Nishabdham is a thriller film directed by Hemant Madhukar and starring Anushka Shetty, Madhavan and Anjali, with Michael Madsen, Subbaraju, Shalini Pandey and Srinivas Avasarala in supporting roles. The film was shot simultaneously in Telugu, Tamil and English.
Nishabdham follows Sakshi, a deaf and mute artist. When her husband gets murdered in a seemingly haunted villa, she gets embroiled in a case that has more to offer than meets the eye.
Listen, there’s a thing about delving into whodunit thrillers. You have to balance the vast number of plots and subplots that you have in your story (like Knives Out). Nishabdham tries to take that route, but fails miserably at it.
The first few minutes of the movie will have you wondering whether this is a horror movie or not. It has all the tropes – someone checking you out from the shadows, flickering lights in the basement, something skittering behind you and then pouncing on you – the works. Then we conveniently forget that part and move on to making this a “smart” thriller with the banalest characters ever.
The tropes are here as well – the innocent victim (as The Cabin in the Woods would tell you), the “psycho” best friend, the “smart” cop, a fiance who’s too good to be true and a police captain who’s an absolute a-hole. However, Nishabdham, in a bid to try to be very smart, turns out to be an absolute dud.
First of all, the story goes 20 different ways, and by the time it all comes together, you don’t care about it anymore. Honestly, it all seems so impossible that it’s difficult to keep track. There are women being murdered in Seattle when Anthony and Sakshi’s case comes into existence. Everyone suspects the “ghost” of Woodside Villa except Maha, who is too smart for her own good. We also have a jealous best friend angle, which somehow is a big deal here. And then we have the finale revelation, with a “action-packed” end scene that just looks fake. Nishabdham’s stories are surface-level, and the motivation for our killers to do horrific crimes have been overdone.
Talking about surface-level, the characters in this movie are the most one-dimensional people ever. None of them have any depth, and some seriously great talent is wasted. Anushka Shetty is a great actor, however, her talent goes unnoticed and she is merely turned into an object of pity, trying to make others understand what she is talking about. Nishabdham, for a minute, wanted to take the Hush route, but swiftly runs away from any sort of intrigue.
Shalini Pandey as Sonali is good, however her character ranges from being a rude child who needs some lessons on civility and an absolute sociopath. The fact that Sakshi enables her toxic behaviour is astounding to me. Michael Madsen seems very out of place in this thriller, and just shuffles around shouting profanities. Anjali’s Maha, as mentioned above, is too smart for her own good. She tries to explain the case to the viewers with her narration, but it’s annoying and doesn’t leave any room for imagination.
The best part of the film is Madhavan and his arc. Delving too much would be major spoilers, so I’d just mention here that the makers should seriously have delved more into his and Sakshi’s characters, instead of playing with side characters who did not add anything interesting to the story. Madhavan is a great actor, and the fact that his talent is wasted in a paper-thin plot is just sad.
However, two of the greatest flaws of Nishabdham are its dialogues and dubbing. The dialogues are terrible (or maybe it was the subtitles), giving away too much, or sometimes saying things that are plain stupid. The dubbing is abysmal and just looks like sloppy work. A lot could’ve been salvaged had the makers taken the route of subtlety, but alas, it oversimplifies something that shouldn’t have been, and takes away what little intrigue the story had mustered to create.
Summing up: Nishabdham
Nishabdham, boasting of a great star cast, had promised a thrilling ride from start to finish. However, its sloppy writing and terrible dubbing pulls a good concept down. At one point, a very American woman signs Maha’s Telugu to Sakshi. Either everyone in America understands Telugu, or the director just forgot what was going on. Scenes like this can be found aplenty in the movie, and, unfortunately, will make you laugh.
Nishabdham is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
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