This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Purnangshu Paul. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Idea Behind ‘Dear Zindagi’ Makes It Special, Not The Film

More from Purnangshu Paul

I usually refrain myself from writing about films that don’t quite move me. But there is something that needs to be written down about “Dear Zindagi”.

“Dear Zindagi” is a film about a struggling cinematographer Kaira (Alia Bhatt), dealing with her failed relationships, her urban and peppy friends, her US-return parents and her psychiatrist Jug (Shah Rukh Khan). Kaira represents the young, urban, free women, who live by themselves to make it big. She faces the usual ‘boyfriend ditched me’ to ‘landlord is threatening to evict me’ problems in the dream city Mumbai. At this point, just like me, you might say, ‘so what’?

Well, the reason behind talking about the film is not because the film itself, but the idea behind it. “Dear Zindagi” is a stepping stone for Bollywood mainstream cinema, towards openly talking about mental health and depression.

Films are often regarded as reflection of society. But, what about a subject that the society shuts itself from talking about? Mental health has always been a taboo in this country. When was the last time you heard someone coming upfront, telling you that their child has a mental health issues? The feeling of being ostracized by the society and earning a bad name for the family are the common excuses you will hear in such cases. I have been raised in a family where I have encountered it firsthand. The word ‘psychiatrist’ itself is a badly received in our society. I won’t complain about others because my own mother often jokingly says the same, whenever I ask her to consult a psychiatrist. She lives alone, as both her sons are out working. My father died more than a decade ago. Like Kaira, who had her friends to help her out in time of depression, my mother has us to talk to. But, is it enough?

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2012-13, spent only 1.3% of the total expenditure on health to National Mental Health Programme. According to data provided by NIMHANS, there are more than 7 crore people in India who suffer from mental illness of one form or the other. The number of doctors available to attend them is a paltry 4000. Most of these doctors are concentrated at metro cities or tier two cities, leaving behind the prospect of finding a psychiatric facility in a tier III city like Jamtara, Jharkhand where I was born and brought up. Kaira, on the other hand, quite easily bumped into the famous and uber cool psychiatrist Dr. Jahengir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan), aka Jug, in Goa.

Despite having a phone full of social media apps, the youth of the present generation is quickly getting disconnected from the society, resulting in loneliness. Cases of depression are on a rise every year and very little is being done to tackle the same. “Dear Zindagi”, although a badly executed film by Gauri Shinde, gives a ray of hope for a popular discourse about mental health and depression. The urban set-up of the film itself is a pointer to the fact that awareness about the problem of mental health and depression is still at its nascent stage.

In snippets, “Dear Zindagi” provides a way of looking into your life and asking questions to yourself about your dreams and how you can fulfill them. Shah Rukh Khan’s role, as Kaira’s psychiatrist, is the point of elevation in the film. If you are an ardent follower of American Television series, you might have seen how the therapeutic conversations in “Mr. Robot” (between Eliot and his psychiatrist) and “Hannibal” (between Hannibal Lector and Will Graham) moved the plot of the series further. In case of “Dear Zindagi”, Khan’s role is the same. He keeps the sinking ship afloat.

The sequence in the film when Kaira first sees Jug in a mental health awareness conference and immediately decides to seek help from him for her lack of sleep is quite fascinating. Kaira was attracted to what Jug was speaking because she found it interesting while the other doctors present in the conference were talking in medical jargon. I remember, once I attended a mental health awareness programme in Bolpur, West Bengal. I had thought that I might get bored, but I landed up spending three hours listening to every minor detail about the current scenario of mental health in the country.

Both Alia and Khan did justice to their roles in the film, making it an interesting watch, in an otherwise boring screenplay and forcefully sandwiched love-break up scenes in the film. It is definitely a weak film for a director who has previously made a strikingly beautiful “English Vinglish”. Apart from the therapy sessions, the dialogues in the film are preachy and boring. But, “Dear Zindagi” scores because of the subject it deals with. Bollywood previously has generated films like “Bhool Bhulaiyaa”, “My Name Is Khan”, “Barfi” and “Sadma”, but it never portrayed the therapist-patient relationship directly. I hope, in the time, there will be more open discussions, so that the next time I speak to my mother about consulting a psychiatrist, she doesn’t feel like something is wrong with her.

You must be to comment.
  1. eltonpinto

    Jug huh? Just changing it to Mug might add a lot of sense to the film….

More from Purnangshu Paul

Similar Posts

By Arun Kr Jaiswal

By Kritika Nautiyal

By Jeet

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below