You love someone. Can you make him/ her do something he/she does not really want to? And can you predict everything that he/she will do in such a situation? What if his/her actions deviate from what you thought he/she would do? Does that mean you never knew him/her in the first place?
“Shabd” is mindblowing. It’s very unlike your normal Hindi movie—stylistically and very definitely thematically. So much so that I wonder how this movie ever got made——this was fated to be a commercial dud from the get-go. Indian audiences, with all due acknowledgement to its newly-discovered discernment, will never appreciate this movie. Far less understand it.
Sanjay Dutt is a Booker prize (a bit of overkill here but hey what the hell) winning author suffering from a serious case of writer’s block. His last novel had been critically panned for being neither reality nor fantasy—–in fact it was such a miserable failure that his publishers are refusing to touch his next book with a barge pole.
So he decides to ask his wife Aishwarya Rai to have an affair with an younger man so that he can write that story as his next novel.
This last line is present, with minor variations, in all the reviews of the movie I have read on the Net.
Which just goes to show—-the wise reviewers didn’t “get” the movie—–far less the hoi polloi.
Sanjay Dutt (Shaukat) and Aishwarya Rai (Antara) are totally and passionately in love with each other. Shaukat has taken the criticism of his last book—that he is not touch with reality–to heart. He believes he knows his wife inside-out, he is confident that he exerts total power over her emotionally. And he wants to test that knowledge—-which is why when an young professor (Zayed Khan) at Antara’s college takes more than a passing interest in her, Shaukat encourages her to be friends with him (something that Antara does not initially like). But this young man’s compliments and his “childishness” help Antara recapture a part of herself that marriage had taken away—and she , in turn, feels attracted towards this young man. But not in the way Shaukat thinks she is.
Shuakat’s novel is all about predicting his wife’s actions and his contentment is visible when initially her actions match his words—-he is convinced that he is still in touch with reality—as he once announces triumphantly “Noone knows the human mind better than Shaukat”.
But like all men who think they understand women, Shaukat is wrong.
Sanjay Dutt, as the author losing touch with reality, is simply marvellous. The versatility of this man is amazing and he essays a very difficult role with unbelievable aplomb. For those who think Sanju Baba’s forte is as a tough-talking don brandishing guns—–please see “Shabd”. This is as sensitive a portrayal of a man you are likely to see. Aishwarya Rai looks ravishing and does a competent job. Zayed Khan is an irritating presence—he really should stop imitating Shahrukh Khan—-it’s just not working.
The movie looks beautiful—a bit too feminine in many ways but this was a female director and the movie was a reflection of a typically female sense of aesthetics. Which was not the problem. The problem was that the director overdid many of the effects and the “Beautiful Mind” inspired stuff (you will know it when you see it) got a trifling boring and overwrought as the movie went on.
Be warned, Shabd is a pretty slow moving movie about relationships—-not my favorite genre of movies. Despite that, I could not take my eyes off the screen—so riveted was I by the plot.
A final word to the producers. Please do not try to cheat the audience. Shabd was marketed as a sleaze-fest on the lines of any movie with Payal Rohatgi, Mallika Sherawat, Meghna Naidu…………..it is anything but. This movie really had no chance of ever working with an Indian audience due to its somewhat abstract theme…….however things were made even worse by dishonest marketing which brought in the wrong kinds of crowd for a movie that was as deeply moving, thought-provoking and multi-hued as Shabd.