Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Guzaarish: Slow death
At one point in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s “Guzaarish”, the protagonist of the film Ethan Fernandes sings “it’s a wonderful world” while his mother is being buried. It’s a poignant moment, one where you feel the pain of the man. It’s also one of the very few genuine moments you will find in the film.
Everything else, like Aishwarya Rai’s make-up, seems fake and loud, and puts you off. The emotions, the set design, the dialogues, Hrithik Roshan’s beard are all out of this world, residing in some alien planet that only Bhansali inhabits.
I’m from Goa (where the film is set) and I can assure you, I don’t know of too many Goan women who wear Victorian skirts, have elaborate hairdos and bright lipstick, all the while nursing a paraplegic man. Actually, I don’t know if women anywhere do that.
The said paraplegic man is played by Hrithik Roshan, a former magician, who after a magic trick gone wrong, is paralysed from the neck down and confined to a wheelchair for the last twelve years, we are told.
He seems unfazed by his plight though, hosting a radio show from his run-down mansion, with the help of his loyal nurse Sofia (Aishwarya Rai, wearing said Victorian skirts and lipstick), who, when she is not helping him brush his teeth, is primly embroidering sheets.
One minute he is telling listeners to live life to the fullest and the next, he asks his lawyer friend (Shernaz Patel) to file a euthanasia petition in the court, asking for permission to die. The rest of the film chronicles his efforts in this direction.
It is also peppered with more characters that seem out of the world, including a young man keen to learn magic and talk as loudly as he can (Aditya Roy Kapoor), Ethan’s doctor Dr Nayak (Suhel Seth), and Ethan’s mother who says she cares for her son very much, but lives far away from him, never calling or visiting.
The problem with all this is that it seems designed to get your sympathy. The fly on Ethan’s nose, him getting drenched because of a leaking roof, the death of his mother, the accident, all of it seems too melodramatic, too put-on.
It’s almost as if Bhansali is determined to extract every little tear hidden in your eyes. The only ones he managed to extract out of mine was when I was laughing at the sight of Suhel Seth jumping into Ethan’s bed to hug him.
You are never told the reason why Ethan decides to die after twelve years of living life as a paraplegic. What triggered the decision? The climax gives us no answers, instead we are subjected to a long “thank you” speech, which is boring to say the least.
In a film with over-the-top performances (watch Patel have a row with Rai, all the while nibbling a slice of bread and some tea and you will know what I mean), Hrithik Roshan is the saving grace. He brings a trace of sanity to Ethan’s sometimes crazy behaviour, and uses his face to convey his emotions so well that you are almost willing to forgive him the crazy laughter and the Jesus-like appearance.
He is the only reason to watch this film.