Anushka Shetty, R Madhavan and Anjali have their moments but ‘Nishabdham’ barely scratches the surface of a potentially engrossing story
Nishabdham (Silence in Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi), streaming on Amazon Prime Video, is a Telugu film in which the silence could have been used better. It has a protagonist with hearing and speech impairment — painter Sakshi (Anushka Shetty) who converses with sign language and uses her mobile phone text-to-voice converter to good effect. As though to counter this, the investigative police officer Mahalakshmi (Anjali) doubles up as the sutradhar (narrator) and many a time, is made to over-simply things for viewers.
Director Hemanth Madhukar has at his disposal a talented ensemble cast — R Madhavan as the millionaire cello player Antony Gonsalves, Michael Madsen as police officer Richard Dawkins (though others refer to him inconsistently as Richard Dickens in the film), Shalini Pandey as Sonali, Subbaraju as Vivek and Srinivas Avasarala as Chandru, Maha’s pillar of support. The story happens in Seattle, USA, and the film might have managed to cut through language barriers in India as well as appeal to the global audience, if only it had a far more intriguing plot, screenplay and better-written characters.
- Cast: Anushka Shetty, R Madhavan, Anjali and Shalini Pandey
- Direction: Hemanth Madhukar
- Music: Gopi Sundar, Girishh Gopalakrishnan
- Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
On a holiday post their engagement, Antony and Sakshi stop by a haunted house to find a painting. A sudden turn of events makes the house a scene of the crime, after nearly 47 years. Meanwhile, there have been cases of missing young women, including Sakshi’s friend Sonali.
Also Read: Get ‘First Day First Show’, our weekly newsletter from the world of cinema, in your inbox. You can subscribe for free here
Shaneil Deo’s camera and Girishh Gopalakrishnan’s background score subtly and effectively amplify the mood of the thriller, using a less-is-more approach. The songs composed by Gopi Sundar are good too but one of them feels out of place, cropping up at a crucial point in the thriller.
As we warm up to the characters and plot points, a few things feel amiss. Some characters are painted in broad strokes that it becomes easy to guess an ulterior motive.
Some segments work well — like the fleeting moments in the beginning when the director wants us to ‘hear’ the world from Sakshi’s perspective, or Antony teaching her to play the cello by paying heed to the reverberation of the notes. However, this aesthetic film with able actors left me cold when the big reveal happens.
The manner in which the big reveal happens is a huge letdown. For all the work that Maha is shown to do, she’s conveniently forgotten and we get answers to the ‘who’ and ‘why’ through someone else as a long flashback, out of the blue.
The actors try to work with the given material. Anushka has that arresting screen presence and emotes well, as though words don’t matter much. Madhavan is saddled with a character that could have had more depth, but he still pulls it off. Shalini makes her presence felt in a role that warrants her to be little else than a grumpy, over-possessive friend. Subbaraju gets his moments to shine and I wish it had been the case with Srinivas Avasarala too, who is underutilised. But then, that can also be said of Michael Madsen who is cast in a unidimensional role as an obnoxious cop. Anjali is good; if only the story and screenplay had allowed her to get to the bottom of the puzzle, this would have been a different film, and she too would have had more scope.
And, oh, whatever happened to the mystery of the ghost, with which the film begins. The glaring missteps make Nishabdham underwhelming.