Today I watched Guzaarish, a Bollywood film by Sanjay Leela Bhansali starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachhan and set in Goa. Although the film was released in 2010, it took a while for the DVD to find its way to my Austrian library.
Guzaarish is a movie about a famous magician named Ethan Mascarenhas who has an accident during one of his magic shows and is left a cripple. After living for 14 years as a cripple, only able to move his head and neck, he now wants to end his life and appeals to the court for permission to kill himself i.e. euthanasia or “Ethanasia” as he calls it.
What follows is some wonderful acting by Hrithik as the cripple looking for freedom, Aiswarya Rai Bachhan as the nurse who is in love with her patient and the rest of the star cast that Sanjay Leela Bhansali has put together.
But what I really enjoyed the most were Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s amazing visuals and sets.
Set in an old house in Goa (called Villa Mascarenhas in the film) that resembles a church, Bhansali goes to great lengths to depict Ethan Mascarenhas as one of the old guard, the old landed gentry with their Portuguese lifestyle, old Portugese styled mansions, servants and spacious grounds.
Each of the characters, especially Sofia, also wear period type dresses with Sofia’s typical headscarf and flowing gowns, and the servants typical Goan/ Portuguese dresses.
The old Portuguese bungalow itself forms the backdrop of the film. Large, with high ceilings, winding staircases and a leaking roof, it could be anywhere in Goa. During the film, we learn that Ethan has many debts and is unable to financially maintain the old house. We also get glimpses of the fierce Goan monsoon when the roof leaks down onto his bed and it is mentioned that the roof can collapse any time. Unfortunately, most old Goan bungalows across Goa find themselves in this state and it is important that the Government and the NGOs come together to act before it is too late. Tourism presents a great opportunity for these old houses to be converted into Heritage Guest Houses or Heritage Homestays (as is the case with Fontainhas, the neighbourhood where my own Heritage Homestay is located – The Mitaroy, Goa). Here the tourism department and Mr Manohar Parrikar, CM of Goa must make it easier for home owners to convert their old houses into Heritage Homestays without having to run around or pay bribes to the corrupt Government officials.
When Ethan Mascarenhas does leave the house, we are treated to some beautiful shots of Goa’s natural beauty with its green verdant fields, swaying palm trees and of course the famous Goan beaches when Hrithik is placed on a wheelchair and the waves sweep over his crippled feet.
If you can get your hands on a DVD of Guzaarish (or Die Magie des Lebens as it is known in German), do watch it.
Watch it for its wonderful acting and its thought provoking theme. But also watch it for its depiction of a Goa that many of us rarely get to see.