Director Shakun Batra’s domestic noir Gehraiyaan is so much more than what its trailer led us to believe and not all of it is good. But the parts that work do stay with you long after the film is over. The film’s trailer does deliver on one promise- a hot mess featuring beautiful people, bad choices and broken hearts, all wrapped up in exquisite music and luxurious locations.
Mumbai-based Alisha is as cash-strapped as any Karan Johar universe character can be- iPhones, good clothes, pristine homes and all that. She is a yoga instructor who has invested a lot mentally and financially into developing an app, which is not taking off. Her partner of six years, Karan (Dhairya Karwa as the fourth wheel in the story), has given up a cushy advertising job to write a book. He feels that once his novel gets published, all will be well in the couple’s life. Perhaps Karan and the film’s writers need to join the Indian authors’ community on Twitter who will explain to them that getting a book published changes nothing in your life, except maybe giving your self-respect some boost.
On a weekend getaway, Alisha connects with her US-based cousin Tia (Ananya Panday with nothing much to chew on) and her nouveau riche fiance Zain. Sparks don’t fly right off, but when Zain flirts, Alisha doesn’t ask him to back off. You can see the longing for a sexual and emotional release lurk in her eyes. A hurried kiss during a yoga session leads to a full-blown affair in absence of their respective partners. While everything seems sunny, serene and sexy in the beginning, their lives soon begin falling apart when they are presented with choices that can change the course of their lives. Batra’s film doesn’t shy away from exploring the role of wealth in romance and how a threat to one’s career changes a person’s perspective towards love and relationships.
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Gehraiyaan Review: Of mistakes, bad parenting and forgiveness
Okay, let me say it out aloud- Gehraiyaan is not Shakun Batra’s best work as the internet has pointed out, but the film isn’t half as bad as many are making it out to be. The biggest letdown of the film is the disjoint between the last one hour and the rest of the narrative. It felt like one was watching an entirely different movie. The transition from relationship drama to domestic noir should have been smoother and more attention should have been paid to the development, or degradation, of the character who ends up flipping the film’s pace and narrative.
Padukone looks like a goddess on-screen even in Alisha’s worst moments, despite snot dribbling down her nose, her eye red and swollen and her posture slumped from carrying the burden of her secrets, you know that beaten down has never looked so good. The same goes for Chaturvedi’s chiselled and sharp Zain and the two actually make cheating look good. But here’s the deal, this idea of attractive adultery- how close is it to reality? Doesn’t it reinforce our ideas about attraction and lust?
There’s also a lack of depth in Zain and Alisha’s connection. We see them making a heart to heart conversation just once or twice. Their sexual escapades in five-star hotel rooms and on a yacht in the middle of nowhere are given more screen-time than scenes of them actually bonding and thus seeing each other as soulmates. You can buy into the narrative of Alisha wanting an escape from her current life, but to see a future with Zain, where is that coming from?
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Speaking of performances, the film belongs to Padukone, whose Alisha is perhaps one of the most real and relatable characterisations of modern women written in our lifetime. The actor does justice to every shade, every mood and every scene of Alisha. Siddhant Chaturvedi is well cast as the hustler real estate magnate, who struggles hard to keep his personal and professional life from falling apart simultaneously. If only his character was given more attention towards the end, it could have not just uplifted Zain, but the entire film.
Gehraiyaan isn’t the kind of film that’ll set benchmarks in the history of cinema. It is flawed, jerky and seems superficial in parts, but when it does dig deep- while talking about mental health issues, the consequences of parental conflicts on children, and the suffocation people might feel in relationships, where death begins to seem like the only release, it leaves a lasting impression.
The film’s finest scene comes towards the end when Alisha’s father (Naseeruddin Shah in a small but impactful cameo) tells his daughter that her life is bigger than her mistakes and how people need not run away from their past but simply accept it and always choose to move. The film needed more of such impactful (but not preachy) scenes.
Views expressed are the author’s own.
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