Zeffirelli’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to find resonance in ‘Guzaarish’

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
Monday, November 15, 2010

MUMBAI - To enhance the on-screen chemistry between Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan, filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali has decided to include material from Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 classic screen adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” in his forthcoming film “Guzaarish”.

Zeffirelli’s cult blockbuster had catapulted Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting to instant stardom and made Shakespeare’s tragic romance a worldwide bestseller.

Bhansali decided to incorporate original dialogues from Zeffirelli’s film, forcing his efficient but flabbergasted team - many of whom had never heard of Shakespeare, let alone Zeffirelli - into a worldwide hunt for the material.

Producers UTV suggested that searching out and acquiring rights for the original Shakespearean dialogues in the voice of Olivia and Leonard at this late stage when “Guzaarish” was approaching release could prove to be tough.

But Bhansali was adamant. And with reason.

Explains the perfectionist director: “I wanted a correctly intense reference point for Hrithik and Aishwarya’s feelings and conversations. I though the sentiment of thwarted passion and smothered intensity of star-crossed lovers in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ expressed my protagonists’ inexpressible feelings very well.

“So yes I’ve included dialogues from Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet in my film.”

But why Zeffirelli, whose “Romeo and Juliet” came 41 years ago, when those Shakepearean lines have been done a million times since then?

Says Bhansali: “To me Zeffirelli’s version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is the ultimate tribute to Shakespeare’s love story. So many times I’ve wanted to do my own version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’. But one look at Zeffirelli’s film makes me feel I can never equal his beauty, grandeur, harmony and principal casting. Where I’ll find as perfect a Romeo and a Juliet as Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey?”

Was it easy getting permission to use material from Zeffirelli’s film?

“Not really. We had to seek out people who were either long gone or in retirement. But I was adamant. This was my only chance to pay a homage to one of my all-time favourite screen romances,” said Bhansali

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