December issue 2010

By | Arts & Culture | Movies | Published 14 years ago

Brilliant cinematography, performances, script, story and costumes — such is Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magic.

Truly a creative genius, when he undertakes the task of movie-making, you can be sure Bhansali has control of every aspect of it. So, unsurprisingly inGuzaarish, he is the director-producer, music director and has co-written the screenplay — multi-tasking he’s done in many of his productions — with the addition of story writing, editing, and even choreographing as in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam!

Guzaarish opens with the nurse, Sophia (Aishwariya Rai Bachchan), conducting the daily ritual of bathing and changing the invalid Ethan Mascarenhas (Hrithik Roshan). The bed-and-wheelchair-ridden Ethan was the greatest magician of his time and had been bestowed with the title of Merlin until he met with an unfortunate accident — or rather a deliberate attempt on his life — which left him a quadriplegic. Sophia has been by his side since the incident. His other few companions consist of his two housekeepers, steadfast friend Devyani (Shernaz Patel) and devoted doctor, Nayak (Suhel Seth).

When we enter Ethan’s life, he has been paralysed for 12 years and his condition is slowly deteriorating. At this juncture, he shocks everyone by asking Devani (who is a lawyer) to file a petition for him in court for euthanasia.

The movie is largely about an invalid’s struggle, and his agonised plea (guzaarish) to all those who are near and dear to him, and to the court, for control of his own life — which in this case, ironically, means his death. Such a plea by a man who since his accident has been a motivational speaker for others who are physically impaired and runs a radio programme encouraging others like him to fight on sends shockwaves across the board. There are the initial responses of the state, society and Ethan’s close-knit circle of friends and family to whom euthanasia is inconceivable. As the movie progresses, however, attitudes towards Ethan’s plea change, and the varying standpoints on the issue are then played out.

The only weak part in the movie — and it is a lengthy one — is where Aditya Roy Kapur features as Omar Siddiqi, Ethan’s young protégé who wants to learn magic from the maestro himself. The exchanges between an eager Omar and an overprotective Sophie are enjoyable, but the scripting could have been worked upon to make Omar’s role a more significant part of the story.

However, there is much more in the film to enjoy. We get a glimpse of the very graceful Nafisa Ali as Ethan’s mother, and Shernaz Patel’s convincing performance demands that she be seen on the big screen more often.

Beyond the thought-provoking storyline, Guzaarish truly is a visual treat — and not only because of the elaborate sets or Goan landscape. Hrithik Roshan, whose fluid dance steps the eye is so accustomed to — and hooked on to — is (thankfully) not seen bed-ridden throughout. Flashback (dream) sequences show scenes from his heyday, with a display of acrobatic moves and magic and there is one ‘dance’ song, as seen in the promos, which Aishwariya Rai features in. So the movie is not completely bereft of the two dance sensations of Bollywood doing what they do best. Nonetheless, it is the lead pair’s acting that is the highlight of Guzaarish.

You have to see the film to feel and understand the message it conveys, to imagine the agony a man such as Ethan must be in: not able to shoo away a fly sitting or his nose, or move himself a fraction of an inch to avoid water dripping on his face from a leak in the roof or, worse, to be changed and washed by another.

The film adds to the ongoing debate about life and death and the right to choose.

This review was originally published in the December 2010 issue of Newsline under the headline “A Fatal Decision.”

Farieha Aziz is a Karachi-based journalist and teacher. She joined Newsline in 2007, rising to assistant editor. Farieha was awarded the APNS award for Best Investigative Report (Business/Economic) for the year 2007-2008. She is a co-founder and Director at Bolo Bhi, an advocacy forum of Digital Rights.