Brave is the word that defines the 2005 Rani Mukerji and Amitabh Bachchan starrer Black. Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali welcomes you in the ‘black‘ world that is full of light, hope and metaphors that are striking if you let the story consume you. This week on Koimoi recommends, we recommend you SLB’s most subtle movie till date that speaks about the suffocating world of the blind, without a pinch of pity and wins the game.
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Language: Hindi and partly English
Available on: YouTube
Michelle McNally (Ayesha Kapur – Young, Rani Mukerji – Adult) goes blind and deaf following an illness at an infant stage. The girl is now 8 and an animal as her father refers her to. Enters the scene Debraj Sahai (Amitabh Bachchan) who becomes her most favourite teacher and takes the responsibility of turning her into a fine lady. They develop a bond so strong that Debraj becomes Michelle’s stick and together they scale their dark world and bring in the brightest light which even the privileged have never witnessed.
Rani Mukerji in the very first dialogue says, “Ye meri Duniya hai, jaha kuch dikhai nahi deta, jaha kuch sunai nahi deta. Agar ek hi shabd me baya karu to meri is kahani ka naam hai BLACK.” With these lines, Bhansali sucks you in the world that he has created. There are just three colours, black, white and blue, it seems to be a conscious choice so that the only time he uses red, hits you hard enough to not miss it.
Black is full of such metaphors, be it the empty rooms to portray the void in Michelle’s life, or the lack of colours or posters of Charlie Chaplain’s, The Gold Rush and The Kid to address Michelle’s outbursting but a kid like a persona.
Though it is the most low key film by the magnum opus filmmaker till date, it does not lack the grandeur that he is known for. A mansion with pillars stretching right up to the sky, huge windows that bring in light at the perfect moments or the sculptures that depict their tale, all together make a universe that looks unique, makes you uncomfortable in parts but strikes the correct emotions giving you an insight how Michelle sees her world.
Maybe it was SLB and production designers Sabyasachi Mukerji and Omung Kumar’s idea to replicate the universe the way Michelle sees it. With minimum colours and lots of empty space.
Coming to why I chose to call it brave. When we think about a specially-abled person, the first emotion that comes to our minds is a pity. But here Bhansali with his cleverest writers Bhavani Iyer and Prakash Kapadia create a world where pity is the last emotion to be entertained. While we all know that Debraj is Michelle’s teacher (also the word that he teaches her), but we don’t really know what is the definition of the word for her. Maybe she thinks of him as a friend? Maybe a father figure? Or a lover? And both the writers brilliantly sail through the thin lines. A very important scene that leads to Debraj going away from Michelle would have been misunderstood drastically but the team shows their calibre to prove that the story is in their control.
A lot has been already said about Ayesha, Rani and Big B’s masterclass performances. If I would have been the jury then, the three might have received all the awards throughout the world for this one. It is very difficult to not fall in a trap while playing a blind person. The risk of becoming a caricature is too high. But Rani aces it and how. Special mention to Shernaz Patel who plays Michelle ‘s mother. She wins our heart in every scene she is.
By the end when it is her turn to become Debraj’s teacher when he has lost all his memory due to Alzheimer’s, you witness life coming a full circle and if that does not make you cry, what will?
Watch Black for the story that was way ahead of its time, for the performances that are art, for a director who redefines the colour black but most importantly for the undefined bond that two humans share. We recommend you Black completely but with a box of tissues. Do let us know your views in the comments section below.