Dear Zindagi SPOILER Review: This is a Movie Made For Women, Start To Finish

Yes, I AM going to spoil the whole movie!  I feel terrible about this, considering that Shahrukh was nice enough to release it 2 days early in America so I could see it before leaving for Thanksgiving.  But on the other hand, a bunch of other people in America also saw it today, and we should have a place to discuss it.  And there are those people (sometimes I am one of them) who want to know how a movie ends before they even decide to see it.  But if you are choosing between seeing the movie and reading this post, SEE THE MOVIE!!!  It’s really really good.

Okay, you ready?  The whole plot in just a paragraph?  Here I go!

Alia is a cinematographer working on ad films and filling in on the occasional movie.  She has 2 super close childhood friends, a maid who loves her and who she calls “Didi”, a wonderful apartment, and lots and lots of hot guys in her life.  She had a fling with Kunal Kapoor while on location, and came home to break up with Angad Bedi, her serious boyfriend, by telling him she just slept with Kunal.  But then she ruins it with Kunal too, by kind of blowing him off when he tried to have a serious moment before leaving for a business trip.  And a couple of weeks later, on the same day, she learns that Kunal just got engaged to someone else, and her landlord is kicking her out of her apartment.  So she moves back to Goa, planning to stay with her parents, but after one abbreviated dinner party, she moves out and goes to stay with her childhood friend.  Where she stops sleeping.  Which is what finally drives her to see a therapist, Shahrukh.  During therapy, she slowly peels back the problems in her life, starting with deciding not to take a huge career opportunity, if it means spending time with Kunal.  And then having a fling with sensitive singer Ali Zafar, but ending it because it doesn’t feel right.  And also learning to be a better friend to her roommate, happier with the little things in life, less condemning of herself for being unmarried and dating, and all sorts of healthy things.  Before finally getting to the root of her problems, the two years her parents abandoned her and left her with her grandparents, and then returned to yank her away from the home where she had just started to feel secure again.  She finally admits her sadness and anger and fear that all come from that miserable time in her early childhood, and is able to make a start to find happiness with her parents again, and then with her whole life.  And, of course, she also falls in love with Shahrukh, because who wouldn’t?  He very very gently turns her away, telling her it wouldn’t be right, but he is proud of her for taking a chance and expressing her feelings.  And then after she leaves there is the slightest hint that he might feel something for her as well.  And finally, at the end-end, she has completed her short film that she has been working on for years, and at the premiere she meets a handsome Aditya Roy Kapur, and it is implied that she may be starting a new relationship on a firmer footing.

 

Okay, that was one loooooooooooooooooooong paragraph.  But I think I hit all the important outlines of the plot, and now I can go into more detail about the little details.  And more detail about the big thesis statements too!!!

The big big big thesis statement is in her short film at the end.  It’s not a very good film, bad costume drama with a voice over, but it tells the (I assume true?) story of a female Portuguese soldier who fought in disguise as a man.  But after she was injured, a sympathetic doctor discovered her secret and convinced her to stop hiding her true self.  So she returned, as a woman, and was promoted and allowed to continue fighting.

See, this whole movie is about third wave feminism!  The idea that women should stop trying to be “just as good as men” and embrace what makes us different.  Or just what makes us happy, there is no need to stop wearing pink or having conversations about emotions or crying when you get upset, just because it’s not what a man would do.

(This is also kind of what Sultan was about.  Or at least what the criticisms of Sultan failed to understand!  Being a feminist doesn’t mean that Anushka had to give up marriage and motherhood for her ambitions.  And it doesn’t mean that she couldn’t be in love with her husband.  It means she can be whatever she wants to be.)

At the beginning, Alia was all anti-love, and committed to her career.  A specific kind of career, one where she rose through the ranks fast and gained the approval of all the many men who are her superiors.  And she wanted to live alone in her own apartment, she wanted to date a string of men and have sex with no guilt, she wanted to ignore her family and just spend time with her friends.  It’s all very “male” type stuff.  Not “male” as in “things men like”, but “male” as in “things society expects of men”.  And she is rejecting anything that is considered “female” in the same way, can’t even stand to talk about marriage or serious romance or family or children or emotions or any of that.

The gift she gets from therapy is to let herself just be herself.  She gets off the fast career track, stops looking for approval and success in a man’s world, and instead chooses to focus on her own work in her own way just because it makes her happy.  She stops living alone, and happily moves back in with her parents.  And she stops serial dating, being happy alone for an unknown about of time, and her final possibly romantic encounter at the end doesn’t have any of the aggressive flirting and tension as her previous relationships, she is much more relaxed and slow and focused on building a connection with him.  The movie isn’t saying a woman has to be all “female”, Alia doesn’t end it married with a baby, but it also says that she doesn’t have to reject all the female things that might make her happy.  It’s saying she can do whatever she wants to do.

That’s big picture, backing it up to the little things I thought were neat!  First, Shahrukh’s introduction is giving a little speech at a mental health conference, talking about the stigma that is attached to mental disorders in India.  Which I was vaguely aware of, but my friend who I was watching this with was really excited to hear this addressed.  She did a study abroad in Pune last year, and she told me later that it was a serious issue in their program, because they had various students with anti-anxiety and various other medication, and there was no easy way to get the prescriptions re-filled or handle the whole disorder in India, there just weren’t the mental health facilities or societal acceptance.

(Poor Parveen Babi.  We can’t know, but it is possible that if Indian society had been a little more open, and more facilities were available, she wouldn’t have starved to death alone in her apartment at age 55)

Obviously, the movie romanticizes and simplifies the therapy process.  But it is clearly a situation where therapy is required, Alia is slowly spinning out of control and she desperately needs someone to help her get her head on straight, as it were.  The first half hour or so is agonizing, watching her whole life fall apart and her head get all tangled.  But it’s worth it, because when she finally makes a move to go to therapy, the audience is right there with her, thinking “yes!  Do it!  Thank goodness you are getting help!”  We aren’t judging her or thinking she should be able to straighten her life out on her own, we are thrilled that there is something available to her, something that can actually do some good.  Anyway, that whole thing was super great, the nice little “mental health issues are important and nothing to be ashamed of!” message.

Another great message, so queer positive!  Therapy first comes up when one of Alia’s friends from work mentions needing to leave to see his brain doctor.  She asks him later if he started to go to therapy to learn how to tell people he was gay, and he responds “no, I went to learn how to tell myself I was gay.”  Later, at the first disastrous dinner Alia has with her parents and their friends, they ask her if she is gay, and then later say something about how many gay people are in the film industry.  Alia bursts out that “No!  Of course everyone isn’t gay!  There are no more gay people there than anywhere else, it’s just that we are more open-minded and they don’t need to hide themselves.  There are probably just as many gay people at your office, but they are too scared to tell you and that is too bad.”

Which is just about perfect!  Her argument, of course, which is perfect, acknowledging the straight up fact that at least 10% of people anywhere are gay, and that it is a pity in some places that 10% doesn’t feel comfortable admitting it.  But also what it is in response to, the giggly and titillating titter-tatter gossip attitude towards queerness in celebrities in India.  Not all gossip, of course, but there is this certain tone that seems to see queerness in celebrities as something which is extra exciting and forbidden to talk about, instead of just a fact of life.  Or, even worse, there is the constant use of “gay” as an insult.  Talking about how many people are “gay” in Hindi film as though that somehow proves the industry is a bad place and the products are less moral.

Completely leaving this film for a moment, I do appreciate that basically all the major stars nowadays just laugh at this, and don’t even bother denying it.  You know Charlie Chaplin?  I read a biography of his last wife, Oona, and one of the things it talked about was how, after he died, she was riding in an airplane with a friend and someone recognized her and chatted with her and then said they were never sure, was Chalin Jewish?  And Oona said “yes”.  After the man left, her friend asked her “why did you say that?  You know Charlie wasn’t Jewish.”  And Oona said that Charlie used to do the same thing, and had told her to always do it.  That’s what it feels like now, with Shahrukh and Akshay and Ranbir and Abhishek and everyone else making all this broad jokes about being gay or in love with Karan or whatever.  That they would rather seen as gay, then to be seen as possibly ashamed of being gay.

 

Right, back to this movie!  3rd wave feminism, mental health, queer acceptance, that’s all great!  I also liked just the general awareness of women.  At one point Shahrukh asks Alia to list of the most important people in her life.  And she rattles of the names of her 2 female best friends since childhood, her little brother, and her maid.  At another point, Alia is walking down the street as a sad song plays, having just been gut-punched by life, and in the background all the extras are women, a woman returning home from shopping, a female cop directing traffic, etc.  When do we ever get a movie like this?  Where the heroine is so much more than just her father’s daughter, the hero’s girlfriend or sister.  Where the relationships that define her are with her fellow women.  Okay, there’s Pink, but besides that!

And the movie was also made for women to watch.  Not just in the message it gives and featuring a heroine and all that, but there are little signals in there that I truly think only a woman would get.  I went with a friend, and the second Kunal Kapoor was introduced, something about the way he talked to Alia, the way he smiled at her, the way she reacted, we both went “Oh, he’s going to break her heart.”  And then Ali Zafar showed up, and we both went “Sleep with him, don’t have a conversation.”  And then several scenes before the end, we both went “Oh no, she’s falling in love with Shahrukh.”

It’s something in the particular turn of phrase in the dialogue, the way Alia is playing her reactions, the body language between them.  Something so subtle that I can’t even tell you what it was.  But I know it took me about 30 seconds to spot it.  Just like it takes me 30 seconds to spot it when a couple is putting on a good face at a party but really having a fight, or when a girl has a crush on a guy (or vice versa) and trying to hide it.  There’s just a level to interpersonal reactions, a subtilty to the behavior in this movie, which I honestly think only women will understand.  Not in a “female” “male” made up by society way, but in a super power only available to women way.  Either because of biological differences (like being able to see a greater range of colors), or because it is a defense mechanism developed from early childhood to protect ourselves, women really can “read people’s minds” in a way that men just can’t.

(Watch the first 30 seconds and tell me everything you know about Alia’s relationship with Shahrukh)

Speaking of Alia falling for Shahrukh, I guess I need to deal with that.  You know how in English/Vinglish you really really wanted Sridevi to run off with the French guy?  But you knew that would be untrue to her character, and unbelievable in the plot, and just all around lowering of the movie?  Same thing here!  It becomes clear that Alia is falling for Shahrukh.  And he is just SO DAMN SEXY in this (I never swear, but MAN! Sometimes you just have to!), so you can see why she feels that way.  And by the end, you kind of just want him to grab her and throw her down on the therapy couch and give her one perfect kiss.  But that would be wrong!  This is a whole movie about how therapy is healthy and good and trying to remove the stigma from it.  And you can’t do that, and then throw all the standards and morals out the window.  But OH GOD would it have been satisfying!

So instead, Gauri Shinde gave us a little bit, but not a lot.  Shahrukh very gently tells her that he really really likes her to, but their time is up.  And then they shake hands, and she turns back for one deep hug, which he returns by gently patting her hair.  But after she leaves, to briefly sob outside his gate, before walking away with a smile, Shahrukh goes to sit down in his chair, a chair he joked about early as being perfectly balanced “so long as you aren’t in love with someone you can never have”, and of course it tips over.  And he kind of smiles.  It’s like that breaking a nut by throwing it against a mirror trick from Baadshah, except more wistful instead of blunt.

(In case you don’t remember, Shahrukh is pretending to be in love with Twinkle here, and at some point he shows off by throwing a walnut against a mirror so that it bounces back perfectly split in 2.  And he says that he can do it without breaking the mirror, because his heart is whole.  And of course, then he falls in love and the trick stops working.  Also, only in Indian film can you say “My goodness, that woman’s midriff looks exactly like her mother’s!”)

Final thing I really liked, is how exactly perfect Alia’s trauma is.  I was dreading a sexual abuse reveal, which would have made the movie way too dark for me.  And at the same time, I was dreading a “first world problems” kind of reveal, that it really was just because her parents were pressuring her to get married and she was worried about her career.  But the actual trauma is a legitimate trauma, to feel abandoned and rejected and lied to by her parents at a very young age, that is the kind of thing that can seriously mess you up for life.  But it is also forgivable (well, for some people.  She was so chubby and cute!!!  How could her parents have left her????).  Her parents were trying their best, maybe another less sensitive and shy child would have been fine with all the moving around, and no one meant to hurt her.

Most importantly, without needing to spell it out for the female audience, this is a trauma that only came about because she was a girl.  Her parents had two children, and her brother got to travel with them, while she was left at their grandparents.  Her mother even says “I can’t travel with two children!” implying “I can only take one, and obviously it will be the boy.”  And today, her brother is complimented for his career advancements, his schooling, his everything.  Her mother makes all his favorite meals and throws a huge party when he comes home.  And when Alia returns, there is a small meal and a lot of pressure to get married.

The details are different than the would be for a different family, Alia was never hungry or cold or over-worked, but when you get down to it, her parents only had limited resources and they gave them to the boy child.  Just like a farmer family that lets their daughters starve or puts them in the fields while the son goes to school, or a middle class family that marries their daughter off at 17 while their son is kept home as long as possible.  Or heck, a family in America from any ethnic background where the boy is allowed to go out for sports and extracurriculars at school, while the daughter is expected to rush home and help take care of her young siblings.  That’s the real trauma, not the abandonment, but the knowing she was abandoned because they loved her brother more, because she was a girl.  And it’s not something Gauri Shinde, the director, bothered to spell out.  Because the audience she wanted, the audience she made the film for, they would understand it immediately.

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39 thoughts on “Dear Zindagi SPOILER Review: This is a Movie Made For Women, Start To Finish

  1. Spoiler review before the non-spoiler one? I didn’t read it. So tell me just one thing: I am supremely uninterested in this movie. Neither the trailers, nor Aalia, nor the KJo connection did anything to make me want to see it. However, I loved English Vinglish, and thus was eager to see what Gauri Shinde’s next film would be, until the details of DZ started seeping out. So, would this interest me? (Note: I hate the usual KJo type of movies, had no interest in ADHM, and everything I’ve read about it here only reinforces my decision not to see it).

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    • You should see it, if you liked English/Vinglish. It is very similar, a story about a woman finding herself. Only this time it is a 20 – something, so instead of issues revolving around husband and kids and feeling left behind, it is about bad break-ups and parents who pressure her to get married and feeling like her career will never start.

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  2. I only got around to watching English Vinglish a couple of weeks ago, and it really whetted my appetite for seeing Dear Zindagi. Even so, I was expecting a nice light entertainment with enough Shah Rukh to warm me up on a chilly November day. This is so much more! I think it is going to have even more global appeal than EV, because the challenges in Kaira’s life are so universal.

    I am going to quibble a bit with your gender reading, only because I am not much of a fan of binary constructions of gender. The fourth wave of feminism (which I think we can see on the horizon, now that the third wave has been around for a generation) is going to have to let go of the idea of many socially constructed features of “femininity” being some kind of positive natural urge or birthright. Pink, for example, which is as artificial a marker of femininity as any of the social expectations you list. Sorry, I wrote the book on that one, so I carry my own personal pink and blue soapbox around with me.

    But that really is just a small quibble. The other messages about gender are so positive, powerful, so progressive, and so amiably portrayed that they are (we can only hope) irresistible. The first one that stands out for me is the gay friend, who is just a knebbishy guy, not a stereotype. That short conversation about his BD is pure gold. The men aren’t caddish, chanvinist dudes; they are three-dimensional representatives of their respective generations, from the old school uncle to the little brother — who is an absolute charmer. The only exception is Jug, who breaks the mold for male behavior for men of his age — the uncle and the father — in the same way that he blazed a trail for younger men (actually those men, when they were young) in DDLJ.

    So much to love. I love the ensemble feel of the actors playing her family and friends. I love the message about mental health. I love Alia’s proformance!!! I love how I felt at the end. I tried to remember the last time a movie was so entertaining, so complex, and so happy at the end, and the one that popped into my head was An Unmarried Woman (1978), my favorite women’s liberation era film.

    I am definitely seeing this one again.

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    • I was thinking about American 1970s movies during this too! Except it was better than a lot of those. I haven’t seen An Unmarried Woman (although I remember my parents talking about it, it is one of those movies they saw in theaters when it came out and have brought it up in conversations for years since then, because it was so striking). But I did take a film class on the sexual revolution in film, and the one we saw that was closest to this was Diary of a Mad Housewife. Which had a lot of interesting themes, but was soooooooo heavy handed and specific to its era and place and really caught up in the ideas that had just been introduced.

      This movie felt so much more natural, you know? Like the starting point wasn’t “these are the points I want to make”, but rather “who is my heroine?” And then all of the social statements just kind of arose naturally out of her life.

      I was really struck by the idea of the little brother too! It WASN’T vilifying men, it wasn’t even blaming him for being the “good child”. Alia, and the film, rightfully put the blame for that on their parents.

      And, while I never really trusted Kunal, I love that the guys weren’t totally bad, because it kind of justified Alia’s decision to date and explore. She was “safe” with them mostly, it was okay for her to hang out with guys who weren’t arranged by her parents, women shouldn’t be afraid to date and make friends with people of the opposite sex. Just not Kunal Kapoor, because his whole thing is just way way too practiced. And also, he is your boss.

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      • I rewatched An Unmarried Woman within the last year or so, and was reblown away. It has aged very well. Also Alan Bates: me::Shah Rukh Khan: you. (King of Hearts!!!!!) Even though Frank Langella (Diary of a Mad Housewife) once cradled my face in his hands and asked me to do a favor for him.

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  3. nice review! though u spoiled it .
    and how can u say indian society when you don’t know anything . it has its traditions and culture unlike america where people are now becoming racist(after trump).

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    • Thank you! I wanted to put up a spoiler review right away, because I knew several of my commentators had already seen it, and I wanted them to have a place to discuss. There is a non-spoiler review going up soon.

      And, unfortunately, America has always been racist. And also not-racist. It just depends on which American you talk to.

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  4. Pingback: Dear Zindagi NO SPOILERS Review: The Biggest Flaw is Shahrukh’s Hotness | dontcallitbollywood

  5. Another movie which dealt with childhood abandonment is Manichitrathazhu which showed Shobana’s mental problems started way back in her childhood was when her parents took her away from her stable and loving environment at her grandparents’.The Hindi version sort of glosses over it.But the Malayalam version deals with how she pined for her parents.Yet at the same time she had a breakdown when she was taken away from her grandparents.

    Indian society is very conservative when it comes to dealing with mental health problems.Nobody wants ‘that’ in their gene pool.So chances of getting married would come down.Companies would hesitate to hire such an individual.Society would be a lot more forgiving of Alia’s serial dating than her mental issues.And heaven help her if she had decided to see a psychiatrist rather than a therapist.Which is why Deepika Padukone’s decision to ‘come out’ and talk about her depression was very brave.I don’t think there is any problem getting prescriptions filled here in India.Why should it?Rather the stigma of facing the pharmacist might be more troublesome.But then, if you can deal with the smirks when you buy a sanitary napkin,bra or a romance novel with a scantly clad couple in a passionate clinch, then facing the pharmacist should be no big deal.

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    • Good point about Manichitrathazhu! I forgot about that.

      Your point about the stigma reminds me of a desi friend of mine who was having some pretty bad problems in medical school, but she resisted and resisted going to the school therapist, because then “people would know” and she thought it might affect her standing in school or something. I couldn’t understand that, because firstly of course therapy would be confidential so people wouldn’t know, and secondly why would there be a stigma? I thought it was because of the pressure of med school, something about that environment making her feel like she had to be perfect, but now I am thinking maybe it was something about being desi making her feel like therapy is a shameful.

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  6. Alert: Contains some opinions which are harsh enough and too personal. Read at your own risk.

    After a small-size war with fellow friends vying of tickets, I managed to win a ticket and watched the film in a multiplex, today morning, in my home town. After this very personal creature (why not a creation you shall come to know if read) came to an end, I walked out of the hall and boarded a bus. During the journey, I saw a woman who was yelling at couples. This time, I didn’t know how to understand that.

    Dear Zindagi is a strange creature. It is not just a big, fat script (2.5 hours!) literally translated onto the screen, but also has a part of everyone working in it to keep it alive. So much that, the film starts to be like a living being. I mean literally. So many silences, pauses, and too real for comfort. I loved the film, but there is something I did hate in it. One is the indulgent hammering of the “message”. We get it, to be non judgemental. But contradictions do happen. Sample the scene where Khan asks Kaira about her boyfriends and she yells at him for “slut-shaming”. His painful reaction is a beautiful cinematic expression, for sure. It is also understandable that Kaira’s past does make her feel like that, to retort even before someone says something. But, to blame every male stereotypically as conservative idiots and judging evil souls, is it feminism? or a hurried and passionate inclination towards feminist ideals? I don’t know. Why is it always a girl? Is every male heartless and chauvinistic? I don’t know. But with what feminism is being shown in films today (I mean the way), it is giving an impression that no woman is nearly close being to a Lady Macbeth and no male is as benevolent as a Forrest Grump, even in the wildest dreams. Gross! If I am sounding chauvinistic, fine abuse me. I am okay with that. Because, that is what today’s society seems to love: No is a No, especially if a male is around. Fine.

    The second issue I have with this film is that it is staggeringly verbal. So much that after a point, conversations sound white noises. Do we need words for everything? Should “everything” be explained in words? But I am not someone who stays away from a film’s merits because he hates its aspects. The makers must be appreciated for three things for sure. One is to shed light on how therapy and psychiatrist-consulting is often criticised, and that too in a way that it stings hard. Second, for a brilliant casting, especially Shahrukh (because modesty is something this guy was never “allowed” to portray properly and he sounds really like a therapist). Third and final, the cinematography.

    Towards the end, I was left with two feelings: Sadness that I expected too much from Gauri Shinde who made a honest attempt on life which not all may approve of. And, a feeling of disgust to see faux feminists ruling the roost and men being blamed single-mindedly. Perhaps, the next time I meet a girl, I may have to say like Shahrukh did, “I am Subhash, and I am not chauvinistic”. Sigh!

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    • You are right, it is very verbal! Much more so than most Indian films. But, I’ll allow it, just this once, Because it is showing talk therapy, so there would have to be a lot of talking.

      I don’t know if this will change the way you look at this picture, and other feminist products, but I think what this film and other things you may have read or seen are talking about is not male chauvinism but patriarchal society. Male chauvinism is men, individual men, thinking they are better than women and acting accordingly. And, as you say, not every man (or even necessarily most men) are like that.

      But a patriarchal society means that there are certain assumptions and behaviors that everyone, man or woman, is complicit in, And we, all of us, need to question them and move past it. It’s not blaming any particular person or gender, it’s just saying “this is what is, we need to change it.” In this film, Alia is the one who fails in her relationships, her boyfriends are generally decent to her (well, maybe not Kunal Kapoor, but even he just reacted to what she was doing). Her father is better to her, and she has a better relationship with him, than her mother. Her little brother is one of the most supportive people in her life. I can’t really point to an “evil” man in the film.

      What is evil is the general pressures of society, pressures which are making her feel bad for dating multiple men, like she has to justify having a career, like her parents don’t love her as much as her brother. That’s where her problems come from. And the film isn’t saying that the solution is to yell at people, but to try to understand them, and not be afraid. Alia forgives her parents, her boyfriends, everyone else. And she accepts responsibility for her own life and doing what she wants.

      As you point out, her initial knee jerk defensiveness when she is talking to Shahrukh about her past dating life is not healthy. Which is why it is addressed in that therapy session, it is a result of her unhealthy feelings of guilt, and Shahrukh gets through to her that she doesn’t need to feel guilty, and then she stops acting like that.

      But I still understand if the film made you uncomfortable. Like I say in my headline, this is a movie made for women to watch, not men. I know when I go see the latest action film, with sexy ladies draped all over the place without much dialogue and the hero striding around going from woman to woman, I feel very uncomfortable on the way out. I can still enjoy the movie, but I know it wasn’t made for me, and that’s an odd feeling.

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      • Thanks for taking effort to explain.

        I was taught the difference between misogyny and patriarchal society issues by Telugu and Tamil films which I watched in my childhood. One of our professors used a clip from Aval Appadithan, an old Tamil film to explain it better. I am giving the link, it is properly subtitled. You can check it if interested, it is barely three minutes long.

        Coming back to the discussion, I too feel awkward watching few films you specified towards the end. I also enjoy watching films on woman liberation. But, there is a difference in this case. What bothers me here is that there is no concern in the drama, there is only frustration. Frustration that sounds like a voice that found feminist ideals alluring enough to swoon over. Gauri’s English Vinglish and Dear Zindagi may have been different films, but the characters are facing similar issues. So what if the age was not the same? On a primal level, both are humans and are women living in a patriarchal society. When you see Sridevi struggle at the bakery (or something similar) or being helped by Amitabh previously, it feels wonderful when she triumphs on her own merits. Things were subtle. Here, with all due respect, the climax sounds a repetition of Highway minus the uncle thread. Woman empowerment is good, respecting them is nice, and addressing their problems is heart-warming. Make them heroes, no issues, but not at the cost of men please. Again, if I am sounding chauvinistic, please read till the end.

        I am not talking about evil men in my previous comment too. I grew sick of the stereotypical description of men as evil enough. Not just in films, in real life as well. Let me share two real life stories of mine. Trust me, these are real. Once, I was returning from my college and was walking back to home. I and a girl (of my age, early twenties) were the only ones on the road, we were strangers and the path was the same until a distant point. She was uncomfortable and hence, I moved a bit distant only to avoid any misconceptions. Two police constables were coming and the girl ran to them and said that I was stalking her. Police caught me and gave a couple of punches, until I showed my ID card. They realised that I was going to my home which was two buildings away. They apologised to me and my parents and rendered first aid. Then, the girl came and “advised” not to stalk her. What can I say, tell me? I am not angry on her or the police who beat me, all were being just careful and I appreciate them wholeheartedly. I mean it. But, I was afraid of the perceptions girls developed on their fellow humans, the men.

        In another incident, I and my friend went to a multiplex to watch a film along with his sister, also a close friend of mine. I don’t know who cooked up the rumours, but her parents believed that I and her were more than just friends. To avoid issues, we avoided each other for a week. Then, rumours came up that we broke up and she is dating someone else. Her parents scolded her, and she in turn blamed me for getting her the undeserved tag of a “loose” girl. She asked me not to show up again. For something which I never done, why am I made to suffer? Even when I tried to explain, her parents understood but she was quite adamant. Even today, when she sees me, she frowns as if I am a traitor. What can I do? I just gave up to avoid further inconvenience.

        Watching a film made for women from start to finish, it left me with mixed emotions. For what it tries to tell about therapy and liberation, Dear Zindagi deserves respect. I mean it.

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        • Your stories remind me of what I started noticing when I was doing my close-watch of DDLJ. The first time I watched the movie, heck, the first several times i watched it, I saw Kajol and Shahrukh’s initial interactions as “he’s a flirt, she’s a good girl.” I put the blame completely on him.

          But I when I watched it knowing I was going to be writing about it, looking at the dialogue line by line and all the little acting choices, I discovered that Shahrukh wasn’t really doing anything wrong, the problem was with Kajol!!! She had been so conditioned to fear men, to distrust anyone but her father, that Shahrukh’s completely harmless flirting caused a massive over-reaction. And Shahrukh, over and over again, put up with her rudeness and insulting misunderstandings of his intention. Not only that, he is respecting her by flirting with her. He could so easily have come on the authoritarian male and told her to just be quiet and let him take care of things. But instead he is treating her as an equal, and that’s what is making her nervous, because she is so sure that boys and girls can’t just be friendly, he must have “evil” intentions.

          And looking back, I think there might have been the same thing in some of my desi friends in college. I remember one girl thinking a male TA was in love with her because he was joking with her a lot in class, another one being scared when she went to see her 70 year old male professor alone in his office. And this isn’t because their parents sat them down and said “all men want to rape you.” It was just sort of in the air, underlying everything, an awareness that no man could be trusted. And that’s in America! Where boys and girls are expected to talk to each other and know each other and all that.

          I don’t know if there is an easy solution for this attitude, certainly it is something that is so ingrained in girls that they aren’t even consciously thinking about it, and something so ingrained in the parents of girls that they don’t even realize they are teaching them a warped view of the world.

          I can tell you that it is a miserable miserable way to live! Again, from seeing it up close in my friends, it leads you to spend your life going from school to home, never feeling entirely safe or comfortable unless you are in your parents’ house, never making any close friendships outside the family (male or female), and never being able to take any kind of a risk, from going on vacation with friends to riding the train alone to wearing a slightly more revealing outfit. Bringing it back to Dear Zindagi, Alia may have felt guilty and ashamed for her lifestyle, but so much better to feel a little guilt but otherwise be happy, than to cut out so much from your life from fear.

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  7. This review has been written so beautifully ❤ I totally loved it. Infact you are 110% right there that Gauri Shinde didn't and even there was no need for her to spell out the trauma; the audience it was meant for – got it. 🙂

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  8. I liked it very much (despite having another audience member one seat away from me who was breathing heavily through her mouth the whole time – a little off-putting but I survived!). A couple of little ‘squeeee’ things for me – SRK used eyedrops! And I ask myself does he really need to use eyedrops and they just wrote it in to the script? And if he doesn’t use eyedrops why was it written in? Anyway, I now have to use eyedrops and his using the eyedrops reminded me that I had forgotten my lunchtime dose of eyedrops. And we have the same water glasses and I know that is down to the props dept but it is still ‘squeee’. So a couple of superficial observations…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! The eyedrops! And also, at one point, he coughs! My friend and I were POSITIVE that he was dying. Because movie people never take pills or use eyedrops or do anything like that, unless they are dying. But we never found out that he was even sick, so I guess he just needed eyedrops? It was kind of a nice “old man” indicator, both that he needed this minor medical assistance, and that he was so confident and unembarrassed about using them.

      The last time he used them was when she was saying good-bye, and his eyes started to run after he used them, which made me wonder if maybe it was supposed to be the character hiding his tears. Like, he knew he was going to cry, so he did the eyedrops instead, so she would think he wasn’t really crying. But that doesn’t work for the first time.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Something else I was wondering – when Kaira had to move out of her apartment – where did she store her stuff? I know it has nothing to do with the storyline but it had me pondering – do they have self-storage units in Mumbai or did one of her friends offer to store everything for her?

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    • From the discussion of the landlord and stuff, I had the impression she was subletting. So maybe most of the furniture was his? So she just had to store her pictures and trinkets and things.

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  12. Excellent review.
    I was going to disagree with you on one point. When Kaira’s parents only had resources to take care of one kid and went with Kiddo instead of her, it did not occur to me as anything to do with her gender while watching the movie. I had assumed it was only because Kiddo was just an infant at that time who needed his parents’ attention much more than the 5-6 year old Kaira.
    That is what I was going to argue in this comment when I realised that if you swap the kids’ genders, I somehow can not picture the parents abandoning their son in favour of their new born daughter. They would have found a way to handle both kids even during their turbulent professional lives.
    Brilliant catch!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so impressed with Gauri Shinde for how she outlined the situation, because I think that is exactly the reaction she was trying for. It’s that kind of invisible gender preference, which seems logical on the surface, but then you flip the genders, and realize it wouldn’t happen like that. For me, it was thinking of it in terms of if the baby was the one who couldn’t travel. Would her mother have left her newborn son with his grandparents so she could travel with her husband? Or would she have left her husband and lived with her son and parents in India instead? Just like she could have done to begin with, stayed with Kaira and her grandparents in India while her husband traveled. But she picked her husband over her daughter. And I don’t think she would have made the same choice between her husband and her son.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: Dear Zindagi Full Summary (SPOILERS, of course) Part 1: Right From the Start, We Learn This is a Woman’s Story | dontcallitbollywood

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  15. Finally saw this yesterday, and really liked it. Random thoughts:

    The actors elevated the material to some extent–especially the occasionally clunky dialogue and the often horrible or overbearing music (to me). But I respect what Gauri tried to do and largely did accomplish with this film–especially around misconceptions about mental health and showing something of what good therapy looks like. I’m looking forward to watching it a second time when I don’t have to worry that the Jug/Kaira relationship will tip into unethical territory. But the romantic in me loves that the chair was off balance and squeaked for Shah Rukh at the end! I’m going to be watching every one of their scenes together repeatedly when I buy this DVD. Sigh. Thank God my therapist is a lovely but not attractive-to-me woman. I agree that queer issues were addressed deftly and poignantly. And finally, I want the astronaut dog (Laika?) t-shirt that her friend is wearing when they have the discussion about his therapy.

    One reason I was happy to finally see the movie was that I could then safely read your spoiler review and recaps. So thanks!

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    • I noticed that t-shirt too!!!! The costuming for the whole movie was really great, I loved Alia’s outfits which were flattering and interesting, but not “sexy”, clearly just stuff she liked wearing. And I loved that all the women had similar but slightly different clothing, all some variation of indo-western but unique to their personalities.

      Liked by 1 person

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  17. I just wanted to know what Kaira noticed by looking at different objects(toy soldier, judge’s hammer, that recycled glasses, etc) in Dr Jehangir Khan’s room during her last session. This was after he gently rejected to get involved with her.

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  18. Your review is quite uneducated, considering this was supposed to be a film about mental health – which it did a poor, poor job at.

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    • Sorry you disagree with me. If you want to dig more into the film, I also did a series of scene by scene discussions, which deal with additional themes, including mental health.

      Like

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