Sanjay Leela Bhansali, in the film Guzarish explores something we take for granted namely the choice of spaces. You go to the garden if you feel like some fresh air or get into the car and drive around the block to run away from the kids and their video games.
Ethan Mascarenhas does not have that choice because he is a paraplegic. He has been confined to one space for 14 years. It is his big dark house that leaks. It has furniture that belongs to a museum and his nurse Sofia, sweeps the floor boards with long skirts that the Portuguese brought to Goa, India.
The space outside Ethan’s house is no consolation. It has huge plants that protect the house from intruders, people who want to invade Ethan’s confined space. They are Sofia’s security men in a way because they keep the world out, so that she can remain inside with her love Ethan, her boss.
Ethan wants somebody to help him kill himself: euthanasia. He must appear in court for his petition. Sofia takes him there in the car and he re-lives spaces he hasn’t seen in a long time. He sees an army of birds going somewhere, children playing football, riding on scooters, swimming even scarecrows in the fields. These are spaces that are no longer open to him.
He closes his eyes to feel the wind in his hair. People who have a choice of spaces will probably wear a hat or a scarf to keep the wind out. Guzarish stops being a work of fiction here. One cannot avoid thinking about how it feels like to be kept alive with machines, not being able to walk to the market, the temple or to your neighbour’s fence for some gossip.
Ethan’s radio show on Radio Zindagi is popular with other paraplegics who do not have a choice of spaces, because they are confined to wheelchairs. The film has flashback scenes which represent the choice of spaces he had before. He was a magician. He created the illusion of space.
Life was one long motion, whether he was doing some ballet on stage or when he was slicing his assistant’s head from her body. He would make her float around the room to his audience’s delight. He himself could fly up to the roof of theatre where he was performing.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali the director does not pinpoint one incident that made Ethan to come to the conclusion that he wants somebody to help him die. I get the impression that he got tired after 14 years. What made it difficult for him was the magic.
He used to enthral his audiences about magic, the world of make-belief. Magic cannot help him now. The accident was real. All his body organs have shut down. I left the movie theatre with a greater appreciation of life.
Do you believe in magic? I think there’s a song about that. No. You just try and make the best out of your life, and hope that there is no person who is so jealous of your success they try and kill you. Ethan’s accident was caused by Yasser Siddiqui, a rival magician.
Ethan Mascarenhas = Hrithik Roshan
Sofia D’Souza = Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
Lawyer Devyani Dutta = Shernaz Patel
Doctor Nayak = Suhel Seth
Omar Siddiqui = Aditya Roy Kapoor
Yasser Siddiqui = Ash Chandler
Estella Francis = Monikangana Dutta
Nonqaba waka Msimang is the author of Sweetness The Novel.