Synopsis – When everyone is hiding the truth, justice will thrive despite the silence. Prepare for a murder mystery that will keep you guessing till the end.
My Take – There is a reason why Agasta Christie‘s novels continue sell well despite being close to four decades since her death, mainly as people love whodunit mysteries! On the cinema side, films like Murder on the Orient Express (2017) and Rian Johnson‘s excellent Knives Out (2019) were the most recent ones which succeeded in wowing us.
However, when it comes to the side of Hindi cinema, despite possessing abundant writing and directing talent in such a vast and constantly changing industry, we have only a handful of such thrillers to speak of, with few films like Gumnaam (1965), Gupt: The Hidden Truth (1997), Talvar (2015) and Drishyam (2015), managing to actually leave a long lasting mark. Though last year’s Netflix release, Raat Akeli Hai, more than made up for the space, thanks to its stellar cast, a definitive murder-mystery at its center, a stout technical team, and of course a twist no one saw coming, as a fan of the genre I am obviously itching for more.
A void filled by the arrival of this latest mystery thriller, written and directed by Aban Bharucha Deohans, and released on ZEE5, where I last devoured the magnificent Nail Polish, just two months ago. To add to the hype, the film is led by Manoj Bajpayee, who just scored his third National award win, and continues to be driving force in both commercial and parallel cinema, while also marking as the comeback vehicle for actress Prachi Desai, who hasn’t been seen in a feature film since Rock On 2 (2016).
Unfortunately, while the trailer promised an intriguing thriller through and through, the central mystery just isn’t fresh, nor does it employ any innovative treatments to tell the tale. Though it is constantly engaging, mainly due to its highly likable cast, it is also marred by unnecessary subplots and some glaring plot holes which leak out of the any semblance of an intelligent, twisty murder mystery that might have left the viewer in awe with its proficiency.
The story follows ACP Avinash Varma (Manoj Bajpayee), a no holds barred kind of policeman, who is tasked with solving the murder of Pooja (Barkha Singh), whose body was found on a hillside on a trekking trail just outside Mumbai, with her head bashed in. With her bereaved father Justice Choudhary (Shishir Sharma) wanting the culprit caught quickly, Avinash assembles a team comprising of Sanjana Bhatia (Prachi Desai), Amit Chauhan (Sahil Vaid) and Raj Gupta (Vaquar Sheikh), and begins the proceedings.
However, their needle of suspicion immediately lands on Ravi Khanna (Arjun Mathur), a young MLA, as Pooja’s last stopover was at her friend Kavita’s home, whose husband Ravi is apparently the last person who saw her alive. But with Kavita lying in comatose state at the hospital, the mystery turns out to more complicated than Avinash imagined it would be.
With all the makings of a superb potboiler, the film seemed set into turning a remarkable thriller, with the suspense is maintained right till the end, if only it was handled and executed well. While director Aban Bharucha Deohans ticks off most of the boxes when it comes to holding your attention with her story and loses her grip on the screenplay. The execution too, lacks novelty barring a few scenes. With the investigating team front and center of the film, the film makes them appear like bungling amateurs, as they half the film’s run time to arrive at crucial facts and details surrounding the murder.
Even motives are brought in and thrown out conveniently, for example, sexual activity on the part of the victim is ruled out immediately upon postmortem due to the lack of defensive wounds, however, later on attempted rape is taken up as the prime motive. The murder weapon too is mentioned in the start and not brought back until the climax of the film. In order to look effective the film is mainly focused on fixing the supposed time line of the murder and the call records of the potential suspects.
Besides the loopholes-ridden plot, another niggling issue with the film is the amount of redundancy in the narrative. Plot points are repeated unnecessarily; random shots, needless skirmishes, inessential characters, all weigh the story-line down. Several sequences in the film come across as unnecessary and seem to be added just to lend substance to the wafer thin plot. What they do instead is drag down the pace and grip of the story-line, leaving it slow, sketchy and saddled with loose ends. The ‘Sunny’ episode is one such sequence that is stretched beyond bearable.
Yet, despite these shortcomings, the film remains engaging mostly, mainly due to the tight-knit team working in tandem to crack the case, as member possess a distinct character, making them root-able. The star of the show, is of course, Manoj Bajpayee, who once again brings in a charismatic presence and immaculate performance. Bajpayee has always excelled at all his roles, no matter which genre they might be, he continues to be a treat to watch. Prachi Desai is a welcome presence in her comeback film, delivering a flawless performance in her usual calm, reassuring style.
Arjun Mathur is edgy and jumpy enough to attract suspicion, though his character could’ve been written better. Sahil Vaid and Vaquar Sheikh provide good support with decent performances while Shishir Sharma, Denzil Smith, Sohaila Kapoor, Amit Thakkar, Garima Yagnik, and Barkha Singh are efficient. On the whole, ‘Silence… Can You Hear It?’ is a passable, predictable whodunit thriller containing an engaging Manoj Bajpayee performance.
Directed – Aban Bharucha Deohans
Rated – NR
Run Time – 136 minutes