Magic works for Harry Potter but fails Guzaarish

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows is a good adaptation of Rowling's book, but Sanjay Leela Bansali's Guzaarish fails to weave a spell.

It’s curtains up for the first sequel of David Yates’ two-part epic film Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows.

Harry Potter

As in the book, this film has Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) setting out to find the deathly hallows, even as a final battle with Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) looms large in the horizon.

This film will always have a huge attraction for Harry Potter fans, as it’s their last link with an obsession that kept them occupied for a good part of the last decade. Yet while Philosopher’s Stone remains my favourite Harry Potter film, I must admit that this one is not a bad adaptation either.

In fact the film also demonstrates once again why J K Rowling has been such a tremendously successful twenty-first century writer. In a world that had been taken over by television and cinema, Rowling wrote her stories with the visual imagery that usually accompanies films. Naturally this approach means that her books make the perfect fodder for screenplay. As with the previous Harry Potter films, one needs to be familiar with Rowling’s world of wizards, muggles and all the other little details before one can fit right in.

Like with the book, this is the most adult of the Harry Potter sequels and may not always be ideal viewing for children, especially pre-teenagers. The darkness that Rowling brought to her pages is now splattered all over the screen.

Yet even when it is an adult tale, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows remains a story well told. Sharp editing even sets the film on a brisk pace that was missing in the book. The humour is also more intense and a memorable musical score from Alexandre Desplat always manages to heighten the tension.

The young adults, who began as the child cast of the Harry Potter series, continue to endear themselves. It’s wonderful to watch them having bloomed in to actors with an understanding of their craft. Rupert Grint is a revelation. Daniel Radcliffe is outstanding. Emma Watson, more than just holds her own.

Yet there is nothing unexpected in the telling of this story that sticks to script. It only extends the circle cast by the sunshine and the shadows. It does not weave a spell of its own.

So it’s a rating of 3 on 5 for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. A ‘must see film’ for all Harry Potter fans, even as we prepare ourselves to let the curtain finally drop on one of the most loved tales of our times.

What’s around the corner? 

This weekend Chitra Samooha will be screening Mukhaputa directed by Roopa Iyer and produced by  Prof. Narayan Hosmane, Subraya Hosmane and Roopa Iyer on November 27 & 28, 2010.

Time: 6:30 pm

Venue: Suchitra Auditorium, B V Karanth Road, Next to Post Office, Banashankari 2nd Stage

A Guzaarish for better cinema from Sanjay Leela Bhansali

What can one expect when Indian cinema’s most celebrated contemporary creator of dream spaces gives life to his story through the stunning combination of Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan? Definitely a lot, you might say.

The film tells the story of a famous magician Ethan Mascarenhas (Hrithik Roshan), who becomes a paraplegic after an almost fatal accident. Yet he continues his fight to live completely, nursed faithfully by his nurse Sofia D’Souza (Aishwarya Rai) for 14 years. Till the day something within him snaps, and he petitions the court for euthanasia.

This should have made for interesting cinema. Yet good intentions alone are rarely enough, and Guzaarish is left standing as an example of a good concept mercilessly slaughtered.

As in previous Bhansali films like Dil De Chuke Hain Sanam, the film’s greatest moments lie in its art direction, music, cinematography and choreography. But in a film that is about a paraplegic’s wish to die, this is slightly irrelevant.

Always fantastic and melodramatic, Guzaarish fails to evoke genuine empathy for the paraplegic’s story. There is also Bhansali’s trademark over simplification of the complex, courtroom action remains a slightly ludicrous farce. Self-indulgent narration gives the film its final deathblow as the story twists and turns at a snail’s pace.

The only bright spot in the film is Hrithik Roshan, who gives the performance of a lifetime as Ethan Mascarenhas. Yet even as Sanjay Leela Bhansali has extracted performance from Aishwarya Rai like none other, in past films like Hum Dil De Chuke Hain Sanam and Devdas, he fails miserably with Guzaarish. Aishwarya with the perfect manicure, pedicure, hairdo, lipstick and swaying hips does little to evoke the emotion aroused by a battered housewife or the nurse who goes beyond herself to breathe life in to her patient. Even the sizzling chemistry between Aishwarya & Hrithik that made films like Dhoom 2 and Jodha Akbar sparkle is sadly missing.

More bizarre is Bhansali’s transportation of the Goan landscape into a plane of magical realism. Even if it were to be set in pre-independence India (which it is not), it once again demonstrates Bollywood’s complete lack of understanding of the Goan way of life.

In another amusing instance of plagiarism from Bollywood, lines that are supposed to evoke a sense of the joy of living are borrowed from one of the most quoted Internet forwards. Surely we could dream a couple of lines of original dialogue in a supposedly landmark film from our most important film industry?

I am obliged to go with a rating of 2 on 5 for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzaarish. It’s a reminder that Bollywood should probably just leave Goa and all paraplegics alone.

The ratings and what they mean

The ratings are on a scale of 1 to 5 and try to strike that difficult balance between cinematic critique and giving the regular film buff a peek into what’s playing in town and worth a watch.

  • 1: Watch this film only if the director pays you
  • 2: You could safely give this film a miss
  • 2.5: A one time watch
  • 3: Good cinema. Money well spent
  • 4: Great cinema. A standing ovation
  • 5: Simply speechless. A masterpiece

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