Some movies become interesting because it allows you to read them in multiple ways. I am not talking about ambiguous endings in films. The way certain movies keep us guessing about the trauma and dilemma through which characters go through adds a layer of empathy that is very subtle. Gehraiyaan, Shakun Batra’s new film, is one such indulging experience. Even though the film’s tempo is highly on the slower side, the trajectory the film takes is a bit wacky, in my opinion. Thus this combination makes Gehraiyaan look unique among the many other melancholic dramas.
Alisha is a Yoga Instructor in Mumbai, and she is living with her boyfriend, Karan. He is working on a book after quitting his job. Things are not looking bright financially for Alisha. It was at that time she met Zain, her cousin Tia’s boyfriend when both the couples decided to have a weekend retreat. A connection happens between Alisha and Zain, which escalates quickly to an illicit relationship. The repercussions of that relationship are what we witness in Gehraiyaan.
In the film, Shakun and writer Ayesha Devitre try to show this idea of a loop happening on an emotional level. The sentiment Alisha has towards her mother is a crucial element. Her memories about her mother formulate her persona. At one point, she finds herself living the life of her mother. The point at which she finds a parallel between herself and her mother is tough, and you would feel really bad for that character. Usually, in movies, the gaze towards an illicit relationship is pretty sleazy. But here, we get to see why Alisha went ahead with it. The self-centered nature of Zain was also depicted subtly and realistically.
The movie is ultimately about the unfairness Alisha faces in her life. The trauma of seeing her mother’s death and having a rough relationship with her father has made her life already difficult. And whatever element that brings a sense of relief to her has the life span of a bubble. Gehraiyaan is basically life breaking Alisha at regular intervals of time. That interpretation makes sense when I look at that jarring twist at the movie’s end. The film’s pacing is uneven, and it is somewhat understandable. It is on the slower side in the initial phases as it wants us to look at the characters closely. As happiness kicks in, the tempo goes up. Rather than being a sad, monotonous film, Gehraiyaan aspires to become a mixture of genres, and the transition to a crime drama kind of mood is very smooth.
Deepika Padukone as Alisha is outstanding. The voltage of her smile, the way she breaks down, and even the way she looks at someone say a lot about Alisha without being overly vocal. Siddhant Chaturvedi is extremely convincing as the ambitious and manipulative Zain. And his transition from being that likable boyfriend to a self-centered businessman was too good. Ananya Pandey, as Tia gets an opportunity to show the filmmakers that she can pull off characters that aren’t loud. Dhairya Karwa as Karan doesn’t have much to do here. Rajit Kapoor as Jitesh was so effective, and my favorite was Mr. Naseeruddin Shah, who scored a 6 in the only ball he was given to face. That scene with him and Deepika where she talks about Alisha’s mother was my favorite moment in the whole film.
In terms of craft, Shakun has remarkable clarity over the visual language. Whenever the blues hit characters on screen, one can see the visuals having that blue tint. The happy moments have that sepia texture. The colors you see on screen also communicate the movie’s mood at various points. The pacing of the film is different for various phases. It had a sync with the characters’ emotional space. More than the songs, the background score worked for me as it was trying to maneuver the viewer gently to an emotional space where they would feel a sense of empathy towards Alisha.
Gehraiyaan is a nonjudgmental look at a highly flawed and fragile individual. The film does have the Dharma movie thing of being rich people problems. But Shakun is able to make us think about the headspace of his characters. Thus the unfamiliarity in their backdrop never really becomes a deal-breaker. Gehraiyaan might not have the emotionally overwhelming feel which was there for Shakun’s last film Kapoor & Sons. But it definitely has enough juice in it to make you think about the unforgiving nature of life. And the performance of Deepika Padukone made sure that this film, in the long run, will be considered a good example of character exploration.
Gehraiyaan might not have the emotionally overwhelming feel which was there for Kapoor & Sons. But it definitely has enough juice in it to make you think about the unforgiving nature of life.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended