Updated: Oct 3, 2020
Some films, when you watch a trailer, you expect a lot. Take Super Deluxe, for instance. The film's trailer and the film are two different things. The things told in the trailer - in the form of a story - is what the film is about and the visuals in the trailer deceive you. Trailers are meant to be like that. They give you a peek into what the film is about and yet don't let the story out completely. Trailers are made to make you want to go and watch the film. They are supposed to intrigue you.
Silence is no exception to that. However, when you watch the film, you feel completely let down. I get reminded of dialogue by Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory, "It must be so humbling to suck on so many different levels", he says to Leonard. The context is that the former defeats the latter in a game of 3D chess. Leonard sighs in exasperation and thankfully there is another distraction in his life to get him out of that. Oh, the good old days where quarantine didn't exist! Unfortunately, I didn't have anything to distract me after watching this film.
This is allegedly a murder-mystery-thriller. The foremost requisites of films of this genre are elements of surprise and blink-and-miss but important details that hold together a narrative. This film has neither. I'm sorry. I'm being too unfair. There are elements of surprise, but they don't surprise you. This film also explores the angle of a supernatural thriller which is left to only the opening minutes of the film.
Silence stars Madhavan, Anushka Shetty, Shalini Pandey, Michael Madsen (of Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill fame), Subbaraju and Srinivas Avasarala. The film is about the death of Anthony (Madhavan), a world-famous Cellist, whose death resembles the death of a couple from the 70s. Sakshi (Anushka Shetty) complains about this. Maha (Anjali) enquires the death of Anthony along with her in-charge Richard Dickinson (Michael Madsen). The police (of course I mean Maha, we are all for "strong roles" for women in cinema aren't we?), feels that there is more to the case than what meets the eye. The rest of the film is about how Anthony died and who was responsible for it - a ghost or a human? I didn't talk about the characters the rest of the cast plays, you ask? That's because there is nothing to say about them.
Oh wait, I didn't tell you about the most interesting part of the film - the supernatural element! In the 70s a couple is mysteriously killed in its own house. The case remains unsolved and rumours spread that it is the work of a ghost. The government (Did I tell you that the whole story takes place in the U.S.?) takes over the bungalow and there are no buyers to that property. After 40 years (what's the obsession with this number?), a businessman (why does no one else have the guts?) buys this house. What happens to him? What is his business? Don't ask. Even if you do, you'd rather that you didn't. You can have your own conjectures on this regard. The opening scenes that show this are the only interesting elements in the film. The lighting, the sound design and the special effects are good and set the mood for a good take-off.
However, the film doesn't take-off. In fact, it doesn't even taxi. The engine breaks down and is towed by another vehicle. This, in short, is Silence, for you. For a screenplay that hints at supernatural interference in the beginning and turns into an investigative thriller, you expect at least a reference to the former during the narrative. This does refer to that, in dialogues, but it never hits you. I recommend you don't watch this film after you have a full meal - not because of the blood and gore. The plot moves so fast that you would fall asleep. I did.
Let's talk about the stars' performance. Madhavan as Anthony does best as the character permits. This is the only other fairly well-written character in the film. The other one is Sakshi. Anthony's reason behind the "surprise" behaviour though unbelievable works fairly well. Yet, that doesn't seem enough to hold the film together. Anushka Shetty gives a fine performance as a mute and deaf person, Sakshi. She is the wife-to-be of the deceased Anthony. Shalini Pandey (as Sonali) could have been anybody. After Arjun Reddy when you see her on-screen you expect something with substance. Here, she is just there to add to the list of stars that are part of the film. Same is the case with Avasarala Srinivas (as Surya), the husband of Maha. All that he gets to do is to talk about how hot another man's wife was (in hindsight, was that a hint at how preachy the film is going to get towards the end?) and talk about possessiveness like its rocket science. Oh, yes, he also gets to worry about his wife as she goes on a lethal mission to uncover the mystery! He is the perfect example of what an intelligent and yet "Sanskari" wife would have been in the 90s. Michael Madsen (Richard Dickinson), does what he could do best for a woeful waste of his time and calibre. No character has an evolutionary arc (except for Sakshi and Anthony, even theirs is underwritten). Vivek (played by Subbaraju) is supposed to confuse us but his lanky frame makes things very obvious in the film.
The writing is utterly prosaic. This boring writing seeps into the screen as well. The unnecessary song blocks (none of which stays with you) add as huge breakers in an already snail-paced narrative. The reactions of characters when key plot points are arrived at are too stagey and the dialogues make it appear like we are sitting right in the middle of a soap and not a film. The music, especially the violins are fresh. The background score by Girishh G. is impressive. However, that too becomes too repetitive. The use could be restricted. At times, you feel a lot relieved when there is no score in the film. I wanted more of that. The film gets very preachy towards the end - there is even a song dedicated to morality!
In short, Silence, a good idea on paper gets poorly translated on the screen. The actors are its only selling point and a film needs way more than that. The only consolation is the background score which tries to make up for what lacks in writing and direction. But there is only so much music can do. And that reflects in how it pains your ears at times. To tweak Sheldon's words a bit, "It is so numbing to watch a film suck at so many different levels" Most importantly if you don't have an interesting neighbour to distract you from this test of patience, a moment of silence for you!