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"My father had grown up without shoes. So when I started talking about being an actor, my dad said Look son, I don't want you to talk about it. People like us don't do things like that."  -Terence Stamp
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Michelle McNally (Rani Mukherjee) is a little deaf-and-dumb girl believed by her parents to be mentally retarted. But with the help of her dedicated tutor Debraj Sahai (Amitahb Bachchan) she learns to speak and eventually graduates from college. By that time, however, Debraj has suffered a mental collapse and it is she who must help him.

Review by Jake Wilson:
From Chaplin's City Lights to Mohsen Makhmalbaf's The Silence, blindness has always been an intensely cinematic subject - not just because of the opportunities for dramatic irony it provides, but as a way of dramatising the act of perception. Cut off from both image and sound, the little girl in Black is only able to "see" her world through direct physical interaction - reaching out and touching another person, or letting water run through her hands.

Black is hardly the first work of art to exploit the surefire appeal of scenes like these in fact, it follows directly in the footsteps of the play and film The Miracle Worker as an avowed adaptation of the life story of Helen Keller (adding a tear-jerking second act and switching the gender of the heroine's mentor). While it's hard to imagine that a present-day Hollywood version of Keller's life would be anything but drearily inspirational, the subject seems tailor-made for the operatic style of Bollywood melodrama, naive yet bracingly direct. Rani Mukherjee's wide-eyed miming is a bit too cutesy for my taste, but the early scenes with Michelle as a child present her disability with alarming realism - jerky drunken movements, head on a spastic tilt, eyes rolled back.

Her violent tantrums, which continue well into adult life, are matched by the tirades of her mentor, a daemonic lifeforce with a pepper-and-salt beard and a mad gleam in his eye like Spike Milligan. Dedicated to his pupil beyond all reason, he doesn't hesitate to manhandle or slap her round if necessary. Whatever one thinks of his unconventional teaching methods, they certainly enliven the film - while the chiaroscuro lighting and soupy music show the director's commitment to a similar principle of dynamic excess.

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CAST: Amitabh Bachchan, Rani Mukherjee, Nandana Sen, Shernaz Patel

PRODUCER: Applause Entertainment

DIRECTOR: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

SCRIPT: Sanjay Leela Bhansali


EDITOR: Not credited

MUSIC: Ismail Darbar

RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 4, 2005

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