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Shabd



"Shabd" ... where the real and unreal merge.

LEENA YADAV'S Hindi film, "Shabd" (Word) sets out to explore the confusion that occurs when the real and the unreal mix and merge. She focuses on a writer, Shaukat Vashisht (Sanjay Dutt), whose Booker Prize award leads to criticism and a writer's block. He turns to his wife, Antara (Aishwarya Rai), for an inspiration that soon results in a peculiar form of sadism.

Shaukat pushes his wife into the arms of a young lecturer, Yash (Zayed Khan), who is her colleague in the same college where she teaches fashion.

"Shabd" appears to have drawn liberally from the French director, Francois Ozon's recent "Swimming Pool," where an aging English writer seeks refuge in the French countryside to get over her dull, problematic patch. Ozon's gripping movie unfolds a drama as it flows out of the writer's notebook in the sylvan surroundings of a French village. The script is so intelligently written that it is only at the end that the viewer realises that what he has been watching all along was flowing out of the writer's mind.

On the other hand, "Shabd" has an apology for a script: we do not understand why Shaukat ought to use an ancient typewriter in circa 2004; how is it possible for a college lecturer to sport just about a vest and take his classes; what kind of a college would that be where two lecturers neck in full view of their students...

Yadav's work is nothing short of an insult to the audience's sensibility, and the film was met with boos at its first screening in Chennai.

Does "Shabd" have anything at all to lift it from the abysmal pit it seeks to hide in? Yes, Rai's acting, which has improved and matured with time. One had almost given up on her till Rituparno Ghosh's "Raincoat" catapulted her to a remarkably satisfying height.

She has now understood the importance of using her eyes and face to convey feelings, something that actresses such as Waheeda Rehman or Nutan or Rekha or Ingrid Bergman or Grace Kelley did. As for Dutt and Khan, their performances sink with little trace.

GAUTAMAN BHASKARAN

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