Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai, Monikangana, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Shernaz Patel
Directed: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
A song in the film Guzaarish warns you about the film. It goes something like, "Sau gram zindagi hain..." so think twice before wasting some of it watching this film. But if you're not convinced, read on. The film is based on mercy killing (a legal way to allow a terminally suffering patient to end his life painlessly). But endure this film half-way and you want to legalise mercy stabbing and mercy skull-smashing, to end the suffering you'll experience.
Ethan Mascarenhas (Hrithik) is Goa's very own David Blaine, a paraplegic since 14 years following an on-stage injury. He lives in the part of Goa which falls in Eastern Europe, complete with castle, nurse Sofia D'Souza (Aishwarya Rai) who is perpetually dressed as a Spanish witch (wearing blood red lipstick) and several domestic help who look like milkmaids of different shapes and sizes. The film is a playground of cliches. Since Ethan has an excuse for a life (he feels nothing from neck below), he plans to make the most of it (how cute!). So he hosts a radio show called Radio Zindagi where he mouths tacky lines like, 'life is short so forgive, kiss slowly...' and even authors a book to encourage other paraplegics to not give up. The book title has something to do with flying and there's a flash scene from the launch where Ethan is addressing a wheel-chaired audience. No! I'm not making this up.
One fine evening, after being scrubbed and fed by 'Nurse Tacky' aka Sofia, he calls upon his lawyer and friend Devyani Dutta (Shernaz Patel) perpetually clad in dull cotton saris (how else could she portray her Bengaliness?). The purpose of the absorbing meeting was to ask her to appeal to the court to allow him euthanasia (another word for mercy killing). The rest of the film is a drooling mess about Ethan's relentless yet futile efforts to secure the courts approval to end his life. He tries everything from canvassing in the media to running a campaign on his radio show to accumulate support for his cause. His lawyer even gives his campaign a marketable name 'project Ethan-asia' (truly Asia?).
An obvious question that springs to mind is, how can someone, who has been pampered silly, been the brand ambassador of positivity, suddenly feel frustrated at this vegetable state and want to end it all? I'm sure there is a trigger somewhere, we just have to find it.
As that question lingers around unanswered, the movie unsuccessfully begs for pity for our muscular paraplegic Ethan who suffers mindless torture in the following ways: First, a fly plans to take stroll on his nose and then drops of water shoot down from his broken ceiling to land exactly at the centre of his forehead. In both situations, he tries to reciprocate, realises his handicap, smiles back to the tune of "It's a wonderful world" (he actually sings the song in the film too). Mercy!
Apart from the above mentioned, there are other characters that elongate this sappy saga without altering the outcome. First, is aspiring magician, Omar Siddique (Aditya Roy Kapoor) who needs to be mentioned only for his costumes. At the bat of an eyelid, he goes from clown-next-door (polka-dotted shirts with bow ties) to an average Joe in designer sweatshirts. Second is Estella Francis (Monikangana Dutta), whose role in the film is less than the time taken to decide her character's name. Then there are those who stroll in and out of the film, like Neville Dsouza (Makarand Deshpande) who plays Sofia's abusive almost ex-husband (now that's a pair made in hell), Ethan's doting mother, Isabel Mascarenhas (Nafisa Ali), the forever grumpy public prosecutor (Rajit Kapoor) and Dr Nayak (Suhel Seth), Ethan's hopeful doc, who is practical enough to give up, yet emotional enough to await miracles to cure his patient. The magical combination of 'dava' and 'dua'!
Taking cinematic liberties is justified, but Mr Bhansali has taken several cinematographic liberties as well. So, for some reason, the court scenes are extremely smoky, like they were sharing the set with a horror film. Then Ethan's not-so-humble abode was always projected like the devil's lair in all establishing shots, dark and sinister, with a flash of lightening here and there. The music is unpredictable, so the number where Sofia air-drums in a loony way, begins like a Qawwali and drums into one suitable for a Flamenco. Whoppa!
One of the reasons why the film falls on its face is because it revolves around Ethan's suffering, which just seems caricaturish. Look at him smile or laugh in his unique demented style and pity goes out of the window. If you make it to the end of this grueling journey, the climax promises melodrama that would put even the saas-bahus veterans to shame.