Gurpreet Sidhu recently saw Black and Ray, two films in which the main character is blind. That was all that was similar about them, she says.
Saw two films recently, Black and Ray, where the main character is visually impaired. That was all that was similar about them.
In Black, the disabilities of the main character, played by Rani Mukherjee, and how she overcomes them were the main focus. Whereas in Ray – which is about Ray Charles, the path-breaking blues/rock ’n’ roll musician – more than his being blind, the development of his personality and the realisation of his creative potential was what it was about.
Black is based on Helen Keller’s life. For instance, the methods of teaching are the ones that Keller’s teacher used. Keller’s story is a very inspiring one. In Black, the protagonist goes blind, as well as deaf-and-dumb, as a baby. Her family loves her but, unable to understand what she is going through, they have no idea how to handle her.
It’s the teacher they bring in (played by Amitabh Bachchan) who provides her with the structure, discipline and guidance she needs to deal with herself and the world around her, and to overcome the frustrations she has developed because of her condition.
While Mukherjee and Bachchan are very good in the film, the melodramatic, even extreme manner in which the latter’s character imparts his teachings, detracts from the real message, that there is a method in his madness. Also, while the cinematography is good, the use of stylised sets and the film’s location in some unexplained Indo-European period is rather pretentious and does little for it.
There are, however, some very special moments in the film – for example, the realisation of the girl that she may never know the love which exists between a man and a woman, and gets the teacher to kiss her, an act which breaks their relationship forever.
In Ray, it is the blind boy’s mother who helps him deal with his frustrations and makes him realise that he has only himself to rely upon. He uses the lessons she imparts to handle adversity and make a success of his life. Despite running up against people who exploit his talent and his disability, he is not afraid when the moment comes to leave all that he finds security in and step out and start afresh.
In one scene in the film, which epitomises Ray’s way of looking at life, Ray is sitting in a café with a woman he is very attracted to (later, she becomes his wife), when he tells her how he can hear a hummingbird hovering near a flower outside the window. Initially, she can’t hear it, but he gets her to close her eyes and concentrate and suddenly she does.
In contrast to Black, the film is totally realistic, and this works better. Aesthetically, Ray shines. The acting is superb – Jamie Foxx won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the genius. And the music, of course, is the music of Ray Charles. And that would set it apart just on its own.