Dear Zindagi Review

  • 3/5
The chemistry between Alia Bhatt and Shah Rukh Khan makes the film sparkle despite the heavy-handed writing

Back in 1975, a timid Amol Palekar took love lessons from Ashok Kumar for asserting himself and his ardour for Vidya Sinha in Basu Chatterjee’s Chhoti Si Baat. In 2003 an angelic Shah Rukh Khan walked in slow motion into the frame, flashed his dimples, spread his arms and brought colour to the dreary life of Preity Zinta in Nikhil Advani’s Kal Ho Naa Ho. Now, in Gauri Shinde’s Dear Zindagi it’s SRK again, as Dr Jehangir Khan, sorting out the mess of relationships for Kaira (Aalia Bhatt). Only Shinde spells things out with the much dreaded T word — therapy — which many of us, like Kaira, may require desperately in the urban loneliness and breakdowns we are caught in but are hesitant to seek out because of the dread of being labelled crazy.

At one level then film feels like a mass therapy session in which the audience could find itself getting co-opted and put on the couch. The reaction to it then would be dependant on an individual’s own life experiences. Facile, superficial like those Paulo Coelho-inspired self-help books? Yes, most certainly. A good cry, wet smiles and catharsis of the bitter-sweet kind for others? Equally valid.The dialogue rarely feels natural and mostly spirals out of control to triteness. Lines like how every broken thing can be mended (really!), how one should not let the past blackmail the present to ruin a beautiful future (oh so long-winded!) and how we choose a more difficult path even when an easier option is available (is it?). At times though the writing seems well stitched to SRK’s own sense of humour. Like when Kaira confesses about life being an interminable musical in so far as the new singer guy in her life is concerned, SRK’s Dr Khan is quick to retort with a good humoured jibe: “Aur tumhein to dialogue pasand hain (You like dialogues)”. Or when he himself says “we are all our own teachers in the school of life” and then comes back with “ye kuchh zyada heavy ho gaya (it’s too heavy-handed)”.

Things linger on too long, the filmi “Dona Maria” closure feels tacky as well as a tad predictable. Also, there are way too many causes that Shinde wants to tick—housing issues for single women in cities, the industry being more accepting of gays (even while cracking the mandatory joke about them), about the need to acknowledge varied career options than just an office job. Genuine, significant issues but they stick out than get well integrated in the story-telling, mere nods than something to be engaged with in depth.