'Dear Zindagi' is not a complete waste of time, it is not a whole misfire, and requires little suspension of disbelief. But despite its pleasant outcomes, nice performances of Alia Bhatt and Shahrukh Khan and overall a respectable directorial value of Gauri Shinde, it does little to achieve that emotional, animated but far from manipulative psychological therapy, and finally, doesn't quiet get there. It is a tad overlong as well. But to give it a shot, there are more than a few reasons and fine craft makes it one of the still better Hindi films of the year.
Dear Zindagi, a brilliant film by Gauri Shinde (English Vinglish fame), conveys philosophies of life very beautifully. Although the film depicts the story of a girl who is single, emotionally vulnerable, rebellious; who falls prey to non-committal relationships; who loves imperfections around, I feel this must be watched by every individual. All of us might have our own fears and insecurities. It is very important to face one’s own insecurities and fears. It is aptly conveyed through one of the dialogue that if we are not able to cry out loudly, how can we laugh out loudly. The film also addresses one of the taboo subject i.e. mental illness / depression and removes the stigma attached with it effortlessly. One needs to learn the art of ‘let go’, fight with one’s own insecurities, stop being tough on oneself. Basically, one needs to fall in love with life. It is very much clear from the beginning of the film that ‘Dear Zindagi’ is all about how the protagonist falls in love with life when she is able to overcome her own fears and insecurities. Gauri’s simplicity in presenting great philosophies of life is absolutely commendable.
Kaira (Alia) is a cinematographer. She is eccentric, complicated and impulsive. She hates to show her vulnerabilities to the world. She is happy to be in the company of her friends Fatima (Ira Dubey), Jackie (Yashaswini Dayama) and her house help Alka. Her sensitivities vanish while interacting with parents. She is rude with parents and she does not like to be pampered by her mother. At times, it appears that she dreads perfection too, since deep down in her heart, she feels that she is too imperfect for any perfect thing or person. Although she projects herself as a bold girl, dares to even tell her boy friend that she slept with another man, deep inside she has this whole volcano of vulnerabilities. As a viewer, one can easily make out that Kaira does have lot of inner conflicts.
One often looks at self from the perspective of society and its norms. Forget about the judgment by the world, one tends to judge self. One dimension of the protagonist is that she tries to live life on her own terms, but another dimension of hers is that she herself feels that she is not so good human being due to her non-conformities to the societal rules and norms. One dimension of hers is that she puts up a brave front even while she faces rejections or any sort of failure in relationships, at the same time, another dimension is that she suffers from inside, she suppresses her emotional vulnerabilities. Doesn’t she represent us? The film also explains that the formative years of a child are very important.
Kaira’s outlook towards life and her people changes, she undergoes an inner transformation, when she happens to meet Dr. Jehangir Khan aka Jug (Shah Rukh Khan), a DD (Dimag ka Doctor). Jug as her therapist helps her to change her outlook towards life, people and events in a different manner altogether. Jug’s unconventional non-judgmental approach works in Kaira’s favour.
This film undoubtedly belongs to Alia Bhatt. She has portrayed Kaira so convincingly, be it Kaira’s confusions, inner conflicts, vulnerabilities, impulsiveness, aggressiveness, commitment-phobia etc. Alia makes Kaira so much believable. Another important character in the film is Dr. Jehangir Khan Aka Jug portrayed by Shahrukh Khan. It did not appear at all that Shahrukh is acting, he appeared so real, spontaneous, intelligent, witty and full of wisdom. The screenplay gave him enough room to share philosophies of life. Angad Bedi, Kunal Kapoor and Ali Zafar who become part of Kaira’s lives have less screen time, but are very pivotal in sketching Kaira’s character. Kaira’s friends Ira Dubey, Yashaswini and her brother Rohit Saraf are also very much noticeable. Watch out to know how and when Aditya Roy Kapoor becomes part of the screenplay.
The film does have some beautiful dialogues. Not highlighting them so as to avoid spoilers. But I would certainly like to mention one of the dialogue: “Don’t let your past blackmail the present and ruin the future.” Metaphors used in the film are also very nice.
The songs Love you Zindagi and Ae Zindagi Gale Lag Ja are indeed very nice.
This film certainly made me fall in love with Zindagi once again. I came face to face with my innermost fears of losing people in life. I challenged my own need to snap-off the relationships before it is broken from the other end. I reiterated and acknowledged the presence of 5 most important people in my life (must-haves of my life). I pledged not to be too hard on self, and also not to judge self/brand self as good /bad as per societal norms. I am in love with ‘Dear Zindagi’.
Dear Zindagi, a brilliant film by Gauri Shinde, depicts philosophies of life beautifully. This film is all about how one falls in love with life by overcoming inner fears and insecurities. Gauri’s simplicity in presenting great philosophies of life is absolutely commendable. A must watch.
Gauri Shinde talks about original stories. While English Vinglish (2012) was a triumph, this drama is a tad artificial and long-winded.
Kaira (Alia Bhatt) is a girl who is troubled, selfish, pretentious, jealous, emotional, irritable, restless, disturbed, and other 596 things the society generally associates with mental health problems. She is an aspiring cinematographer who is independent but has possible parent issues. However, what is specifically wrong with her is not clear to us, let only to herself. And the story follows her life as she tries to cope with her personal and professional lives, often hitting roadblocks in romantic relationships, and eventually finding solace in a psychiatrist named Jehangir (Shah Rukh Khan).
The theme of mental health is surprisingly new to Bollywood, and we should thank Ms Shinde for etching a story about it. Regardless, there are issues with her execution. One will have no sympathy for Kaira, who seems like a woman who no one would want to be around with. Of course, she has problems and that is the reason why she is that way. But, instead of addressing thee issues as an adult who is 25, Kaira tries to blame others for her problems. Her pretentious attitude and no care for what is happening around her and to the ones she possibly cares about maybe true to the backstory, but will definitely cause you some irritation. Calling it drama would be a travesty, as Kaira also pretends to be a humanitarian trying to pull herself together. Yet she derives pleasure and closure from relationships by going to supermarkets and randomly breaking pickle jars.
The first half is pro-feminist. I mention this because it's all over the place to the point that one would have Kaira take some medical help than let another pro-feminist shoot her as a child with issues. Ms Shinde tries to represent the current generation (millennials) who are collectively irritated by their mothers, but the end product is a convoluted presentation of her interpretations. Thankfully, Kaira does get medial help, and finally the story gathers useful steam. SRK's entry is medicine both to Kaira and to the audience. Viewers will get respite from them millennials who quote William Faulkner and indirectly endorse eBay and Godrej's Nature's Basket while at it.
Jehangir likes to quote Einstein; so you know what happens in the second half. The contrived story arcs are at bay now as Kaira teams up with her psychiatrist and throws potshots at stereotypes in the world. There are some really fine moments here as we are taken deep into the real problem of mental health issues experienced by the young generation of today. Apart from his inside stories, SRK's character brings joy and relief to the screen.
Alia Bhatt is brilliant as the troubled child, while SRK acts like he's doing a favor by acting. Bhatt lives her character and succeeds in enacting the nuances associated with it, which is clear as sky in this tale which is largely shot in Goa. The supporting cast is well- directed, but averagely written. Happy to see Ira Dubey after her act with Imad Shah in M Cream (2014). Ali Zafar also astonishingly applies himself and refrains from showing his pearl whites in intervals of 11 seconds. The film partly works because of Bhatt's radiant performance.
Overall, its evident that Ms Shinde had the intentions of cleansing this world of doubts about mental health and/or stereotypes against women. I wouldn't say she succeeds fully, but she could have instead written a Medium post and be done with it. Audience could have then read Jenny Lawson's "Furiously Happy" for an extension of that post. Unfortunately, he we are with a film which looks like an extension of Imtiaz Ali's Highway (2014).
Mental health problems are real, and it's time we realize that. Watching this film should not only be about entertainment, but owning up to the cause. Then can we say that the film's a triumph. If not, it can just be an afternoon family watch.
BOTTOM LINE: Gauri Shinde's "Dear Zindagi" is a thoughtful film with polarizing two halves which talks about real problems of the real world, only with a tepid sense and meandering approach. Watch it on DVD for Bhatt.
Can be watched with a typical Indian family? NO