Art & Culture

Alia Bhatt makes Dear Zindagi watchable

Devanshi Garg
Devanshi GargNov 25, 2016 | 17:44

Alia Bhatt makes Dear Zindagi watchable

Another personal transformation journey brought to you by Gauri Shinde. This is the story of Kaira. A Mumbai girl living the quintessential Mumbai life. Here is an independent girl looking to build her career as an ambitious cinematographer in an ageist and male-dominated industry. There are not enough women behind the camera, and it is a problem in Bollywood and world over. This gender struggle becomes a quiet, recurring discourse that comes to fruition at the close of the movie.

Kaira has a good life. She has close friends she laughs and gets drunk with. She has desirable men that care for her. She has a loving bai that fusses over her and cleans up after her. At the face of it, there is nothing wrong and therein lies the brave potential of the movie- in the realisation of all that is wrong today even when there is nothing quite wrong (enough). Our quote unquote first-world-problems that are very real. Alia's performance of "Just go to hell Dil" poignantly illustrates our plastic smiles and the numbing denial from always telling ourselves - "it's all good".

The movie becomes a number of helpful self-help principles woven together to build the second half of the movie. 

Kaira starts to unravel when she receives news of the engagement of her friend, colleague and one-night-stand, Raghu (Kunal Kapoor). The news follows a string of other setbacks that lead her back to Goa. The movie starts to shed light on her heartbreak and struggles. Her difficulty with self-expression, perfectly captured in text messages she types out and proceeds to delete. Her strained relationship with her family and dislike for Goa, her self-centeredness in her friendships and her inability to finish projects she wants to start. (Oh and her addiction to ordering stuff on eBay - through a thread of blatant product placements.)

Dear Zindagi also attempts to break down the stigma and barriers around mental health. Kaira's colleague in Mumbai sees a dimaag ka doctor (DD). She asks him if he sees his DD to tell people he's gay and he says, "No, taaki mein apne aap ko keh sakun, ki mein gay huun." By the end of the movie, we all feel, bai included; that a therapist, or DD, is someone everyone could/should see.

The plot builds slowly and sometimes feels more like a day in the life of Kaira. And then enters Dr Jehangir Khan "Jug" (Shah Rukh Khan), her therapist, and the plot disappears and the movie becomes a number of helpful self-help principles woven together to build the second half of the movie and held up by Alia's performance.

What makes us choose a difficult path? Consider the decisions we made as a five or six-year-old that define us and hold our lives hostage today. As adults, let's look again at our parents, not on a pedestal but as real, imperfect human beings. Let's help people know how we want to be loved. Let's be realistic of our expectations from our soul mates. These unconventional therapy sessions lead to some warm and fuzzy moments, giggles and insight.

It is hard not to compare Dear Zindagi to Gauri's fantastic directorial debut. The music is not as memorable and neither is the rest of the cast. Kaira's family is over the top clichéd, her friends are one-dimensional (Ira Dubey is wasted as Fatty) and some of the men along the way are... well, reason enough to want to see a therapist (especially the inked-up singer she briefly dates in Goa).

Similar to English Vinglish, Gauri tells the complex story of another personal and internal transformation can lead to an external transformation our lives. While Shashi's (Sri Devi) evolution was about respecting herself to be respected by her family, Kaira's growth is through self-awareness and acceptance. Alia is a genuine triumph in her restless, vulnerable and very real self.

Dear Zindagi is a movie with just one actor - and that is Alia Bhatt, the very reason the movie is watchable.

Last updated: November 25, 2016 | 17:44
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