A lot has been said about NISHABD over the past few weeks since the movies released. Critics overall have slammed the movie and the public has rejected the movie outright as well as quiet a few strong reactions coming out against the movie, Amitabh Bachchan the director Ram Gopal Varma who have apparently “crossed all boundaries of decency”, “made a disgusting film”, “lost their minds” etc however none of this negative feedback seem to have perturbed me against watching the movie as it would normally would do with any other film. Finally I got my chance to see the movie, so is it as bad as it’s made out? Firstly I would like to say this was Ram Gopal Varma’s open chance to make a out-right, bonafide classic which he indeed loses out on, however despite it’s shortcomings NISHABD is a bold, unique, and path-breaking film which in multiple ways defies Bollywood conventions and stereotypes and breaks new ground as it talks openly and unabashedly about things and emotions that many would prefer to be swept under the carpet; this in my humble opinion is easily Ram Gopal Varma’s best film since SARKAR and in many ways a better film than SARKAR was even.
Prior to the films release, rumours were rife that the movie was based on Vladimir Nabokov’s timeless novel LOLITA which was later adapted for the screen by Stanley Kubrick (1962) and Adrian Lyne (1997) however these were precisely just rumours. Though there are similarities in the overall theme of NISHABD and LOLITA the movie is in no way a remake of LOLITA or AMERICAN BEAUTY for that matter.
Without giving too much away, NISHABD is the story of a 60 year-old man Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) who gets attracted to his daughters best friend; 18 year-old girl Jiah(Jiah Khan). The mutual love between two people with a huge age difference and the implications, repercussions and ultimately impact this has on the man’s family and life forms the crux of the story.
The story by Kusum Punjabi is no doubt a very bold one, and one that dares to tell a story that is truly different and “taboo” for Indian Cinema. Love stories with a age gap has been witnessed on celluloid before right from YashRaj’s candy-floss LAMHE, the poignant JOGGERS PARK or Farhan Akhtars DIL CHAHTA HAI however never has a film been made with such a evident age gap between the leading pair and Kusum has done a truly remarkable job with her writing. The screenplay on the other hand is one of my biggest grouches with the movie as it truly undermines the movies own
potential. What could’ve ultimately been a “classic” of sorts is letdown by a screenplay which fails to completely explore the countless themes it raises as well as sending across mixed reactions at many times. The first half is achingly slow yet manages to create a real sense of atmosphere and ambience. The movie takes it’s time to go from moment to moment as well as relying on the viewers initiative at many times to “read between the lines” to fully absorb what’s unfolding on-screen. The love story is built in a claustrophobic manner which keeps the viewers on tenterhooks right from the moment Vijay meets Jiah. The consequent interactions between the two leading up to “breaking point” has been portrayed in a breath-taking manner.
half of the movie explores a whirlpool of emotions, and the aftermath of Vijays confession is bought to light in the most stark and pessimistic manner which is as painful as it is haunting, though ultimately the emotional disconnect to the actual love story never actually allows the viewer to get as attached or “feel” for the two lovers as one should.
Genius with a touch of madness or a mad-man with a touch of genius? Every time a Ram Gopal Varma film releases I find myself asking the same question over and over again and I’m still to find an answer. As a director Ram Gopal Varma seems to work on a completely different level with working with Amitabh Bachchan and after SARKAR, this is again as evident as ever in NISHABD. NISHABD is no doubt a bold love story unlike anything that has been bought to the Indian celluloid before, and Ram Gopal Varma knows too well that only one man in Indian cinema could’ve ultimately made this film “work” without descending to the depths of perversity and who knows what else, the man in question is Amitabh Bachchan. As a film-maker Ram Gopal Varma didn’t make great use of Amitabh Bachchan much at all, and for the most the movie was an extended photo-shoot of self indulgent hollowness but without much “power”. With NISHABD Ram Gopal Varma makes up for that, yes offcourse this too is an extended photo-shoot but here Varma offers the mega-star and mega-actor a platform to completely deliver a tour-de-force performance. Quiet frankly this is a role NOBODY else could have played and Varma knows this too well. As RGV unravels his simple narrative, you realize just how vital Amitabh is to the proceedings as he dominates each and every frame. A film of this nature could’ve easily have been turned into a “drama” of sorts, but Varma’s narrative is that of a moody, somber thriller which in turn makes NISHABD an “exciting” film. Right from when the movie first starts through the hazy-blue tint of the camera as Amitabh’s Vijay starts talking to the camera about how he met Jiah and the turn of events that ultimately destroyed his marriage and family and eventually drove him to thoughts of suicide. NISHABD in the end is a film about loss; the loss of love, loss of purpose in life, loss of control, and the loss of youth.
Varma’s understanding of the subject matter is outstanding to say the least, and though his intentions don’t always come across with as much earnestness it’s truly wonderful to see Ram Gopal Varma return to form for the most with a film that
stands by everything Varma pretty much stands for-different, bold, path-breaking and one that’s bound to be talked about and discussed. The movie concludes amazingly. It is one of the most striking parts of the movie, and goes well with the reality standards that film has adhered by throughout. It is simple and pragmatic, that real life is never glamorous where "they live happily thereafter", though I did feel that the follow-up to the ending was a little sudden (something which I also found with Varmas SARKAR).
The deconstruction of an actor is an interesting process, especially if the actor has already established him or herself in a “mould” of sorts. In recent times I’ve seen both Kevin Costner and Nana Patekar cleverly deconstruct their on-screen image and in many instances even poke fun at it with much success. But the deconstruction of an actor like Amitabh Bachchan is a rather scary thought as such. The man is a living legend, someone who has reached the absolute peak of stardom and set a ballpark in Indian history which has never to date been matched. Apart from that, Bachchan is undoubtedly the ultimate actor. The earlier stages of Bachchans career sprung some of the most amazing and outstanding performances from PARWANA, SAUDAGAR, ZANJEER, ABHIMAAN, NAMAK HARAM, MAJBOOR, MILLI, DEEWAR, CHUPKE CHUPKE, SHOLAY, KABHIE KABHIE and countless others. Somewhere along the line the “superstar” took over at the detriment of Bachchan “the actor”. In 2000 MOHABBATEIN gave Bachchan a lease of life, and from there on started Amitabhs second innings, this time round-playing a old, patriarch and this continued in films like KABHIR KHUSI KABHIE GHAM, EK RISHTAA until the creative instinct in Amitabh kicked in again with Rakesh Omprakash Mehras masterpiece AKS, and from there on started Amitabh Bachchans second innings as an actor as he took on some of the most challenging roles and delivered some astonishing performances working with the best younger talents in Bollywood today with films like AANKHEN, KAANTE, KHAKEE, DEV, DEEWARR, BLACK, BUNTY AUR BABLI, SARKAR, and VIRRUDH. Roles were being written with specifically Amitabh in mind, and Amitabh the “super actor” as well as “star” had struck back.
With Ram Gopal Varma at helm, Amitabh Bachchan delivers what to my mind is one of his most powerful performances to date. No doubt, with a film like NISHABD Bachchan also takes the risk of not only losing some of his primary fan base, but also disgusting them. The very idea of Amitabh doing “such a role” is utter blasphemy was the exact reactions of my close family and friends who’re huge Amitabh fans, however the question I pose is how much longer can the man continue with the KABHIE KHUSHI KABHIE GHAM’s and WAQT’s? Yes the Box-office counters are set jingling with these films, but what I’ve noticed with Amitabh over the years and he speaks about quiet clearly in his interviews is a actors “creative craving”. Bachchan strives for more, his want and ability to explore genres, themes, ideas and notions untouched by Indian cinema still thrives inside him(which explains a film like BOOM), and with Ram Gopal Varma Bachhcan has found a director who not only knows this “hunger for creativity” too well but is happy to exploit it. Varma I feel is undoubtedly one of Amitabh Bachchans biggest fans as he not only understands the mans legacy too well, but also the mans ability as an actor. It sounds rather silly to call Amitabh Bachchan as a “revelation” but that’s the first word that comes to mind when speaking about his performance in NISHABD. I repeat, NO ONE could’ve played this character in Indian cinema except Amitabh Bachchan. I have always found AB a great silent broadcaster of emotions, and NISHABD offers him the platform to bring out a side of Bachchan that has never been witnessed before. Amitabh Bachchan in a role where he is vulnerable and confused, instead of being the wisdom figure he's been stuck in too many roles by now. In order for this character to truly “work” the movie needed someone who is an undying rock star, a larger-than-life “hero” and someone who is held in high regard. As the super-cool and sexy Dad of a best friend Bachchan slips into his role like a glove.
Yes he has played this demeanor before in Karan Johars KANK (however our “hero” here doesn’t sleep with hookers and boasts about it). The first half establishes Amitabh as the common-man, loving, family man who his wistfully happy in the world that he lives in. The reaction of Bachchans character with the arrival of Jiah and the subsequent change of emotions in him have been bought to life by Amitabh Bachchan in the most nuanced, sophisticated and dignified manner. Amitabh lends so much credibility to Vijay that it’s hard to spot Bachchan from Vijay at times. The “discovery” of ones self all over again is an aspect that Amitabh fleshes out with utmost precision and perfection. Right from his hysterical laughter when playing footsies under the table to when he actually “looks” at himself in the mirror the movie brings to screen a side of Amitabh Bachchan that has never been seen before!!! In the second half when the “truth” is revealed it’s Bachchan silence that speaks volumes as the “heroic” image is
completely shattered in what I can only call one of the riskiest and brave career moves made by an actor in Indian cinema. Each expression from pain, sorrow, hurt, regret and anger is simply haunting and lingers in the viewers minds. He brings out the inner conflict of his character in his body language, his eyes and his expressions to such a heightened impact it’s astounding! I SALUTE YOU Mr. Bachchan, and can only wait excitedly and wonder..where your search to satisfy your creative hunger will lead to next, and as I had said the other day in my AKS review and I repeat it now; if Hollywood has De Niro, Pacino, Nicholson, Hoffman etc, Bollywood has Amitabh Bachchan!
Jiah Khan delivers what is one of the finest debut performances ever, and arguably RGV’s finest discovery to date. The girl is a drop-dead stunner who is confident to the core, and perfectly understands the nuances and troubled psyche of her character with a passion. Deliciously sexy, overwhelmingly bold and uncompromisingly surprising Jiah Khan towers with a performance that is bound to shock as much as it does surprise for the sheer range of the actress. She jumps from impulsive, moody to self-assured within a number of seconds. Her accent is perfectly suited to her character and her facial expressions and body language exudes a raw sexuality. It would’ve been easy for a character like this to ultimately come across as “over-the-top” but Khan with Varma carefully guiding her refrains from going over doing it.
Interestingly enough, it’s been a while since I saw an actress actually match Amitabh every step of the way, and Jiah Khan does just that (nuff said). Her chemistry with the Big B is so tender, volatile and invincible that it has to be seen to be believed. The “bold” scenes shared between the two come across with dignity and panache that it’s indescribably exceptional. Welcome to Bollywood Miss Khan!
Revathy delivers a performance that’s natural to the core and hits all the right notes. She plays the calm, intelligent, and mature house-wife with aplomb and delivers a quietly devastating performance. Her expressions towards the end leave a shattering impact. I have always found Revathy to be a extremely talented actress, and more-so have felt that her pairing with Amitabh works rather well as she proves to be a superb foil for Bachchans persona, and after DIL JO BHI KAHEY its evident here again in NISHABD.
Nasser is as reliable as ever in his part, and conveys the right amount of understanding and maturity which is needed. Given he’s one of my favorite actors in Tamil cinema; it was a pleasure seeing him in a Hindi film.
Aftab Shivdasani fails to leave much of an impact in a special appearance.
Newcomer Shraddha Arya is effective in her part and excels in the second half.
Technically the movie is enthralling as expected from Ram Gopal Varma. Amit Roy’s cinematography is awe-inspiring. The lush green locales of Munnar have been captured in all its glory. More-so Roy manages to capture Varmas photo-shoot vision of Bachchan and Jiah to perfection. Each and every expression on Bachchans face has been shot with painstaking precision and the results glow. Jiah Khans sensuality too has been captured with a passion (to the detriment of the film at times). There also a lot of use of Dutch angles or angles in which the frame is tilted which is used to show something unnatural or something that might lead to something that is not right and the impact is spot on. Editor Nipun Gupta does an outstanding job. The juxtaposition of shots and symbology emphasises and speaks more than Amrik Gills natural dialogues at times. The background score by Amar Mohile and Vishal Bharadwaj is outstanding and heightens the impact of the movie by many notches.
So does it look like I came out from the movie impressed? Yes, I did! The movie does have it’s fair share of flaws which does stop it from reaching the status of a “classic” and these are often glaring at times, however these are many a times washed away by sheer power of Amitabh Bachchan and Jiah Khans performances as well as some stunning story-telling from the twisted and demented mind of Ram Gopal Varma, and yes, the movie is definitely NOT everyone’s cup of tea. Appreciation for striving to do something different, uncomfortable and bold as well as a passion for Varmas demented vision and ultimately Bachchan’s creative satisfaction is an ABSOLUTE MUST!