Directed by: Prabhakar 'Meena Bhaskar' Pant
Written by: Prabhakar 'Meena Bhaskar' Pant
Starring: Shruti Sharma
The Silent Crime is a striking short film in which noir aesthetics are unexpectedly used to dramatize a wave of a certain criminal activity across India.
Ironically, The Silent Crime begins with a scream. We are presented with a young woman, perhaps in her early 20s, tied with rope to a chair in a hollow black space, or as the young woman at one time calls it, a cave. She is panicked and helpless, before she sees the camera. Seeking to grab our attention, she stares straight down its lens towards us and begs for our help, explaining that she is soon to be murdered by a hardcore criminal on a contract. The depiction of this criminal, who has a history of murders, is disturbing. Unexpectedly, the young woman then reveals that this criminal is not whom we might have originally expected.
Prabhakar ‘Meena Bhaskar’ Pant’s short film soon reveals itself to be a dramatization of a widespread problem within India, of pregnancies being terminated due to families wanting to have a boy and having no desire for a female child. Shruti Sharma gives a strong performance, adequately conveying her terror and giving a sense of urgency about the injustice soon to be done. Sharma is essentially playing a classic damsel in distress, a trope within the noir genre. The short film is therefore an unusual blend of style and theme: it’s a hardboiled suspense thriller with a social justice message. The visuals are stripped back, effectively black-and-white, while the music consists of a melodramatic piano which alternately jangles and growls, like something out of a 1940s picture.
This mixture is intriguing, though perhaps not entirely successful: the blurred lines of morality and ethics within the noir genre don’t necessarily apply to such a blatantly horrific issue. There is some merit, though, in conceiving of the murderer before revealing their identity and purpose, in order to surprise the viewer and subvert any complacency. However, the twist does not lead anywhere interesting dramatically; the short film essentially transitions into a mere advert to raise awareness, rather than following its idea through and developing its characters and storyline into something more nuanced.
The Silent Crime ultimately feels like more of an advert for social justice than a short film, as it does not fulfil the dramatic potential of its concept and genre style, though it does serve as a worthy attention-raiser about the horrors of a strictly patriarchal society.