Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Monikangana Dutta, Rajit Kapoor and Shernaz Patel
Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Within a Victorian structure, inside an artistically designed home, behind billowing curtains and surreal lighting schemes sits quadriplegic Ethan (Hirithik Roshan), trying desperately to shoo a fly off his nose. Unable to use his limbs and accepting his fate, he lets the fly sit-- a passing visitor in Ethan’s handicapped life.
Sanjay Bhansali returns to form with the creation of a fascinating world where fact meets fiction. While the dreamlike production design and costumes inspired from modern art are awe inspiring fiction, Bhansali’s research on euthanasia (or mercy killing) seems to be based on fact. Does fact blend seamlessly with fiction? Unfortunately not.
Right from the start Ethan seems to embrace the brighter side of life. He laughs in the face of adversity, always has a mischievous one-liner on his lips, and even hosts a radio show to counsel depressed listeners and share the joys of being alive. If the point of a fulfilled life wasn’t made clearly enough, the background songs remind us literally, that ‘life’s good!’
Yet, in the very next scene, Ethan calls his lawyer to tell her he’s had enough and wants to die. She must fight the legal system and their stand against mercy killing. Just when and why did the man who fought death and went on to write a book about living successfully as a quadriplegic decide to end his life, is never clearly explained. From this point on, no matter how hard the director and his actors try to elicit sympathy for Ethan, it is hard for one to connect with him.
The flashback scenes showing Ethan in his full glory are beautifully treated and Roshan is gracefully choreographed in stunning settings. His magic tricks are initially exciting to watch, but you soon realize that the gravity-defying stunts that he performs are beautiful but unrealistic, never attempted by the likes of the great Harry Houdini even. The stunts seem to owe more to the wire-work and CG departments of the film, than any authentic magic research.
But there are some heartening moments in an otherwise style dominated film; like the scene where Ethan reminisces about his mother and says that the biggest magic trick he performed was to put a smile on her face; the scene where Ethan’s former lover (Moni Kangana Dutta) calls him on his radio phone line understanding his need for euthanasia is nicely done. Dutta has this one scene to prove herself as an actress and she does so with all heart.
Another well executed scene is the penultimate courtroom sequence where Ethan locks the unsympathetic government lawyer in a small a box for sixty seconds. As Ethan describes the free environment in the outside world, the lawyer begins to suffocate and pleads to be let out. Ethan releases him and makes his point. ‘Imagine living in a box your entire life, if you could not stay inside for 60 seconds’.
While Hirithik Roshan does well for the most part, he is challenged by an ill-defined character. It is Aishwarya Bachchan as Sophie, Ethans loyal nurse for 14 years, who brings some heart to the slickly made Guzaarish. Aishwarya chips in a restrained performance as the stern nurse whose only purpose in life is to care for Ethan. The actress seems to have matured enough to give this otherwise airy film some solid grounding.
Guzaarish is based upon a great idea (as were the English films ‘The Sea Inside’ & ‘Whose Life is it Anyway’) and has some terrific moments. But sadly for the cast & crew who seemed to have worked hard to make this film, it is also over-the-top, has forgettable music and a weak climax. Watch it for a peak into Sanjay Bhansali’s wonderfully imaginative mind but be prepared not to feel his heart.