", but it has been recommended by some other friends, too, so I just might rent it.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Radha!

I'm sure I read that "Nishabd" was Amitabh's "Lolita" in several places, but yes, having seen the movie, I realize Jia is nothing like Nabokov's "Lolita", but even so, it has prompted to want to watch Kubrik's movie. The library is holding it for me, I just have to make time to pick it up.

What did you think of the ending? I was very disappointed, also, I believe since Ram Gopal Varma had already attracted controversy by exploring such an unconventional subject that maybe he should have pushed the envelope some more and developed the relationship further. The movie ended with me feeling like I hadn't got my money's worth! lol

Anonymous said...

Lamhe came to mind, right off. It was a good movie, though, and soft-sells the theme by having Anil Kapoor as oldie, but eligible bachelor.

diyadear said...

nice review.. tahnks for the info abt munnar.. have visited it couple of times. so may be i'll watch the movie:)

AlterinG Abhishek said...


well .. interesting review from ur side..
I have heard a little too much about nishabd ...and I dont think i will venture to watch the movie~!
nice blog!!
( hello)

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Nocturne!

Thanks, "Lamhe" has gone on my "must-see" list!

Hi, Diya

Isn't Munnar just gorgeous? When they were kids, my husband spent every summer on his father's coffee plantations in Chicmangaloor which were equally lovely...let me know if you wind up watching the movie. Would love to hear your take on it.

Hi, Abhishek

And welcome! Will visit your blog soon!

trupti said...

hey, have you been?
I do want to watch this movie,BUT,only because of AB...if anyone can pull off the role, it's him. Ram gopal verma's take on this film is a bit risky here..especially for the Indian audience but, this is not to say, it doesn't happen.
Just look at the title.."nishabd" - without words...and for me, is right up there with "non-sense".
Will still watch it because of AB.. and nothing more!