What would it be like to be congenitally- visually and audibly challenged? Being surrounded by vast oceans of blankness; a blankness consisting of eternal and ubiquitous 'blackness'. And a perennial deafening silence accompanying that blackness. You're left to perceive and identify the things around through their shapes; a practice not vastly different from what the majority follows, but the means to that end is touch and not vision. The very thought tingles our skin to discomfort. And where does this handicap leave the individual in the omnipresent nothingness? Would the people, who move and talk, be any different from the inanimate furniture when you just can't see or hear them? How would it feel to be happy and yet not be able to wrap it in the package of words or feel sad and be hysterical about it? How would it be to not know that there are more colours in the world than 'Black'? How would it be to not know that sound can also be heard and not just felt with the hands? Our life, in contrast, looks like an unending honeymoon. For so long, our film industry has fed us with the strong, smart, successful, larger than life, Adonis and Aphrodite image of lead actors that we forget there are people, for whom success isn't about saving the world or about winning the love of a nymph but about taking their first step towards a dignified living and being recognized as equals despite their preordained shortcomings. Michelle McNally, played by Rani Mukherji in Black, is one such character. Her deafening shriek of ecstacy, on realizing that her mentor Mr. Debraj Sahay is back, sets the tone of the movie and portends what is in store for the audience. Rani, through this movie, has put herself in the league of Nargiz of 'Mother India' fame. The mesmerizing performance is sure to make her the toast of Bollywood. Rani, you're the Queen.
The Academy awards committee that claims to be the foremost representative of the global cinema has actually never done justice to its own claim by restricting the global cinema under the "Best Foreign Language Film" category. Mahatma Gandhi never won the Nobel Peace Prize. Leo Tolstoy never won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Yet, one wonders if the mortal prizes like Nobel could've done justice to their immortal contribution by merely recognizing them. Amitabh Bachchan has also never won an Oscar. Need I say more? Or shall I say, with a movie like Black under his belt and having acted in it the way he has, he probably stands the best chance, he ever had, of leaving the distinguished company of those immortals? As he rightly conceded, his performance in Black effortlessly relegates his past and future performances to mediocrity. Not that he is to be blamed for that. Thanks to the parochial Bollywood film-makers, who cannot think beyond the much clichéd romance and the nauseating melodrama, Amitabh Bachchan, the colossus that straddles Bollywood, seldom got roles that could make him stretch his own limits. Until that practice is ameliorated, he will be wasted in utterly forgettable roles.
The very thought of Ayesha Kapoor, who plays the young Rani, scares you to death. Assuming that actors mature with age, I fear Bollywood might not have enough roles to even scratch the surface of her potential when she finally ripens. Her performance is the result of a child's energy channelized in the right direction by the director. I also wonder if there are enough directors good enough to tap her incipient potential.
There are moments that make you laugh. In 'Black', such moments come as often as oases do in a desert. But when they come, their innocence, simplicity, naturality and spontaneity give you a relief comparable only to the relief you derive out of oases. It forms a lump in your chest; a lump so full of emotions that you almost choke with suffocation and yet so empty that you fail to react in words. With his vision, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has created a song-less wonder, in an industry where songs, beyond anything else, are the USP. Inspired by "The Miracle Worker", "Black", with its power packed performances, riding on mesmerizing, almost magical play of light, gives any sincere watcher, a punch of conscience. It hits you hard, where it hurts most. In our daily selfish existence, it makes you wonder whether there could ever be people, except the "Indian house-wife mothers", who dedicate their whole lives to others' cause so selflessly. It makes us wonder, when was the last time we sweated for others? When was the last time we dedicated a day for others; for someone, who couldn't in any way, have returned the favours? It gives you a void of conscience, and then fills it with a thankful realization that you are blessed; blessed that you can see with your eyes and listen with your ears. As for the feelings, well, the heart can never be a vestigial organ.