Loving life….dear Zindagi

Belonging.…….a feeling so natural that many of never think about it, and a feeling so encompassing that the VCE English has it embedded in their curriculum.

I remember when Div told me in Year 11, that they would have Belonging as a context for their 4 texts, my response was – how on earth are you going to find so much to write about in Belonging! Little did I know!

But as I think back, our sense of belonging more than anything else grounds us firmly into our place in this cosmos. It allows us to identify who we are, articulates our relationship with others and even underlines our interactions with perfect strangers. And perhaps when we have a strong sense of ourselves, it does not enter our conscience that it is not the same for everyone else.

Professional success or recognition, does not make up for unhappiness else where in your life. A great circle of supportive friends, does not obfuscate the need for approval from the family and a footloose and fancy free lifestyle does not eliminate the yearning for an anchor.

Dear Zindagi opens with a quick recount of the life and times of young professional, Kaira downloadin India today- instantly recognizable as one of modern day India’s beautiful people – a non mainstream career, funky loft apartment, a “Friends” life style….and underlying all this is an inability to commit and clear emotional issues.

Cut to her internal melt down, a relationship disintegrates- one to which she had pegged her professional and personal coattails. We see signs of this, in her outbursts at other people’s PDA’s and her earnest attempts to calm herself down.

Professionally down and personally bereft, she goes to Goa, where she moves in with her parents – we see the usual well meaning relatives, asking about marriage and settling down and her parents lack of comprehension of what it was that she does. We sense her impatience and also the seething anger at her parents just waiting to erupt.

An unexpected chance to hear a psychologist at Mental health awareness week, spurs her to seek help for insomnia. Jehangir Khan or Jug, played by an immensely charismatic SRK is the counsellor we would all love to go to!

Kaira starts her therapy skeptically, like many she believes she does not have “mental health” issues, just trouble sleeping. Her counselor’s somewhat unconventional methods hook her in and she starts opening up about the deeper issues affecting her.  As he asks her to do simple exercises like call and apologise to her friends or make it point to talk to her parents for 5 minutes, she begins to feel changes.

His sessions become important to her and she starts honestly examining some of her deep seated issues. At the crux of her conundrum is that her parents left her with the grandparents, while her brother was not. When they take her back, it is for the wrong reasons- not because they want her, but because she failed academically. Jug helps her see that she may not be able to forget or forgive, but she can try and understand why they did it and move on- not for them, but for herself.

Many of my counselor friends were up in arms about how the sessions were depicted, how much of the counselling seemed like home grown feel good sooth-saying and how it was not “real”.

It’s a movie guys, if they showed how a real session goes, no one is going to watch or indeed seek help!

What I liked is that it address mental health issues as normal, the fact that it is traumatic when a child suffers parental neglect and it can carry on for years. The movie normalised going for counselling, the fact that the sessions are time bound(notice the timer!) and most importantly, it touched on the issue of transference, Kaira gets attracted to Jug and he gently straightens her out. He tells her that the end of the sessions does not mean she is fixed, but that she now knows what she needs to do.

Alia Bhatt in the lead is spectacular- this is an immense talent, he inner turmoil, the anger and resentment is beautifully done. SRK as Jug is inspired, if we wanted a poster boy for mental health awareness, could not be better. He is understated, professional as a therapist and compassionate. He addresses several issues that plague mental health in India, from parents being uncomfortable talking about their child studying psychiatry to people’s belief that one has only one go at choosing a life partner.

Gauri Shinde once again delivers a gem, addressing an issue largely under wraps in a sensitive manner, not passing judgement, but raising awareness and acknowledging there is an issue. Like English Vinglish, this is not a chest beating, trailblazing exercise, but an eye opener.

And if this does change the view of even a few to seek help or just not judge people who do, then it has gone way beyond entertaining, which is what its primary purpose is!!

Rating: 4/5