I am a fan of his films, I admit it. I saw Khamoshi 2 years ago and found it mesmerizing right from the moment that Seema Biswas got close to the speaker and the LOUD music came on. AND I finally understood why Salman could create mass hysteria. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam was a musical feast full of rioting colors and Aishwarya and Salman had a crackling chemistry. Devdas was a loud Wagnerian opera, even the tragedy was heightened to an extreme. Black was an OK watch, but almost choking full of issues. A film that should have been sensitive and muted, was set in a “museum” and told in a near caricaturish manner. Then came Saawariya. The sets became other-worldly and there was a complete disconnect with reality. More and more Mr. Bhansali was moving into an unreal world, full of larger than life characters, and outlandish situations.
I think there is something about a song and dance extravaganza that desensitizes us, and makes us more willing to accept what is not real. But if a story tries to be real, then by God we want it to be told in a realistic manner. This is where Black and now Guzaarish lose out. Gone is the inimitable stamp of music and dance that is the hallmark of a Bhansali film. Instead we have a guy who is a paraplegic and really looks like he is in an audition for the next film on the life of Jesus (Hrithik), he has the hair and the beard and he’s got the suffering down pat. His name is Ethan (Mascarenhas) so that we can make a derivation from Euthanasia to Ethanasia. Actually Ethanasia could be the fantasy land where he dwells, in a crumbling castle with a grand staircase, and curtains that billow and swirl around the whole room. And yes there is a drip that falls on the exact center of his forehead, and a fly that sits exactly on his nose.
While he runs Radio Zindagi, he wants to end his Zindagi, as he has had enough – Ethan wants Ethanasia, and his lawyer friend finally agrees to file his petition. The caricatured court, complete with Judge and public prosecutor, keeps denying his petition. Ethan has a nurse, Sophia (Aishwarya), who dresses in string tied blouses with a LOT of cleavage, but never shows her legs, and favors bright red lipstick. She is his lifeline and supposedly his love, though there is precious little of the coochie-coo kind of interaction. There is simulated moaning session that comes out of nowhere and is neither tragic nor funny. Then we have the joker in the pack Omar (Aditya Roy Kapoor), wearing shorts and collared jackets, whose only role seems to be to bring some comic relief to this somber subject. Sohail Seth matches Aditya Roy Kapoor in the hair department (though considerably greyer), and both seem equally unnecessary to the story. The other cast are all here and barely-thereians, and no one can really move the story forward as there is none really to move forward. Quadriplegic man, telling people to LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST, himself morose, Euthanasia petition, denied, fill in the spaces with beautiful nurse but not much happening, petition again, denied again, BIG end of life party ending is a GROUP HUG.
The songs should really not have been in the film at all. Be it Nafisa Ali and Hrithik butchering old classics, Aishwarya singing a weird song that runs the gamut from Sufi to Flamenco and then doing Flamenco dance, none of it belonged in this film. The setting was bizarre and unreal and included Hrithik talking to an entire roomful of wheelchair bound people, smoke filled courtrooms, and magic shows in “magical” settings. We ever got to see enough of the “whole” man in his prime, so what he had lost was not immediately apparent. Showing a man on stage does not give any indication of his life as a normal human being. And then not seeing him gone provided no closure to the story. It was like a phantom tale, caught between what should have been shown as real in the beginning and what would have been real at the end.
The performances were mixed. Hrithik really was not completely comfortable in this role, and his laughing at inappropriate moments made me feel like the challenged boy of Koi Mil Gaya was somehow a template for this performance. Aishwarya had an extremely subdued role, no histrionics, yelling or screaming. I think Bhansali always manages to bring out the best in her, and this was no exception. This could have been her best role in a while if I forget the manic Udi Udi performance. The rest of the cast were mere space fillers.
My Guzaarish to Mr. Bhansali is to stop making these disability films. Khamoshi was one of a kind and cannot be repeated. Go back to the song and dance extravaganza if you like. OR actually give us something original, that is not derivative to the Nth degree or drawn piecemeal from so many sources; make it small, make it fun and win back your audience.