Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
*ing : Manisha Koirala (Anne Braganza), Nana Patekar (Joseph Braganza), Seema Biswas (Favvy), Salman Khan (Raj), Helen (Miriam), and Priya Parulekar (Anne Jr.)
Music : Jatin-Lalit

Reviewed by: Sunil Malapati

Rating : (out of )

"When music breaks the barriers of silence"

Any movie whose publicity blurb claims the above better have some good music. Yet, 10 minutes into the movie, I was wishing that 'music' would stop breaking those barriers. I would be glad to have some silence. Happily, the movie improved from then on.

The movie starts with Joseph and Favvy waiting for their daughter Anne and her husband Raj. They are both deaf and dumb and the way they respond to music created by their child and her husband (I will not describe the scene- go see it!) is a real treat to behold. The song however is pure cacaphony and my goodwill towards the movie started to slip. The car carrying Raj, Anne and their son crashes and Anne is in coma (though she looked pretty good to me). Joseph and Favvy with the local antique shop owner (Raghubir Yadav in a lovely supporting role) come to the hospital and sit beside Anne. The entire story is told in flashback.

The actual story starts with the birth of Anne and the parents are initially afraid that their daughter is like them (the scene is reminiscent of the one in Gulzar's 'Khamoshi', but is played differently and manages to impress). Joseph's mother Miriam assures them that their daughter is quite all right. They later have a son. Because of Joseph's condition, he takes Anne along with him for selling soap door to door. From an early age, Anne is forced to grow up and be the caretaker of her parents. Her grandmother Miriam inculcates in her a keen music sense (Jatin-Lalit's music started to improve from here on).

Due to their poverty, the family is forced to sell the piano to the antique dealer and Miriam, lost without it passes away. Joseph and Favvy's son dies in an accident. Anne becomes their entire focus. Joseph, meanwhile joins a glass blowing factory and their financial situation improves. Anne grows into a beautiful young lady who is ardently wooed and finally won over by a musician named Raj. The rest of the movie is concerned with the friction arising out of Anne's love and her commitment to her parents.

The movie's main concern however is the dream of Anne to make her parents feel the music which she with her ears is able to enjoy. When she sings, she wants them to appreciate her singing even if they are unable to hear it. How she manages to do it forms one of the greatest uplifting moments I have ever seen in Indian cinema.

Before I proceed to bestow some richly deserved praise I must mention two substantial letdowns which prevent this movie from achieving classic status. The first is the script. The idea for the movie is really good, but the script tries to pack in too much. It would have been much better if the entire framework for the flashback was dropped. The climax is utterly ridiculous and almost made me consider a *** review. The movie could also have done with some severe pruning. A lot of scenes only seem to exist so that the cast can show us how good it is at histrionics. The writer does not seem to understand the value of restraint.

The second let down as mentioned in the beginning is the music. Though Jatin-Lalit come up with two very good tunes, the rest are strictly pedestrian. And whatever happened to good old Majrooh? With lines like 'Tell me o khuda', he manages to embarass himself.

Those two negatives aside, this movie is a gem. 'Khamoshi' contains some of the best ensemble acting I have ever seen in a Hindi movie. Not only are the individual actors brilliant, they mesh together like parts in a Swiss watch. Each actor while producing his or her best never try to dominate the others lending to some brilliant teamwork. When has anyone seen Nana Patekar not dominate? In this movie, he allows even Salman Khan to steal scenes from him! Seeing Nana, Seema and Manisha together, I could actually believe that they were father, mother and child. The way they react to each other, even in such minor things as eating; the ways in which their eyes seek out each other - together they build a potrait so strong that you identify with the family completely.

While you sort of expect great performances from Nana and Seema Biswas, Manisha is a revelation. Earlier I thought she could never surpass 'Bombay'. She goes ten steps ahead of 'Bombay' in 'Khamoshi'. She is present in almost every frame (she provides the narration in the childhood segment) and gives one of the very best performances I have ever seen from anyone. She has grown into a complete actress who uses every part of her body (notice how she constantly uses her hands, especially when she explains her music to her parents) and also exhibits a keen understanding of the surroundings (notice how she uses the pillar as a coactor in the monologue directed against her father). And she has something no current actress has - perfect voice modulation. Not one single wrong note in her performance here.

There are other notable performances. Helen, back after a long absence (though she did a cameo in the eminently forgettable 'Akayla') is very welcome. Her little jig brought tears of nostalgia and she gives a very spirited performance here. Salman Khan as the bashful lover is the one the audience will closely identify with. His self-depreciating demeanor and the easy way he handles his role suggest an actor who is not afraid to play the fool. He falters only in the ridiculous climax. The find of the movie is certainly Priya Parulekar who plays Anne Jr. She gives a rare performance which rivals those in 'Masoom'. Surrounded by the giants of acting, she more than holds her own. If Bollywood had any sense, they would write movies around her.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali, apparently a debutant director manages to impose strict control over the somewhat rambling script he himself wrote. The direction is certainly first rate. He manages to make his movie look original even when his inspirations range from the aforementioned 'Khamoshi' to the TV serial 'Tamas'. He even manages a little surrealism (Miriam's death scene). Even the romance seems fresh. Great direction. A pity his writing skills are not upto the mark.

The camerawork is quiet and unobtrusive and is very clean. There are no wasted movements and the frame always manages to seem perfect. The movie was totally shot in a single place and this gives the movie a coherence that seems to be lacking in today's movies. No dream songs to go to Mauritius! The editing is also clean, though not as sharp as it could have been.

This movie reaches for the sky and if it does not quite achieve what it aimed for, it still remains one fine effort. Certainly the best movie I have seen in a long long time.

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