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Movie Review: Nishabdham -3/5

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The Times Of India
02nd October, 2020 01:15 IST

Story: Sakshi ( Anushka Shetty ) and her fiancé Anthony (R Madhavan ) head on a relaxing vacation to celebrate their engagement. But Sakshi wants to make a pit-stop at a haunted house on the way to pick up a coveted painting. What happens when after certain twisted incidents she finds herself embroiled in a police investigation?

Review: Hemant Madhukar’s multi-starrer that boasts of names like Anushka Shetty, Shalini Pandey , R Madhavan, Anjali and even Hollywood star Michael Madsen aims to be a whodunit that will put you on the edge. Filled with slow flashbacks that peel off the layers one by one, possessive friends that always think the worst of others, scheming policemen being their own cliché selves and a whole lot of twists and turns, it almost seems like Nishabdham tries to take on too much at once and succeeds only in parts.

Sakshi (Anushka Shetty) is a mute-and-deaf artist engaged to a celebrated cello player Anthony (R Madhavan). Her best friend Sonali (Shalini Pandey), who’s her whole world, has been missing ever since she got engaged, leaving her with only her fiancé and another friend Vivek (Subbaraju) for company. Her seemingly simple life takes a turn for the worse and she finds herself under the scanner of Seattle PD cops Richard (Michael Madsen) and Maha Lakshmi (Anjali). What follows is a tale that starts off as something narrated from Maha’s point-of-view but ends up in one piping hot mess with few redeeming bits.

When it comes to thrillers, it’s a given that twists are a part and parcel of it, but they shouldn’t make you wonder why you put up with so much to get to the redeeming bits. Right from the get-go, despite the makers trying hard, Sakshi never comes across as the damsel-in-distress she’s meant to be. Anushka is a terrific actor, but seeing as how she’s a ‘mute victim’ or a ‘mute witness’ as Richard puts it in one scene, she really has nothing much to do as everyone else seems to keep narrating for her. Hemant initially gives us a glimpse into her silent world but that narrative choice is soon bafflingly dropped and never picked up again. This film truly would’ve been something else had Hemant stuck to his guns and made the silent film he envisioned.

Maha is meant to be an ‘intelligent’ cop and her voice-over not only over-hypes the story that’s to follow, it even over-explains the simplest of narrative plot points that are discernible to any viewer. Srinivasa Avasarala makes a forgettable appearance and Subbaraju serves his purpose well enough. Shalini Pandey dangerously toes the line between coming across as a rude, petulant child and a sociopath who’s eerily obsessed with her friend, but she somehow manages to pull it off.

Surprisingly, it is Madavan and his character that steals the show in this one, despite the subpar dubbing. It would be unfair to reveal much as his arch is what ties the whole film together, literally, but the actor pulls off his role well. It almost makes you wonder what the film could’ve been had his character been fleshed out even more. Because the way it’s now seems a tad reminiscent of a famous character from an early 2000s film. Michael Madsen, who has a rich filmography of films like Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood handles the sudden creative whiplashes thrown at his character well, pulling it off convincingly. But his dubbing seems to pull down his character as well, and the way the story progresses makes you wonder if he was wasted in a role that’s too….easy for him.

The downfall of Nishabdham lies not in the characters Hemant envisioned, but the screenplay and dialogues by Kona Venkat. Just like Shaneil Deo’s camerawork, had the film been a little more minimalistic in its treatment without indulging, it could’ve been something else. While Gopi Sundar’s peppy soundtrack seems totally unnecessary for a tale like this, Girishh G’s score truly lends it the eerie atmosphere it deserves.

Nishabdham on the whole promises to be a treat, not just to Anushka’s fans but to movie buffs who love thrillers too. Sadly, it doesn’t always live up to that promise because all it ends up being is a stylish film with no depth. Give this one a chance this weekend for Anushka and Madhavan, if not for nothing else.

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