After delivering one of the best debuts in modern Hindi cinema in the form of “English Vinglish”, director Gauri Shinde returns to tell the story of yet another female protagonist who is looking for the meaning of her life. She is confident, successful at what she does for a living and more importantly, is able to strike the perfect work-life balance. Right? Wrong!
The movie tries its best to sell us the story of Kiara, a hopeless snob, and a whiner who excels at staring into the abyss pondering about her bad luck rather than taking charge of her own life and living it to its full potential. The whole “grief-stricken adult finds it hard to get into a serious romantic relationship” charade is so on-the-nose that it feels suffocating after a mere 15 minutes into the movie. Add to that the clueless progression of the story which has absolutely no idea how to pace or develop itself and fit within the runtime, and you have what one could only describe as a terrible misfire.
The story of Kiara and her “issues” with men are deep-seated in her psyche from a troubled childhood. But instead of allowing the viewers to get to know her better, which would have saved us all from the purely atrocious first hour, director Shinde instead resorts to focus on how for Kiara, men are both indispensable as well as expendable, all within the first 30 minutes. Confused, much? Welcome to the club!
That Kiara is a successful cinematographer who excels at her work takes a backseat as we witness her going from one man to another in search of a spark that’s nowhere to be found. The reason? Well, that is reserved for the final half-hour of the movie. But by then you’re either infuriated by the absolutely useless pandering by Kiara and her fascination with “romantic relationships and their failure”, or you’re laughing at the shoddy dialogues.
The sole saving grace of the movie happens to be Shahrukh Khan, who in his meaty role of Kiara’s doctor, gets to play himself without any bounds. The character of Jag is SRK, without any frills. He is cool, calm and composed, quite the antithesis of the often volatile Kiara, which is quite an achievement for the writers, considering the rest of the movie. Alia Bhatt does a redux of her performance in “Highway”. The difference is that whereas in “Highway”, it was refreshing to see her act with such gusto for an actress her age, here it simply comes off as on-the-nose and leaves you with a ton of doubts about the promise she showed earlier. The rest of the cast is serviceable and mostly over-the-top.
The climax of any movie is supposed to be its high-point and it is here that one as a viewer expects to bid adieu to the cinematic journey of the past few hours on the best note possible. The trouble with “Dear Zindagi” is that even in its final reel when it is time to celebrate its protagonist’s long overdue achievement, it chooses to undermine the same by shamelessly introducing a character so hollow that it leaves you agape. As the credits roll, you know that if this was an attempt at chronicling the journey of a modern-day woman, it still is a long way to go for Hindi cinema.