There’s something very poetic that filmmaker Hemanth Madhukar aims to achieve through Nishabdham, at least on a script level. Anthony, a flamboyant man in his 30s is a superstar of a cello player in Seattle. The girl he falls in love with, Sakshi, can neither hear nor speak, and is a gifted painter. While Sakshi teaches Anthony about art, the man helps the girl relish his music despite her disabilities. The artsy connection between the two is one-of-a-kind and feels pure, sparing you of the flimsiness in conventional on-screen romances. While as a viewer, I’d secretly wished the filmmaker explored this equation with greater sincerity, Nishabdham isn’t a romance. Far from it, it aims to be a taut murder mystery and only partially succeeds in its attempt.
The challenge while making thrillers of any kind is the ability to be one step ahead of the audience. Nishabdham can’t be labelled predictable, neither does it prove to be satisfying when the key twist unravels. The film begins with a murder at a resort and the only witness in the case is Sakshi – her disabilities make the case a near improbable one to solve for the cops. The intelligence in the script is minimal and it tries to spoon-feed you more than what it wants to show. Everything is spelt out through dialogue and there’s little for the audience to absorb/savour.
The director doesn’t make a sincere effort to capture the world of its characters – why Anthony, Sakshi, her friends Vivek and Sonali behave the way they do? Everything about them is airy and vague. On the other end is a crime branch officer, Maha, who keeps giving updates about the case in the form of voice-overs, as if it were a cricket match commentary. Half the time, she keeps calling her husband Chandu about the many risks that she’s taking on the field and he repeatedly advises her to be careful as if her wife was a child. Richard Dawkins, her colleague, is busy flaunting his style quotient than focusing on the job.
Miraculously enough, Nishabdham, despite its many logical loopholes and poorly construed characters, keeps you engaged to the proceedings. It’s been a long time since a Telugu thriller has been shot so lavishly in an international location completely; the visuals and landscapes are quite a sight for sore eyes. The cinematographer Shaneil Deo’s tryst with thrillers like Kshanam, Goodachari helps this film. Gopi Sundar’s songs aren’t bad at all – it’s a treat to hear singer Harini croon for a Telugu film after a long while. There’s an artistic touch to the way the murderer kills his/her victims.
Nishabdham’s main pitfall is the absence of an adrenaline rush. The action choreography is weak; the chases and the action sequences don’t impress at all. The film tries to be a Hollywood-styled slick thriller minus any melodrama – the script can’t be totally dismissed but it needed more detailing and better execution. More care ought to have been taken to add panache to Madhavan’s character – the jaded, dull appearance and the zilch chemistry with Anushka is a disappointment. Anjali and Hollywood actor Micheal Madsen show off their no-nonsense image beyond necessity, the former looks her ravishing best in a fit avatar. The dialogues are unintentionally funny and work against the momentum of the proceedings.
It’s a pleasant sight to see Anushka back on the screen after a long break from films. Her penchant for trying diverse characters hasn’t died down and she does a decent job as someone with a speaking and hearing disability. Shalini Pandey’s quest for a good role after Arjun Reddy isn’t expected to end anytime soon. Though the actor is sincere while she lasts, there’s no takeaway element from the character at all. Subbaraju, meanwhile, keeps telling ‘let’s go to FBI’ repeatedly as if it’s the nearest mall to visit; apart from that, he does get a meaty role. Srinivasa Avasarala is wasted in a meaningless part. Though Nishabdham isn’t the debacle that many are putting it out to be, it had immense scope to be better film.
Cast: Madhavan, Anushka, Anjali, Micheal Madsen, Subbaraju
Director: Hemanth Madhukar
Cinematographer: Shaneil Deo
Music director: Gopi Sundar