Everybody has been talking about Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black. I am sceptical about hyped films but this particular film did not disappoint me. It is a good film, in the sense that it deviates from the formulae-ridden Bollywood masala films, and the film's look, feel and sensibility are also disctinctly non-Indian. It could have easily passed as a European film excpet for the Indian faces and the language. The setting is an Indian hill station where everything is so beautiful and picture perfect.
Some of my friends objected to the movie's picture perfect cinematography. I agree that good cinematography is not necessarily good cinema. However, Sanjay's choice of aesthetically appealing mis en scene might have been deliberate: it helps to highlight and balance the ugliness and the groestesqueness present in the lives of the protagonists. I guess this juxtaposition was necessary to make the film palatable. The theme is not syrupy, and hence the presentation demanded a soft touch.
The child artist, Sara Macnully, has done a good job. Sometimes, I thought, she has overacted. Rani Mukherjee has acted well. Amitabh Bachchan's performance is riveting in the first half. His Santa Clause-cum-Mirza Ghalib look in the second half looks ridiculous. Nevertheless, he has given one of his best performances in this film.
In all, Black is not the best film made in the last 50 years, as some have argued. The drawback of the film is its theatricality. In some of the scenes, it feels as though the action was happening on a stage. The film's language (cinematic language) is far from the Indian ethos--such as the ones we have seen in the films of Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, and Mehboob Khan.
Is it a brave film? Yes, it is. The acting talents of Amitabh and Rani have not been used like this before.
The film should definitely make other Bollywood directors sit and do a rethink. Some of them are already doing this.