The excitement over a Shah Rukh Khan-Alia Bhatt-Gauri Shinde film quickly evaporates because of the self-indulgence of the writer-director.
Dear Zindagi stumbles with a far-from-endearing Kiara who has issues with boyfriends and parents. She’s difficult and impolite with them, and she’s quirky. But she’s a brilliant cinematographer and she gets on famously with her maid and her buddies. The problem is, the cool bonding with friends is laboured and overstretched and Gauri Shinde takes far too long to bring in Shah Rukh Khan.
Once he comes in as dimaag ka doctor Jehangir Khan, there’s some positivity and freshness. But that too soon peters out with two-and-a-half hours of philosophical outpourings on life and relationships.
“You can call me Jug,” the therapist tells Kiara before he gets down to sorting out the mess in her head. He proceeds to draw an analogy between getting into assorted relationships and trying out different chairs until you find the perfect one. I’m not sure if that’s a fitting comparison to make especially when Gauri’s unstoppable profundity later contradicts itself with the therapist telling Kiara that you can’t burden one relationship with all your expectations.
There’s inconsistency in the family portrait too. Gauri cuts from Kiara at six who feels abandoned and nurses a grudge against her parents to Kiara as 20-something still full of angst. But since her parents were not inhuman or evil what about the long years in-between when they must’ve cared for her? Also, parents who’ve proudly sent their daughter to New York to study cinematography couldn’t have been out of sync with her all her life. And then, the family lives stylishly in Goa but there are family friends who gather around like the khap panchayat and spout oppressively insensitive clichés to Kiara about her single status, her working in the film industry and something about gays. Gauri Shinde’s sparkle in English Vinglish is also tossed out as she actually attempts time-worn humour like a family friend saying ‘Lebanese’instead of‘lesbian’.
For all the radical progressiveness that Dear Zindagi tries so hard to project, Kiara’s mother is eternally in the kitchen or serving her grownup son and daughter. And there’s a queue of handsome hunks from Kunal Kapoor and Ali Zafar to Aditya Roy Kapur waiting conveniently around the corner for Kiara.
Of course, there are a few charming scenes. Like Shah Rukh Khan playing kabaddi with the waves. Or lines like, don’t let the past blackmail the present. It’s relatable too when a more clear-headed Kiara doesn’t want to break ties with her therapist but he’s mature enough to keep it professional and end it.
Shah Rukh Khan is likeable and comfortable in the therapist’s chair. He chivalrously steps back as it’s an Alia Bhatt show all the way and she’s splendid flitting through a gamut of moods. But Dear Zindagi is a classic example of efficient performances being unable to translate into a spiffy film.
At one point, the therapist says, genius is knowing when to stop. It’s a statement Gauri Shinde should’ve reminded herself when she couldn’t put a full-stop to her rambling.
For a film that drags disappointingly, Dear Zindagi gets a 2.5 star rating.