I loved this film. Presented with lush colors and textures with an ancient mansion on verdant grounds in Goa, India, I was captivated. The accompanying story, deep and moving, evokes great respect and a lot of questions.
This is my last film review written from Bangladesh. In my quest to better understand the cultures of China and the Subcontinent within which I am living this summer, I have attempted to gain cultural insights through analyzing five films from these areas.
This last review is of the most meaningful, thoughtful and beautifully produced film of them all. A quadriplegic magician, Ethan, becomes an inspiring and beloved radio talk show host. His drop-dead sensually captivating nurse loves him tenderly. He’s brilliant, handsome as well as gifted with a positive spirit and obvious financial security.
A rival sabotaged his last magic trick, and that is how he happens to be handicapped. But his incredible will, laughing spirit and charismatic charm enable him to be an inspiration to all of India.
Several stories converge within this magnificently crafted film. However, the centerpiece idea is that Ethan, on the 14th anniversary of his debilitation, has decided that he would like to be allowed to die. That is his “Guzaarish,” which in Hindi means request.
Other side stories come into play. A seemingly naïve fan begs to be taught his magic tricks and Ethan trains him as he battles for his right to die. However, as time passes it turns out that this new apprentice is the son of the rival magician who caused Ethan’s injury.
Drama engulfs the nurse, who is Sensuality incarnate. And the court case rolls on with arguments for and against doctor-assisted suicide, which those of us from the Pacific Northwest (US) pragmatically call “death with dignity.”
Like in “No One Killed Jessica,” public opinion is the leverage that Ethan counts on. Different characters from his life, friends, fans, those who have been inspired, and other quadriplegics throughout India respond to Ethan’s request for feedback about his request on his radio show. Complementing these reactions is the Indian legal system and the Hindu religious mandate which are both firmly against any form of euthanasia.
The individual vs. the state. The individual vs. religion. The individual vs. society.
When is the quality of life so miserable that death is a legitimate request?
Bhansali, the gifted writer and director, has said his life was changed forever through making this film. He has a new sense of appreciation in living a life free from inhibiting circumstances.
With its beauty and sensitive handling of an essential topic, “Guzaarish” has been nominated for over 70 awards and won 17, including several for best cinematography. While it only made about 66% of its budget at the box office, it has been generally acclaimed by critics to be an outstanding film.
But what did I learn from this work of art about Indian culture? Like “No One Killed Jessica,” this powerful film champions the public will. In both there was tremendous pride in opposing the traditional ways of doing things. There was also a strong individual at the center of both calls for change – a strong individual spirit dedicated to what s/he believed in that ended up inspiring others.
So I see in this film a growing pride and reverence in the will of the people as opposed to the traditional laws and imposed values of the sovereign state. It celebrates a rise in individualism, as well as a respect for the popular will. Magnificently portrayed in both is a pride in the individual’s ability to impact a collective conscience and affect change that improves the government and country at large.
Directed by: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Produced by: Ronnie Screwvala and Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Screenplay: Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Bhavani Iyer
Cinematography: Sudeep Chaatterjee
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai
Language: Hindi with English subtitles
Runtime: 109 minutes
Year: Nov. 2010
Awards: 73 nominations, of which there were 17 wins – including many for best cinematography
Budget: Indian Rupee symbol.svg60 crore Box office Indian Rupee symbol.svg39.5 crore[2
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