Movie: Dear Zindagi
Director and Writer: Gauri Shinde
Actors: Alia Bhatt, Shah Rukh Khan, Rohit Saraf, Kunal Kapoor
Running Time: 2hours 30 minutes
Somewhere towards the end of the Movie, Shah Rukh Khan's character says “Genius is to know when to stop.” it's ironical that this movie doesn't know just that!
Starring Alia Bhatt in a lead role, Dear Zindagi follows the story of an ambitious director of photography who eventually ends up seeking therapy from a queer psychologist (Shah Rukh Khan) who treats people with his unconventional means.
This is director Gauri Shinde's second movie, her first movie English Vinglish was an extremely delightful movie watching experience and remains one of my all time favorite movies. So it was only natural that I'd go to Dear Zindagi with equally high expectations. Just like English Vinglish, Shinde is able to narrate a powerful story with a good female character at its center. At an interview sometime last year, Shimit Amin had mentioned about the dearth of female directors actually leading to a dearth of stories which focused on them. The situation still persists, and at the moment someone like Gauri Shinde is just one of the few directors who are keen on presenting such stories. Which is a good thing because there's a new perspective to see whenever you goto watch a Gauri Shinde movie.
A major part of the movie's more-or-less successful execution can be attributed to Alia Bhatt. This is easily one of her best performances, (ranking right up against her performance in Udta Punjab and Highway). She's effortless in her role and even when the character's story goes into an hyperbole post intermission, it's her acting that keeps the movie from completely falling apart. She's also aided by an equally flawless, Shah Rukh Khan (whom you could fit in any role and get the same level of awesome acting from him), Shah Rukh Khan's role of a doctor / mentor while reminiscent of his character in Chak De India, is still fresh and somewhat comical. Most of the laughs (there are a plenty) are provided from him. This is also the second time in the year when Shah Rukh Khan has shown some seriously good acting prowess or got a character to play, coming after 3 years of presenting us with Mind-less crap in the name of 'entertaining' movies.
But Dear Zindagi is far from a perfect movie. The writers are so occupied with the idea of showing an independent woman's plight that they end up dividing their focus on a lot of issues. There's a consistent lack of focus here. A sub-plot too many about the lead characters woes. There's a constant ring about being judged for work over anything else, a sub-plot about having to leave an apartment at the landlord's whim, and a subplot about the career choices and settling into a “job”. To top that, there's also a back story, just meant to justify our lead character's exceptionally mercurial behavior. Had they instead, focussed on one of the many problems, we'd have a better story perhaps. At this point it's just a little better than a documentary on the many woes of women.
To top that, the editing isn't great either, the movie is filled with long conversations between Bhatt and Khan's characters. The conversations while noteworthy and important to the story, eventually get too long and boring. At a point, you're no longer even listening to the characters, you end up just staring at their faces, looking for a clue as to where is this going. Long Conversations also have the habit of feeling cliche, it's not surprising that Dear Zindagi suffers from that too. Snappier Editing or perhaps a greater focus on the lead character's profession would have made it a much better movie.
But even with it's many script problems, Dear Zindagi is one of the better films of 2016. It's a good, positive movie which brings a new perspective and a new story to the table. It's also nice to see some comedy coming back to movies, it's after a long time that I found some genuine humor in a hindi movie. I'd recommend watching Dear Zindagi. It's seldom that you see such fine actors working together.
Rating : *** (Worth a watch, despite some problems)--
P.S. It is worth mentioning that Dharma Productions itself has a great graphics and cinematography crew. Their knowledge of colours, font matching and their attention to detail even in the end credits is worthy of an award.