I am back from my Nebraskan odyssey. There's still lots to think about and write about. In fact, while I was there I managed to complete the NaNoWriMo challenge for the first time ever and now had the beginnings of a novel. (Bucket list item for retirement!)
One reason I was eager to get home was the opening day of Dear Zindagi, the long-awaited Gauri Shinde film starring Alia Bhatt with Shah Rukh Khan in an extended cameo. For the life of me, I don't know why it's called a cameo; he and Alia dominate the movie. But he never interacts with any of the other characters; maybe that's it. This shows what a newbie I still am. But I do have opinions! For a more informed opinion, check out the "no spoiler" review by my very favorite blogger, Margaret Redlich.
This is director Gauri Shinde's second film, after the critically-acclaimed English/Vinglish. I only got around to watching English/Vinglish a couple of weeks ago, and it really whetted my appetite for seeing Dear Zindagi. I saw the first day, first showing at my closest multiplex, along with two other middle-aged white ladies. I was expecting a nice light entertainment with enough Shah Rukh to warm me up on a chilly November day and also pick up my spirits (badly needed after the bruising, negative election season, which still doesn't seem over.). Dear Zindagi (Dear Life) is so much more! Alia Bhatt is superb as the hard-working, talented cinematographer whose personal life is a disaster. Instead of the old message -- all you need is the right guy -- Gauri Shinde has delivered a fresh story for the 21st century. Shah Rukh Khan hits all the right notes as her therapist, without overshadowing Bhatt with his star power. The rest of the cast is a wonderful, complex ensemble of friends, family, and failed relationships.
The messages about gender are so positive, powerful, so progressive, and so amiably portrayed that they are (we can only hope) irresistible. The first one that stands out for me is the gay friend, who is just a nebbishy guy, not a stereotype. That short conversation about his therapist is pure gold. The men aren’t caddish, chauvinist dudes; they are three-dimensional representatives of their respective generations, from the old school uncle to the little brother — who is an absolute charmer. The only exception is her therapist, Jug (SRK), who breaks the mold for male behavior for men of his age — the uncle and the father — in the same way that he blazed a trail for younger men (actually those men, when they were young) in DDLJ.
So much to love. I love the ensemble feel of the actors playing her family and friends. I love the message about mental health. I love Alia’s performance!!! I love how I felt at the end. I tried to remember the last time a movie was so entertaining, so emotionally complex, and still so happy at the end, and the one that popped into my head was An Unmarried Woman (1978), my favorite women’s liberation era film.
I am definitely seeing this one again. This is an Indian film that will win hearts globally, because the challenges in Kaira’s life are so universal.