In her second outing behind the camera, Dar Gai delivers a film that is as visually striking as it is affecting with NAMDEV BHAU IN SEARCH OF SILENCE
From the opening scene of NAMDEV BHAU IN SEARCH OF SILENCE, it’s easy to see why Namdev Bhau craves silence. Driven mad by the never-ending jabbering of his family, the endless berating from his employer and the constant noise of Mumbai City, the 65-year-old chauffeur is at the end of his career and the end of his wits.
Desperate to escape, Namdev packs his bags and leaves for the fabled mountain retreat of Silent Valley – a mountain area in the Ladakh region of the Himalayas which has almost a zero decibel sound level – hoping to find peace at last. However, arriving at his destination, Namdev is dismayed to find the locals are just as boisterous and unforgiving as the family he left behind back home. To make matters worse, an exasperating 12-year old boy who happens to be on his own solo expedition to the mystical “Red Castle” begins to follow him, endlessly chattering away.
Set against the stunning backdrop of the Himalayas, NAMDEV BHAU IN SEARCH OF SILENCE is a film that is as visually striking as it is affecting. Director Dar Gai, together with cinematographer Aditya Varma, juxtapose long, high shots of India’s beautiful backcountry with intimate close-ups of the characters, to bring life and depth to this beautiful story. Bold, bright colours match the noise, colour and vibrancy of Mumbai, while soft golden sands and deep blue skies effectively portray the tranquillity of the mountains.
As Namdev Bhau, Namdev Gurav carries much of the emotional weight of the film. With almost no dialogue, the strength of Gurav’s performance lies in his emotive portrayal, showing Bhau’s emotional journey – from resignation and anger to solidarity and friendship – with just an expression of the face. Arya Dave is equally affecting as Aaliq, the bright, young and enthusiastic 12-year-old boy on a journey of his own.
But just as you start to settle in with Namdev’s quest for quiet, Gai delivers a devastating blow, turning this otherwise conventional journey of discovery into something much more affecting and heart-breaking. The thoughtfully paced piece suddenly takes an unexpected turn and as the impact of the narrative twist becomes apparent, its tone changes almost completely.
It is here where NAMDEV BHAU IN SEARCH OF SILENCE turns into something truly special. For a film that boasts very little in the way of dialogue – particularly from its main protagonist who is almost silent throughout – it certainly has a lot to say. The result is a beautiful portrait of an old man tired of life and a deeper social critique on gender and class which is carefully woven throughout the film.
An endearing black comedy from an exciting new voice in contemporary Indian cinema.
NAMDEV BHAU IN SEARCH OF SILENCE screens at the BFI London Film Festival on 11 October 2018.
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.