Yahoo Review: Dear Zindagi

Cast: Alia Bhatt, Shah Rukh Khan, Ira Dubey, Kunal Kapoor, Angad Bedi

Direction: Gauri Shinde

Rating: ****

Gauri Shinde’s ‘Dear Zindagi’ is simple, nuanced and yet profound. It is about the little issues that make life look so much more complicated than it really is.

Relationships – unresolved, dysfunctional and complex – can cause insurmountable stress. They can make us bitter, irrational and distant. In our attempt to ‘unfeel’ the pain, we shutdown, hoping that the less transparent we are, the less vulnerable we would be.

This film shows that sometimes all we need to heal is a little communication, a little letting go, a little hope and, maybe, a patient listener.

Kaira aka Koko (Alia Bhatt) is by turns impulsive, complicated and impetuous. Her therapist Dr Jehangir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) works with her as she tries to disentangle the complexities of modern relationships. In the many conversations they have, some of us might identify a situation or an emotion from our own lives.

Why are some so drawn to complicated relationships? Why do uncomplicated, linear relationships seem so mundane? Why do we care so much about people’s perceptions? How does it matter that some people will never understand our lifestyle choices? Why do we need social validation for the choices we have made?

We place certain relationships on a pedestal and when they don’t work out we judge every other one with the same yardstick. We let the disappointment and the bitterness of that seep into our present and make us apprehensive and weary of the future.

Do we ever realize how our first impressions and childhood memories play an integral part in our adult life? How those insecurities fester into adulthood. Isn’t it sad that when some of us are asked about a happy memory childhood memory, we have to rummage deep and yet, find it difficult to come up with something really heartwarming?

Our director picks up these tiny bits and weaves them into a thoroughly enjoyable journey of self-discovery.

Such is the effortlessness of Alia in her role that it is difficult to imagine anyone else portraying it. She’s spontaneous, conflicted and a total natural as Kaira. Her performance tugs at the heartstrings, as she makes you feel her misery, her hopelessness, her love.

The men in her life are diverse and tease your palette with the sheer variety on offer – the suave restaurateur Sid (Angad Bedi), the charming producer, sporting a man bun, Raghuvendra (Kunal Kapoor) and the dishy musician Rumi (Ali Zafar). And last but not the least, the chiseled craftsman played by Aditya Roy Kapoor (in a cameo). They form a robust supporting cast along with Ira Dubey and Yashaswini Dayama, who play the part of Alia’s friends.

While there is no taking away the fact that this film belongs to Alia, it is Shah Rukh Khan who is the proverbial icing on the cake. Dr Jehangir Khan, with this understated sense of humour, his scraggy beard, his linen pants, and his intense eyes – he just takes your breath away. SRK recently spoke about getting his cinema right (on Koffee with Karan, Season 8) and roles like this one is definitely a step in the right direction.

Watch ‘Dear Zindagi’, for the beauty of subtlety, for its insight into contemporary relationships and to understand that talking to a therapist can be as simple as trying to get some sleep. There’s no shame in seeking help for emotional issues, just like we do for physical ailments.

Take a bow Gauri Shinde.

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