Directed by Ali Zulfikar Zahedi / Reviewed by Adva Reichman
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Does anything happen in this life without making a sound? And if it does, what does the silence mean? That is what the filmmaker, Ali Zulfikar Zahedi, is exploring through his film ‘The sound’.
The film follows a young man, played by Shishir Ahmed, as he decides to try a different route to get to work. To his surprise he’s stopped by a group of prostitutes who are trying to convince him to spend an hour with them, so that they can earn money to buy food. He refuses, saying he’s not that kind of a man.
Shaken up by the experience, he confides in his friend at work. His friend, played by the director itself, Ali Zulfikar Zahedi, takes Shishir’s experience and examines it through a broader scale. He addresses all occurrences as sounds and explores the meaning behind it. He claims that honesty comes with sound, that life transpires with sound, and that it is the lie that keeps quiet. He demonstrates the importance of sound from the smallest to the largest occasions in life. For example, he rings the bell to get his secretary to enter the room, so that they can ask her to bring them some tea. The friend explains that without the bell ring, the secretary would have never entered the room and their desire wouldn’t have been executed.
The friend speaks of secularism, sex, the hypocrisy of those who refuse to hear filthy words, of those who present themselves in a false way and more.Shishir, who is intrigued by his friend’s explanations, listens with great interest, but as the conversation takes a turn and deals with intercourse, sex with prostitutes and abstaining, the two can’t agree. Shishir is accused of being dishonest about sex, and angrily leaves. The two get their last say and continue their lives the same way they preached it – Shishir once again walks by the prostitutes and hurries away, while his friend meets with a woman.
Throughout the film, the two men behave in a sexist way, objectifying women and demonstrating nonstop chauvinism. Women are displayed as a vessel for a man’s pleasure. The prostitutes are sad and in need of a man, and the friend cheers their actions and recommends Shishir tries their services. The secretary is belittled but keeps her smile while hearing sexists jokes about her body. And to top, that certain shots display her body parts, and only her body parts. The first time we see her, the camera focuses on her behind, and later it is her breasts that are in frame as the friend explains how much he likes milk in his tea. And last, we have the woman at the end who comes to pleasure the friend. We never see her face, only her body because like the rest of them, she is a means to an end.
The only time women demonstrated some kind of emotion was when Shishir offered them money, so they’ll let him go.The prostitutes insisted they don’t want charity and later on, we sadly see their money being taken away by their pimps.
At no point, did any of the characters object or behaved in a way that reassures the viewer this kind of objectification is wrong, and therefore they should side with character A over character B in the discussion of sound. More so, it was the friend who exhibited chauvinism the most, who got the last say. And so, I was left wondering what it is I am supposed to feel or learn. What is it about sound that I was missing and that is more important that a reasonable display of women? And why is it that an example of silence and dishonesty is being painted as a woman wearing a push up bra, but not a bald man wearing a wig?
The Sound is a film that will get you talking, thinking and hopefully arguing. The filmmakers, intentionally or not, tried to focus on the importance of sound but ended up creating a controversial film that makes you wonder about truth, honesty and women’s status in today’s society.