“Kabhi kabhi hum mushkil raasta isliye chunte hai kyunki hamein lagta hai ki important cheez paane ke liye mushkil raasta apnana chahiye, apne aap ko punish karna zaruri samjhte hain. But Why? Hum aasan rasta bhi toh chun sakte hain?kya burai hai khaskar tab jab hum uss mushkil ka samna karne ke liye tyaar nahi hain”
I was taken aback, I could sense emotions choking inside me as I heard Shahrukh Khan (Dr. Jehanghir Khan) say this dialogue to Alia Bhatt (Kaira) in the film ‘Dear Zindagi’. I could so much relate to it, I was continuously being hard on myself; I was choosing a tough life while I knew that I could take it easy! For me ‘Dear Zindagi’ is a heartwarming and reflective film about our relationship with our own life, which we tend to overlook, ignore or confuse with our dreams and relationships with the people around us.
The film is about a young, ambitious and independent girl Kaira who is a cinematographer based in Mumbai. She has amazing set of friends Fatima, Jackie and Ganju however when it comes to love relationships, there is trouble in the paradise. The film constantly shows her discomfort and uneasiness around love relationships, there is sense of awkwardness and she is not being herself with the man of her interest. There is this powerful scene where Raghuvendra (played by Kunal Kapoor) talks about her ex-girlfriend joining in the same project where both of them were supposed to do together and then talks about taking things further with her by saying - ‘you just have to say this, nothing more’. But she gives him a cold shoulder not that she didn’t like him but she couldn’t express herself. She bids him bye, have shots, hits the dance floor and then puts earphones and just dance! She crushes her emotions badly and then buries them deep into her heart.
Her life bumps the rough ground when love of her life Raghuvendra gets engaged to someone else (she comes to know that from her friend) and her landlord turns her out of her apartment. So she is left with no option but to shift to Goa to live with her parents!
“Are you Lebanese?”
“It’s not Lebanese. It’s Lesbian?”
“Are you a Lesbian?” and she has a good laugh over the question and then she says, “agar hoon toh kya app mere shaadi ka picha chod denge?”
This is the one of the most intriguing conversations that happens between Kaira, her parents and relatives. Why? Because she prefers to follow her heart and lead an independent life which in a way questions the existent societal norms where for a girl getting married before 25 years with or without a stable job means settling down. Interestingly her parents keep talking about her behavior, her not so good job and finding her a suitable groom behind the back and at the same time they keep praising her in front of outsiders. This troubles her more which ends up with her spending sleepless nights. I was seeing so much of Kaira in me L
While in Goa she seeks out Dr. Jehangir Khan, a Goan psychologist after accidentally having heard him talk at a Mental Health Awareness Conference for her insomnia and from here film takes a major leap ahead. The first ice breaking conversation starts when he shares the story of his grandfather’s friend trying to climb highest peak with group of Chinese people and at the end he is eaten by a snow leopard. The message that he draws from the story makes Kaira understand that there is no point being hard on oneself especially when she is not prepared for that and at that time the trust between them start building. She confidently takes her first step by refusing to do the film with Raghuvendra who comes to her home at Goa sighting the same story which Dr. Jug had referred to!
The film progresses with each session of interaction between the psychologist and Kaira where she begins to reflect on what is stopping her from being happy, why is she constantly judging herself and why judgments of people are affecting her?
“Hum itni saari khursiyaan dekhte hain, ek lene se phele. Phir apna life partner choose karne se phele, option dekhne mein kya problem hai”.
There is another beautiful scene where Jug asks about the people close to her, stating some studies he says we meet over 150 people out of whom we are okay calling 50 people in our home, 15 people who can someone whom we talk regularly and there are 5 people who are really close to you. She shares the name of 4 of her friends and for 5th she appears confused and then he asks what is the difference between these 4 and the 5th one who is changing! She mentions that she is more comfortable, being herself and feels safe when she is with her friends and with her relationships- she struggles. I was constantly relating the film to my life and at this point I had just no one in that 5 people list. I was wondering why?
In between she sees a toy like thing that she had broken earlier intact “Wo jhud gaya” and Jug says, “Har tooti hui cheez jhud sakti hai” which just eludes so much hope J
She has a major outburst at welcome party for her brother Kiddo where she confronts her parents about abandoning her when she was merely 6 years old. As she walks out her parents, they save the name by saying she is troubled because she doesn’t have job! She finally narrates the story of her painful childhood to jug where her parents leave her with her grandparents. She shuts down, stop expressing after she overheard her mother and grandfather’s conversation.
Jug says, “Jab rona aata hai toh baade kehte hai aanshu poncho, jab gussa aata hai toh khete hai give a smile taki ghar ki shaanti bani rahe, nafrat karna chahte hai toh izzazat nahi dee aur jab hum pyaar karna chahte hai toh pata chalta hai ki saara emotional system hi gadbada gaya hai kaam nahi kar raha hai. Rona, gussa, nafrat kuch bhi khul kar express nahi karne diya. Ab pyaar kaise karein?”
Together they figure out the Kaira’s fear of being abandoned again, to be left alone again which is affecting her life and love relationships. This helps her to see life differently, she starts having conversations with her parents and at this point she starts loving her life J
“Don’t let your past blackmail your present into ruining your future”
Another very interesting part was Kaira’s short film which reflected her own life where a women Portuguese soldier who morphed her identity as man for 14 years. She was fighting 2 battles- one with her own self and other in the war field, when she finally let go of her fight with herself then she triumphs the war.
The film ‘Dear Zindagi’ tries to simplify the complexities of life by just making us look into our inner self, inspires us to pause and have conversation with our own life. Also it talks about one of the most tabooed topics of Gender, mental health and socialization in a different light. Alia Bhatt convincingly plays the role of Kaira and she acts like a master, Shahrukh Khan returns with a brilliant performance as Jug after Chak de India. Above all kudos to Gauri Shinde for writing and directing such a beautiful film.