Dear Zindagi is a 2016 Indian drama film directed by Gauri Shinde and produced by Gauri Khan, Karan Johar and Gauri Shinde under the banners of Red Chillies Entertainment, Dharma Productions and Hope Productions respectively. It stars anensemble cast of Alia Bhatt, Ira Dubey, Kunal Kapoor, Ali Zafar, Angad Bedi, Aditya Roy Kapur and Shah Rukh Khan. Principal photography began in early 2016 and was completed in May.
The film released on 23 November 2016 in the United States, two days before its worldwide release on 25 November 2016.
The movie was acclaimed by US critics when it first opened in the United States. Satellite Rights were sold to Sony Entertainment Television.
Dear Zindagi, from the way it looked, felt, came across as, right from its title, was known to be a slice-of-life film ever since its first poster was released. What it is all about, therefore, is as good as anyone’s guess. The magic lay in the execution. For most of its parts, Dear Zindagi has its moments, but there are those stray notes that don’t necessarily fit properly in the scheme of things.
Kiara (Alia Bhatt), a budding director, is stuck in a rut. Her dream job is out of her reach, her love life is in a mess, her landlord asks her to vacate her Mumbai apartment because she’s a single woman. Relatable much. Kiara’s parents are based in Goa. Kiara is like any of us right after a break-up. When a guy leaves you for someone else, you continue with life like nothing ever happened.
Except, Kiara isn’t able to sleep. In Goa for a month’s break, she eavesdrops on an address by Dr Jehangir Khan/Jug (Shah Rukh Khan) at a mental health awareness gathering. His language and manner of dealing with the issue of mental health bowls her over, and Kiara reaches his doorstep for ‘therapy’. Dear Zindagi thereafter is about breaking out of the shackles of life and, as the several ‘takes’ of the film have said, embracing life, ‘one take at a time’.
Alia plays an affable Kiara. She has the same problems so many of us have. We’re used to making peace with the words ‘slut’ (muted in the film), ‘fast’, because the world throws them at us sans any consideration or care. Kiara symbolises all of us 20th century women, portraying on screen our problems with a rawness probably only Alia can. All good things about Alia aside, her character gives you a major sense of deja vu from the last bit of her screen time in Highway. There are those repressed feelings, the messages of letting go… too familiar, too many times.
Shah Rukh brings on screen his inimitable charm, giving himself completely to the director. Khan knows when to step back and let Alia take the lead. You want more of Jug’s wit and ability to listen. The supporting cast comprising Kunal Kapoor, Ali Zafar, Angad Bedi, Ira Dubey and Yashaswini Dayama do their job well.
Gauri Shinde does a half-decent job with Dear Zindagi. The director, whose English Vinglish was a landmark film and did not leave you without a smile or a tear, seems oddly laid-back in Dear Zindagi. Maybe we began expecting too much from Shinde after her first film.
The story of Dear Zindagi, much like its protagonist, is stuck in a rut. The film has its moments in Kiara’s reluctance and irritation while talking to her parents or leaving her men just because she wants to. Or in Jug’s sessions on the bicycle or playing kabaddi with the waves on the beach. As a complete film, Dear Zindagi is slow and gets plain boring at times. Alia tries her best to make you feel invested in her Kiara, but there’s nothing even she can do after a point with long-winded monologues and so little action.
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