Guzaarish is the kind of film that demands that we create a separate category for it—a two and three-quarter rating perhaps. Because there is much to admire here: the film is beautifully shot by Sudeep Chatterjee. It has strong performances and there are several scenes, which genuinely move you. But there is just as much that is clumsy, including an unintentionally comical group-hug in the climax. Despite the many admirable elements, Guzaarish never becomes more than the sum of its parts.
Co-written and directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Guzaarish is cobbled together from many well-known movies. From Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, Bhansali sources a world of magic and illusion in which rival magicians sabotage each other.
So the protagonist, Ethan Mascarenhas played by Hrithik Roshan, is great magician who becomes a quadraplegic when a trick goes wrong. There are shades of Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and several scenes and characters lifted from the 2005 foreign-language Oscar winner The Sea Inside, in which Javier Bardem gives an astounding performance as a bed-ridden man who fights to die. Ethan makes a similar plea for euthanasia or as he calls it: ‘ethanasia’.
To this busy canvas, Bhansali adds a beautiful nurse Sophia, played by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan; an apprentice Omar, played by Aditya Roy Kapur and a devoted lawyer, played by Shernaz Patel.
The best part of the film is the beautifully etched relationship between Ethan and Sophia, who wearing floor-length Sabyasachi skirts and gorgeous earrings, seems to be channeling Frida Kahlo.
She calls him Mr Mascarenhas and handles him with a tough love devoid of pity. So, when he pretends to be aroused, she tops it with some world-class moans of her own.
Bhansali is among the few directors who enable Aishwarya to shed her trademark artificiality.
Looking stunning, she delivers her most heart-felt performance in years.
Hrithik struggles and sweats with a difficult role. Ethan must be gloriously life-affirming even as he begs for death. But his character, like the film, is too over-wrought and obviously manipulative.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali has positioned himself as Hindi cinema’s poet of pain. His movies are operatic and highly melodramatic. But over the course of six films, the worlds Bhansali creates have become increasingly sealed off and removed from any known reality. So even though the characters in Guzaarish ostensibly live in Goa, the milieu isn’t one that you would recognise.
This fantasy would be effective if the writing was more organic and the emotions felt more authentic but Bhansali never gives us a chance to invest in these people.
Characters just randomly appear and disappear. So Sophia’s abusive husband drops in for one scene as does Ethan’s rival who scars him for life. It’s clunky and strangely disjointed.
Combining euthanasia with song-and-dance is a tough, tough feat and despite his prodigious talent, Bhansali can’t pull it off. Since we don’t have a two and three-quarter rating, I’m going with three stars. (NDTV)