Namdev Bhau - In Search of Silence movie review: A lyrical experience with unschooled performances
With Namdev Bhau: In Search of Silence, director Dar Gai meshes in her interest in philosophy with a contemporary preoccupation with going off the grid
Namdev Bhau is a 60-something chauffeur in Mumbai. Namdev Bhau is not an actor, and yet he plays the protagonist in this eponymously named Hindi-Marathi film. However this is not a biopic. Writer-director Dar Gai meshes in her interest in philosophy with a contemporary preoccupation with going off the grid.
Namdev Bhau is a man of few words (almost half way through the 84-minute film he utters his first word – ‘chicken’). Disgruntled and tired of the cacophony surrounding him, he embarks on a journey in search of a silent place.
Namdev packs a small bag, folds away a print out about the quietest places in the country and he sets off on a journey without saying a word to his nagging wife, who talks non-stop.
His search for quiet takes him from Mumbai to Ladakh where, he discovers, silence is not so easy to find after all. Sounds of construction, motorbikes, trucks, horns, playful children rend the air. He gets a day of peace before civilisation catches up, or a silly girl crashes his hotel room and invades his privacy.
Shounak Ghosh’s sound design is a significant element in writer-director Dar Gai’s sophomore feature. Ladakh’s stark landscape and clear blue skies provide the perfect setting for this lyrical journey captured by cinematographer Aditya Varma.
Namdev is not a curious man. He is single-minded in his quest for peace and quiet. So much so that he’s disinterested in the beauty of Ladakh. This prompts a local man to comment that he must be one of them, as he appears to be as bored of the view as they are.
During his solo wanderings, which take him to hotels and riverbanks, mountainsides and valleys, a 12-year-old boy (Aarya Dave) attaches himself to Namdev and becomes his most unexpected travel companion. The boy chatters incessantly, with Namdev swatting at him as if he is an annoying fly. As cantankerous as Namdev is, the boy is impervious. He has his own journey to make. On a hand-drawn map, he points to a place called ‘Red Castle’, which Namdev must help him reach.
Namdev jogs along the barren terrain dragging his bag, trying to get away from the boy, from noise and civilisation. But a more tragic story prompts him to stop running and embrace life.
Namdev Bhau’s organic and unschooled performance and Dar Gai’s gentle observation of this man who reveals so much while saying so little are the film’s soul. Namdev Bhau: In Search of Silence will resonate with residents of big cities who endure daily sensory overload.
Editor's note: The 20th edition of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival is finally here, and with it comes an unending list of critically acclaimed Indian and international films to watch. Firstpost will review the most promising of these films.
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