One of the many disengaging aspects of Nishabdham, streaming on Amazon Prime Video, is that the characters in this movie behave as if they have no skin in the game. Especially Anushka Shetty’s Sakshi, who becomes a witness in a murder case involving a world-famous cello player Anthony, played by Madhavan.
It all begins when Sakshi takes Anthony to a haunted house in Seattle. She goes to the haunted house to find a vintage painting. The house in question has seen a couple killed brutally in 1972. The deaths are designed to make us believe that this is, indeed, the doings of the devil. And cut to 2019, we also find Anthony crucified to a wall in the basement in the same manner of the house’s previous occupants. The plot thickens, when Sakshi somehow miraculously escapes the clutches of death and makes a run for her life. Now, she should be able to settle the debate about the presence of a ghost in the house. However, she is deaf and mute and that makes police officer Richard Dawkins (Michael Madsen) snap: “Just what I need. A mute for a witness.” Firstly, that’s insensitive and not cool at all. And secondly, Richard knew Sakshi personally even before this incident and that means he must have been aware of her condition as well.
That’s the problem with this thriller. Things in the narration just don’t add up. The gaping holes in the narrative, to put it like Maha (Anjali), disrespects the “experiences and intelligence” of the audience. And the biggest bummer is not a single actor behaves normally or brings in some originality to his or her performance. It feels like all the actors were perpetuating stereotypes, instead of finding a unique voice for their respective characters. For example, Anjali’s Maha thinks swag is all about wearing fancy sunglasses. She doesn’t have a single quality that inspires respect or admiration for her character.
And another example is the use of the “F” word. It seems writer and producer Kona Venkat felt, given that Michael Madsen is playing an American cop and he has done a few Tarantino movies, he must use the “F” word even when there is no necessity for that. Take, for example, the scene from “Old Cases”, which is episode 4 from season 1 of The Wire. Two cops take up a murder case and methodically examine the crime scene, making discoveries. And the entire conversation in the scene is filled with nothing but iterations of the “F” word. And it’s an iconic scene that will stick with the audience for years to come. But, whenever Michael Madsen uses that adjective, it feels so shallow, meaningless and out of place.
The performances of all the actors are uninspiring because the writing is so dull. It feels like the actors were in the film for the paycheck but not because they believed in the material. Anuskha hardly makes an effort to sell the movie with her performance. Maybe she must have realised halfway through the production that the audience would not buy a variation of Bhaagamathie.