Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Apart from visual opulence, the film disappoints terribly. While I'm here going very much against the established opinion about the film in the public in general , and also the critics, the fact, for me, remains that the film is only good in patches, and never attains the status of an excellent film, a riveting film. Inspite of his best acting in his career by Amitabh and a brilliant performance by Ayesha Kapur, the film fails primarily due to a weak post-interval script, and a third-grade lead actress in Rani Mukherjee. I wonder what the film would have felt like if, instead of her, the lead would have been Ayesha Dharker, very unknown in India but a powerful actress, though probably not versatile enough. Of course, the script in that case should have suited her.
Rani is in fact suitable to the script, and hence it can be said that, notwithstanding Rani's mediocrity as an actress, the real blame of the film's failure lies in a weak and inconsistent script. The rebel, intelligent child (Ayesha Kapur) transforms into a cowed-down, ordinary girl (Rani), which is what is indigestible. Indigestible not because this cannot happen, but because I cannot see any dignity, any heroism, any story to tell in the life of the character that Rani plays. What do the filmmakers intend to show? The director, Bhansali, proudly proclaimed in the interviews that the deaf-dumb are not "children of a lesser god" but it is he in fact who is portraying them as such, and the film Children of a Lesser God stands as a proud example of rebelling against the pity, the discrimination, the sympathy accorded to anybody less privileged.

More weak points follow. Amitabh and Rani are shown to be dependent on each other too much, the object of each other's existence. But yet the film tries to imply that Rani's character is some heroic character, that she is now very independent, very much transformed by the mentor that took her by storm when she was an unruly child. To summarize, the child, when the mentor had yet not come, is looking more intelligent, more rebellious, more lovable than the girl that grew from her. Then the whole film is pointless.
I mentioned visual opulence earlier. Yes, the film is visually opulent, but remember I have not said that the film is visually beautiful, is visually breathtaking, is visually magnificient. No, the opulence seems out of place. The setting of the film in the Wildflower Hall itself seems out of the place, and in fact I think that by sticking to Christian atmosphere in this film, Bhansali lost more than gained out of it. Panoramic views of the Hall, romanesque statues, and broad, spacious halls and galleries make the film only visually "opulent", not "beautiful". What was needed was more of Simla, and in fact, the real Simla and not the recreated one in the sets. For in fact, the real is different from the one depicted in the film in a brief scene. When Amitabh goes to get Rani ice-creams and gets lost, they should have been sitting somewhere in the Lower Bazaar and the ice-cream seller on the Mall ( for those of you who do not know Simla, the town is in tiers almost, and there are lots of broad stone stairways between any two tiers, as for example here the Mall and the Lower Bazaar, so that people can easily ascend/descend to another tier). The scene could have been then made visually poignant, with Rani on the lower tier waiting expectantly and Amitabh getting lost due to his attack of Alzhiemer's. The camera could have then a long shot of Rani and the long flight of stairs, with a narrow depth of field focussing on the stairs( and not on the foreground, Rani) and the hustle-bustle of people on it. It is in fact upto the director then how to toy with the camera, the real idea is to interpose the stairway between them, and the people on it. The stairway would have served the purpose of re-emphasizing the point of aloofness between Rani and ordinary people, her impending estrangement between her mentor(Amitabh) and her, and most importantly, the sexual alienation of her from all the people. It would have also served as a brilliant coping-stone for the scene to follow when Rani craves for sex from her mentor herself.
I would in fact have placed the lead heroine in such a manner that her back is towards the stairs, and then using the long shot ( of course, then only both her face and the stairway can come in shot), so that the point that she is unaware that there could be tragedy in her mentor's life also (and other people's) is also emphasized. These small things make or mar a film, otherwise everybody has the camera, and the actors, and the underworld dons to finance them. But these are the things, the real ones. Anyway, it would be too much to expect it here, when the script, the screenplay, and the actors themselves(except some of the actors on sidelines, who have all done brilliant jobs, especially Ayesha Kapur, and the actors playing the parts of Rani's mother and father) go kaput.
Other positives are excellent cinematography and a great background music score. The promos were brilliant, as well as the website design. The play of light and shadows was brilliantly executed, but again it was a little too unreal, too opulent for me.