Why I will say a Hi to ‘Dear Zindagi’

images-8*Don’t read if you are spoiler-averse*

I’m not a person who posts reviews on Facebook for every movie that I go and watch. I have a simple rule- people do not need to know what I’m doing, where I’m doing, how I’m feeling, etc at all times.

And having watched Dear Zindagi a week ago, I was planning to continue this streak. Until I happened to refresh my newsfeed on that omniscient social app, Facebook and came across several people writing about how this particular movie was atrocious in indescribable ways. I know it possibly doesn’t matter, but I beg to differ.

I went to watch this movie with an open mind and zero expectations, despite hearing things such as “it talks about mental health” and “the director is the same lady who made English Vinglish“.  Deviating for a moment here, the latter movie, Director Gauri Shinde’s debut, revolved around a phenomenon that seems simple but is deeply entrenched in our society, what one could call a mix of ‘language shaming’ and ‘housewife shaming’. Shashi wasn’t abused, or molested, or cheated on- she possibly didn’t have any so-called ‘major problems’, but the character struck a chord with the audiences.

Moving on to Dear Zindagi, Alia’s Kaira doesn’t have ‘major problems’ either. She is not schizophrenic or bipolar, she doesn’t have a medical condition per se, she hasn’t been sexually abused as a child. She has a job. She has a family and friends. She has several attractive men in her life. So much so, that it might have you screaming, there is nothing wrong with her at all! She even has a dimpled therapist, played by SRK, who gives her weird stories and analogies by the second, that make her feel enlightened in life.

Why then am I saying that this movie deserves a “Hi”and not a “Bye”to quote a particularly inane song from the movie (which by the way is amazing if you want to walk/jog) ?

  1. It highlights something we often forget- every one of us is insane. Never apologize for your particular brand of it. (If it gets out of hand, please go to a qualified (not SRK) therapist though)
  2. It shows you that there are a lot of things adults can do to children that is not abuse but messes them up nonetheless. Please have children at your own risk.
  3.  It tells you that when you’re listening to someone, you must listen to them, without blabbering suggestions and delivering judgements by the minute.
  4. The most honest thing that the therapist says in the entire movie (albeit in a rather SRK fashion)- You need to take care of yourself. Everyone else can only help you along.
  5. Last but not the least, it talks about things. Normal ordinary things. Like parents thinking you’re homosexual if you don’t want to get married. Like you yourself, gazing into the mirror, defiantly saying “I’m a slut, and proud of it”. Like that childhood doll they didn’t keep safely- it seems stupid to get annoyed about that 20 years later but you still do.

Yes, it doesn’t reflect the depths of mental health issues or the realities of therapy. It makes typical Bollywood style jokes at times (that I am not excusing at all). But you can’t ignore the fact that from movies where the only task of the actress was to wait for the hero to dance around a tree with her, we’ve come a long way. Middle-class people, people who still think being lesbian is a “phase” and that seeing a therapist means you’re “mad”, people who think “parents know best”, people like that are going to see a movie like this.And amidst all the song and dance, and a simplistic two hour resolution of a problem, if amidst all of that, Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt tell people that it is okay to be single, poly-amorous, straight, lesbian or anything at all, and even if 50% of the people think about it for a while, well I’m okay with that.

If people go and see this movie and if they come back and spend an hour with their kids instead of an hour on their smartphones or talking about work, I’m okay with that. Among other things, cinema exists to reflect the dimensions of reality, yes, but it also exists to communicate to the masses. And if this is the language the masses understand, I’m okay with that, as long as they get the message.

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