Bollywood appears to be inclined towards exploring rare illnesses/disorders/disabilities, with directors casting megastars in characters to raise awareness about the lesser-known ailments. In Ghajini, Aamir Khan had short-term memory loss [Anterograde Amnesia]. In Paa, Amitabh Bachchan played a child afflicted with Progeria. In My Name Is Khan, Shahrukh Khan was shown suffering from Asperger Syndrome. In Taare Zameen Par, Aamir Khan portrayed problems of Dyslexic children. In Black, Amitabh Bachchan was shown succumbing to Alzheimer's. In Karthik Calling Karthik, Farhan Akhtar portrayed a Schizophrenic.
This is not the first time that master film-maker Sanjay Leela Bhansali has attempted a movie that has the protagonist suffering from a serious disability. In Guzaarish, Hrithik Roshan suffers from Paraplegia, a complete paralysis of the lower half of the body, including both legs, usually caused by damage/injury to the spinal cord.
Bhansali has always been known for two things. The first thing is, of course, the visual splendour in his films [which was quite evident in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas and Saawariya] and the second thing that he takes inspiration from various stories. The critically acclaimed Black was inspired from The Miracle Worker [a 1962 film] and Saawariya from 'White Nights', a Russian short story.
There's talk that Guzaarish is a remake of Christopher Nolan's Hollywood movie The Prestige, which, let me clarify, it is not. Guzaarish brings back memories of two films, which may be coincidental: The Spanish Oscar and Golden Globe winning film Mar Adentro aka The Sea Inside , which, in turn, was based on a real-life story of Ramon Sampedro and Whose Life is it Anyway?, a television play, which was later adapted into a play [theatre] and much later into a film .
Bhansali has worked himself to the grind and his presence is felt in every frame of Guzaarish. There is an inimitable intellect that Bhansali brings to his movies. Bhansali is also known to extract the best performances from his actors. In a light-hearted vein, I would go to the extent of saying that Bhansali has the ability to make a dumb man speak and a sightless man see. His devotion and dedication towards his craft is truly inspirational and motivating. In Guzaarish, Bhansali puts behind all the glitter and glamour and comes up with yet another unique and sensitive story told through a series of flashbacks.
Final word? Guzaarish is special in more ways than one. In my individualistic opinion, it easily ranks amongst Bhansali's best works so far. Just don't miss this one!
Set in Goa, it tells the story of an accomplished magician Ethan Mascarenhas [Hrithik Roshan]. Ethan suffers serious injuries when one of his magical trick goes horribly wrong, turning him to a Paraplegic. Confined to a wheel chair, Ethan becomes a Radio Jockey at an FM Station called Radio Zindagi. His show talks of hope, laughter and sunshine and it's difficult to imagine that the man behind it has been immobilized with a spinal injury for the last fourteen years of his life. Sofia [Aishwarya Bachchan], a nurse, takes good care of him; they share a silent love.
Ethan files a petition in court for mercy killing. This decision of Ethan leaves Sofia stunned. Ethan takes the help of friend-lawyer Devyani [Shernaz Patel] to support his appeal. Even Ethan's mother Isabel [Nafisa Ali] supports him in his petition, although Ethan is persuaded by his physician Dr. Nayak [Suhel Seth] to retract his case. Alongside all this, Omar [Aditya Roy Kapur] enters Ethan's life with the aim of learning magic from him. Impressed by Omar's love for magic, Ethan agrees to pass on his legacy to him.
Only a sensitive raconteur can do absolute justice to a challenging subject like the one in Guzaarish and Bhansali seems the right candidate for an extremely tricky theme like mercy killing/Euthanasia. The story is complex and can only be narrated by a storyteller who has the art of telling stories most convincingly. Sure, the protagonist in Guzaarish wants to end his existence, but that doesn't mean the film is disheartening or unsettling. Clearly, the writing [screenplay: Bhavani Iyer and Bhansali] is smart, taut and absorbing.
Guzaarish has a number of sequences that bear the unmistakable stamp of a genius. Sample these…
* The courtroom sequence and Aishwarya's outburst towards the end of it.
* The hearing of the petition at Hrithik's house.
* Hrithik's act going wrong and the near-fatal accident.
* The finale.
Any negatives? The generous usage of English in the narrative. The language is sure to act as a barrier in the hinterland specially. Agreed, the film is set in Goa, they are bound to speak that language, but despite everything, Hindi is a must for a pan-India appeal.
Irrespective of how his films fare at the box-office, Bhansali's films have always been embellished with rich and cherished music. The songs continue to linger in the hearts of the listeners with their dulcet and soothing tunes. After legendary Satyajit Ray and Vishal Bhardwaj, Bhansali is the next accomplished film-maker who has himself created the music of his film. The songs in Guzaarish are more inclined towards poetry that's earthy and contemporary. However, it does take some time for the listeners to sense the pulse of the music. 'Tera Zikr Hai Ya Itra Hai' is a limerick to exquisiteness, 'Sau Gram Zindagi', with its philosophical tone, leaves a lasting impression, the title track 'Guzaarish' casts a spell on you and 'Udi' is, of course, memorable.
Guzaarish has been magnificently shot. The indoors as well as outdoors [the gorgeous panorama] add so much to the film. There's no refuting that cinematographer Sudeep K. Chatterjee has created some really alluring and enthralling visuals. The very effective and subtle background score [Tubby and Parik] of Guzaarish is its very backbone. The feelings of intrigue, anxiety, anguish and romance come across so well. In fact, for the very first time, I felt that I was not hearing the background score, I was feeling it. Dialogue [Bhavani Iyer and Vibhu Puri] belong to high standards that touch your soul. Costumes [Sabyasachi] are absolutely wonderful; they gel well with the setting and mood of the film.
Hrithik and Aishwarya are seen in a lackluster facade and that's what makes the characters so plausible. While Hrithik is seen sporting a beard and has even put on weight, Aishwarya is seen in sober outfits. In fact, the two actors have gone through a drastic appearance change and both pressurize you to believe that they are indeed Ethan and Sofia. It must be said that Hrithik and Aishwarya exude a certain dignity and elegance, much needed for a sensitive film of this magnitude and caliber.
It must have been an arduous task for Hrithik to carry off the Paraplegic character of Ethan Mascarenhas, but he depicts the part with flourish. It's a great risk in filmy norms to have the hero of the film almost entirely on a wheel chair, but Hrithik has never hesitated or been irresolute in putting himself to adverse conditions, in order to achieve excellence, in whatever character he chooses to depict. Kudos to Hrithik for accepting a role that's truly opposite to his larger-than-life image and portraying it with elan.
Aishwarya, as Ethan's nurse, who is the epicenter of his world, has approached this role with rare understanding, not going overboard even once. So effective is she that she not only influences you but also compels you to believe that their love is solid in its quiet strength and also spirited in their verbal sparring. The sensational chemistry, which sizzled the silver screen in Dhoom 2 and Jodhaa Akbar and won hearts all over, sizzles yet again, but this time in a distinctive aspect.
Aditya Roy Kapur is truly outstanding in a pivotal character. Shernaz Patel is exceptional. Nafisa Ali makes her presence felt in a small but significant role. Suhel Seth is in terrific form. Moni Kangana Dutta is okay. Vijay Crishna [judge] is effective. Rajit Kapoor does complete justice to his role. Makarand Deshpande leaves an impression. Ash Chandler and Achint Kaur lend good support.
On the whole, Guzaarish is an invigorating tale. Bhansali, as a film-maker, has scaled several notches above his past accomplishments to create a near-perfect cinematic experience. The highpoint of the motion picture is the magnificently penned story of an incapacitated and debilitated man who desires to end his being with dignity. The film seduces the viewer with a strong emotional quotient, soulful music and of course, the crackling and wonderful onscreen chemistry between Hrithik and Aishwarya. Without doubt, Guzaarish is one of the most profound, insightful and enriching dramas of the year.
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Bachchan, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Monikangana Dutta, Rajit Kapoor, Shernaz Patel, Sanjay Lafont