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..