Gauri Shinde’s stories come from a space of strained relationships. English Vinglish, she said in one of her interviews, was an apology to her mother. The film mirrored Gauri’s equation with her mother in her growing years. At the core of her second film Dear Zindagi too, is a relationship, stifled and frayed over the years.
It’s hard not to fall in love with Shinde’s understated style of storytelling. Simple narratives, deep implications, aesthetic frames, well-drawn out characters, silences that convey more than words and heart-warming endings.
Alia Bhatt plays an unsorted, stifled, 20-something Kaira, who’s seeking answers about herself and life, to near-perfection. (Using the word ‘perfection’ for an actor who’s already delivered six hits in a 5-year old career would be limiting her talent and capabilities as an actor. I’m sure this is just a start for Alia). A cinematographer aspiring to make her own film, Kaira has her professional goals sorted. But when her professional relationships spill into her personal life, things get messy. She’s hurt but doesn’t know how to deal with it. She’s angry but doesn’t know how to channelise it. Thanks also to her troubled past, which constantly creeps into her present, unannounced. Don’t let your past blackmail your present to ruin your future, Dr Jehangir Khan (Shahrukh Khan), her therapist, tells her in one of the sessions.
Dr Khan comes likes a breath of fresh air in her life. Up until then, the film moves slow and is relatively less engaging.
Hearing their conversations is like eavesdropping. They’re honest and relatable while being thoroughly enriching.
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But it felt unreal how Alia quickly snaps out of her set of notions and bounces back into form, immediately after every session.
I was intrigued by the dream scene where Alia falls off a construction site. I don’t know if there’s any truth in this but falling in a dream is believed to be symbolic of insecurities and anxieties in your life. A wake-up call to take control of your life. Is that what the dream was also trying to tell Kaira?
It’s interesting how Dr Khan goes missing just before her last class. Was it his last lesson to prepare her for life outside of therapy, without getting too dependent on him for every answer?
Shah Rukh’s performance in Dear Zindagi is a gentle, nudging reminder why he’s still hailed King Khan.
He’s always said in his interviews: it’s easy to do subtle, restrained roles, it’s the roles where I have to entertain that I find more challenging. Jehangir Khan comes across as one of his easier roles. Or maybe it’s just Shahrukh who makes it look effortless. Nevertheless, as Mr. Khan points out in Dear Zindagi, “It’s okay to choose easy sometimes.”
By Mansi Dutta
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