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Dear Zindagi review

The Normal in Abnormal - 'Dear Zindagi' normalizes therapy, even recommends it!

Source: General

By: Sonia Chopra

Critic's Rating: 3/5

Wednesday 30 November 2016

Movie Title

Dear Zindagi review

Director

Gauri Shinde

Star Cast

Alia Bhatt, SRK, Kunal Kapoor

I was always intrigued by the word ‘troubled’ used to describe certain celebrities in international tabloids— mostly the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Angelina Jolie, Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Brown. I found it an extremely cruel, over-simplified description sure to plummet the said person deeper into whatever was troubling them in the first place.

Troubled or unstable characters have never found a space in mainstream Bollywood narrative. If they were unbalanced like Farhan Akhtar in Karthik Calling Karthik, they were playing an ‘unbalanced’ character—that was the role’s central identity.

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Otherwise, the main characters were always in tip-top mental health or “normal” as it were. These folk could never be imagined taking the help of a ‘DD’ (Dimaag ka Doctor), unless of course you’re talking about a horror film or if there was a serious disease looming like schizophrenia.

That’s why Dear Zindagi feels so refreshingly different. The film’s protagonist Kaira, played exuberantly by Alia Bhatt, goes to such a “DD” for insomnia and a messed-up love-life. We’re given enough instances to show that she’s doing well as a cinematographer, with a desire to push herself even further. But her personal life is a turbulent mess, that’s become too in-your-face to ignore.

Enter the shrink in the very agreeable form of Shah Rukh Khan. The two start off a friendly yet professional shrink-patient conversation, with Kaira asking him, “So how does this work?”

This is the first Bollywood film that shows how beautiful it can be for a fully functional person, a successful professional at that, seeking a shrink for the simple reason that she wants to resolve her issues, evolve, and move on. This is a huge shift for Hindi cinema, and indeed, its viewers.

The only thing I didn’t agree with was Kaira’s constant irritability. Are we to excuse that because she carries unresolved hurt from her childhood? Is it ok to lash out at people for that reason? There are too many instances of professionally successful female characters portrayed in a similar way, including Deepika Padukone’s Piku. Siddharth Malhortra’s character in Kapoor and Sons was a more balanced version. This character too carries hurt against a family member, which finally finds an outlet. But for the most part, he internalizes his wounds that keep surfacing in passive-aggressive jibes.

Another subversive point in Dear Zindagi is the portrayal of Khan’s psychologist character. He doesn’t prescribe meds or preach. His thing is listening and getting to the very root of the problem. Therefore his character is restrained and happy to bask in the background.

But therapists rarely enjoy such realistic depiction. Take Jacqueline Fernandez’s psychiatrist in Kick who is called ‘Dr. Psycho’ by the hero. Incidentally, Salman Khan’s character in the film definitely needed a shrink, as he flitted between two personalities Devi and Devil! Several Bollywood characters, in fact, were definitely suffering from some form of mental issue. I’m sure Mogambo wouldn’t want to bomb everyone if he had his core issues resolved. And someone really ought to have passed on the number of a nice therapist to Shah Rukh Khan’s character in Darr, instead of passing him off as an “obsessive lover”. Even Piku from Piku, I felt, could have benefitted from a couple of sessions at the shrink’s, just to let off steam.

Talaash had the mother, mourning the loss of her son, seek the help of a psychiatrist, but what eventually helps her is a psychic who communicates with her deceased son. The psychiatric evaluation is also belittled in horror films, where the therapist is old-school and able to think only within the confines of scientific reason.

In Hollywood comedy Freaky Friday, when the teenager (ironically played by Lindsay Lohan) has to act like a therapist for a day, the advice given to her is— just keep asking the client, “So….how do you feel about that?” Really, is it that simple?

Writer-director Gauri Shinde’s Dear Zindagi is laudable, as with a slight shrug of the shoulders, much like its character Kaira, the film dismisses the baggage that comes with consulting a shrink. It’s like mild wine that leaves you with a pleasant high, the flavours slowly released as the notes kick in.

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