Hrithik Roshan as Ethan Mascarenhas: A magician, who won the Order of Merlin (presumably Harry Potter awarded it to him). Formerly the love child of David Blaine, Mr. A from Dhoom 2, Michael Moschen and every stereotype of operatic theater actors (The type who wear leotards and never speak), our hero has been rendered quadriplegic from an accident. This turns him into a hybrid of Denzel Washington from The Bone Collector, Devdas, Rohit from Koi Mil Gaya and every stereotype of tortured artistes with wild unkempt hair
Aishwarya Rai as Sofia D’Souza: Ethan’s nurse and caretaker, Sofia dresses and moves like the love-child of a Flamenco dancer and a gypsy fortuneteller. She in turn embodies every stereotype of slightly-past-their-prime Goan gao-ki-goris, stern but caring attendants, pro-choice medics and loving (the non-platonic type) nurses
Sharnaz Patel as Devyani: “The worst of lawyers but the best of friends”, this lady’s eyes light up at the most inappropriate moments. She goes through the usual motions of filmi vakaalat
Aditya Roy Kapoor as Omar: Some arbit Bombay Boys/VJ type who’s Ethan’s “No. 1 Fan” and wants to be his apprentice. This guy coincidentally was one of the arbit background musicians in London Dreams. He gets a bit more dialogue in this movie
Nafisa Ali as Mama: Guess who’s Mama she is? And what her eventual fate is?
Suhel Seth as Doctor Saab: Nuff said
Rajit Kapoor as Prosecutor Vipin Patel: The evull lawyer for the courtroom drama
A bunch of people as Goans: Because the Goan High Court, as opposed the Supreme Court in Delhi, would be a great place to challenge the Indian Constitution
Monikangana Dutta as Ethan’s former assistant: Her name and backstory aren’t really relevant. She simply looks majorly cute in some scenes, and like a dude in drag in others
Mascarenhas has been majorly inspirational in the fourteen years following his paralysis. He’s the author of a “Living with Quadriplegia”-book and an RJ, all whilst not leaving his Goa-style purani haveli. It’s then a major surprise to his friends, family and fans that he wants to end his life – Euthanasia, or as he calls it, Ethanasia (!!). Apparently his condition is near terminal and he thinks it’s more dignified to end it on his terms. He has to then grapple with the indignation of his doctor, his preacher, quadriplegics everywhere, the sneering oratory of the public prosecutor, the Constitution, which talks about the Right to Life, but not Death, and the public who instantly announce that this will mean quadris everywhere will commit suicide. This plot meanders about for a bit before coming to a dead end in the middle of nowhere.
While that’s going on, Ethan’s coming to terms with his feelings for Sofia, who’s never taken a day off, and cares for him in a way that has to mean she’s got the hots for him. She’s in turn pissed he didn’t consult her about this mercy killing thing. They share a lot of sexual banter mostly about her completely covered up legs, which Ethan obsesses over. This plot in turn stays still till about the last twenty minutes, when it accelerates into a brick wall.
While that’s going on, Omar Siddiqui, the No.1 fan turns up, asking to learn magic from this guy. He’s taken on, to “learn his secrets”, from a big tome contains them. Some weird quasi-sexual jealously develops between this dude and the nurse. And then there’s a big reveal that does not really add to the story. This plot chases its own tail before settling down for a nap.
And while that’s going on, there’s hajaar flashbacks to this guy’s past. When his Mama sang for do waqt ki roti and he made her smile, when he did a trick with a candle before a dining audience, when he and his lovely assistant made great magic on and off-stage, when he had his accident etc. This isn’t really a plot, but is important as it interrupts the others in turn.
Guzaarish is short on plot or character and long on Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s signature style. Every scene is setup to look like it’s on a stage (which it might well be), the most natural looking scenes being those of Hrithik performing. One has to give him credit for sticking to this despite its lack of commercial appeal. If you subscribe to auteur theory, the dude definitely qualifies as one.
Where do we begin?
- Hrithik Roshan’s accent: In case you might not pick up that he’s Goan, from his last name and the people he’s surrounded with, Hrethan the Roshan speaks the most firaang English he can come up with, sounding by turns like a Class 7 kid reciting Coleridge for an elocution contest and those irritating air-kissing, Mall-Mutliplex-MTV type assholes you come across nowadays who speak Americanese despite never having been there.
- The Whole Euthanasia thing: Here’s a movie where rather than discuss the legality of euthanasia, its philosophical roots and potential applications (in the fictional Supreme Court), the Prosecutor’s argument is to implicate the nurse as a scheming mistress out to get Hrithiks’ money and use the disciplining Hrithik’s eccentric teaching methods (of magic!!) as proof he’s not quite of sound mind. Ipso facto, euthanasia is wrong. Game set and match
- Hrithik’s answer to that: Commit suicide anyway. After telling his friends and caretakers and throwing a party for the same. Apparently no one there, even the lawyer, knows of culpability/being an accessory to suicide.
- The Flashback subplots: Again, where do we begin?
- Omar Siddiqui, the apprentice. Through much of the film he’s a goofy admiring sidekick. Then we suddenly see Ethan/Hrithik get an apology on the phone from an effeminate dude who was his former Best Friend and Rival magician. Flashback: Said rival couldn’t take his friend’s success, so one day he had a goon cut the wires on a suspension act. Hrithik fell and broke his neck and so is quadriplegic. Dude’s been regularly apologizing for breaking his neck (he only meant to break a leg or something apparently) and Hrithik never accepts. He also never records a confession call to say, take to the police, use as grounds for a lawsuit or simply post on Youtube to ruin the rival’s reputations. Rival name: Yasser Siddiqui. What’re the odds there’re two Siddiquis in the film with no connection other than the name? None, Yasser’s Omar’s father. What happens when Omar confesses this to Hrithik? Nothing. He just looks at him and says he figured it out. What was the point of the whole father-evil-son-good plot? Nothing
- Similarly, Ethan/Hrithik puts the question to his audience – should he go and off himself? He spends the whole day getting calls in the negative. Then there’s a call from the former assistant. Flashback: She was his lovely assistant, they made beautiful magic on stage, and apparently offstage as well, though she looks like a drag queen from certain angles. Anyway, she narrates how she loved him so much that after his paralysis, when he asked her to leave and marry someone else, she did it simply for him. Her answer: He should off himself. Hrethan thanks her. She is promptly never seen or heard from again
- Early flashback: Hrethan’s Mama sang at a bar to make some extra money. One Christmas, she sang “What a Wonderful World” while Chota Hrethan waited tables and picked up chillar tips. A customer yells she should sing something new and as if on cue, everyone hurls trash at her. Cut to Mama crying and Chota Hrethan telling her “Shake me Mama. I’m magic” (!!!) She shakes him and the chillar he got spills out, which is some kind of miracle. Anyways, Mama makes an appearance later on, tells grown up Hrethan she loves him, testifies as to his suffering, and dies. What was her role in the whole deal? None.
- And final mention has to go to some of SLB’s directorial touches, the best one being when Hrethan’s lawyer friend Devyani argues with Saishwarya. The former has come into the kitchen for chai-biskoot after discussing the Euthanasia petition with Hrethan. Sofia’s pissed and tells her off about it. Most directors would have the individual throw the teacup or something fancy like that. SLB’s special though. He has the lawyer argue right back, raising her voice and giving as good as she got, all while munching the biscuit and slurping tea. Played for comedy, that one scene would have made the film worth a watch. Played as it is, it’s a single funny moment in an otherwise ridiculous film.
What do you think?
[Batshit, with occasional moments of unintentional humour]