Black Movie Review

“An extraordinary story of an extraordinary existence” is how I would call it. Black set ablaze the silver screen with an off-beat cine drama. A triumphant struggle to survive by a deaf, mute and blind young girl, Michelle, with the rescuing support of her beloved teacher, Mr. Sahai or “T” as she could manage to call him as; a battle fought nailing the impossible odds by an exceptional mastermind, her teacher; a lost soul in darkness of her own life pulled into sunshine of hope and life by a man who dedicates his life to her guidance and reaches his end in a dilapidated memory; is how we can crisply state the movie in headlines.

The film doesn’t have a very detailed cast. The prime stars are Amitabh Bachchan (as Debraj Sahai), Rani Mukherjee (as Michelle McNally), Shernaz Patel (as Michelle’s mother, Catherine ‘Cathy’ McNally), Dhritiman Chatterjee (as Michelle’s father, Paul McNally), Ayesha Kapoor (as young Michelle McNally), Nandana Sen (as Michelle’s younger sister, Sara McNally). Proudly directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, powered by music from Monty Sharma, Black jolted the box office on 4 February 2005 in 170 different towns in India and later screened at a tolling number of International film festivals.

An Anglo-Indian couple, Mr. and Mrs. McNally, settled in Shimla start to give up on their visually, vocally and acoustically impaired violent eight year old daughter, when Mr.Sahai bearing their huge resentment convinces them to believe that Michelle possesses normal brain capacities. In the starting minutes, an ice-breaking scene introduces Ayesha Kapoor (as young Michelle McNally) as an eccentric character whom the audience watched in bewilderment loosely deciphering if she was harmful or harmless. Adopting strange but surprisingly efficient methods, Sahai succeeds to teach Michelle some basic human manners; ways of civilized living, Braille, the first syllables of very few words of which “Water” was the first word understood by Michelle marking brilliant incident that commenced her journey towards the light of knowledge. She wonders about love for the first time when Sara gets married and gets heartbroken to learn when Sara confesses about her dislike towards her elder sibling. Failing year after year, weeping and trying to justify to her teacher ‘why’, after 20 years of dogged hard work to pass the university exam, Michelle alas graduates. The speech at graduation ceremony that Michelle McNally delivers to the hall packed with the young graduates is probably the most touching graduation speech you would have heard in your experience and definitely one of the most inspiring lines that one would rarely come across from Cinema.

Black bagged 19 awards in toto including the International Indian Film Academy awards, Filmfare awards, National Film Awards (India), Screen Awards, Zee Cine Awards all in the year 2006. It should be a major challenge for a director to make a Bollywood film with mostly English dialogues, one song and no singing and dancing. But yes, the makers must have surely trusted the heart melting theme and the soul-charming storyline.

Black was criticized to be frailly inspired by the 1962 film “The Miracle Worker” depicting Helen Keller’s life story. Some critics assert that the plot was bogus, unrealistic and “designed for awards” but I personally felt that this movie had a terrific virtue boost for the Indian audience. Where Alzheimer’s disease was not much known and its patients were avoided by general people where it was known; the movie acted like catalyst encouraging a thoughtful conduct by public. Mukherjee devoted some serious time and efforts at the Helen Keller Institute in Mumbai to study sign language to mould her into the character further. It shall be a gross injustice to state that any one actor’s screenplay was better than the other. A big slice of the movie’s success goes purely to the ‘so marvelously natural’ and ‘perfectly in the character’s shoes’ show of acting put up by each actor of the movie.

I left the movie hall with a prick in my heart and a big lump in my throat. In your face, the story reminds you how you crib and cry everyday brooding over matters that seem mammoth to you but are hardly significant in reality.

Karnika Palwa

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