Monday, May 21, 2007

calm in the eye of the storm: Nishabd

The most striking thing about Nishabd, I think, is how reasonable and balanced all of the people are around and through their very dramatic emotions that arise from very unreasonable, absurd events. As is often the case in sad stories, I think, this one is fueled by people making bad choices. Really, really bad and selfish choices. Vijay may have loved Jia's youthfulness - her short-shorts, lollipop-sucking, tantrum-throwing, pouting, flirting, rude, repetitive youthfulness - but his short-sighted and selfish decisions about how he responded to her are the worst immaturity in this story - worse than Jia's because, of course, he's old enough to know better and he has very strong, important reasons (a wife, a child, the life he's built) to act on that knowledge.

Here's what he says when reflecting on what happened:

Since the time this happened with me I always used to think why does this happen. That an old man feels attracted towards a young girl. Why? And the girl's youthful body is not the only reason. The reason is that after a certain age every person fears his aging and death. And he wants to run away from that fear. Towards youth. But this can't happen. We all get so entangled and stuck in the worldly matters that we forget that the real reason of life is to be happy. And maybe this is the reason why we feel a bit jealous of children and youngsters. Because unlike them we lose the capability to enjoy happiness. Spending time with Jia I had become like a child. I thought I have got another chance to be young.
If he got another chance to be young, I'd have to say he squandered it right quick.

Hey, RGV: did you have to have Jia frolic with a hose between her legs, spraying water up over her upper torso and face (I'm willing to forgive the repeated images of her sucking on things)? (If you haven't seen the movie, a perfect still from the scene is on imdb.) Cheap and tacky - and a little broad, don'tcha think? I want to know who was in charge of Jia's image. Is your portrayal of Jia the one she would choose for herself? Or do we see her as Vijay sees her? Or is she actually like that?

Jia exudes a bit of what my friend Wendy and I call "the tyranny of the wacky," our term to describe the phenomenon in movies in which unconventional characters hold sway over more stable, calm characters. You know this story: person in a rut is besotted with the wacky, kooky, free spirit, not seeing how often this person is hurtful and irresponsible. Sometimes TotW results from lazy writing, I think, just letting someone be attractive only because they are different, not because they actually offer much of substance or meaning. I'm not saying TotW explains the whole story of Nishabd, but I think Jia has some of this - or at least that's the effect she has on Vijay - and it's much exacerbated by her age. If she were Vijay's age, her behavior would absolutely not be tolerated in this house. She'd have been unceremoniously kicked out a day after her arrival. And I don't think it would have affected him so, either.

Here are some of the other thoughts I scribbled down while watching (basically unedited).
  • Vijay's line about "We should only be concerned about those who understand us" is a very good trick for creating an intimacy with Jia; his statement implies that they understand each other. And she responds in kind by saying "I don't share my poems with anybody. Do you want to hear more?" Notice that the viewer doesn't hear the poems - we just watch him hear them.
  • "Take light" - isn't that what a camera does? It takes light and turns it into an image?
  • I wonder if Vijay had taken her lightly if any of this would have happened? Or if he took it lightly, would we have met him standing on a cliff talking about deciding to die?
  • Vijay's statement that "The real life is the one lived on one's own decisions" - what does this say about what he says he feels about Jia? Did he decide he loves her? If not, what does that say about his state? If so, what does that say about the rest of his life, his non-Jia life?
  • I think you'd have to be a real grown-up to just say "I love you" and let it sit there without saying, as Jia does, "Did you hear me?" or "What do you think about me?" When he finally responds "yes" she smiles, twirls, and skips out of the room. She doesn't stay.
  • In the scene in which the uncle arrives and everyone is sitting together, the girls' shirts are so cleverly contrasted. Jia's is off-the-shoulder, disheveled, bright, wild; Ritu's is prim, tailored, and light. Ritu's probably shows more actual skin, but just her arms, sort of what you expect a shirt to show, while Jia's shows her neck and collarbone and shoulder, less conventionally. Yay costume designer!
  • Jia doesn't like red; Shri interrogates Vijay in the red light of the darkroom. I think this is the one of only three times we see a warm color anywhere: there's an earlier scene in the darkroom, and at one point Jia has burgundy nail polish. And neither of these reds is truly warm - one is lifeless and electric, the other is blue and dark. The whole movie is blue-gray, even in the sunshine. (This reminds me very much of the lighting used in Anil Kapoor's scenes in Salaam-e-Ishq [which I just watched], where we see him in his dreary routine in which he doesn't realize the love he has.)
  • He was going to throw out his own daughter? Horrible!
  • As Vijay walks into the kitchen and says "Ritu's going to America," a pot on the stove lets out steam. Ritu being gone would definitely make recovery easier.
  • Another clothing note: Vijay wears a thick sweater during most of his confession/narration scenes - I wonder why they put him in that? Does he look softer and more vulnerable that way?
  • "Jia's thoughts are eating me up from within." Does he mean his thoughts of her? Or her own thoughts? Is he thinking about her himself, or is he thinking about her own image of her?
  • Oooh, crappy - he wants to keep on living so he can stay with Jia's memories...how does that fit with her thoughts eating him up?
Oh, I should say in closing how excellent I thought Amitabh Bachchan's performance was. This is by far my favorite of his performances in the last ten years - except Bunty aur Babli, because I will always prefer comedy. His restraint while being genuinely expressive was amazing.

4 comments:

Aparna said...

God, that was deep and you seemed to have covered everything through your notes and observations....I have not seen Nishabd, but on reading your review....felt as if I would have written the same. Sometimes, someone's scatttered notes describe something more completely than a detailed analysis....great description!

--Sunrise-- said...

Beth - you liked his performance in Nishabd better than that in Black? I haven't seen Nishabd (yet!), by the way.. just wondering.. :)

Kartik said...

Beth, I enjoy reading your blog and have been an Amitabh fan pretty much all my life. I agree he was remarkable in Nishabd. Another fantastic performance from the last decade is in Khakee. He packs an incredible wallop as a policewallah with an unspectacular career nearing retirement, possibly ruing never having got a shot at heroism. It's a racy movie with some great performances - highly recommended. If I am not mistaken, it's written by S Raghavan (or his brother) - the same guy who wrote/directed Johnny Gaddar and Ek Haseena Thi.

Beth said...

Hi Kartik - Thank you for commenting! I have not seen Khakee, and I don't know why not - it sounds great! I'll add it to my list!