Guzaarish (Bhansali 2010)

The loneliness of the long distance filmmaker.

To some film is a meditation. a shake up call that wakes you out of your cartesian slumber of certain coordinates. To some filmmaking is an art where opera and melodrama feed into one’s  voice in an expression of personal whimsy like a rebellious child’s tantrum. To some film is like a tantrum thrown by a child to indulgent parents who,even if they call the melodrama do so with a smile.

And then it strikes you that the manipulator is showman extraordinaire, who learnt his craft not only from wagnerian set design and powell and pressburger visuals, Dali’s surreal iconography and Fellini’s sense of dramatic montage, but also from Guru Dutt’s meditative self indulgence, Raj Kapoor’s showmanship and  Sivaji Ganesan’s turgid melodrama.

Bhansali, in other words, is US. the indian audience. we will laugh and cry like americans watching jewish melodramas in the thirties as bhansali navigates us through his lush silent imagery, in dialogs that lead with their emotional gut, with a script so well hidden that we can barely see it for all the rona dhona that is Guzaarish.

Yet it is there, unmistakable signs of bhansali taking his fourth excursion through the existentialist secret garden and pissing all over their favorite themes- love(Devdas) alienation(Black) alienation and choice(saawariya) and now Death dread and angst (Guzaarish) as if it was a pillar of western civilization that he was peeing on..Bhansali’s existential philosophy is as life affirming as his analytic judgement of life is tragic. single minded and predetermined. Bhansali’s film scripts, like many life scripts are about the little joys that bloom like flowers under the shadow of the monstrous original tragedy that is existence.

The plot of guzaarish is almost chortle worthy. Ethan mascerenas (hritik roshan playing transperently a bhansali biographical stand in) is a paralyzed former magician who needs nursing care for his every small need. He wants to die. and everyone around him , that love him deeply are brought around to seeing why he should be allowed to die, even as Mascherenas learns to alleviate his anguish from their love.

Its like bhansali wants to die because everyone hated his last film so much, and he’s asking permission from those who love him, to stop creating. As the film progresses we see the plea for what it is, drama baazi by an expert manipulator who , like marc anthony would turn the masses toward caeser from  sheer rhetorics. The only serious flaw I see in the film is its lack of warning when it switches gears, from now pandering to bhansali’s inner needs to then pandering to the audience’s cliche of what a euthenesia film should be, emotionally. while one hoped for a different film..or at least for more seriously philosophical- analytical resolution, you understand that all this is just bhansali’s excuse to manipulate his way into your heart.

And that is essential to making movies in Bollywood

A short note on religion in the film. While portugese goa, where the film is set, does have a strong catholic tradition, and the name Ethan Mascherenas is of portugese catholic origin, there is no indication that Ethan in this film is particularly religious before or after his accident. Nor is Sofia. The house he lives in however, seems populated with iconography symbolizing an early procession of portugese saints peculiar to portugese Goa( look up vehla procession of saints) a lot of the statuery is also appropriately Indo portugese. If shooting was not done on location in a period bungalow, it appears as if the sets were reconstructed with an eye for detail from a period bungalow. Unfortunately, catholicism in the west has come to be charecterized by roman statuery of the early renisscence period (Michaelangelo/ Da vinci) and is quite different than the common catholic imagery found in India..


About rameshram

Name : Ramesh Ram... Email Address : (don't even ask) Blog: (never updated) Height/ Weight: 6'1 175 (varies between 160 and 185) Color of hair/ eyes black/ brown Bald? Nope (not yet, but give me 20 years.) Interests: Film (Bollywood/international indie), Travel (Germany/Japan/Central America/Sout/east/west Asia/ Northern Africa), Gizmo geek, Clubbing... What do I like in a good movie?: Women, Music, Auters, Special effects, Style. What do I like in a bad movie?: Women, Music, Auters, Special effects, Style. Favorite Critic: International: Bazin Domestic: J Hobermann Indian : me. (noone else comes close ...India or here..) Best quality: Humility. Outspokenness. Warmth Worst quality: Intolerence Favorite color : Yellow Black Blue Favorite Perfume : men: Grey Flannel(Geoffery Beene) Women: Celine dion: Obsession Boxers / briefs : Boxers Did I inhale: And how! Author: Marquiz, Rushdie, Murakami, Jong Last Book: The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton, Catherine A. Liszt Music : Patricia Kass, Alejandro Sanz,Nina Simone, Amir Diab Sports person: What am I usually in : White briefs and tees. Chianti or Burgandy: Chianti Food: French Japanese(street/fast food). Saw and liked: No Country for old men, Lust Caution Saw and disliked: Nishabd Didnt see: Aaja Nach le. Call me: Write me first.
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8 Responses to Guzaarish (Bhansali 2010)

  1. Karigai says:

    I write to say that your review of Guzaarish is rip-roaringly Heart, as opposed to self-controlled Art. If asked (the loaded question of) what I would choose, heart or art… hmmm, if one were to choose merely for the sake of choosing, i find myself drawn more to ‘heart’ if only coz (per my patently superficial perception) ‘art’ is automatically built into ‘heart’ (though I must admit that there’s ‘Heart’ in Art too…coz I’m pretty sure ‘He’ is hiding in there somewhere hahaha – now I’m reminded of that ‘Vel’ movie dialogue, where the other Suriya says to the (excellent) villain “Thoonlaiyum iruppaan, thurumblayum iruppaan… Irumbile-yum iruppaan!).

    “ scripts, like many life scripts are about the little joys that bloom like flowers under the shadow of the monstrous original tragedy..” – to take this beautiful thought to its logical conclusion, here’s the immortal line from Blade Runner where replicant Roy Batty says to Ford (on rooftop, after rescuing the latter from a freefall), “..all those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain” (rumor has it that this line was actually out of script).

  2. rameshram says:

    The film is all heart. if it had a social conscience, I would have brought in a ghatak reference, but it’s subjective from start to finish..more fellini than ghatak.

  3. Pingback: Guzaarish | Catholic Movies

  4. Karigai says:

    Haven’t seen Firaaq (nor do I plan to), but something stagulu says in the commentspace of that review stuck with me, and I am sharing it here because it seems to apply to the way you engaged with Guzaarish (you are A & B):

    “But the filmmaker would expect the viewer to be aware…” — I’m not so sure about this, that every filmmaker expects all audience members to be on the same page (or feel the same way) about the things he/she is trying to say. The most you can say is that Viewer A saw exactly the movie the director was trying to make, while Viewer B saw some of what the director was trying to say and filled in the gaps with his own knowledge of things (which may not be the most informed opinions), while Viewer C wasn’t aware of any context and therefore saw the movie the only way he could, i.e. as a pure “movie” (or pure “fiction”). With different films, the critic could be Viewer A or Viewer B or Viewer C — and I think the value that a critic brings is in the ability to engage with a film *regardless* of how much he knows about its various contexts. (As in, not letting the “You can’t live without your vegetable” emotion interfere with your engagement? Exactly.)

    I watched this (picture postcard of a) movie over the weekend and, frankly, was way too immersed in the jaw-droppingly beautiful visuals — dimlit interiors of the Portuguese mansion, gorgeous Goan vistas… — to pay attention to much else. I did register enough though to note that the court scenes were laughably contrived and Ethan, extremely OTT — except when around Sophia; this is one of Ash’s better roles and the second movie in which she (concedes to Hrithik’s request and risks her own incarceration and kills him and thereby) sets him free.

    The last scene took my breath away from its sheer emotional beauty. Who wouldn’t want that handful of non-judgmental buddies piling onto his bed like that? But who, in our over-judgmental world, has that? (ok ok just because I don’t doesn’t mean no one else does, LOL. So maybe, this movie is as much about wishful thinking as it is about wish fulfillment!) Ah the intense longing to actually *have* what you only *think* you have… (sighs and returns to first line of review)

  5. rameshram says:

    please tell me youre joking!

    youre passing judgements about someone who created something as awesome as guzaarish and doing so brazenly with your cynical tamil brakmin tongue as if you own the right to purchase his art as if it were tomatoes (this one is rotten and that one bruised). his court scenes are contrived? frankly(frankly?) I was too immersed in the visuals to pay attention to what he was saying?! wtf?

    who do you arrogate yourself to be? and what authority do you have to speak so?!

    if its only your right as a person watching a film you should still your voice to where only those that will know you well enough to respect your opinions will hear, if you want to speak in the public square, your comments will be open to question and examination.

    its people like you(and comments like these) that give people like me(the film critic) a bad name.

  6. Karigai says:

    LOL @ last line. Exactly what my husband must’ve thought (but was too gentlemanly to say) when I came home with a C- in the film analysis class I took last sem. Some people should simply shut the eff up, illa? Enna pannardhu… yaar enna sonnalum oraika maatengardhu ennoda “brazenly cynical tamil-brakmin tongue”kku.

  7. rameshram says:

    ok suit yourself. say what you will. add to the general noise.

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