Imagine a world where you cannot see. You are immersed in total darkness. Then imagine you cannot hear anything; you are stone deaf. Imagine you were born this way. What would life be like for you? What would life be life be like for your parents? For your sibling? This is the premise of the movieBlack, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who has made several other amazing movies, including one of my all time favorite, Khamoshi-The Musical. Bhansali has made an incredible movie, and has extracted outstanding performances from the lead characters in Black.
A short synopsis:
Michelle McNally, born to an Anglo-Indian family, is deaf and blind. She is a bright and intelligent girl and she lives in the world of black and this frustrates her because she desires to speak. Therefore, because of her frustration she becomes harsh and cruel on numerous events.Debraj Sahai is an alcoholic, a teacher to the deaf and blind children. The principal of the school believes in his ability and sends him to the McNally house to teach Michelle. Debraj’s arrival at the McNally home is far from favorable, as he arrives intoxicated, annoyed and impolite.
On encountering Michelle, Debraj realizes that the only way to tackle her is to distress her, be violent at times and at the same time, show her the love.Debraj succeeds and Michelle amazingly learns her first word – Ma. But this is just the beginning. There are several battles to be won. His dreams of Michelle going to a college with students without any disability. But, at this stage, Debraj starts to suffer from Alzheimer. He slowly forgets everything including all words and their meanings. The roles are now reversed!
If there is one Indian film to see this year, it should be Black. It has an amazing potential to be a cross-over film into Hollywood. There are no songs, no dancing around the trees, no love triangles, no obligatory villains, no cheap side-kick comedic scenes. Black is made pretty much like any Hollywood film. The dialogues are almost all in English. I usually don’t watch a lot of Indian films, and I am glad I watched Black. I prefer watching these type of Indian film, instead of the usual dance-galores, brainless kind of films. Almost everything about this film is perfect, from acting, to music, to cinematography, to costume, to locales to everything else.
There was so much attention paid to the details, it made it a lot more fun to watch the movie. For example, when we first meet Michelle, she is in a house, where the surroundings are black. But when the teacher comes, and Michelle slowly opens up, the room is slowly filled with white light, signifying the transition made from darkness to light. Another subtly effect the director has used is the effect of snow in the film. Little things like this make a huge impact in the movie. Several issues are discussed as well: sibling rivalry, parents, what would other people say, student-teacher relationship, longing for love, and so on.
One of the question I had in mind was: how do you teach a student anything when the student is blind, deaf and cannot speak. The answer was given in the movie, and it made total sense.
Another great thing in the movie was how Mr. Sehai tells Michelle that ‘black’ is power and strength, and not evil and loneliness. The fact the Mr. Sehai takes the time to tell Michelle all the positive aspects of the color black was really interesting, since I always associated the color black with evil, darkness and scary stuff. The most touching part for me in the flm was how the young and old Michelle acted in film. I was convinced that the actress is actually blind and deaf, and all small nuances made a huge impact in the acting. The transformation the two main actors went through to portray the characters on screen is convincing enough to make me believe in the reality of the characters.
Black is not your regular Hindi film pot-boiler. It is actually a very different film, and at times I felt like as if I was watching an English film. I am very sure this movie will be nominated for Best Foreign film at the Oscars. I think there should be more Indian films like this, and Bollywood should do away with the escapist type of films, which are filled with lovey-dovey songs, overly-romaticized relationships, songs