Two years after Saawariya, Sanjay Leela Bhansali returns to the cinemas with Guzaarish, toplining Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Over the months, a lot has been written about the film, from Hrithik’s quadriplegic character Ethan who’s nursed by Aishwarya’s Sofia, to the filmmaker’s debut as a music composer.
Trade experts, pontificating on the Rs 60 crore film and its box-office prospects, raved about the film and the performance by the lead cast. "It’s a picture postcard, a very beautiful film. But alas, it is meant only for the gentry (class) audience. The masses will reject the film," enthused Komal Nahta, editor of Film Information and koimoi.com, adding, "Hrithik is out of the world with an absolutely brilliant performance. Aishwarya is also superb." According to Nahta, "Given the cost of the film, it will entail losses to the distributors."
Sharing the same sentiment, Bharti Pradhan, editor, The Film Street Journal, questioned the ‘timelessness’ of the film. "When you’re dealing with a real issue like euthanasia, why not set the story in today’s age since the court case seems very contemporary?" she asked, and even wondered about the costumes Aishwarya is wearing in the movie. "Are you saying that Goans show half their chests while bending over patients? You may not look like a nurse, but you can’t look like a Victorian debutant at a ball."
While they all praised the movie and the performance, the trade experts were unanimously skeptical about recovery at the box-office. Trade analyst Taran Adarsh conceded that the start was slow, reasoning, "It won’t appeal to the masses. Also, there’s no item song or masala moment. Guzaarish should pick up with word-of-mouth publicity, especially in the big cities and metros," he said.
Adding to Nahta’s observation that the audience will be divided in their opinions, trade veteran Amod Mehra felt Guzaarish fails on the price front. Mehra asserted that art cinema should not be priced more than Rs 10-15 crore. “If you spend Rs 50-60 crore on a film of such a genre, then recovery becomes practically impossible,” he sighed, adding that the decent opening will get better only in multiplexes in metro cities. “Because that’s where Bhansali’s Black also worked,” he pointed out.
Vinod Mirani, another trade veteran, too, seemed cynical about the film’s box-office prospects. He asserted that such films should be made in a tenth of Guzaarish’s budget to make them commercially viable. “The budget should be the main consideration if one is making films for personal gratification and not the masses… because you can’t show awards in the balance sheet,” he reiterated.