Film Review: Dear Zindagi
Producers: Gauri Khan, Karan Johar and Gauri Shinde
Director: Gauri Shinde
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Ira Dubey, Kunal Kapoor, Ali Zafar and Shah Rukh Khan
Rating: Three and a half stars
Director Gauri Shinde addresses a very important issue in Dear Zindagi, mental health, and dysfunctional minds that we all come face to face in an age plagued with personal and professional stress.
Dear Zindagi is a subtle movie, intelligently built around dialogues that take the narration forward and doesn’t sink into cliché which finds echo in a typical masala flick. It’s about Kaira, nicknamed Koko (Alia Bhatt) who faces relationship issues and aspires to make her independent short film one day. In a sheer stroke of luck, she crosses the path with the unconventional therapist Dr. Jehangir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) who will alter the course of her life.
The film is about moments and delves deep into life and the ideology of deriving happiness by tasting the small things in life when we are battered. First thing first, Dear Zindagi is about treading the difficult path by depicting the complex relationships of the main protagonist whether it’s her battles, attention-seeking behavior and growing insecure at the same time.
Gauri Shinde takes us on a roller-coaster ride, a life’s journey worth taking where she offers high-octane levels moments and which contrast at the same time with the simple things that Kiara’s therapist reminds her about.
It is the simplicity of the film which forms an immense part of the narrative minus songs and dance, overt drama but a long conversation monolog that touches the soul in a searing manner. The dialogues are simple and effective whether it’s the chair theory of trying new ones to land something comfortable to slouch, fear of failure or leaving memories but also about giving birth which is a choice for parents rather than making it a tough job.
Dear Zindagi asks disturbing and uncomfortable questions which are the true purpose of the film. It tears the heart going back to a young Kiara abandoned by her parents that ripped her of the joy of writing letters to her mom.
Alia Bhatt simply owns the film. She plays Kiara effortlessly, brimming with energy and explodes like a volcano on-screen. It’s a stark contrast to the icy cold and expressionless performance in SOTY and the scene where she broke down speaking on the choice of parents to give birth or being called a pathaka. She carries Dear Zindagi on her shoulders from start to finish, whether her mouthing in sarcastic tone or yelling. She is simply stunning and is one actor who has come a long way in such a short span of time. Alia does full justice to an author backed and challenging role that surprises everyone but as a performer, she ups the quotient every time, be it Highway or Udta Punjab.
Shah Rukh Khan plays the unconventional Dr. Jehangir Khan to perfection and is at his natural and charming best. It’s the kind of role that he should never be shy of trying his hands at, playing a character which is not larger than life. The charisma and endearing act of dispensing wisdom with a smile is priceless. Full marks.
The supporting cast composed of Ira Dubey as Fatima, Raguvendra (Kunal Kapoor) and Yashaswini Dayama as Jackie deliver competently and the girls add flavor to this journey of life. However, Ali Zafar is okayish in this blink-and-miss act trying hard to be the SRK of the 90s.
On the flip side, the script and screenplay lack the tautness that English Vinglish boasted of and which interrupts the rhythm majorly post interval. There are few innate details that should have been chopped on the editing table, be it un-necessary song, romance and extended length showcasing Kiara’s short film. It dilutes the layering and texture. The film would have been better had the director chosen to cut the length by 20 minutes.
On the whole, Gauri Shinde offers us a fresh film by shedding all gimmicks and addressing hard-hitting questions, lessons as well as a knockout performance by Alia and an endearing SRK act. Dear Zindagi belongs entirely to Alia Bhatt. It’s refreshing and thought-provoking at the same time. The film is life’s zen.