Red Chillies Entertainment, Dharma Productions and Hope Productions’ Dear Zindagi (UA) is the story of a girl suffering from depression and how she gets cured of it.
Kaira (Alia Bhatt) is an upcoming cinematographer, very good at her work. She has shot many ad films and is keen to now shoot a full-length feature film, having so far only filled in for a cameraman who may have taken ill. Kaira has been into relationships but they’ve always ended in break-ups. While Kaira lives in Bombay, her parents live in Goa. The very thought of going to Goa to spend time with her father and mother puts her off. In fact, she can barely make telephone conversations with them.
Kaira tries to put on a brave front but it is clear that she is not a very happy person. Just recently, she has had a break-up with Sid (Angad Bedi) because she confesses to him that she has slept with her colleague, film director Raghuvendra (Kunal Kapoor).
Shortly thereafter, Raghuvendra gives her the good news that he would be directing a film to be shot in the USA and that he had selected her as its cinematographer. Raghuvendra flies to the USA for initial discussions and Kaira is due to join him later. Once he reaches the USA, Raghuvendra’s silence is quite unnerving for Kaira but soon, her friend, Fatima (Ira Dubey), informs her that Raghuvendra has gotten engaged to be married to another girl.
Kaira, who had been due to visit her parents in Goa, does so now because she has cancelled her plans to shoot Raghuvendra’s film in the US. In Goa, the strained relations between Kaira and her parents are very obvious even though her mother and father try their level best to make her feel comfortable and wanted in Goa. Kaira often spends time with her close friend, Jackie (Yashaswini R. Dayama), who is from Bombay but also happens to be in Goa while she (Kaira) has come visiting her parents.
One day, quite by chance, Kaira meets psychiatrist Dr. Jehangir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) in Goa. Embarrassed to talk openly to him about her depression, which doesn’t let her be a happy person, she approaches Dr. Khan with her problems as if they were the problems of a friend. Dr. Khan is so understanding and endearing that he soon wins Kaira’s confidence. Before she knows it, Kaira has become Dr. Khan’s patient, coming regularly for sittings with him. Dr. Khan is able not only to identify Kaira’s problems but also to help her get over them.
What are Kaira’s problems? And how does she battle them? Do her strained relations with her parents improve?
Gauri Shinde, Krishna Hariharan and Kausar Munir have penned an unusual story about a girl suffering from depression and who musters the courage to seek a cure for the same in a society which tries to push such illnesses under the carpet. The story starts on a good note and engages the audiences for two reasons – it is different, and most of Kaira’s friends are as interesting as Kaira herself. Even when the drama shifts from Bombay to Goa, the interest level of the viewers doesn’t dip because the tension between Kaira and her family members becomes the focal point.
It is only after Kaira meets Dr. Jehangir Khan and starts to have regular consultations with him that the story dips at several places because the conversations between Kaira and Dr. Khan are too technical, philosophical and, therefore, even boring and repetitive.
The writing trio’s screenplay is fast-paced and entertaining as long as the focus is on Kaira’s profession and friends. Once the scene shifts to Goa, the audience is at first unable to understand what Kaira’s problem with her family is, and therefore, doesn’t feel as engaged as it has so far felt. While the screenplay once again consumes the viewers when Dr. Jehangir Khan is introduced in the drama, it dips when Kaira keeps visiting him and pouring her heart out. The dysfunctionalities of Kaira’s family depress the audiences and although they sympathise with her, they don’t feel very nice about her condition. While this is how it should be, the drama becomes too dry and even boring sometimes for the audience’s liking. The film then becomes a highly class-appealing film because all the philosophical talk between Kaira and Dr. Khan would interest only the gentry and city audiences. Further, since many people in India, who suffer from depression, don’t even address the issue and are probably not even aware that they are suffering, the drama would not make much sense to them. This is not to say that Dr. Jehangir Khan’s portion is completely boring. No, the interactions between Kaira and Dr. Khan have their cute and fun moments but they also have their depressing, repetitive and philosophical moments, which tend to bore even the target audience, the classes.
Kaira’s brief affair in Goa with Rumi (Ali Zafar) is, again, a boring episode in the screenplay. The climax is interesting, engaging and subtle. Dialogues, penned by Gauri Shinde, Krishna Hariharan and Kausar Munir, are very entertaining albeit class-appealing.
Alia Bhatt is exceptionally good as Kaira. She lives the difficult role and delivers an award-winning performance in a character that has so many shades. If she is outstanding in light scenes, she is also remarkable in the emotional ones. Shah Rukh Khan does a fantastic job as Dr. Jehangir Khan. He is so restrained in the role that it is a delight to watch him play Dr. Khan. Kunal Kapoor leaves a fine mark as Raghuvendra. Ira Dubey is brilliant as Fatima. Yashaswini R. Dayama is outstanding in the role of Jackie. Gautmik has his moments as Ganju. Ali Zafar is quite good as Rumi. Angad Bedi does a fair job in the brief role of Sid. Atul Kale (as Kaira’s father), Aban Deohans (as Kaira’s mother), Yashwant Singh (as Kaira’s uncle) and Salone Mehta (as aunt of Kaira) lend excellent support. Aditya Roy Kapur makes his presence felt in a tiny guest appearance. Rohit Saraf leaves a mark as Kaira’s brother, Kiddo. Baby Dishita Sehgal (as little Kaira) and master Amit Nagraj (as little Kiddo) are effective. Aashish Bhatia (as NRI Suresh), Nitika Anand (as family friend), Martha Xavier Fernandes (as Kaira’s maternal grandmother), Madhav Vaze (as Kaira’s maternal grandfather) and Aakanksha Chandrakant Gade (as maid Alka) are adequate.
Gauri Shinde’s direction is sensitive but she seems to have gone by the assumption that everyone would understand the meaning and implications of mental depression, which is not true. By its very nature, the drama holds appeal for a limited audience only. Music (Amit Trivedi) ought to have been nothing less than hit in a film like this, with a heavy second half. The ‘Love you zindagi’ song is appealing but the other songs, though fairly well-tuned, are not too popular. Kausar Munir’s lyrics are appropriate. Feroz Khan’s choreography is suited to the film. Amit Trivedi’s background music is quite nice. Laxman Utekar’s cinematography is outstanding. Rupin Suchak’s production designing is of a fine standard. Hemanti Sarkar’s editing is sharp. But how one wishes, the script itself had been far more concise; a two-hour film instead of the two-and-a-half-hour film it is, would have been a big plus for it.
On the whole, Dear Zindagi is a film for the gentry and will do well mainly in the premium multiplexes of the big cities. Its business in lesser multiplexes, single-screen cinemas and other cities and towns will, generally speaking, be below the mark. Considering the cost of the film’s making, promotion and release (excluding Shah Rukh Khan’s fee which he has not charged), its entire investment has already been recovered from non-theatrical revenues. Therefore, it is a foregone conclusion that the producers will reap a fantastic harvest as every rupee of share from India (all-India distribution rights pre-sold to one company) and Overseas will go towards profit. For the all-India distributor, the film would prove to be just a safe bet. The film will do very well Overseas.