Silencer on Amazon Prime Video, with Lal: There are good ideas, but this drama needed more depth

Posted on September 26, 2020

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We are in a story that’s all Christian/Communist allegory. But it’s too talky. Director Priyanandan relies too much on exposition.

Spoilers ahead…

What’s the worst thing that could happen if your father were both a Gandhi-ian and a communist, and had raised you with those beliefs? You’d be lost today. That’s literally what happens to the seventy-something Eenasu (Lal, wearing the part like a comfortable coat). His plight is made a metaphor when we see him in one of the most abundant symbols of capitalism: the supermarket. The shoppers there are able to see and hear one another, but when Eenasu tries to communicate with them, they don’t pay attention. It’s like he’s invisible. He needs to get out of this place — not just because he wants to go back home, but because this place is everything he doesn’t believe in. Extend this metaphor, and the supermarket becomes the modern-day world. Eenasu’s ideologies — and indeed, Eenasu himself — are like a Raleigh cycle frame. It’s very sturdy. But it lies in the corner of the house, and it’s of no use to anyone anymore.

This analogy comes via Peter (an excellent Binoy Nambala), who calls Eenasu “aashaan“, master. Turn the relationship around and you see that Peter is the “disciple”. Yes, like the apostle. Peter has a friend named Matthew. Yes, like the apostle. A local sex worker is named Maggie, as in… Magdalene, perhaps! And a character says that the Bible is more important to him than the Church, which in this film is shown as a corrupt organisation. Like in Communism, the beliefs are more important than the external paraphernalia. At one point, Peter jokingly compares Christianity and Communism: they’re the only institutions which make you put up pictures of dead people on your wall. Sometimes, it’s Jesus. Sometimes, it’s Che Guevara.

If we wish to view Silencer along these lines, then Eenasu’s son Sunny (Irshad) — a Capitalist to the core — is Satan. He forced his father to sell the family’s cycle-repair shop for capital that he could invest in a business venture, and he now owns a bar. That, again, is symbolic, for wine is the blood of Jesus and this “wine shop” owes its existence to Eenasu’s blood (and sweat). Also, see how Sunny describes a childhood incident when he did something wrong at school. He did not feel a thing when his teacher beat him, but when his father looked at him, he felt he had indeed done something wrong. As grown-ups, father and son hardly talk, but deep inside, Sunny wants revenge. He wants to destroy Eenasu’s “purity”. He wants to make Eenasu boss of the bar. He wants to make him descend into sin.

As you can see, we are in a story that’s all allegory. Even Eenasu’s date of birth is S-I-G-N-I-F-I-C-A-N-T: 15/08/1947. But director Priyanandan (working from a story by Vaishakan) relies too much on exposition. It’s not enough that Eenasu’s purity is shown through his all-white attire: a white shirt, a white mundu. We also need Peter saying, “You are a good man but the age of good men is gone.” The film keeps giving us variations on the “Eenasu good, everyone else bad” theme, and quickly settles into surface-level repetition. I wanted it to dig deeper, because some of the ideas are so good that they deserve more than this superficiality. The screenplay’s best idea is that Eenasu has removed the silencer from his bike. If today’s people cannot (or will not) hear him, then he will make such a noise that they won’t be able to ignore him. Everything he wants to yell at the world, the bike does for him.

The bike is more than his voice. It’s the only thing he cares about. He talks to it like it’s a buddy, or a son. (“We are like vagabonds.”) He actually treats it like a person: apparently, it decides where it wants to go, despite Eenasu being in the driver’s seat. Its oil is like blood. In one of the film’s most vivid — and tragic — scenes, it stains Eenasu’s hands. And when it “dies”, so does Eenasu. The closing stretch is superb. It equates metaphorical death with physical death. There’s a great theme at the core of Silencer, which is structured as a series of flashbacks, dream scenes, and events from the now. The film asks if it is possible, today, to remain a man of principle. It asks if it’s possible to roar like a silencer-less bike and make yourself heard above the consumerist din. I think we all know the answer, but I wish the film had arrived at its conclusion in a subtler, more effective way. For a film named Silencer, far too much is conveyed through talk.

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