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Dear Zindagi is a slice of life film where the director Gauri Shinde takes the judgmental society head-on. Whether it is misconceptions about homosexuality, seeing a 'dimaag ka doctor', being a commitment phobic single, or her career path choices or relationships before marriage or conflict with parents. Gauri has a powerful comment on everything. Let’s see what issues have been untangled to make us better people as individuals, friends and parents.
The movie makes a subtle mockery of attitude to homosexuality. There’s never a dearth of annoying relatives who want to ‘help out’ a single woman by finding a suitable groom. People want to show they know about homosexuality, while they really don’t. These ‘know it all folks’ are ever suspecting of a single person’s sexual orientation. Kiara (Alia Bhatt) is blatantly asked if she is a lesbian. They believe it’s valid for them to suspect it, since she has a ‘creative’ job and she hangs out with filmy celebrities. Kiara puts them back in place. She informs them, “Everyone in the film industry is not gay; they’re just more accepting of your sexuality, and whatever it might be.”
Insomnia and seeking mental therapy
Dear Zindagi is the most direct movie that rubbishes the stigma around mental illnesses. In his very first scene Dr. Jahangir Khan (Shahrukh Khan) lifts the discussion from medical gibberish to relatable everyday words. "Jab hum apne aap ko samajh lete hai to doosre kya samajhte hain, it doesn’t matter at all." His down to earth and easygoing approach makes sense to Kiara, who is going through a rough patch.
During their interaction, Dr. Khan asks Kiara to liberate her self, express all her emotions, “Tum agar khul kar ro nahi sakti, to khul kar hasongi kaise?” The director also tells her audience that you don’t need to have hit rock bottom to seek help. You should ask before it’s too late.
Kiara’s obsession with making a film troubles her. Without a lecture Jahangir Khan tells her its all right to be ignorant, “Genius who nahi hota jiske pass har sawaal ka jawaab ho. Genius woh hota hai jiske pass har jawaab tak pahunchne ka patience ho.”
Growth means taking life a step at a time and then looking for simple solutions in our environment. “Hum hamesha mushkil rasta kyon chunte hain, zaroori kaamon ke liye? Kya pataa asaan raste se bhi kaam ho jaye.”
Dr. Jahangir Khan asks Kiara to count the five people most close to her, when her list has only friends, he candidly observes that the list has neither of the lovers. Why does being with friends feel so different from being with a lover to her? When she admits that love scares her, he probes further. "Why does a romantic relationship have to carry the 'bojh’(burden) of all our other relationships?"
Romantic love is just another emotion in our lives, not the most important one, and definitely not the only one that defines us. But invariably, we stress so much about finding the right match that we tend to put at stake everything else. That is what creates stress and fear. “Safe feel karne ke liye sare dar mitana zarrori hai.”
Dr. Jahangir Khan’s Love is like a chair is a masterstroke to rattle the judgmental society. This similarity is hilarious and so damn smart. “When we sit in at least ten chairs before picking the perfect one, why don’t we follow the same approach in our search for love?” And if we do, why does the world judge us for it? So through Dr. Khan, Gauri Shinde proposes that it’s smart to date as much you like it, before taking the big plunge. I couldn’t agree more- perspective is everything.
Fractured parental idols
The film has a very real way of showing messy, uncomfortable feelings that everyone experiences at one point in our life or another for their parents. Through the narratives one understands the baggage of Kaira’s childhood. “If just for a moment, you can manage to see your parents as normal people, capable of making the same mistakes as you, maybe you’ll find the strength within you to forgive them and undo the damage.”
It’s rewarding to see her let go of her burdens and regrets with help of a precious advice that comes from a place of no judgment. "It’s hard to do this as a child, but as an adult, you can see objectively what they did right, and what they didn’t. Parents are not perfect; they’re as flawed as you and me.”
Just like all normal parents Kiara’s parents are concerned for her and proud of her achievements. All they want is her happiness. Once she forgives them, their regrets and worries vanish. Her therapy treats them too.
The last part of the movie gives a lesson in moving out of comfort zones, leaving emotional baggage behind to find our confidence and independence. “Don’t let the past blackmail your present to ruin a beautiful future.”
It inspires you to move out of shadow of your support system and make tough decisions. “Zindagi main jab koi pattern ya aadat banti dikhaye de na, to uske bare main achchhi tarah se sochna chahiye…..Genius is about knowing when to stop.” Dr. Khan teaches his pupil not to depend but to move on. As parents we need to learn this and teach our children the same.
While I watched Dear Zindagi, I couldn’t help appreciating how Gauri Shinde had addressed so many issues convincingly. To be honest, Dear Zindagi is the therapy session that we as a society, desperately needed.