Whenever I’m hanging out with my girl friends, we inevitably start talking about the same thing: modern dating and all its pitfalls. Collectively, we’ve had enough heartbreaks that we often say we have sufficient material to write a story. In some ways, Gauri Shinde‘s Dear Zindagi is that story – Alia Bhatt‘s Kaira could be any one of us, especially since she’s got a whole host of flaws that make her very real: she flies off the handle a bit too easily, she overreacts, she overthinks. In essence, she has many of those qualities that women are told will drive away the men – those same qualities that we try to hide, lest we come across as anything other than the ‘chill’ girl.
And it’s clear that Kaira attempts to be that chill girl – she indulges in the ‘game’; she tries to pretend like she’s less affected than she is. It doesn’t really work. Instead, it seems like she’s going through the same things many of us are: the self-sabotaging of relationships and the hesitancy to jump into anything that seems like it may go somewhere, just to be saved from the heartbreak.
So what are you to do when you want a relationship, but can’t get around all your fears in order to make one work?
That’s where Jehangir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) steps in, Kaira’s handsome therapist whose advice is both corny and wise. In an age where we romanticise difficulties, pain, and heartbreak, it’s wonderful to be told that sometimes the easy way is the best way. And in an age where we’re constantly having to worry about what ‘people’ think, it’s great to hear that not only is it okay to have had multiple relationships, but it’s probably necessary, too.
Dear Zindagi does feel less than engaging in parts, and this is mostly because it’s meant to stay true to reality, making it simple; ordinary, even. But what lifts it up is the acting by the lead pair. Alia is exemplary – it’s hard to imagine her getting better, yet she manages to do it with every film. Shah Rukh is uncharacteristically restrained, giving Alia’s character the space she needs, yet lifting the film up quietly. They’re great together on screen, and their relationship unfolds and expands as the film goes on. Slowly, Jehangir pulls apart Kaira’s layers to get to the root of her issues. This is deftly done, and really brings home the point that so many of our childhood occurrences – no matter how seemingly unimportant – have a real impact on how we view life today. If nothing else, this movie will make you take a look at your own behaviour in relationships, and perhaps help you understand where it stems from.
But Dear Zindagi is about more than just the romantic relationships. Jehangir’s best advice to Kaira is to not ignore all the other love around her while she’s on the look-out for romance. Throughout the film, he helps her recognise love in all its other forms – family, friendship, and, most importantly, self.
Because sometimes, even a hopeless romantic needs to be told that romance isn’t the only form of love.