By Rohini Mohan
Guzaarish is another larger than life, flamboyant, grandiose offering of Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Like all his productions, it seems more like a play than a movie. I enjoy high pathos, but I am not generous enough to call this one a tearjerker.
Hrithik plays Ethan, a quadriplegic, who petitions for the right to die. Sofia (Aishwarya), is his stony faced nurse and Omar(Aditya Roy Kapur) is his apprentice.
The film is set in Goa and at first you have the unreal feeling of being transported back to the early 1900s- mainly because of Ash’s dreadful costume. With her ankle length red, white, and black skirt and blouse and outlandish jewelry she looks like she is ready to dance the flamenco any moment (she actually does, in one surreal scene.)
However, I will say that, other than looking like a Gitana with moon eyes and garish red lipstick, the role suited Ash – it needed someone wooden and she delivered. I would question her very relevance to the plot, but will refrain. Movies do need to sell after all.
The house is a bhoot bangla in the boonies; apparently you can get to it only by boat, except when it does not suit the director. Ethan is an RJ and broadcasts from the relative comfort of his bedroom, because of course he has not left the house in 14 years since his accident. (When will we stop making these obtuse references to Chaudah saal ka banwas?)
The doctor, lawyer, and apprentice are all impossible characters – none that you actually come to love, mainly because of the consistently sub-par performances. Nafisa Ali, on the other hand is absolutely wonderful in her brief cameo role as Ethan’s mother. She has aged with dignity and grace and remains the powerful performer she always was. Her short monologue was probably the only part worth shedding a few tears over.
Hrithik was…well good, I admit, albeit reluctantly, the reason being some moments where I believe he forgot exactly what disability he was portraying and appeared positively maniacal. However, he is, needless to say an extremely talented dancer and an equally talented singer. His rendering of “What a Wonderful World” was quite beautiful. Mercifully, he kept his shirt on.
The theme is euthanasia (or “Ethanasia,” if you will) which if treated right could make a powerful and poignant story. I have seen it handled much more creatively and effectively in ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy.
The worst casualty of the movie was subtlety. What happened to symbolism and the art of suggestion? What happened to saying something without shoving it down your throat? I have seen Mili, and Anand, and Million Dollar Baby and countless other movies which utilized these subtle techniques and made me cry buckets. Sorry Sanjay, you pressed and you pressed on my tear ducts, but they would not give.
Good music, lovingly photographed. Ok for all ages.