Shabd (2004)

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“Shabd” has it all – a truly striking plot, great looking cast, terrific locations and mesmerising cinematography. It is not really about marriage or extra-martial affairs, and to concentrate solely on this aspect of the film is to miss the point almost entirely. Yadav´s film is, at its core, a cautionary tale about the struggle between an artist and reality.

Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Aishwarya, Zayed Khan

The artist is the novelist Shaukat Vashist, portrayed with uncompromising brilliance by Sanjay Dutt, and his art is his literature. The film opens with some background information; Shaukat won the Booker Prize for a fantastic first novel, only to be universally panned for a second novel deemed too unrealistic and fanciful. Since the debacle of his sophomore effort, Shaukat has suffered a maddeningly brutal case of writer´s block.

The block is shattered when Shaukat is struck with a compelling vision of his muse. He decides he must write on the theme of all-consuming, forbidden desire. Even with this theme, Shaukat finds himself unable to come up with any sort of coherrent narrative. Frustrated, he begins to seek inspiration from his own life. At first, Shaukat goes about this task innocently enough – asking some suggestive questions of his loving wife Antara, played to perfection by Aishwarya Rai, and his household maid, and so on. But as his narrative begins to fall into place, Shaukat´s zeal grows. He begins manipulating his well-meaning wife into an intimate relationship with another man, simply for the sake of fueling his imagination. As Antara´s relationship with that man, a young photography professor Yash, spirals out of control, Shaukat´s unorthodox methods force him closer and closer to madness.

All this, because the artist refuses to yield to reality. That the reason for the failure of Shaukat´s second novel was its being too unrealistic is crucial here; as he becomes more and more involved in writing his third, the lines between fact and fiction become blurred for Shaukat Vashist and he deludes himself into thinking that he holds the same power over the real world as he does over the worlds that exist in his written works. So when Antara´s extra-martial relationship doesn´t quite play out as Shaukat expects, he´s forced to either come to grips with reality or lose his mind completely.

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