Friday morning, a friend sends me a text: “Dude, are you going for ‘Guzaarish’. Do tell me whether I should watch it or not.” Half an hour later I was in the theatre. It was fifteen minutes past the scheduled time, and we were still waiting for the projectionist to start the film. Someone joked: “The print hasn’t reached yet. Bhansali is still working on the film.”
This is the problem with being Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The world knows about your painstaking ways of making a film, your obsession with attaining your ‘vision’, a virtue that is not common among Hindi filmmakers. The world knows you work hard, and many things that you do are really good. But you are still joked at. In fact, one thing that the world surely doesn’t know is what to expect from you. ‘Guzaarish’, in my opinion, is an answer to that.
I have always felt that ‘Saawariya’ was not as bad as it appeared, and the harsh reaction it generated. And was hoping, the director would make sure his next offering is decent. Now, that next film is out and the three reviews I have read are extremely favourable, lauding it as one of the best films in recent times. One regular reviewer of a popular daily has been replaced by some other ‘critic’, with the promise that the original reviewer will be ‘back next week’. It seems the media is trying to compensate for the harsh reactions three years ago.
Why, for instance, none of these reviewers have objected to the garish make-up and the distractingly generous cleavage-revealing look of the leading lady, who plays a nurse? Why, haven’t they written about the inconsistent writing, that goes awkwardly out-of-control with the first scene of the second half? Why, for god’s sake, have they ignored the fact that there is more than just ‘inspiration’ taken out of the Javier Bardem starrer ‘The Sea Inside’? One critic, after admitting that the film is also inspired from ‘Whose Life is it Anyway?’ and ‘Prestige’, goes to the extent of saying: “Just because you trace the source of the inspiration does it anyway demean SLB’s ‘Guzaarish’? It most certainly does not. The film is a masterpiece…”
A masterpiece! I confess it left me teary-eyed in a scene or two. Hrithik Roshan did look sincere, if not impeccable. The wants of most characters were well in place. And the film appeared to be making an earnest effort to inspire us with love and life. But a masterpiece?
Perhaps the critic is not wrong. My pillow-side pocket dictionary defines ‘masterpiece’ as ‘someone’s best work.’ The critic might be right because perhaps this is the best Bhansali can deliver. He is definitely not as bad as ‘Saawariya’ and he will perhaps never make a film better than ‘Guzaarish.’ It is not a terrible film. And SLB is not a terrible filmmaker. He is just an artist past his prime, caught within his own world of diminishing objectivity and ‘inspiration’. Correct me if I’m wrong, but ‘Guzaarish’ seems to be the precise definition of its filmmaker.
As for my reply to my friend, and my advice to you, here it is: “Nothing great. But you should watch it.”
P.S. Just before the film, watched the theatrical trailer of ‘No One Killed Jessica’. It left me stunned. Waiting eagerly for you, Mr. Gupta.