8 January 2011 | Peter_Young
A request for a one-way ticket
Sanjay Leela Bhansali returns with Guzaarish, a dramatic musical feature which tells the story Ethan Mascarenhas, a former successful magician who has been entirely paralysed since a tragic stage accident. After 14 years of immobility, a highly cynical and humorous Ethan, who has found success as a radio anchor and as an author, is exhausted and he willingly files an appeal to the court for mercy killing, also known as euthanasia. There begins a true moral dilemma which provokes many contradicting thoughts among those who surround Ethan, which include his devoted nurse for the last 14 years, Sofia D'Souza, a beautiful, serious and yet caring woman who first takes Ethan's decision as an insult to her long-standing selflessness, and of course among the viewers themselves.
Guzaarish is without a doubt an interesting film to watch, it is generally restrained in its portrayal of emotions, but at times -- the complete opposite. In a way it is a lot like Bhansali's pre-previous venture Black. It revolves around Anglo-Indian people, it is mostly in English, it is aided by lavish sets and costumes, the cinematography is stupendous, and the entire atmosphere is dark, dim and beautiful, filled with fantastic songs and a wonderful background score. In that sense, the movie is a true visual and musical treat. With the exception of Khamoshi, all of Bhansali's films have been glossy and extravagant, a style which was very appreciated by some, but many have considered it pretentious, snobbish, and a little hard to get into and relate to.
Guzaarish can be looked at from different angles. From one side, it can be accused of supporting mercy killing, which is unacceptable, but from the other, it's deeply devastating to know that a person cannot even move to end his life when he wants to. Both sides give the film a rather depressing feel despite the fact that Bhansali tries hard to lift the viewers' spirit by building a narrative that is full of positive and hopeful songs about the beauty of life and some breathtaking nature landscapes. The courtroom scenes are well portrayed, with one scene in which Ethan tries to illustrate the level of his agony through one 60-second "trick", being one of the film's most impressive. At the same time, the film's final scene is extremely manipulative, long and over-dramatised, being one of the film's biggest flaws.
Where the film scores big time except for its artistic portrayal of the rich cultural lifestyle of Portuguese-influenced Goa, it is definitely in the acting department. Hrithik Roshan wonderfully plays Ethan's hidden pain, his sense of irony, his great good-humour, and his love for those who surround him. Bhansali has once said that he is the only director who knows how to use Aishwarya Rai's beauty in his films and the one capable of extracting the best out of her acting skills. He once again proves to be right, as Rai delivers a brilliant, elegant and graceful portrayal of Sofia, effectively creating a rather tough screen persona, and yet letting the viewer sense her very soft inside, her love, goodwill and kindness. I would also like to mention her "Udi" dance performance, which is simply astonishing.
The supporting cast includes the fantastic Shernaz Patel, who once again delivers an impressive act after her performance as a loving mother in Black. Nafisa Ali is still beautiful as Ethan's mother, and her monologue in court in support of her son is very touching. Rajit Kapoor is good as the prosecutor and boy has he changed since his appearances in Shyam Benegal's movies such as Mammo and The Making of The Mahatma. Aditya Roy Kapur is okay as Ethan's fan. All said and done, Guzaarish is a watchable movie which is generally moving, well scripted and very well acted. It is an extremely eye and ear-pleasing picture thanks to its cinematographic excellence and great musical numbers composed by Bhansali himself, but it has its share of minuses, and the film's final scene is example to that.