Dear Zindagi is a coming-of-age, “growing-up” film. The heroine Kaira (Bhatt) is an adult, who is a decently successful cinematographer in Mumbai, but personal satisfaction eludes her. How she “grows up”, forgives and moves on is what “Dear Zindagi” is about.
Lately Hindi cinema has become a lot more interesting telling tales which are not just love-stories. However we still don’t see too many Bollywood movies talking about “mental baggage” to any depth. I’d imagine most adults carry some of it around, and it impedes us from fully exploring and appreciating life. Kaira is one such adult who seems high-functioning on the outside, but on the inside she, afraid of commitment and the fear that happiness is fleeting and not truly meant for her, sabotages any chance at it.
With personal and landlord problems, Kaira decides to go live with her parents in Goa for a while, but even there cannot shrug off her dissatisfaction with life. By chance, she hears psychiatrist Dr. Jehangir Khan (Khan) talk at a mental health conference, and decides to go visit him professionally. Will Dr. Khan, with his unconventional ways, be able to help Kaira?
Alia Bhatt is pretty fantastic as always, and Shahrukh Khan is better than usual. Dear Zindagi is a decent watch, but a bit of a let-down coming from Gauri Shinde, of English-Vinglish fame. It is clear that this film is about Kaira and her personal travails, but Dear Zindagi doesn’t quite connect as it could have. Maybe it’s the “wide-spectrum” approach, not letting us hone in/focus on one aspect of the problem. It’s like the film-makers didn’t have clarity on their message; thus they can’t quite communicate it to us. There is so much to Kaira, or any young adult in similar circumstances, that it needed a finely delineated script to gather it all up and present it to us neatly packaged into 2.5 hours. Alas, “Dear Zindagi” does not have that script or screenplay.
This is still a good watch, with melodious music, including a remix of the old “Aye Zindagi, gale laga le” song. The actors in this film acquit themselves well. I only wish they had had better direction.