Dear Zindagi: A Love Letter to Life
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Shah Rukh Khan, Yashaswani Dayama, Ali Zafar, Ira Dubey, Kunal Kapoor, Angad Bedi
Director: Gauri Shinde
Producer: Karan Johar
Dear Zindagi started its publicity by airing Take 1: Life is a Game – a scene from the movie which shows Shah Rukh Khan playing Kabbadi with the sea with Alia Bhatt. The trailers for Dear Zindagi promised something soulful and heart warming. The two and a half hour movie is at least nothing short of what it promised.
The movie revolves around young Kaira (played by Alia Bhatt), a budding cinematographer based in Mumbai. She faces a host of relationship problems, as she moves on from Sid (Angad Bedi) to Raghavendra (Kunal Kapoor), only to have her heart broken by the latter. She has serious commitment issues and hurts her love interests deliberately before they can hurt her in anyway.
The first half of the movie is centered around building Kaira’s character and painting her as the modern day woman coming to terms with gender inequality in the workplace and issues like slut-shaming and relationship problems. Alia Bhatt is endearing in this role and successfully manages to portray the conflicting aspects of Kaira’s personality: confident yet confused. There is a commendable scene in which Kaira explodes as someone compliments her attractive personality as she is unwilling to let someone judge her professional achievements based on her looks.
As Kaira returns to Goa and shifts in with her parents, she feels claustrophobic with questions of her sexuality from parents and close relatives and is asked to find some decent boy to settle down with. Though these stereotypes are prevalent today and most part of it seemed natural; one scene in which Kaira’s uncle mispronounces Lesbian as Lebanese highlights the generation gap in awareness of certain key societal issues.
The film considerably improves after the introduction of Dr Jehangir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan), a psychologist who is Bohemian in his ways and isn’t governed by any orthodox practices unlike his colleagues. An ardent SRK fan myself, the last few years had a lot of cringing courtesy Rohit Shetty.
To see the King of Romance back to a film, which is but a tangent from the genre he represents, is heart-warming.
As Kaira confides in Jehangir, her parental problems and abandonment issues are gradually sorted. SRK shines in the role of this sophisticated therapist. The humor, dialogue and the innovative methods that SRK portrays are charming and King Khan seems to be completely in his own niche with the role. Traces of Chak de India and Swades are seen in the movie as he takes on a similar role of being a father figure.
The sessions, both inside and outdoors is probably, the most beautiful part of the film. Bicycle rides, walking on the beach playing kabbadi, and being sarcastically called “Dimag ki Doctor” act as the propeller for the movie.
The movie builds up to a climax that Alia Bhatt, still new to Bollywood, pulls off the intensity with ease and grace.
There are times when the movie drags on and each scene is stretched to show modern day conversations in an attempt to make it more relatable to the urban audience. This is a failure on the part of the screenwriter; despite this, the actors make a few of these scenes enjoyable and humorous by their own personal charisma and charm.
Shinde’s second directorial venture after English Vinglish fails to make an indelible mark in our hearts as its predecessor. Though the movie is primarily a feel-good movie along with certain life-lessons, it becomes a bit too preachy at times and a lot of the humor and stereotypes are forced. She could be forgiven for it on account of her inexperience and somewhat heavy-handed writing and an ensemble cast who pulled the movie through till the end, quite proficiently.
However, mentions have to be made of two things.
One, the photography and cinematography. DoP Laxman Utekar achieves excellence with his shots of Goa. Alia Bhatt dancing and hugging coconut trees, walking in the Goa beaches, dining in a Mumbai rooftop restaurant- all these scenes made the movie what it is.
Two, the music. If there is something to take away from the movie for any student filmmaker, it is how to use music effectively in scenes. Love You Zindagi, Tu Hi He and Just Go to Hell Dil will make the crowd sing along as they appear on screen. Amit Trivedi weaves magic trough his tunes and collaborations with lyricist Kausir Munir was just the right amount of salsa in the nachos.
The screenplay and dialogues was a major let-down, impeding the brilliance the movie could have achieved. It is also quite troublesome to comprehend why Kaira needs a relationship despite the film portraying aspects of life other than romance.
On a personal note, Alia Bhatt and SRK made the film loveable and light-hearted . Though a lot of the writing of the film could have been much better, the visual appeal and the modern day characters brought a sense of relatability. I would rate the film a 3.7 stars out of 5. Once exam season gets over, it is the perfect flick to watch with your friends for a relaxing two and half hours.