U/A; Drama, Romance
Director: Gauri Shinde
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Shah Rukh Khan, Kunal Kapoor, Ali Zafar, Angad Bedi, Aditya Roy Kapur
Don't know whether the script's been through several redrafts, or there were too many second thoughts while shooting or editing this film. Throughout, it does seem like the filmmakers are holding back from saying something more. Or they just say it, and step back anyway, making it look ever so slightly clumsy, and patchy in parts then. But let's get into that later.
The point of a review (for whatever it's worth) is to set expectations (for better or worse), rather than tell you what to do (watch or not). Here's what you should be careful about right away — which is to not get too carried away by the cast headlining this film, chiefly Shah Rukh Khan, although Alia Bhatt, by all means, is known to experiment much with her roles anyway.
This film, at its core, is very much an 'indie', as it were — a very talkie/ conversational sort of feature, perhaps preachy, or overladen with 'gyanpatti', but mostly quiet, even indoorsy.
Sure, this is also a film about young love, which, particularly for a millennial generation signifies casual swipes on Tinder, rather than men/women sweeping each other off their feet, seeking passion that's intense, yet tender.
Does the premise ring true for the world we live in? Wholly. In case I'm not the one myself, have met several on Facebook/ Hinge/ Tinder, who are no different from the lead character before us. Nobody uses dating apps in this movie. Furniture shopping is the oft-used analogy. You sit on many chairs until you find the one you wish to settle for. But, how do you ever know the one in the next window won't be better? There is never an answer to that, clearly.
Does this movie sit well in the assembly line of desi romantic pictures though? Absolutely. Look back, the '90s lover-boy — Raj/ Rahul — sold to his generation a fantasy of there being 'one love, one life'. In fact, in the film, where 'Rahul' explicitly says so — Karan Johar's 'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai' (1998) — he ends up with two women himself! (Johar is part producer of this pic).
Post 'Dil Chahta Hai' (2001), the urbane, city, chocolate boy hero — usually, Sid — has looked puzzled, unable to make up his mind about love or life alike. What's the difference here? The lead character, obviously not the only one staring at the sun, is a girl. The choices before her, and therefore the confusion, are equally endless.
This movie is entirely centred on the ever dependable (although hardly at her best) Alia in the lead role. One can't see what's wrong with the men she dates — 'posh type' (Angad Bedi), 'quasi-corporate type’' (effortlessly charming Kunal Kapoor), 'artsy type' (Ali Zafar) — besides that she's simply non-committal. And that she has no 'type'. These are all just tall men.
I don't think she can herself understand what the problem is, in order to look for a personal solution. As you might know, Raj/ Rahul of the '90s, SRK, plays the 'Paulo Coelho variety' pop-psychologist, while he's actually a trained psychiatrist, if I'm not mistaken.
So there you go. The theme is totally relevant. The perspective, since female, is relatively unique. Alia plays a 'filmmaker type' herself, doing the serious grunt work — something we hardly acknowledge about women (or men) in showbiz. This is true for the director (Gauri Shinde) of this movie, of course. There is a touch of semi-autobiography in there.
Why do things seem slightly wishy-washy and laboriously long then? As I said before, it just appears as if the film's unable to find a point, place a nail there, and just hammer it in. Which was so not the case with Shinde's masterstroke, 'English Vinglish' (2012).
This film, instead, touches upon a whole bundle of stuff, often only saying or suggesting it, rather than even showing it: sleep deprivation (major urban disease), single girls being thrown out of rented apartments (terrible urban prejudice), desis looking down upon shrinks and their visitors (popular Indian notion), pain of a passionless heart that hardly beats, let alone breaks (common urban affliction)...
It still reads so much like a part-real, part-reflective, deeply concerned, almost cathartic, personal journal — the sorts that in school notebooks, one began with, Dear diary... Or well, Dear zindagi, as in this case. You know what? As an audience, I'd take that over anything else.
Watch the four teasers of 'Dear Zindagi'