Saturday, November 20, 2010

Guzaarish: I wish...

There are times when I don’t mind spoilers for the plot of a film and there are films that get better the second time around because I know what is going to happen. Happy moments for a character are bittersweet to view simply because I know he will die or his love will leave him. I knew the ending going into
Guzaarish, which made the story that much sweeter and that much sadder.

Guzaarish, directed with just a touch of magical realism by the great Sanjay Leela Bhansali, is the story of Ethan Mascarenhas (Hrithik Roshan) – a magician who became quadriplegic (i.e. he can’t move his arms or legs) in an accident that occurred 14 years before the film starts. He’s made the best of it. Ethan has a radio show (“Radio Zindagi” or “Radio Life”) and he wrote a book about not giving up hope. He has a devoted nurse Sofia D’Souza (Aishwarya Rai) and some good friends but when the film opens, Ethan’s health is failing and his pain is growing worse. He wants to end his life but because of his condition, he can’t do it on his own. He wants euthanasia and Guzaarish is the story of how he gets his wish.

The story is well-crafted, moving from the small dramas that loom large in Ethan’s world – like a fly settling on his nose or refusing to take his medicine - and then panning back to take in the larger world before zooming into Ethan’s memories for some really gorgeous and fantastical magic acts. Everything is set up to give you a picture of Ethan’s life as it is and what was taken from him to help you understand how he arrived at his decision – his
need - to exercise his will over his life.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali, as usual, creates a mesmerizing visual field. The film is set all in Goa and mostly during a rainy, cloudy season. The green of the plants and the red of Aishwarya’s outfits pop against the grey skies. The interiors are all beautiful and the costumes are superb, especially Aishwarya Rai’s long flowing skirts, the length of which become a little joke between Sofia and Ethan. Everything is beautiful but then you would expect a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film to be, so let’s move onto the
really good stuff – the performances.

Hrithik Roshan is phenomenal. I don’t think I would be exaggerating to say that he’s the best actor working in Hindi cinema right now. While his body was limp and lifeless, Hrithik’s face and voice were a mess of emotion. He was more expressive as a quadriplegic than other actors (I won’t name) are using their entire bodies. There was more drama in Ethan sitting in the backseat of a car watching a world he can’t participate in any longer than in almost anything else I’ve seen this year. Okay, I’m exaggerating (a bit) but Hrithik nails the combination of joy, envy, sadness, and acceptance that makes Ethan and
Guzaarish so compelling – the switch from his fluid and magical movements in the flashbacks to Ethan locked in his body and the chair were heartbreaking.

Ethan Mascarenhas is the centerpiece of the film but that doesn’t mean that everybody else is absent. Aishwarya Rai is luminous as loyal nurse Sofia D’Souza. (And not to worry, everybody, Aishwarya
does dance… and play air guitar. And she’s adorable while she does it.) Sofia is sensible but has a soft heart and it’s a lot of fun to see her and Ethan interact. Aishwarya and Hrithik have that old magic chemistry. He gets frustrated and cranky and takes it out on her but she knows what he is up to and doesn’t put up with any nonsense. She knows when he’s being fussy and when he needs to be coddled. I really hope we see them together again. While I would put her role in Raavanan as her best this year, Guzaarish is a close second.

Shernaz Patel was great as Ethan’s lawyer friend Devyani Dutta and Aditya Roy Kapoor was acceptable as magician wannabe Omar Siddique, who comes to Ethan for help learning magic. And two small roles for Monikangana Dutta as Ethan’s assistant and (especially) Rajit Kapoor as Devyani’s rival in court.

Guzaarish is not an easy film to watch - euthanasia is still a taboo subject. Here in America and I guess in India, as well, but what is art for if not for exploring the edges of morality. Where else can we play out a story like this?

There are more individual scenes and things – the smoking, the religious imagery - I would love to discuss but I’ll save it for later, after more people have seen the film and can join in, or until after I swirled them around in my mind some more.


Shell said...

I have been really aprehensive about whether or not I was going to see this. I agree that Hrithik is an amazing actor (have felt so ever since I saw him in Koi...Mil Gaya), and the pair of them are always mesmerizing to watch, but I have such issues with SLB. It's one thing for a movie to be beautiful and another to be beautiful and engaging, so I might have to put aside all my issues and make watching this a priority after all.

Filmi Girl said...

@Shell I think it's addition of Hrithik to the mix that makes SLB engaging. He's so completely open and emotional that the staged nature of a SLB film actually works well because it doesn't let him emote all over the place - there is a tension, if that makes sense.

Bombay Talkies said...

Sigh. Looks like a remake of Mar Adentro, no doubt.

Farhana said...

Was it more of a "good cry" kind of film or a thoughtful, meaningful kind of film?

Filmi Girl said...

@bombay talkies Haven't seen that one.

@farhana Hmm... that is a good question. I think it was mostly a thoughtful kind of film but the kind where I got tears in my eyes many times. :) It was just very touching... :)

RAJESH KW said...

Its 102% not for everyone ...Its not Dabangg or else...Its an 200% Art...Lovers Choosie will like it...Others going to criticise no doubt...Plz let it nt compare it with Hollywood flicks...It bursts...If you r a thinker...Much more is there in the film...I literally laughed on some critics saying Nothing in Film...Its definitly nt one time watch...Watch it for art.Watch it for Hritik.Watch it for Aishs beauty.Watch it for Meaning How it Moves.!
Bhansali has moved a lot...Than his recent releases.
Im going to watch it again for THAT UNIQUE SCENE OF BOLLYWOOD ! yeah!

Bombay Talkies said...

Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside) is a Javier Bardem film from...a few years ago. The date escapes me but he was nominated for an Oscar for his performance. It's based on a true story of a Spanish man who, after having been paralyzed 30ish years before in an accident, appeals to the courts to allow a mercy killing.

Looks like SLB is fairly familiar with that film. ;)

kintama said...

So, is that like the best movie of 2010 or something? How do you rate it?

Is Hrithik gonna beat SRK for best actor with his performance? I didn't see Guzaarish but I thought SRK's work in Khan was incredible (although I didn't like the film as much) and thought he would be a lock for best actor this year.

Githa Vanan said...

I do love watching Hrithik on screen but not so hung up on the jodi. Call me weird but I thought they were just so so in Dhoom. Better in Jodha Akhbar but dont know. I certainly dont think very highly of Aishwarya, sorry if you are a fan. And SLB really needs a budget cut. But your review has me curious so I will give it a watch...

Lovely piece though...

bawa said...

Sounds a lot like Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside) starring Javier Bardem, a Spanish film directed by Amenabar in 2004.

That film in itself was based on the true life story of Ramon Sampedro and his long battle for euthanasia. The real life story got a lot of coverage before the film was ever made.

It is one of Bardem's finest performances, just look at the enormous list of awards for the film and actor(s), including Oscar for Best Foreign Language film Oscar.

So should I spoil it by seeing H Roshan and Aishwarya Rai?
But I do recommend you see The Sea Inside if you get the chance!

honeycombveils said...

There has been a lot of talk about the two movies' similarities but after seeing Guzaarish I didn't feel like they were at all similar.
Yes, they both deal with a quadriplegic man who's tired of suffering and wants to end his life but the manner in which the issue was dealt with was worlds apart.

Mar Adentro focused quite a bit on the religious aspect of euthanasia, since it was set in deeply Catholic Spain of the late 70's, and also about the family's point of view since they were the ones caring for Ramon Sampedro. It was very gritty, gray and realistic to a fault.

Guzaarish was a beautified version of this suffering.(after all, it is SLB..) Now, y'all know how much I love my boy Hrithik - I think he's great - but the movie left me strangely aloof. People were weeping left and right but I felt like something was missing.
Aishwarya's performance was terrific, that quiet frustration and resolve was wonderful. She really stole the show for me.

Lunia said...

I watched Guzaarish last's kind of different typical Hindi film....kudos to Hrithik and Ash..hope to see more of this couple in future.As for Monikangana ..i would say Bhansali made a mistake casting this girl apart from sexy body..her acting is disaster..too stiff.Sanjay don't look for a model next time..better you get southern actress..their acting is good e.g Anushka Shetty, Priyamani, Andrea etc..Well that's my opinion.

adarsh said...

i luvd d was a grt plezr 2 watch such a movie i m really thankful 2 sanjay leela bhansali 2 mk such a movie nd creatng awareness among ppl abt euthanasia...... according 2 my view d practice of euthanasia sud b made legal coz v cant evn imagine d pain 4m wich d patient suffrd.........
thnxx 2 hrithik nd aish 4 portrayng d stry nd makng it more intrstng by der presnce!

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