Guzaarish

 

Lost in search of perfection

Guzaarish; Pic: SLB Films, UTVMP

When the promos of Guzaarish first came out, everyone expected it to be in the league of director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s last film, Saawariya, which sank at the box office. The reason for the comparison was the whole gloomy look and feel that the director created for the new film despite the last one giving the audience blues (literally). If Saawariya was blue-green, Guzaarish is red and black… each frame of the film is highly stylised and put together with artistic finesse. Each image can be exhibited in a gallery as art; however, these frames together fail to ignite the magic that Bhansali’s earlier works created (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Black). While most disliked the film, I liked Saawariya for what it was, a moody musical and closer to a play than a film. Guzaarish once again falls in the same category and doesn’t hold together as a film as it could have. How I wish, the perfectionist filmmaker obsessed a little less with the way his film looks as little imperfections make things a bit more real.

Guzaarish tells the story of Ethan Mascarenhas (Hrithik Roshan), a renowned magician who gets confined to a wheel-chair after an accident during one of his acts turns him into a paraplegic. Despite his condition, Ethan leads a dignified life running a radio programme on how life is so beautiful and being a role model for many. One fine day he decides to say adieu and files a petition for euthanasia or mercy-killing to end his suffering. His decision puts a question on another person’s life that revolves around him, Sofia D’Souza (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), his nurse and caretaker for the last twelve years. Sofia’s life has only one motive, which is to look after her master/patient/object of affection, Ethan and with him that may also disappear.

The film mainly revolves around Ethan and Hrithik has done a good job of creating a character who is eccentric, genius, funny, bitter and romantic in equal parts. However, there is one thing that is missing that makes a lot of difference to the film… you are unable to connect emotionally with Ethan the way you did with Michelle in Black or Rizwan in My Name is Khan. In fact, you feel more for Sofia which says a lot about the character and the way Aishwarya has portrayed it. Aishwarya emotes well and says a lot through her expressions without many dialogues; only her loud costumes distract (Sabyasachi). This is one of her best performances and I am beginning to feel that roles that require her to speak less and emote more, suit her better; case in point, Guru and Jodhaa Akbar. There is an interesting supporting cast in the film that completes the picture – Shernaz Patel as Devyani Dutta, Ethan’s lawyer is good and so is Rajit Kapoor as the public prosecutor; Aditya Roy Kapoor as an aspiring magician is as impressive or unimpressive as his last outing in Action Replayy; Nafisa Ali as Ethan’s mother is graceful and Suhel Seth as his doctor is just about tolerable (better than his prime time news appearances). Model, Monikangana Dutta’s much talked about debut in the film as Estella Francis, Ethan’s ex-girlfriend pans exactly three and a half scenes; and she doesn’t shine in them.

Coming to the technical department, music by Sanjay Leela Bhansali is termed soulful by many but I find it very average; a better soundtrack could have lifted the film a few notches up. Screenplay by Bhansali and Bhavani Iyer is extremely laidback making the film seem long even if the duration is only two hours. Sudeep Chatterjee’s cinematography is beautiful and Sumit Basu’s art direction is good as per the director’s brief; however, the heavy Portuguese hangover does not quite go with the times we live in today. Same with Sabyasachi’s costumes for Aishwarya that look beautiful for a ramp show but on a nurse, they look outlandish. I am not saying that she should have been dressed in drab clothing but the Indo-Spanish look made her look a little unbelievable.

Guzaarish has its moments and I enjoyed it in parts… the opening sequence that shows Sofia’s daily routine with Ethan is one such part and drive outside the house is another. Unfortunately, the whole here is not greater than the sum of its parts. On another level, I think that we, and I mean the audience here, do not understand the artist called Sanjay Leela Bhansali, perhaps the same way he doesn’t understand us anymore. Do watch Guzaarish if you like any of the lead actors or the director or have the patience to appreciate each picture you see on screen. Once again, Guzaarish is not a bad film but is certainly not a master stroke.

My rating: * * * Three stars on five

– Shrey Khetarpal

 

Raavan

The master falters, but…

Pic: Raavan; Reliance Big Pictures

A lot is being said about Mani Ratnam’s Raavan and the movie’s fate has become front page news material… it almost seems like everyone was waiting for the master film maker to fall once to rip him apart. Critics and fans blamed Ratnam for losing his maverick style by focusing more on the commercial aspects and staying away of any direct political undertones. Raavan may not be what an Iruvar or Roja or Bombay or even a Guru was but it is a film that took a lot of effort to make, which went completely unnoticed. I am not saying that we should like a film because it was a difficult one to make but let’s not be so harsh on a filmmaker whom we have revered for so long. Mani Ratnam is one of the finest filmmakers we have in India and that is indisputable.

Based on the Ramayana, Raavan is set in a fictitious town called Lal Maati, surrounded by dense rain forests and is unofficially ruled by a tribal leader named Beera aka Raavan (Abhishek Bachchan). Beera fights against the system and the forces for the injustice done towards the locals who worship him like a god. The conflict resembles the Naxalite movement; however the director steers clear of any direct reference. Beera abducts the local police superintendent, Dev aka Ram’s (Vikram) wife, Ragini aka Sita (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) to extract revenge. While Dev embarks on a search for his wife and her kidnapper; Beera finds himself drawn towards his beautiful and brave hostage.  Raavan is partly a love story and partly a story about the good and the evil that resides inside all of us. The concept is interesting, however the screenplay gets too literal at times, such as the sequence where Govinda’s character (Sanjeevni Kumar aka Hanuman) is shown jumping from tree to tree.

Raavan is a visually stunning film and the two cinematographers, V. Manikanandan and Santosh Sivan have well captured the natural beauty of the locales as well as the harsh conditions faced by the actors. Music by A. R. Rahman with lyrics by Gulzar is a winner too with the songs presented in a breath-taking manner, especially ‘Kata Kata…’ and ‘Thok De Killi…’ What does not work very well is the film’s editing (Sreekar Prasad) and the screenplay (Mani Ratnam) as the first half moves at an extremely slow pace and the climax not that impactful. The actors have all worked very hard and it clearly shows on screen. Abhishek is good but does not seem menacing enough that one would expect from a character based on a demon; Aishwarya emotes well, while Vikram only grunts. Nikhil Dwivedi in Lakshman’s character is good and so is Ravi Kishen as Beera’s brother; Govinda in Hanuman’s character does not work very well but that’s probably because his character is not that convincing in its modern avatar. Priyamani as Jamunia (Beera’s sister) is an important find for the Hindi film industry this year; she has great screen presence and I am looking forward to seeing her more often in Bollywood.

The film may not match up to the high expectations we have from Mani Ratnam but I agree with what I read online, ‘his worst is also better than the best works of some other directors’.

My rating: * * ½ Two and a half stars on five

– Shrey Khetarpal