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Nishabd – Ram Gopal Verma’s Adaptation of Nabokov’s Tale

March 2007

Vijay (Amitabh BACHCHAN) is a photographer who leads a peaceful with his daughter and wife. One day, his daughter brings her friend Jiah (Jiah KHAN) with her to spend the holidays at home. Vijay’s life slowly shatters into pieces as a strong bond builds up between him and Jiah, till they inevitably fall in love with each other.

The film, which reads as an adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, explores the relationship between a married man and father with a young girl old enough to be his granddaughter, who feels emotionally lost and desolate and who sees in Vijay a lover and a father she longs for. One can say that Nishabd is definitely one of 2007’s beautiful surprises! One could have expected the moralizing and melodramatic piece, but Nishabd surprises you by being the complete opposite.

The story is dealt with in an honest manner; Ram Gopal Varma does not seek to judge any of the two characters, but rather explore the complexity of human relationships, feelings and emotions. Their closeness and their relationship and the sensual feel of the scenes are simply evoked by the director, only to intensify the feel and the chemistry between the two characters.

The overall atmosphere of the film is all the more intensified through the camera and the way the whole film is shot. Viewers are regaled with beautiful views and pictures, in a yet simple and sleek setting the film stands apart from the classic Bollywood as it is set in Kerala, amidst tea plantations and a humble and sober dwelling… This has created a minimalist and close knit setting, which in turn produces a rather realistic film, far from the glittery and extravagant atmosphere we tend to get with classic Bollywood films.

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No bright sari can be seen, Vijay’s wife always wears sober and sad outfits conveying in a way the fact that her character is more withdrawn in Vijay’s life. This incidentally reinforces Jiah’s freshness and beauty.

The BACHCHAN/ KHAN couple is quite unusual, yet fresh, sensuous almost spot on. Amitabh BACHCHAN is irresistible and incredibly convincing in his role of the perfect father at a loss, torn between his own emotions and reason. No doubt, any teenage girl would fall for him, his charm, his smile and penetrating gaze. This is truly one of his most challenging parts and once again, Big B proves his tremendous talent as an actor.

On the other hand, Jiah Khan is extraordinary. She’s perfect in the role of the emotionally lost, flirty and Lolita-like teenager. One warms and sometimes hates her character, which actually makes the viewer feel the poignant moments she goes through with her. One simply has to wait for what she has in store with her other roles.

One note, in spite of a very notable performance, she also owes a lot to her pouting mouth and voluptuousness which have strongly contributed to the whole “Lolita” look. Won’t this asset risk becoming a label?

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