Guzaarish is an art museum. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is the perfectly chiseled curator and Hrithik Roshan an almost statue. And this once, it’s not his acting I’m complaining about, the script demands him to stay put. You are watching them etched in many exotic, exquisite paintings frame after frame. So, what if the very basis of the story is pointless and there are gaping holes which are difficult to digest.
As I begin my trip on the wrong side of 35, I think a lot about old age. And every once in a while the thought is punctuated by the passing away of an "aged" person. People might not say it out loud, but that death comes as a relief - not only to the person who dies. Old age with ailments is not anything anyone looks forward to. "Please don’t let me live on like a vegetable," is something I hear from friends a lot more than I’d like, even though it’s only a casual remark. But, what if, you don’t have to wait for old age for this to happen. What if you are hit with this situation in your prime? That’s what happens to Ethan (Hrithik Roshan) in Guzaarish. And Sanjay Leela Bhansali paints such a beautiful picture to bring across the pathos that you almost ignore how silly the basic plot is.
The picture is beautiful not only because you can see the thought gone into composing each frame; but also because the writing has a lot of restraint. Ethan doesn’t go into a spiel demanding our sympathy. He gains it because of the situations he’s in. From the fly he can’t shoo off to the anger he can’t vent out physically, make you feel for his despair. Of course, they had to mess it up in the end but then again, that scene becomes tolerable because it hasn't been used earlier. Yes, it has all the emotional triggers, visually, in speech and in music. Well, it's supposed to be an emotional scene, after all. And Hrithik Roshan had to get the promised amount of screen time, right?
But he, more or less, pulls it off. Often, his head dropped to one side like a mentally imbalanced person - while this got annoying, at other times he showed an unexpected degree of talent. Including the times he got angry. It’s really not his fault that he went into the over-acting zone a la Amitabh-Bachchan-in-Black. When two distinct personalities act with the same mannerisms, the one man who directed both of them is at blame.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan stomps about the Goan mansion dutifully. She is breathtakingly beautiful. So perfect, that I can understand when I hear people say, "she is so beautiful that it's difficult to like her." That doesn't make the statement fair, but then again, it's unfair for someone to look divine too. (Sorry for this side, but throughout the film I was reminded of this comment on Guru's review where the commenter mentioned his servant looked better than Aishwary Rai, I guess Ethan can't even say that.)
I admit, I didn't expect anything in the form of acting from anyone in this film. And I admit, I was mildly surprised. Let alone Ms. Rai Bachchan hell, even Nafisa Ali had a bit of voice modulation going around. I still have to get past Aditya Roy Kapoor's cute smile to decide if I really like his acting or not, but so far so good. He has a refreshing air about him.
A bunch of other characters do their bit. And that's my grouse. Almost all of them come in the second half. I for one, get unsettled when characters and the base plot are set and then a new character is introduced, let alone 4-5 new ones.
Sure, they were there for a purpose. But an ever-lasting introduction to characters, especially when the conflict comes in the first 10 minutes, threw the story structure off the chart. I love experimentation, especially with narrative styles, but this entry and exit of character after character looked like the writers were filling in blanks, "Oye, we need a love interest. Hey, what about family? Hey, where did the enemy go? Oops, we forgot to give Sophia (Aishwarya) a backstory. And so on and on."
And all leading to what? Because of this need to clarify and justify, the meat goes missing. What a wonderful opportunity there was in a story where a person is appealing to the society to kill him, Secondly, the very purpose of Ethan's extra-ordinary character and fight is defeated when he decides to do what you and I would do. His fight seems futile and to an extent the film too.
But, the point is that, Sanjay Leela Bhansali's intentions are clear from the first shot - one lyrical movement by Aishwarya even if it is something as mundane as drawing curtains. You know he's aiming for his brand of grandeur. (And he'll to stick that one grand set, even if the Indian Judiciary system has to shift address.) You know his purpose is to enchant with visuals. And that he does. He doesn't want anything close to real. Somewhere along the side he wants to say a story, but I guess, he must know too, that the plot is not his priority. So, he succeeds there too. It's just that it didn't work for me in entirety.
Meanwhile, it does create empathy. Smokers out there might be able to identify with this one better - what if someone else decided the intervals at which you took your puffs while smoking one cigarette?
- meetu, a part of the audience