In my review of Guzaarish (2010) which is a Bollywood movie based on the theme of euthanasia, I had mentioned that years back, a low budget Bollywood movie – Shaayad (1979) dealt with the same topic with utmost sensitivity. Today I am reviewing that movie only which discusses the issue of euthanasia or mercy-killing. The difference between Guzaarish and Shaayad is that Guzaarish discusses this issue from the viewpoint of the suffering character only whereas Shaayad discusses it from his viewpoint as well as the viewpoint of a doctor who represents the noble profession of medicine.Shaayad (perhaps) tells the story of mainly three characters – Dr. Rakesh (Vijayendra), his ex-flame Sudha (Neeta Mehta) and her ailing husband Saroj Kumar (Nasiruddin Shah). Rakesh and Sudha could not marry because of their families not being ready for their union. Following bachelorhood since then, Rakesh suddenly comes across Sudha again after a few years who is now the wife of Saroj Kumar and the mother of his little daughter (Baby Manisha). Rakesh has never been able to let Sudha out of his heart during all these years but Sudha has completely devoted herself to her husband and her married life only, disassociating her heart from her past.
In a medical examination of Saroj Kumar done by Rakesh, he is diagnosed to be suffering from cancer which has reached the terminal stage. Now Saroj Kumar, a poet as well as a story-writer, starts feeling that he’s not doing justice to his loving wife Sudha and has become a burden for her. He also smells that his doctor – Rakesh has been her beau in the past. Considering these facts, his desire to die increases day-by-day despite Sudha’s best efforts to rekindle the spirit of living in him. Rakesh expresses his suppressed love to Sudha again but now Sudha is no longer the girl who used to be his sweetheart. In this phase of her life, she loves nobody but her husband Saroj Kumar only.
One day Saroj Kumar dies and then Rakesh is arrested under the charge of murdering him. Mandatory courtroom drama follows his arrest, covering the activities of the rival lawyers – the public prosecutor (Iftekhar) and Rakesh’s lady defense counsel (Simi Garewal). Did Dr. Rakesh, a frustrated lover on one hand and a frustrated doctor on the other, really kill Saroj Kumar, the husband of his ex-flame he still desires for ? Or the truth is something else ?While presenting this story written by Jaiprakash Chouksey (who is now well-known as a Hindi film critic and journalist) which is apparently a drama based on triangular relations, the filmmaker has discussed the issue of mercy-killing (or allowing the patient to die instead of removing some limb from the body to save his / her life) at length through the characters of Saroj Kumar and a young nurse – Maisie (Farida Jalaal) working in the same hospital who is suffering from gangrene in her leg.
The narrator has raised the question of not only mercy-killing but also the right approach of the medicos to this issue. The movie begins with the display of the Hippocratic Oath only and later through a profound discussion between the doctors, the issue of relieving a patient who cannot be given a normal life in the present state of his / her body, from the pain of living without pleasure, peace or purpose; has been put before the audience. It’s up to every individual to frame his / her opinion on this issue. Dr. Rakesh of this movie has his own, Jitendra Mathur has his own, some reader of this review or some spectator of this movie may be having his / her own.
If a doctor (like Dr. Rakesh in this movie) advocates mercy-killing, then he has to face harsh criticism because a doctor is considered to be a person whose job is to save a life and not to take someone’s life. However a doctor is also a human-being and therefore he also may be a sensitive one who feels that when life has become worse than death for someone and it cannot be brought to normalcy, then the best thing for the patient (and also for those who are taking care of him) is to allow him to die and get rid of the agony of living.
In my humble opinion, a person should be forced to live and disallowed from dying only when life is worth living for him / her. Else, the world has no business compelling him / her to live while suffering himself / herself alongwith causing troubles for others too. An apt example is the case of Aruna Shanbaug who kept on lying in coma for over four decades and still the euthanasia application of her lawyer (Pinky Virani) was turned down by the apex court of India. Finally she passed away after enduring the tragedy of lying in coma for around 42 years. However the question remains as to what was the point in keeping her alive ? Nobody has a convincing answer except the standard one that killing is against humanity and law and hence should not be allowed.
The theme chosen for Shaayad is excellent but the writer and the director (Madan Baavaria) faltered by not sticking to the purpose of the movie and allowing the narrative to lose its way into the triangular male-female relationship involving a married woman, her husband and her ex-beau. This way sometimes it reminds of the story of a classic black and white movie – Dil Ek Mandir (1963). Giving too much footage to this complicated relationship in which the woman has thrown her first (pre-marital) love out of her heart but the man is still fostering it, has not gone in favour of the movie. The final phase in which the lover of the lady who has also been the attending physician of her ailing husband, is charged for his murder and his trial takes place, has also not added any value to the movie.
The movie is very impressive for the major part of it all the same. Many scenes are very touching and throw light on the humanitarian aspect of the profession of medicine. There is no boredom in the movie and the curiosity of the viewer has been maintained by the narrator till the very finish.
The movie is titled as such perhaps (Shaayad !) because the narrator himself did not know what should be the correct answer to the question of allowing mercy-killing or not. Besides, in the end also, the narrator has left the audience guessing for something. That’s why the title – Shaayad (perhaps) appears to be apt for the movie.
I did not like one thing and found it quite unreliable also that the patients admitted in the hospital have been shown as allowed to smoke. I cannot imagine any hospital which permits the patients under treatment to smoke or even permits the entry of such substances to the hospital premises.
Music by Maanas Mukherjee made with the help of the touching and beautiful lyrics penned by Vitthalbhaai Patel, eminent Shaayar Nida Faazli and great Hindi poet Dushyant Kumar is completely in sync with the mood of the movie. It may not be having any chartbusters and popular numbers but the songs soothe the audience’s ears when listened to during the course of the movie.
All the technical aspects of this low budget movie are quite in order. The environment of the hospital alongwith the approach and behaviour of the doctors working there has been portrayed realistically.
All the three main protagonists of the story – Nasiruddin Shah, Neeta Mehta and Vijayendra have performed excellently. The supporting cast members including the child artist Baby Manisha have also done their respective parts satisfactorily. Special mention is required for Om Puri who has played the role of a carefree patient who always forces his way into the hospital to pass his days comfortably there.
I have found lavishly made Guzaarish as an overhyped and unrealistic movie containing characters who seem to have alighted on the Earth from some other planet. In contrast to that, Shaayad is a more honest, touching, thought-provoking, purposeful and impressive movie. I recommend this unique movie dealing with a unique issue to all those who like sensitive and meaningful cinema.
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