The 'Black' week begins this Friday...

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS

imageMumbai, Feb 1 (IANS) This Friday will mark the beginning of a "Black" week, with Sanjay Leela Bhansali's hugely anticipated film dominating the marquee. The other notable release will be "Shabd", again a film that defies easy definitions.

Indeed, this is a momentous week for Hindi cinema. Not every week do we get a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film. In 2002, Bhansali's "Devdas" created a furore. Will "Black" be as awesome in its impact?

There's a strong wind of curiosity blowing across the moviegoers' minds. Everyone feels that special something which occurs when this particular director unveils his new work. First it was "Khamoshi: The Musical", and then "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam" and "Devdas".

In "Black", Bhansali directs Amitabh Bachchan for the first time. Says exhibitor Roshan Singh of Patna: "Though 'Black' has no songs and goes into completely untried territory, the audiences' excitement level is still very, very high. They've seen what Bhansali has done with Nana Patekar in 'Khamoshi', Salman Khan in 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam' and Shah Rukh Khan in 'Devdas'.

"Now when the director has teamed up with the biggest star of Bollywood, audiences are agog as to how he has presented and projected Amitabh Bachchan. People have seen him in scores of films doing hundreds of roles with innumerable directors. They still want to see what Bhansali has done to and with Amitabh Bachchan. Going by the promotional clippings, this is a totally different Bachchan and we expect a massive opening."

Both the director and his leading man feel "Black" is a genre-creating work. Nothing like it has been made, at least in this country.

Says Bhansali: "If people expect to see 'Devdas' in 'Black' they would be sorely disappointed. This is a totally different area of creativity. While in 'Devdas' the songs and dances were the backbone, in 'Black' there are no songs at all. And the only dance audiences will see is the dance of the soul as the physically handicapped girl played by Rani Mukherjee conquers all odds to make a success of her life."

There's no conventional lead pair in "Black". Amitabh Bachchan plays the teacher and Rani Mukherjee his difficult student. There are no songs and no spaces in the narrative where audiences can sneak out for a breather.

How far is the audience ready to accept Bhansali and Bachchan in this untried and startling avatar?

The other release this Friday is debutante director Leena Yadav's "Shabd". Again, there're no easy definitions for what the film does. Mainstream mega-stars Sanjay Dutt and Aishwarya Rai have been cast in roles that they have never done before.

Sanjay Dutt plays a writer who uses his wife to nourish his imagination. Aishwarya Rai indulges in a spot of cradle-snatching by being shown in a liaison with Zayed Khan.

Just how interested is the audience in Pritish Nandy's latest production is entirely a matter of conjecture. Chances are, "Black" has far more curiosity value for viewers.

As for the third release, "Bullet: Ek Dhamaka" this week, why do they even bother?