Dear Zindagi – Alia Bhatt is wonderful in this portrait of a complex young woman at a life crossroad.

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I unabashedly loved Dear Zindagi.  It’s a true measure of my love of my family that I didn’t see Dear Zindagi the day it came out in the US due to our Thanksgiving holiday travels.  I have been looking forward to this movie for some time, hoping it would live up to my sky high expectations, and it did.  I have yet to see director Gauri Shinde’s feature film debut English Vinglish, which evidently deservedly garnered accolades.  (I actually downloaded English Vinglish to watch on my trip but the subtitles were in Arabic. ARGH!)

I’m not saying a male director can’t tell the story of a woman, but there’s a different special perspective a woman writer/director brings to a film.  Alia Bhatt’s Kaira (Koko) is allowed to be a complex young cinematographer who is troubled, and frankly, sometimes unlikeable.  She is no manic pixie dream girl for anyone.  And that is just refreshing to see in itself.  The film totally passes the Bechdel test!  Kaira has a tight knit group of friends who she can be totally herself with, but a tense awkward relationship with her parents.

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She has a working and romantic relationship with producer Kunal Kapoor.  He offers her a dream job directing her first feature film in NYC, but admits his ex-girlfriend will also be working on the project.  He wants to make his relationship with Kaira more serious, but she demurs.  Then she can’t sleep thinking about her quandary — should she go to New York even though it will be incredibly awkward?

Kunal is one of 4 men in her life in this movie (not including SRK).  There’s Sid, the handsome restaurant owner (Angad Bedi) and Rumi (Ali Zafar), a charming musician she meets when she returns to her hometown of Goa.  She has to go back to Goa because her landlord in Mumbai makes her move out because she’s a single woman.  And he’s not the only one harassing her for being single, once she gets home she is barraged by her parents and her aunt and uncle for continuing to work, and not settling down.

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She happens to overhear SRK speaking at a therapist conference and goes to see him.  If only all therapists looked like Shahrukh Khan.  When through several sessions, they get to the root of her insecurities, I was crying right along with Alia.  She is just fantastic in this film.  She has this quality about her that reveals her vulnerability and she sucks me right in.  It’s hard to believe how far she’s come as an actress since Student of the Year.  Highway was my first glimpse and then this year she was devastating in Udta Punjab.  I can’t wait to see her work in the future.

Some reviewers have questioned the epilogue at the end of the film, but I liked it.  As suspected, Aditya Roy Kapoor is the final cameo man in her life.  I liked that the movie left us at a hopeful point — that she’s moved on and is ready for new possibilities.  I like that kind of ending in my romance novels, and I liked it here.

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Shahrukh Khan is fantastic in this as her therapist and mentor.  He has unorthodox methods, like playing Kabbadi with the surf on the beach outside his office.  But best of all is his message to young girls through the words he says to Kaira (Alia).  She thinks everyone thinks she’s a slut because she’s had relationships with more than one man.  SRK asks her if she’s ever bought a chair.  “Did you buy the first one you saw without trying it out?” as he pops from chair to chair in his office.  He gives her permission to live her life without worrying so much what “everyone” else thinks.

The music in the film didn’t send me, but the title track is decent.  It’s not that kind of movie.  There’s mostly montage type song sequences.  Really this is sort of a bridge film between Parallel type cinema (The Lunch Box, etc.) and mainstream Hindi fare.

I’m glad Kaira found support with her Dr. Jehangir Khan, and that director Gauri Shinde has backing from producers SRK (Red Chilies) and Karan Johar (Dharma).  She’s a great talent.  Loved this film, and already have plans to see it again in a few days.  I’m taking some friends who don’t even watch Bollywood films.  This is a great crossover type of film.

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10 thoughts on “Dear Zindagi – Alia Bhatt is wonderful in this portrait of a complex young woman at a life crossroad.

  1. mredlich21 November 28, 2016 / 1:35 am

    I’ll be curious to hear what your non-Indian film watching friends think! I’m going again with a bunch of Indian film-friends, and I’m almost worried they WON’T like it! Because it is so very different from the usual Indian film.

    (And English/Vinglish is on ErosNow, at least I think it is. Make sure to watch the Hindi version instead of Tamil, I think they changed a key cameo between the two versions)

    Liked by 1 person

    • moviemavengal November 28, 2016 / 3:33 am

      I’Il be very curious too. One of the friends has seen Happy New Year with me (her first every Bollywood film). But this is SRK looking SO great that he’s sure to cast his spell on all of them.

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  2. filmilibrarian November 28, 2016 / 11:19 pm

    I missed the perfect opportunity to see it when I was at my parents’ place (where the local multiplex does play Hindi films). It’s so annoying that it’s not as easy to see Indian films for me where I live (lack of car and multiplexes being on the other side of the city and all). I can tell from both of your reviews that I’m going to love it! It will just have to be a New Years treat, I suppose.

    I did at least watch Bang Bang! with my mom over the holiday weekend. I have this thing with her that she has to watch one Bollywood film a year with me. She secretly enjoys them but always makes a fuss about reading subtitles. She’s seen Jab We Met, Aaja Nachle, ZNMD, Band Baaja Baarat, Dil Dhadakne Do, and now Bang Bang! (all are good crossover films, imo). She didn’t love Bang Bang (she tends to not be able to suspend disbelief) but she did enjoy watching Hrithik;)

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    • moviemavengal November 28, 2016 / 11:39 pm

      I picked Bang Bang to show to a group of friends for my birthday. They had never seen a Bollywood film but who can resist looking at Hrithik? It is a good crossover film. One of my friends said in the middle of a song, “I get why you like these movies! They’re just like the romance novels you like to read.” Exactly.

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  3. Subhash November 29, 2016 / 11:58 am

    Thanks for the review. I want to ask you something. Many reviewers, including Margaret, termed the last scene of SRK in the film as the one where Alia’s Kaira shows misguided romantic feelings towards Jug. But, I felt that Kaira’s longing and hope to have a relationship beyond therapy with Jug was like nothing romantic. It actually seemed to me like, she wants Jug to be one of her buddies or someone like an uncle-figure to share her issues with, like a father-figure whom she desperately needed in her childhood and now. Even the creaking of chair when Jug sits, I felt that their bond was platonic and not romantic. What would you say about this?

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    • moviemavengal November 29, 2016 / 3:51 pm

      Subhash, thank you so much for reading and commenting!

      Kaira is experiencing transference, which is common in therapy situations. As Jug explains, there’s an intimacy in their relationship and the strong emotions she’s shared. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transference

      I think she has very mixed feelings towards Jug. It’s all the things that you’ve mentioned — wanting that wise uncle/father figure since she has such a fraught tense relationship with her own parents, wanting a friend as interesting as Jug, and there is a romantic element there as well. She says to him, “i really, REALLY like you.” She doesn’t declare her love, but she declares her interest. He is masterful at letting her down easy, but I think him sitting in the chair and almost falling back is meant to show that he has felt a little unsettled himself. That maybe….if he were not her therapist, there could have been something, but his ethics of the patient/therapist relationship won’t allow that.

      Jug is right that it IS a breakthrough for her to be the one to initiate a romantic interest. Think of the way she shut down when Raghu tried to get serious with her in the bar. And maybe she sabotaged her relationship with Sid the restaurant owner by cheating on him with Raghu because that relationship was getting too serious. As Jug pointed out to her, she has left people before they could abandon her, in a pattern that repeated over and over in her life.

      Personally, SRK is looking so gorgeous in this film, that I think any woman would have a hard time not falling for him. 😉

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      • Subhash November 30, 2016 / 3:14 am

        Thanks for explaining the transference phenomenon. Apart from Kaira’s wish, the other factor that made me feel their bond sound like a godfather-godchild was Jug’s chair creak. In the film, Jug is shown as a divorced man who is not in contact with his son and is missing him (I assume it from the conversation at the beach). As Jug’s character was coming to an end, I felt that the eyedrops, breaks of smiles, and the ‘I accept it’ expression in the chair made me feel that he and Kaira, in a way, resemble Rajinikanth and the drug addicted Rythvika in Kabali.

        But, now I understand that it was transference. And, even if my godfather-godchild thread was intentional and true, Dear Zindagi is too lightweight film and SRK is too charming, that we don’t want him to suffer like the cold, grey, brooding yet stylish Rajinikanth in Kabali.

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  4. moviemavengal November 30, 2016 / 4:19 am

    Subhash, I wasn’t thinking Kabali and Rajnikanth at all, but I see what you mean about a god-child type relationship especially if Jug is divorced and missing his son. I’ve wondered about the eye drops and what that was supposed to be about.

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    • Subhash November 30, 2016 / 8:33 am

      Either the drops suggest that he is an ageing grounded (read not larger than life) man who needs medical assistance and is not ashamed of making it explicit. Or it might be an act by Jug to conceal his tears (if any) caused due to the inevitable separation. Either way, it is nice, though I began preferring the former. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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