If you have ever seen a film directed by Gauri Shinde, namely ‘English Vinglish’ (2012), then you know to expect the unexpected. ‘English Vinglish’ is a simple story told with a lot of heart so audiences expected much of the same with ‘Dear Zindagi’. When it was leaked that Alia Bhatt would be starring opposite Shah Rukh Khan in an upcoming film, the internet was set on fire with rumours about the unconventional pairing but the pair were quick to rectify that they would not be seen as having a romantic relationship on screen. The trailers for the film confirmed this, portraying a young and fresh story centred around Alia Bhatt’s character having break ups and trying to recover from them. The soundtrack of the film was peppy with Luv U Zindagi, Just Go To Hell Dil and Tu Hi Hai hitting the radiowaves and keeping the audience in suspense of what to expect in the upcoming film.
The film opens on a scene of a woman who is disgusted by her boyfriend’s infidelity and confronts him. As the scene cuts, Kaira (Bhatt) is introduced as the director of videography who suggests that the scene should be shot again but ending with the woman having her eye on another guy. It is clear that Kaira is good at what she does but is restless in her personal life. Dating restaurant owner Sid (Angad Bedi), she has an affair with her colleague Raghuvendra (Kunal Kapoor) and promptly confesses to Sid and breaks up with him. Kaira dreams of filming a film of her own rather than doing small time adverts and acting as a stand in for other cinematographers. When Raghuvendra gets offered a film project in New York, he suggests Kaira goes with him as the cinematographer but the only issue is that the producer is his ex-girlfriend. He also tells Kaira that he wants to become serious with her, which scares her off. Raghuvendra heads to New York and becomes engaged to his ex-girlfriend which sends Kaira into a downward spiral. In the meantime Kaira also becomes evicted by her landlord, who distrusts unmarried women. Heartbroken and homeless, Kaira heads back to Goa to her affluent parents who don’t take her seriously and worry about her settling down. Here she meets Dr Jehangir Khan aka Jug (Khan) who is a unconventional therapist or brain doctor and is drawn to him due to his outlook on life.
Shinde flaunts her skills as a director who is well skilled at having a main female protagonist at the centre of her storyline. The film is very philosophical and does break the ice in Bollywood where the entire screenplay is focused on mental health and metal wellbeing. Kaira is not depressed, she simply goes to therapy because she can’t sleep. The entire film is broken up by Kaira’s real life situations and her sessions with Jug which makes it a very different film. However this is where the bitty screenplay does let the story down. The storyline is just not strong enough to carry off such serious issues and they lack the gravitas on screen. What the film lacks is the ability to delve deeper into the characters and Kaira’s situation does come across as cliché and rather unreal at times. You find it hard as the audience to sympathise with Kaira’s character and even when you know her psychological reasons for doing what she does, you still can’t pinpoint her actual issues.
Jug’s meetings with Kaira look into the meaning of life, the value of forgiveness and the need to find a soulmate. The banter between the two characters lights up the screen and you find yourself looking for those moments in the film. Khan is comfortable being directed by a female character and he fits easily into Jug’s character. He delivers philosophies very naturally and you begin to wander how much of Khan has been built into this character. Bhatt continues to excel as the main protagonist and her ability to switch into the different nuances of her character shows how much her acting skills have grown.
‘Dear Zindagi’ is an easy to film to watch but it is hardly memorable. It has some nice moments and those stay with you once you leave the cinema but after ‘English Vinglish’, this film is nearly great but not quite good enough.
BizAsiaLive.com rating: 3/5