Dear Zindagi is a treat

Director: Gauri Shinde

Cast: Alia Bhatt, Shah Rukh Khan, Kunal Kapoor, Angad Bedi, Ira Dubey, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Ali Zafar

Diligently crafted and emotionally engaging, Gauri Shinde’s Dear Zindagi is a sparkling little gem with a big heart.

An easy film to warm up to and embrace, it gives the audience a woman-centric tale that does not make a song and dance about the weight of its theme.

It tells the simple story of an independent young girl thirsting for stability in her relationships with men but finding the going very tough because she has a mind of her own.

Alia Bhatt, one of the finest Bollywood actresses of her generation, plunges into the role with total conviction and carves out an endearing and believable figure.

Shah Rukh Khan, playing second fiddle to her in what is an extended cameo, adds weight to the drama with his sheer presence even as he eschews his known mannerisms.

Dear Zindagi is a slice-of-life drama that does not shy away from defying Bollywood stereotypes.

The character that Alia essays, Kaira, is a director of photography for ad films. She aspires to do a full-fledged feature film one day.

But that isn’t as big a challenge as her inability to commit herself to any long-term relationship. The men that she runs into do not quite measure up and that drives her to the edge of despair.

Her well-meaning but overbearing parents do not make things any easier for Kaira but insisting that she should not only look for a secure job but also get married at the earliest. I hate couples, Kaira roars at one point. It is easy to understand her indignation.

Help arrives for her in the form of Dr Jehangir Khan, a therapist with his own take on life. He shows Kaira the way to look at the world in a different light and confront her deepest fears and emotions.

Weep, laugh, give vent to your feelings, the psychologist exhorts the young girl. Taking a cue, she learns to break free from her past and create a new future for herself.

No matter how superficial that storyline might seem on paper, on the screen it works very well. Dear Zindagi is never less than watchable, thanks of course to the two lead performances.

Alia is absolutely outstanding. She does not miss a trick as she negotiates the enormous demands that the role makes on her.

The film rests on her slender shoulders, but she does not wilt for a moment, giving the character all she has. The young actress has already done roles that belie her age, notably in Highway, Kapoor & Sons and Udta Punjab. But her Dear Zindagi is something else.

A super-confident Shah Rukh is the icing on the cake. Together, they are dynamite. But the explosion that they set off in Dear Zindagi is of the controlled kind. It hits home with gentle force.

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