Dear Zindagi movie review: Chicken soup for the confused soul
Dear Zindagi is mental floss for the weekend, the sort of feel-good film that reels out capsule-style counselling.
Somewhere to the end of Dear Zindagi, Dr. Jahangir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan), counsels Kaira (Alia Bhatt), the confused twenty-something who has serious insecurity issues, that 'genius is knowing when to stop.'
Director Gauri Shinde, after the much-loved English Vinglish, could have taken note of that line a trifle more seriously.
Not knowing when to stop is what makes Dear Zindagi, an otherwise 'heart-warming' mental floss of a movie, short of anything remotely 'genius.'
With its emphasis on dialogues, heard-before philosophy and the lagged proceedings, the promise of a Bollywood 'Dead Poets Society' goes for a toss in this 'voyage of self-discovery.'
Yet there is an innate beauty to the film.
Even on preach mode, Dear Zindagi is quite real. The protagonist does not go home 'cured,' and much like all of us who seek wisdom in 'self-help' books, realises that issues have to be faced in one's unique way.
Unlike the pompous sermonizing of many coming-of-age Bollywood films (Lakshya, 3 Idiots and more), Dear Zindagi is more grounded.
It also doesn't play by formula - but takes recourse in the nuggets of advice that Dr. Khan belts out.
Dr. Khan too struggles with challenges - a divorce and the lost opportunity to give his child sweet memories such as what his father gave him. That includes playing kabbadi with the ocean waves - a delectable sequence, indeed.
Dear Zindagi is beautifully stitched too. From a one-liner that could have read like 'twenty-plus confused girl meets middle-aged counsellor,' the film takes its life from the endearing performance of Alia Bhatt. She is expression-machine - effortless and naturally charming.
You could see Kaira's problems from two perspectives: One, as that of a silly girl who has no 'real' worries other than loads of immaturity, or two, as how it really plays out in life for many young people in today's 'nuclear' families. Their comfort zone is with friends, and all they might need is a soul who listens and a good hug.
That also makes Dear Zindagi a trifle weak or strong - weak, if you keep wondering what this girl's problem is, or strong - if you think, hey, this is how life is.
The foil to Bhatt's spontaneity is the gravitas that every man who walks into her life brings. From Kunal Kapoor to Ali Zafar, the men are never treated as caricatures.
The best, of course, is reserved for Shah Rukh Khan. He takes the movie to the next level, bringing both star appeal and his own natural charm, which comes to life in his interviews.
And there is one other actor who makes a definite impression - Yashaswini Dayama as Kaira's friend Jackie. To step up to Alia and steal the show on many a scene is no mean task; she does it effortlessly.
Lusciously shot, Dear Zindagi appears too long as its runs from one counselling session to the other with little happening in between. Its linear, no-forced, saccharine sweetness should appeal to the majority looking for momentous 'inspiration' but the film is hardly the momentous milestone movie that stays put with you.
Carve out all the SRK-Alia sessions into half-hour-and you will get Bollywood's Robin Sharma meets Eckhart Tolle meets Paulo Coelho movie that you can tune into in during your moment of blues.
Starring: Alia Bhatt and Shah Rukh Khan
Directed by Gauri Shinde
Now playing at theatres in the UAE