People are protesting against the film Nishabd. Most of them have not seen it; I have not seen it. Therefore, I can only comment about the idea behind it. A young 18-year-old falls in love with a 60-year-old man. Hers is an impulsive attraction; his appears many-layered and in a rare move he confesses this truth about his feelings to his wife. As I said, how it has been dealt with I will know later, but for now I applaud the honesty.
The criticism, as always, is that these sort of things go against our culture. I am not aware which hothouse plant Indian culture is that it is cocooned from what the rest of the world is likely to experience. Our history is full of kings and harems, and no royal male would bother to get an older woman, or even his contemporary, into this wonderful little world of his.
Those were exploitative times when the woman did not have a say. Besides, look at the contemporary cases of old men groping in the public transport, of 'naughty uncles', of paedophilia. Here, the character makes the first move and lets herself flow with the tide of her feelings. She is not a victim.
It isn’t the first film in this genre. More recently we had Jogger’s Park. Even more importantly, if the protestors have a problem they should have made a noise about the character of Sexy Sam in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. He was a bit sick, trying hard to behave young and hip, and flaunting his machismo before his son and daughter-in-law. He was an emotionless, crass man.
I think I know what people have against Nishabd. It deals with emotions. We are scared of them. We cannot face our own feelings so we look into other people’s eyes and pretend to tell a truth even we do not believe in.
Nishabd could well be a wordless tribute to these silent moments.