After a long time, I was privileged to watch a sensitive portrayal of a highly controversial subject, on celluloid, courtesy Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Hrithik Roshan and of course, the inimitable but highly underrated Aishwariya Rai Bachchan.
The film is Guzaarish and the after taste of the experience still lingers with me, long after the curtains have come down. The theme, to cut a long story short, is that of a Magician turned quadriplegic, confined to his bed, a 6X4 space, the aftermath of a tragic accident during a live performance.
No one seems to have spotted it yet, but the film is possibly a remake of an old 1981 Hollywood movie called, “Whose life is it anyway?”, starring Richard Dreyfuss and John Casavetes. I say possibly, because similar artistic concepts CAN occur to different people at different times without any connection with one another. So we’ll just give the man the benefit of the doubt!
Anyway, In the English film, Ken Harrison is an artist who makes sculptures. One day he is involved in a car accident, and is paralyzed from his neck down. All he can do is talk, and he wants to die. In hospital he make friends with some of the staff, and they support him when he goes to trial to be allowed to die. It is a riveting movie, and the dialogues and humour are still fresh in my mind even after 30 years. Unlike the Hindi version, he wins his fight to die. His doctor, who opposes Euthanasia, then tells him that he would be available on call whenever he wanted. Ken Harrison laughingly asks him why he would want to do that, as he is to die soon, to which the Doctor unsmilingly replies, “who knows, you might just change your mind”! I saw the movie four times, it was so captivating.
To get back to Guzaarish, with this performance I believe Hrithik Roshan has taken his talents to the next level. The very fact that a quadriplegic’s range of movements is restricted only to his neck and above, has allowed him to display the full range of his histrionics. Previously, I felt his obvious acting talents used to be somewhat overshadowed by his sheer physical presence. In Guzaarish, the physique is out of the equation and it all came to the fore……the sadness, the frustrated anger, the resigned acceptance of fate, the artists madness, the morbid humour, you name it and it was all there. Leave the story line aside and the film will still have the ladies queuing up to see it for his face alone, as patrician, arresting and captivating as any mythological character, straight out of the Old Testament!
The casting is absolutely spot on, with every character, however small the role, leaving his or her mark without taking away from the main canvas. Aishwariya Bachchan, as the devoted nurse of 12 years, is simply superb. In a character centric movie, it would have been easy to have been overshadowed by the sheer force of Hrithik’s screen presence, especially as the story revolves around him. But, she has more than matched Hrithik, fame for frame, and in some, like the one where she spontaneously breaks into an impromptu Flamenco, even outdone him.
And the music? Ooh la la! It gets you humming for days on end and is another reason why the movie becomes somewhat special…..because the Director himself has turned composer. What an effort! Mr. Bhansali, take a bow! Also for me, the legendary Louis Armstrong’s evergreen melody, “what a wonderful world”, used as a constant score in the movie was the icing on the cake. When I used to play that song on my car stereo, my daughter used to chide my so called old worldly choice of music! Thank God there are other hardy souls out there who share similar tastes! There is hope for this world, after all!
Sanjay Leeela Bhansali’s touch is evident throughout the film, in the constant play with light and shade, the panoramic camera pan’s, the period props and the sensitivity shown in every character’s portrayal. There are the odd clichéd scenes, but they can be excused in the greater context of the film. Even Mr. Bhansali has to eat, you know and must be forgiven for taking care of the general public, who are responsible for putting the meat and potatoes on his board!
Guys, the box office and the moolah stakes be damned. See the film. It would be well worth your while, methinks!