‘Tapestry‘ is a term we can often associate with filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, because there is possibly no one like him amongst his contemporaries in the industry who artistically presents a story with sweeping visuals (Vikramaditya Motwane comes second to him)
(See Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas, Black, Saawariya, Guzaarish, Goliyoon Ki Ras Leela: Ram Leela and recent Bajirao Mastani)
Allow me to take you along to the trip down the memory lane,
I believe many are aware (I hope as well) that before the highly acclaimed and successful ‘Hum Dil Se Chuke Sanam’ had sweeped the nation in 1999, Three years back, Sanjay had already embarked his journey into film-making with a film called ‘Khamoshi – The Musical’.
It released in 1996 and while the film was commercially unsuccessful much to our shame, thankfully it was immensely loved and universally appreciated for it’s dark and anguish theme that was seen as risky material back then (it was believed that Madhuri Dixit was offered the central protagonist role – played by the lovely Manisha Koirala eventually – only to reject it because she felt it was too depressing)
For the starters, who are yet to see this gem, I share the basic plot below:
Joseph (Nana Patekar) & Flavy (Seema Biswas) are catholic couple living in Goa, they are audibly and vocally impaired couple who communicates with sign-language. They are taken care by their daughter Annie since her younger days.
Her life is divided into two world, one is her responsibility towards her parents and other her incline towards music and singing (inspired by her grand-mom Maria (Helen) ). Her passion suddenly hits the roadblock and starts to fades away as a result of a personal blow that involved loosing her younger brother in an unfortunate event.
Many years later, Raj (Salman Khan), a musician of, different religion, falls head over heels for grown up Annie (Manisha Koirala) in the first sight, encourages her to reinvigorate her passion for singing. In the process they ardently fall in love deeply, However, this woefully causes friction in Anne’s life where she is ultimately forced to make a decision to choose between her parents and her love for Raj.
There is no doubt that, the script is the biggest strength and had been written wonderfully by SLB and Sutapa Sikdar, what stands out was the visual appealing of the story. Sanjay , aided by cinematographer Anil Mehta perfectly framed Goa with clean and flourishing manner, the way he caught those moments, bonding and emotions of the Braganza family in his lens was spellbinding.
The characters were flesh and real, Khamoshi was about perceiving Joseph and Flavy as normal people, who can not only be loving and caring but also be manipulative and selfish to push a certain agenda like any normal individuals does.
There were so many terrific moments in Khamoshi. Yet I would like to write about a particular sequence that happens to be the crux of the plot.
The scene where Annie is thrown out of the house by her father for disrespecting his decision. In the surface level, he makes us feel he had to take this step to save his family from societal dishonor but in reality he was someone who could’t afford to set Anne free because she was the only bridge for him for his mode of communication and to connect with the outer world, highlighting his selfish motive. The confrontation Anne does with Joseph in between the closed door was shattering and brilliant shot.
Jatin Lalit’s music was top-notch, Even till now, ‘Baahon Ke Dharmiyaan’, ‘Aaj Mein Upar’, ‘Yeh Dil Sun raha hai‘ and criminally underrated ‘Gathe the pehle Akele‘ are my favorite and often played in the loop.
Nana Patekar and Seema Biswas were lovable as Joseph and Flavy. They did not turn their respective characters into a caricature, instead infused their role with genuine affection as a parents who will do anything to protect and curb their daughter even at the cost of hurting her. Their lack of trust towards the world was clearly evident in the scene where they embrace their son’s dead body, crying their heart out for help but no one avail followed by Joseph discarding the religious cross in the ocean with heavy heart and out of hate pricks your consciousness.
Manisha Koirala was a revelation. Her Annie – remains a well-etched and beautifully written character- devised as main catalyst for her parents, was remarkable and number of awards would had been less to honor it.’Yeh Dil Sun raha hai’ song is wonderful captured where you see Joseph and Flavy astonishingly cheers for her when she croons, their sense of pride to see their daughter embrace her long lost passion and Anne dedicating the song was nothing short of fantastic.
We can’t help but fall in love with her when she communicates with parents using sign language; You can see the unconditional affection she has and not even once does she send a false note, Manisha embraced Anne with great amount of maturity and delivered a memorable performance. And yes, she looked million bucks (and she still does)
Salman Khan was endearing as the musician Raj, who came across a man every women would desire. His unflinching demeanor was highly attractive as we could make out when he stood by Anne and got married to her instead of running away from taking responsibility of her.
Helen was divinely gorgeous in her cameo as grandmom Maria, In ‘Gathe the pehele akele‘ song, Poetic depiction of her passing away appeared surreal where you see Maria gliding emotionally and gleefully towards the cliff waving her shawl epitomizes her cross-over, it was a masterstroke.
Like mentioned earlier, Subtlety wasn’t the audience’s cup of tea back then, brought more harm for film to fail commercially. Nevertheless, It was deemed as the best film of 1996 and went on to many awards including Filmfare Best Film (Critics Choice) for Sanjay & Best Actress (Critics Choice) for Manisha.
I did read an piece where it was mentioned that National Film Award Jury were floored and were massively appreciative of Manisha that they were willing to give her away the top honor, Alas, it was an opportunity gone lost because the film wasn’t submitted for nomination.
Khamoshi : The Musical is one of the finest films and shall always remain SLB’s best work, Even one of the rarest that uplifts the filmmakers to think different.