1.5 Average

Dear Zindagi

Dear Zindagi could've been an interesting movie and a story worth telling. Unfortunately, it fails. Very few movies dare to tell a story tackling mental health. 3 points just for doing that and making an attempt. If a movie is made on a demanding story, it should be made with utmost honesty and dedication. If not they should be left unmade. Dear Zindagi is one such demanding story. Sadly, her demands were not met. I agree with you if you're thinking it's easier to review a movie than make one. That's why we leave it to the professionals.

There is a scene in the movie Main Hoon Na where Naseeruddin Shah's character fails to convince Kiron Kher's character to accept him and the young SRK. She is not willing to accept SRK and Naseeruddin can't abandon him. While leaving the house he doesn't slam the door shut. He just pulls it slowly, the door closes behind him but the latch doesn't click. It can signify that he knows the matter is closed for discussion and nothing can be done about it, at least for now. Yet he is hopeful Kiron will forgive him and accept both of them in due course. It can also mean that the Kiron may have closed the door on the matter, but he hasn't. It can also mean the door to the family getting back together is still open from his side. An actor's job is to go through all the emotions a character is experiencing and portray the relevant ones for us. That's what is called getting under the skin of the character. Only an actor can do that, not a star. A star is just a marketable face or a marketable face yet to become an actor. This movie needed actors but the director chose marketable faces instead.

Alia plays Kaira, a budding cinematographer with love and commitment issues. She ditches before she is ditched. She is heartbroken when ditched by a producer boyfriend. She goes back to Goa, her home town. The problem is she has issues with her parents too and she is unable to sleep at night in spite of popping sleeping pills. One day while shooting a film for a hotel, she finds out a Mental Health seminar is underway. She hesitatingly enters the hall and finds SRK, one of the therapists on the panel, speaking. Somewhat impressed, she decides to meet him and undergo counseling. Thus begins therapy. An attempt to understand why she is depressed, why she can't sleep, why she has a pattern of ditching boyfriends, what bothers her, what is she afraid of etc. And to heal her past and fears on the way.

Terrific premise but the movie has literally nothing going for it. Alia doesn't look like a depressed protagonist. She looks confused at times but not depressed. Her make up and cinematography make it even more difficult. The cinematography is great but not thematic, that's why not relevant. Every scene is beautifully lit. Only an actor can enact the characters feelings and turmoil irrespective of the the kind of lighting used in the scene. Stars need additional support which they don't get. There is not a single scene where the color tones or lighting match Alia's state of mind. Because the scenes are bright and well lit, they give the movie a youthful look and feel. How can a movie about mental health look youthful all the time? You have to have scenes that introduce the issue. It's not possible with bright and well lit scenes and with a star in it. Also, she looks too young to be a cinematographer. She doesn't look Goan either. Her torn jeans and shorts make her look even younger. Proper costume design could've made her look the character's age. SRK doesn't look like a therapist. If the two most important actors in the movie, don't get to go under the skin of the character, you can't expect others to.

Alia friends barring Fatty look juvenile and childish. Why do people around a protagonist have to sound immature or clueless? What does that tell you about the protagonist? Then there is a scene where she blasts her parents but they keep quiet. They don't say anything in their defense. Do they accept they're wrong? Why didn't they try to offer a justification? Was there a reason why they did what they did? The movie doesn't explore these questions making it a one-sided affair. Healing doesn't occur when you realize or accept you weren't treated right. If that's the case many in the world will become healthy upon realization. Psychological healing always begins with acceptance, letting go and forgiveness.

There were a few scenes where Alia tries to hide her depression. After having two shots of vodka, she hits the dance floor while listening to the music on her phone and not the one being played. And when she eats raw green chili to stop herself from crying. The scenes are too predictable, that's why they fail to convince. Another point, little Alia doesn't look like she would grow up to resemble the protagonist. Why couldn't the makers hire capable Casting Directors like Mukesh Chhabra? He would've surely found the right 'little Alia'.

Stars can also act if they get a good script and a good director. The issue is with both script and direction. Guess what, they are handled by the same person, Gauri Shinde. I haven't seen English Vinglish but here she undermines audience's intelligence and time, not to mention money. The result is a film like Dear Zindagi in which an excellent opportunity is wasted. To make matters worse, it has below par music and poorly written songs. The title track is the only song worth listening.

What could've been India's answer to Good Will Hunting fails to build any goodwill.