GUZAARISH

(DT Saket and other theatres in Delhi and elsewhere)

He creates his own reality and we have accepted it. He doesn't talk of the finites, his cinema is something that is not watched but experienced. But hello, Mr. Sanjay Leela Bhansali, cinema is not about a string of exquisite canvases hung in an art gallery where we conjure up our own story from start to finish. Here the director puts the frames in a certain context, a definitive setting and we expect the master puppeteer to justify the actions of his performers in that particular milieu. If the abstract fails to touch the strings of the heart and head, it is as good as absurd. This is Guzaarish – a feast for the eyes, the heart finds it well-garnished but the mind returns famished.

It promises to raise the bar of Hindi cinema by giving a voice to the paraplegics, their right to live or not live. And in Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Bhansali has performers to live up to his dreams. No doubt, some of the moments between the quadriplegic magician and his utterly stunning nurse are absolute magic.

But, it is hard to believe a ‘sister' like Sophia exists for the way she dresses in Sabyasachi's pieces of art, she seems to have veered off from a fashion show of the maverick designer.

Of course, it is difficult to digest that a paraplegic, whose lungs are about to give way and who has the best of medical equipments at his disposal, loves to call out for his nurse at the top of his voice when a bell would have been a convenient option. Somebody, who hosts a radio show from his bungalow, doesn't have a generator!

Startling flaws, but it is something we love to ignore with Bhansali because the man knows how to indulge you in moments denuded of pretences. They are in good supply as Bhansali builds up his magic in enchanting Goa with tunes that hit at the right spot. You want to grasp the last gram of life, when Ethan makes peace with the fly on his nose, with raindrops on his temple. The heart misses a beat when Sophia breaks into an impromptu jig or takes on the judge in the court.

Hrithik is pure delight as the witty and sharp Ethan painted with Jesuit nobility, meticulously contrasted with sudden bursts of vulnerability.

Aishwarya is a picture of grace and vitality who gives into her emotions once in a while. For once, she gets a scale that goes with her beauty and plays along. In fact, the relationship is the reason you give in and then get addicted to Bhansali's request.

But by the second half, the act is scuttled by some really poor writing where the screenplay (Bhansali and Bhavani Iyer) takes ludicrous leaps to justify the actions of a man willing to embrace death fourteen years after he was reduced to a vegetable. The story has almost everything to play with – a quadriplegic, who is full of life but wants to die, an enigmatic chemistry between two individuals, a magician who is ready to pass on his legacy before he bids adieu, a court case which could yield landmark results – still the end result is muddled.

The issue of euthanasia and the ensuing court battle is handled in a puerile fashion. A reference to Phir Milenge would have helped in weaving a complex medical issue into a film script without ridiculing either. The teaching exercise remains half-baked. Then the hurried revelation of Sophia's past dampens her personality and in the absence of a proper character graph, Ethan's baffling verbosity reduces Hrithik's earnestness into a sort of over-the-top crankiness. In fact, his final decision is not only manipulative but also against the very moral fabric he upholds through the film. Bhansali fails to build up on the build up so much so that in the farewell sequence instead of having a lump in the throat, one breaks into a grin. Bad, for discreet emotional manipulation is the biggest strength of Bhansali.

It can't be as summarily rejected as Ethan's petition, but this Guzaarish can't be entertained either!

SHAHRUKH BOLA “KHOOBSURAT HAI TU”

(Satyam, Delhi, and other theatres)

This is an experiment on the other end of the spectrum and in a way a healthy sign for the industry. Director Makrand Deshpande shears Devdas off all its opulence and Mumbai off its glamour as he turns a one line situation into an engaging piece of cinema. Young flower seller Lali's (Pritika Chawla) life changes forever, when one day Shah Rukh Khan stops at a traffic signal and tells her that she is pretty. Overcome by the praise showered by her hero, she turns her back on real life and starts neglecting John (Sanjay Dadhich), who sells books at the same traffic signal and yearns for Lali's company. Spurned, John attacks her with a knife resulting in a police case.

An intrepid reporter gets interested in the story because of the superstar angle but as it unfolds, it's Devdas in a Mumbai slum - John wants Lali, Lali is enamoured of SRK and then there is Champa, a modern day Chandramukhi (Choyoti Ghosh), who employs her chastity to save John from the local ruffians. But when she doesn't get the desired attention from John, she plays the politics of sex using a local gangster (Makrand himself) to her advantage.

It's an interesting plot as Makrand conveys complex emotions in a lighter tone. The contrasts are stark. The slum setting is real, but the impact of cinema is omnipresent. On the surface it is about the godly status that the film stars enjoy in our country but when SRK name does everything for Lali that God does for us, we get to know that it's the belief that matters, names of idols are immaterial.

However, Makrand misses some crucial points at the execution level as he overcooks a simple narrative and you know how bad a burnt ‘slice of life' tastes. There is too much of Shah Rukh talk (though the star makes only a one scene appearance) in the first half so much so that it gives an impression that it is a public relations exercise for the star. Also the way it's structured after a point it gives the feeling of watching a staged performance. The raunchy dialogues appear affected as the acting largely remains on the dramatic side.

It doesn't deserve your 150 bucks but if you can catch a morning show, go for it.

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART I

(Wave, Noida, and other theatres)

In the week of magic and fantasy, this one relies on the believers. The David Yates film is true to the book. It will appeal to the purists and those who are emotionally plugged to the pages but those who have joined the Pottermania late, emotional arousal will take time as the film has no beginning, no end just a meandering middle interspersed with some eye-popping action sequences and a few moments of genuine warmth for the hormones are eager to find a way out as Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasely (Rupert Grint) knock at the doors of adulthood.

There is not an attempt to put things in perspective. Well, when the behemoth franchise has reached successfully to the seventh installment, the producers are apparently not expecting any addition to the huge fan base. They just want to use the first part to swell the anticipation for the final battle between the boy wizard and Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) in the coming July. And the ploy largely works!

For the first time, Harry Potter and his friends are out of the Hogwarts in search of the elusive horcruxes. Meanwhile in the Ministry of Magic, the nose-less Voldemort and his minions are plotting the downfall of Harry and his friends.

It is darker than previous instalments, there is peril lurking at every corner but when you know there is second part coming you never really come to the edge. It unfolds at a leisurely pace; there are yawning gaps where nothing really happens, just a brooding wait for the real action to begin.

One for the indulgent, the rest can wait till July!