The failure of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzaarish has stunned the industry. Not that it was unexpected, but the volume of losses which UTV will have to bear because of the rejection the film has faced, will be huge. Frankly, the paying public had an inkling that Bhansali’s labour of love would not create magic at the ticket windows this time. For one, the trailers had given them a feeling that the film would be morose as they showed Hrithik seated on a wheelchair. Hrithik has an image of a dancing star and to see him immobile in the very first trailer of the film cannot be a happy proposition for the audience. Agreed, the filmmaker was honest in telling the public what to expect in the film, but that honesty exposed the blunder he had made in casting Hrithik in that role. This is not to take away from Hrithik’s superlative performance in the film. But that’s the way the Indian audience is – it can reject a film with its favourite star if the star’s role doesn’t go with his image. In quite a similar situation as Hrithik was Sunny Deol in this year’s Right Yaaa Wrong. Everyone knows that Sunny has an image of an out-and-out action hero. Imagine the horror the public may have experienced when the first trailer and banners of Subhash Ghai’s ‘Right Yaaa Wrong’ showing Sunny seated in a wheelchair, came up for public scrutiny. It didn’t require great intelligence for the janata to say that what Ghai had done by casting Sunny in the role of an invalid was wrong rather than right. Similarly, no amount of honesty in the trailers of ‘Guzaarish’ could erase the basic casting flaw.
This is not to say that an actor with a set image can never appear in a role which does not go with the image. Of course, he can! But then, the film must be so wonderful that the audience would not mind their idol playing a role that’s absolutely different from his image in their minds. Aamir Khan had done that in Sarfarosh, and succeeded too. Hrithik may also have earned the love of his fans had ‘Guzaarish’ been a fine film.
The other reason why the public knew beforehand that Guzaarish would not appeal to them was the lukewarm response to the film’s music. Bhansali’s films have always been known to have hit musical scores. Whether it was his maiden directorial venture, Khamoshi The Musical, or his latter films like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas and Saawariya, his songs invariably enchanted the listeners. Given this background, the absence of popular music in ‘Guzaarish’ was evident as soon as the music of the film was out in the market. That, in a way, sealed the initial fate of the film. For, there was no way the people were going to throng the cinemas when the film would open. The importance of music in prodding the paying public to go to the cinemas on the first day and, perhaps, in the first show cannot be overemphasised. The film would now have to depend on positive word of mouth to make its mark, it was clear. And with the initial weekend’s business today being so significant, that would not bode well for the film. Yet, there was one chance – if the film was extraordinary, its collections would pick up from the second show itself even if its start would be slow. But that if was a big if!