Silence 2 Review: Manoj Bajpayee Delivers Another Measured Performance

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A still from Silence 2.Writer-director Aban Bharucha Deohans expands the canvas of crime to a significant extent in the sequel to Silence: Can You Hear It?, the slow-burn police procedural that she crafted around a murder investigated by Assistant Commissioner of Police Avinash Verma and his team of Mumbai Special Crime Unit (SCU) sleuths. The killing that saw the ACP being pulled out of the anti-narcotics bureau and handed charge of the SCU was driven by a personal motive. It was a heat-of-the-moment response to an act of infidelity. The probe played out in a setting inhabited by a veteran judge, his daughter (now dead), her married bestie and a young politician with a skeleton in his cupboard. The sequel casts the net much wider.Silence: Can You Hear It? was expectedly a Manoj Bajpayee show all the way. He played ACP Verma, an officer who is averse to leaving anything to chance and, equally important, to suppressing his own instincts (even if they clashed with the will of his boss), with customary finesse. In  Silence 2: The Night Owl Bar Shootout, Manoj Bajpayee carries on from where he left off and delivers another exceptionally measured performance. He holds the Zee5 film together. Some of the credit for what works in Silence 2 must certainly accrue to the writing of the pivotal role.ACP Verma is as tough as nails but his armour isn’t without its share of chinks, both in the professional sphere and on the home front. Having separated from his wife, he lives alone. He has moved on but his unseen daughter, away in London, occupies a special place in his life.His complete immersion in his work as a crime-buster is the officer’s defence mechanism. His hard-pressed team has to keep pace. The crime that he investigates in Silence 2 is a human trafficking racket rather than just another murder case. The perpetrator is not an individual but an organised gang. What complicates matters is that the suspected mastermind is a phantom, a person nobody, not even those who believe they are part of the network, has ever laid eyes on.The act of unspeakable violence referred to in the title isn’t triggered merely by rage or enmity. There is much more to the case than meets the eye. ACP Verma’s job is cut out but no detail that matters escapes his attention.Silence 2 is undermined somewhat by the absence of an antagonist strong enough to keep the irrepressible police officer on his toes and provoke the sort of indiscretions that put him in a spot of bother in the past.The film also lacks intense confrontations and explosive encounters – remember the flare-up between the ACP and the standoffish politician in a hospital when the latter calls the cops “bloody idiots”? – that gave the lead character and the actor playing the part the scope to sharpen the edges of the battle of attrition he is drawn into.The prime suspect in Silence 2 is a high-strung, Shakespeare-spouting theatre actor (Dinker Sharma) described by ACP Verma as “a cold-blooded, fully functional sociopath”. There are others, too. Among them are a shadowy art dealer Aarti Singh (Parul Gulati) and her husband Rajeev (Padam Bhola). But none of them evolves into a disconcertingly menacing figure.If the film does not lose its way even when the red herrings and the trails that go cold are visible from many a mile away, it is because the intriguing processes adopted by ACP Verma and the three inspectors in his core team – Sanjana Bhatia (Prachi Desai), Amit Chouhan (Sahil Vaid) and Raj Gupta (Vaquar Shaikh) – serve to keep the audience invested in the inquest.Silence 2, like its predecessor, is a tough cop movie in which the cops are more tenacious than in-your-face belligerent. They aren’t as trigger-happy and glib as members of the police force usually are on the big screen. They are relatable because they come across as real people doing a real job fraught with risks.Despite the workload they bear, ACP Verma’s trusted trio would have been better served had the screenplay created space for their individual inner worlds. As things stand, they are secondary, if not peripheral, players. It redounds to the credit of Prachi Desai, Sahil Vaid and Vaquar Shaikh that they still manage to make the most of the limited bandwidth accorded to them.Several people, including a girl we see in an opening sequence that leaves her with a scar on the face, are killed in a late-night shootout in a Mumbai bar by an assailant whose face is hidden under a hoodie. ACP Verma and his team rush to the crime scene to gather evidence. The murderer leaves behind enough clues but they do not add up immediately.ACP Verma, working for a system that extends very little to him by way of ungrudging assistance, has to rely solely on his powers of deduction and the unwavering commitment of Sanjana, Amit and Raj. Theirs is a painstaking pursuit sans flash and flourish. They stay rooted even as the stakes grow higher.At one point, the commissioner of police issues an ultimatum to the ACP pretty much like the one that he faced the first time around – succeed or be prepared to have your unit disbanded for good. So, once again, the officer is in a race against time. Working with their backs to the wall, the investigators keep chipping away and discover a world in which lower middle-class teenage girls from small towns are lured to Mumbai with the promise of well-paying jobs. Figuring out who is behind the crime and what connection it has with the bar shootout takes some doing.In a good, simple and old-fashioned way, Silence 2: The Night Owl Bar Shootout is engaging and intriguing but rarely more so than an episode of television’s C.I.D.Deohans’ writing is generally steady. But more than anything else, Silence 2 is able to sustain itself through its complement of twists and turns thanks to the solidity that Manoj Bajpayee lends the film. The control and coiled energy that he generates appears to seep into the performances of his co-actors.If you liked Silence, there is no reason why you wouldn’t dig Silence 2, too. It has everything that the 2021 murder mystery had. Well, almost.Cast:Manoj Bajpayee, Prachi Desai, Shruti Bapna, Parul GulatiDirector:Aban Bharucha Deohans

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