Dear Zindagi Full Summary Part 2 (SPOILERS): Let’s Talk Color Tones!

I have now seen this movie 4 times, which means in theory I should be able to remember in in exact detail and give a perfect summary.  But in reality means I am going to mix up the order of a couple of scenes and forget an important line and stuff.  Oh well, someday my brain-recorder technology will be perfected and I won’t have to worry about this any more. (SPOILER review here, non-spoiler here, and part 1 of the summary here)

The first scene in this part, right after the bit I just talked about when Alia comes home and greets her lovely maid and settles into her apartment, the transition felt a little abrupt which I eventually realized was because of the color tones.  Which made me start thinking about the colors used in this movie and what they all mean.

It’s a standard part of putting together a film to think about the color schemes for various locations and what they might mean.  This film doesn’t exactly break new ground with the meaning, but I was interested in how often the colors were used to give us an idea of what Alia was feeling without her actually needing to say anything.  Helpful, since this is such an internal movie.

Generally, Yellow=warmth, home, happiness.  Blue=cool, calm, peace.  Green=growing things, nature, freshness.  Red=passionate emotions.  This shouldn’t be anything new to you, this is why hospitals tend to use blue tones, and kitchens are always yellow.  It’s like a natural human instinct to react to these colors in this way.  And it’s a standard part of designing the mise-en-scene for a film to take that into account.

(And sometimes directors completely lose their minds and go way way over the top with micro-managing the colors.)

In this film, there are 2 dominant color schemes, yellow-brown-cream, like in her apartment.  And blue-grey-white like in the restaurant where the very next scene takes place.  When Alia feels warm and safe and comfortable, everything is yellow (her apartment, Shahrukh’s house later, Jackie’s house).  More than that, yellow is “her”, happy or sad or scared, if she is in yellow, it means she is herself.  When she feels cold, scared, out of place, pretending, it is blue (her parent’s house, the restaurant scene we are coming too).  When she is neutral, there’s a nice mixture of colors.  Most often this is what we see in her work scenes, like the opening of the film, a neutral lighting and a normal healthy variety within the color scheme.  And when everything is just spinning out of control and horrible, which only happens a couple of times, there is green.  But not a warm growing green, a sickening kind of green.

So, the restaurant scene!  And another Alia character touch, when she wants to distance herself from things, she uses her camera.  Or her phone in general.  She takes a picture of her food, and then Skypes a group or something? (when my little cousin is in town for Christmas, I have got to have her show me how to do this!)  The group is named “JFK”, which is cute, and I later realized was for “Jackie, Fatima, Kiara”, there tight group of friends.  Anyway, she sends the food picture with a not “so sad…”  And Jackie and Fatima respond right away, I don’t remember what Jackie says, but Fatima says “Don’t do it!  Don’t do it!”

I’m doing a lot of hopping ahead here, because that is how the movie is structured.  The actors and the script know all the details of their relationships and personalities from the start, but the audience is just dropped in trying to pick up clues along the way.  But for the purposes of de-constructing the film, I want to look at the stuff we only learn later in terms of these early scenes.  So, Jackie and Fatty and Kiera!  Who are they?

We learn that they are childhood friends, since at least “8th standard” whatever that is.  And in terms of personality, there is definitely a 3 siblings vibe to it.  Fatty is the responsible oldest one who takes care of the other two.  Kiera is the troubled middle-child.  And Jackie is the happy baby of the family who everyone indulges and ignores.  So Fatty (I hate that nickname, but it is a lot easier to type than “Fatima”, so I am sticking with it) texts “Don’t do it!” because she is worried and is trying to save Kiera from a bad decision.  And Jackie texts something joke-y and unremarkable, because it’s not her job to give advice.

Oh, and then Angad Bedi arrives.  In ANY OTHER MOVIE, I would call him “the handsome one”.  But the poor man is coming after Kunal Kapoor and before Ali Zafar and Aditya Roy Kapur, so he is the average guy in this case.

Image result for angad bedi

(Poor Angad Bedi)

They greet each other, and then someone comes up to shake his hand (I think we learned in dialogue earlier that he is the owner of the restaurant), and Alia excuses herself to go to the bathroom while they talk.  On the way back, she notices a group of young people trying to get in.  The matre ‘d (no idea how to spell that, and spellcheck doesn’t know either) tells them they don’t fit the dress code, they argue that it is a birthday, and besides that woman just went in wearing shorts!  Alia is watching, she looks over at Angad and makes a face to ask him to let them in, and he smiles at her, and then waves an okay to the matre’d (still don’t know how to spell it).

So, what the HECK was that?  It just stands out as completely needless.  The whole scene would have flowed much more easily if we had just seen Angad sit down and played the conversation out all of a piece, instead of having this random interruption.

I’ve got a couple of theories.  First, the closing credits list people in a deleted scene including, I think “Sid’s ex-girlfriend”.  I wonder if there was supposed to be something else that happened when Alia left the table?  If she saw him talking to another woman or something, and the waving the kids into the restaurant was just the beginning of that bit?

Second, I guess this is important to show that Alia is a good person?  She is generously doing something for others just because they seem nice.  And Angad Bedi is nice too, generously helping her out.  It’s good to see this little interaction, because it gives us the vaguest hint of how out of control Alia has already become by the point we meet her in the movie.  I’ll come back to that in a second.

Alia goes back the table and sits down, and Angad immediately starts being just super nice.  He asks about her shoot, tells her next time he is going with her as the caterer, and is clearly happy to be sitting with her and interested in her career and proud of what she is doing and all the things you want from a boyfriend.  And then once he finishes, Alia says “I had sex with Raghuvendra”.

(Also, the whole thing reminded me so much of this!)

Angad Bedi only gets the one scene, but he does a really good job with it.  His face starts working here, and it’s not melodramatic or over the top.  It’s just little flinches in his eyebrows and mouth.  The moment before he breaks down, not the moment it happens.  You know that this is a huge betrayal, and also a shock, so out of nowhere that it is taking him a moment to process it.  Which is important for the reason I’ll get to in a second.

And then Alia stands and walks a little bit away from the table before turning to say “I’m sorry”.  And she is now standing against the light, with a little bit of yellow defining the “Alia” space, while Angad is still completely in the blue and white, cut off from her, no longer part of her world and she is no longer part of his.

Okay, the shock and the importance of their little byplay with the kids wanting to get into the restaurant!  The first time I watched this, I just accepted that Alia’s issues were part of her romantic relationships and she probably was a serial cheater.  But watching it more closely on multiple viewings, and knowing what was going to happen, I started to see it a different way.

Angad is so comfortable with her, so trusting, so happy.  It makes me think that this was a completely unremarkable romance.  No drama, just little things like dinners where he asks about her work and she asks him to let the kids into the restaurant.  He’s a nice guy, and she’s a nice girl when she is with him.  And that’s why his reaction isn’t anger or sadness, but just complete shock.  Because they didn’t have the kind of relationship where he would ever have thought of her cheating.

It’s all Kunal Kapoor’s fault!  I blame him utterly!  Notice she said “I slept with Raghuvendra”, not just “I slept with someone else”.  She didn’t just randomly cheat on her nice boyfriend, it was someone in particular who made her take this step.  Kunal Kapoor is a baaaaaaaaaaad choice.  Older, more powerful, makes her feel uncertain.  And almost certainly he was flirting and coming on to her for a long time, even though he knew she was in a long term relationship.

I do think her long-term issues meant that Alia was going to break up with Angad at some point.  And maybe that she stayed with him longer than she should have because she was clinging to certainty.  And those same long term issues are why she was able to be seduced by Kunal Kapoor.  If it hadn’t been sleeping with Kunal, it would have been something else that triggered this spiral.  But it was sleeping with Kunal, Alia was a different person just a few months before this movie started a nice happy confident jokey person, until she blew up her relationship and dived into a new one without thinking.

But first, long night of the soul!  The break-up set off a bunch of things in Alia’s head, we see her spinning, literally spinning, around her apartment, slapping her cheeks, repeating over and over “it’s okay it’s okay ALL GOOD”.  Oh, and this scene is all kinds of yellow, because it is just Alia with herself in her own head.  We may only get a little bit of her relationship with Angad, but the fact that this break-up is making her spin out so much tells us it wasn’t just a flash in the pan, and that she isn’t a serial cheater, something else is going on that is making her blow up her life (KUNAL KAPOOR! YOU BAD BAD MAN!  And also, her underlying emotional insecurities that are coming to the surface for a variety of reasons).

The other thing I found really interesting is what a good job this does of showing failed “self-soothing”.  “Self-soothing” is what parenting books talk about babies needing to learn.  If they start to cry, let them cry themselves out, until the learn how to make themselves feel safe on their own.  You see small kids struggle with this all the time, how do I make myself feel better and stop myself from crying, if Mommy isn’t here to pick me up?  It’s a skill you have to learn as part of, I don’t even want to say “growing-up”, more like as part of moving past babyhood.

(See how well this baby is doing once she finds her thumb?  That’s the kind of mature reasonable behavior Alia needs to learn)

But Alia’s mechanisms are all messed up and she can’t seem to make herself feel better.  The editing is frantic here, her movements aren’t quite coordinated, and it feels like she is just babbling.  In a “normal” film with a “normal” heroine post-break-up, you would see her crying and eating ice cream, or on a long phone call with her friends, or, I don’t know, knitting.  Some activity that is clearly unusual, but is also clearly having an effect and making her feel better.  All the stuff Alia is doing her, it’s not helping her.  She needs new techniques.  Stuff that doesn’t feel like what a 5 year old would have come up with then they had a fight with a friend in kindergarten.

And we’re running!  Out of Alia’s head now, back into the multi-colored real world on a running trail in a park.  She runs and runs, and then catches up with two women, Fatty and Jackie.  They have slowed down, and Alia immediately asks Fatty “What are we doing?”  Because Fatty’s the Didi!  Or, Mom, depending on how you see the group.  She holds up 3 fingers.  They are resting for 3 minutes?  Running 3 laps?  No idea.  But Alia seems to understand it.  And then Jackie looks over and says “Hey, is that Angad?”  Alia looks, a little panicky, they says “No, it isn’t!”  And Jackie says “Too bad.  Cute though!”  Fatty points out that Angad was cute, but he was also nice, too nice for Alia.  See, Fatty gets her!  And therefore says it in a bit of a worried tone, like she knows there is something going on with Alia.  Alia ignores it, and goes over to the bench where they left their stuff I think?  Alia pulls on a tiny red jacket, and Jackie says “Hey!  That reminds me of our jackets from school!  8th standard? 6th?”  And Alia corrects her “10th.  And it is the same jacket.  See, I keep some things!”  Fatty points out that she keeps things, not people.  Jackie points out that they are still there “so are we things?”

Well, that tells you everything you need to know about this friendship!  The 3 of them have been together since school, crossed that invisible line from “friends” to “family”.  Like I said earlier, Fatty is the mature questioning one, Alia is the rebel troubled one, and Jackie is the funny baby.  And they are right, it is strange that Alia has remained so close to them when she pushes away everyone else.  It’s “special”.  That’s a realization that Alia will come to much later in the film, that Jackie and Fatty are even more important to her than she realized, that they are amazing people for being able to break through her reserve and stay there in her life.

Oh, and then we get to see their dynamic in action when a couple bumps into Alia, and she yells at them for being so in love that they can’t see other people.  And then grabs a rock and makes to throw it at them.  Jackie is a little upset and a little excited, but helps Fatty to hold her back.  I’m guessing this is their dynamic since childhood.  Jackie needed people to look up to, Fatty needed people to take care of, and Alia needed people who would stop her when she went crazy and forgive her afterward.

Next scene continues our exploration of this dynamic, and how Alia is with her friends versus on her job or with her love interests.  They are all in store front, vamping and trying on clothes, Fatty and Jackie and Alia, but also two guys whose names I don’t remember.  Fatty is trying to get them organized, reminding them that they are supposed to be helping her put together costumes, but they are all running off in various directions.  And then the smaller of the two says he has to leave for his “DD” appointment, his “Hindi-word-I-couldn’t-catch-that-means-head-or-brain Doctor”.  The friends casually ask if he’s still seeing that “DD”, and he says he is.  They aren’t avoiding the topic out of discomfort, but they also aren’t asking a ton of questions.  It’s just not a concern for them, or something they are terribly interested in.

What is interesting is what Alia is doing this whole time.  While they talk and joke behind her, she is starring at her reflecting in a mirror, gently moving her face and watching it.  She has removed herself from the people closest to her, both physically and emotionally, retreated into her own head.

What is also interesting is how this bit is filmed.  It’s not showy about it, but it’s really technically difficult.  We start from the perspective of the mirror, only aware it is a mirror from how Alia is looking into it.  And then we switch angles, and we see Alia and the mirror she is looking in.  And the whole time the rest of the people are chatting and moving about.  The angle switch feels seamless, the conversation and movement around doesn’t break.  And yet they must have done so kind of re-arranging of the room, removing a camera or moving a mirror, while it was happening.  Just, super clever!

Later, Alia is at work, going up and down on a camera crane, filming an ad featuring a little boy and his mother.  The camera and Alia’s eyes linger on the mother and son image for slightly longer than normal, there’s something there that triggers her self-doubts.  And then we get our first Alia voice-over, when she thinks “I could shoot a better ad then this.”

I would complain about the clumsy way the voice-overs were used, except that I didn’t even notice how clumsy they were until viewing 3.  So I guess they work after all!  There’s only 3 of them, for the things that I guess they decided in post-production really weren’t clear without voice over.  I suppose that makes sense, right after this Alia walks rapidly outside the soundstage, slamming the door behind her after this, and it might have been a little confusing to figure out why she was so upset if we didn’t have the voice over.  As it is, there are all kinds of levels going on, seeing the mother and son, making it think about how she has bucked social pressure to have a career, and then feeling resentful and unappreciated and worried that her sacrifices might not have been worth it, and all of it coming out in a big stew in her head.

Which is why, when she storms out of the studio and sees her skinnier male friend, she glances at him, and asks him about his therapy.  Not aggressively, but like she is curious about it.  Like maybe she is thinking she needs it too.  And this is the awesome bit I talked about in the review, where he says he goes to therapy not so he can tell other people he is gay, but so he can tell himself he is gay.  And Alia responds with a quick supportive squeeze of his shoulder.  A gay positive message, and an indication that Alia is a supportive caring friend (when she’s not in the middle of her own nervous breakdown).

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13 thoughts on “Dear Zindagi Full Summary Part 2 (SPOILERS): Let’s Talk Color Tones!

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  4. Pingback: Dear Zindagi Summary Part 6 (I think?): Shahrukh Gets Close To The Heart of Alia’s Dysfunction | dontcallitbollywood

  5. Pingback: Dear Zindagi Full Summary Part 7 (SPOILERS): the Ending! Almost! | dontcallitbollywood

  6. Pingback: Dear Zindagi Part 8: The Epilogue! | dontcallitbollywood

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