The choice of treatment sets Dear Zindagi apart; it is light-handed, sunny, and generally optimistic. Kaira’s issues are shown to be a problem to solve; something to be analyzed, worked on, and resolved. There is no great drama in it, and her life goes on even as she deals with it step-by-step.
It is a film of many firsts. It is the first time that a Hindi film has discussed mental therapy so openly, and so honestly. The first time where Shahrukh plays his age (he is divorced with a young son). And the first time where he does not walk away with the heroine in the end (Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na does not count, Juhi’s cameo took care of that!)
What is great fun to watch is the camaraderie between Shah Rukh and Alia. She is the absolutely spunky, Gen-Y character; expressive, talking in rapid bursts of silence and dialogue, and unafraid to be honest. The role fits her like a glove. It is only when she has her outburst in the second half, that Alia breaks out from being herself and gives her character an identity of its own. It’s an honest and endearing performance by an intelligent actor.
Shah Rukh is, well, Shah Rukh. Slightly theatrical, intense at times, and sprouting clichés without sounding clichéd, he is a charming foil to Alia’s Kaira. This is a film that works because of the honesty of the performers, and none more so than SRK and Alia.
The story is simple enough. Kaira suffers from a sense of abandonment because of what she experienced in her childhood. It is why she is scared to commit to any relationship; her fear of being left overcomes her desire to be with. Meeting Jehangir Khan, a therapist helps her unravel her fear, and sets her free.
The choice of treatment sets Dear Zindagi apart; it is light-handed, sunny, and generally optimistic. Kaira’s issues are shown to be a problem to solve; something to be analyzed, worked on, and resolved. There is no great drama in it, and her life goes on even as she deals with it step-by-step. Admittedly there are moments of “gyaan” in the dialogue, but in a country like India, it is more than an acceptable approach. Moreover, the wisdom is conversational and not heavy-handed.
It would have been nice to have the ending more open; one thinks of Good Will Hunting and the way it ended, optimistic, full of hope, and open. Here, with all her boyfriends resolving their differences one by one, it seems a betrayal of the otherwise subtle treatment we have seen so far.
There is not much to be critical about Dear Zindagi. It is a frothy film, but it is not frivolous. It pointedly addresses an important issue about our society that usually goes unspoken. When it does, it is unflinching and honest without being melodramatic. Watch it for the intelligence that shines through – in the writing, the performances, and the direction.
Hindi. Romance, Drama, Color