Sunday, April 30, 2017

Jottings - Slice of life - 119 ( “Dear Zindagi” - Alia’s brilliance )

Jottings - Slice of life - 119 ( “Dear Zindagi” - Alia’s brilliance )
In one of the most arresting observations in metaphysical literature Friedrich Hegel, german philosopher and author of the “Phenomenology of spirit “ writes “..The bud disappears when the blossom breaks through, and we might say that the former is refuted by the latter; in the same way when the fruit comes, the blossom may be explained to be a false form of the plant’s existence…” Somehow, I was reminded of this statement when I watched Alia Bhatt’s brilliant performance in her 2016 film “Dear Zindagi” yesterday night. For an young actor, whose career began just few years ago, her transformation into one of the most accomplished and complete performers is incredible. To be honest, I stopped watching “Student of the year” midway ( Her first full length movie in 2012) because the movie was a calamity worth forgetting. Even in that wasted effort, I did notice Alia's freshness, vivacity and strikingly originality and effortless acting style. She was the only redeeming feature of that movie. The germ , the pregnant bud of acting talent was visible in her performance even then. Few years and couple of movies movies later, under better directors, stronger characterization and wider acceptance, Alia has quickly emerged from her chrysalis, infusing vigor and much needed breath of fresh air into an otherwise sedate, mechanical and repetitive nature of Hindi film ecosystem.
In an earlier review, I had written about “Udta Punjab” and the audacity of her role in it. Not many young heroines would attempt such a character so young in their career. One may argue, she had the backing of her powerful family; but even then, in an industry which demands glamor first, and acting later, it was a bold move. And the truth is she succeeded in her gamble. Her role in that film was critically and commercially a success, and from there on, her transformation into complete actress was just a step away. “Dear zindagi” was the just the right movie for her to showcase her complete art, and what she came up with in this movie is brilliant - a performance which can put her among the very best in world cinema.
A little about "Dear zindagi " as a movie and its premise. At the turn of twentieth century, Sigmund Freud revolutionized the study and diagnosis of the human mind. Until then its study was reserved for charlatans and magicians. Freud lifted it to a status of a science, and established the practice of systematically analyzing individual fears and complexes. He called the study “psychoanalysis” or the method of guided conversations with a trained psychiatrist ( a term which came into vogue after Freud). However, Freud made a fundamental assumption (which he claimed came from facts) in his approach that all mental illnesses and personality dysfunctions arose from an abused, repressed or otherwise uncomfortable childhood, and the only task of a psychologist was to unravel the fears lurking in the interior recesses of a patient’s mind, bring it to foreground and help them face and resolve it. Freud was so convinced of his theory, he brooked no opposition to this method. From simple eating disorders to unsolicited anger to deeply felt sexual problems, Freud liked to blame one parents or family. This is where his close friend and brilliant doctor Carl Jung parted ways with him. While Jung accepted Freud's methods, he wasn't convinced that everything that happens in ones life is to be blamed on ones supposedly tormented childhood. Life’s problems to him was much more deeper and wider than such a narrow prognosis. The reason I spent few lines talking about psychoanalysis is because “Dear Zindagi” is a story based upon this premise that a modern, talented, well read ,articulate, aggressive, outspoken girl who cannot commit to any relationship in her adult life can be traced back to the fact her Parents left her for few formative years to build a firm career for themselves. She moves ghostlike between one relationship to another hoping to find something stable and permanent , which , it seems was denied to her in childhood. Gauri Shinde’s story and direction meanders along trying to project “Kaira” - young cinematographer - as helpless, despite being superbly talented and attractive to opposite sex. She has no qualms sleeping with someone for a night, and then wondering what was it all about. Even when her bed mates are genuine and interested in continuing the relationship, our heroine backs off, because she has repressed memories of parents leaving her alone. (Quite extraordinary, I wonder how Freud would have reacted to this attitude). Anyway, Kaira meets psychotherapist Jehangir khan( a walk in the park for the veteran actor Shah Rukh), and slowly but steadily, he begins to untie the knots within her. The inevitable freudian conclusion of “blame it on your parents” comes out in the end, and then all is well.
From the above paragraph, it would seem to you, that I wasn't truly enamored by the movie or its story line. Yes, you are right. I would have switched the movie off, if not for the captivating performance of Alia bhatt, who raised the role of a terrified and talented kaira to perfection. Like Audrey Hepburn in “breakfast at Tiffanys”, Alia bears the brunt of this movie entirely on her young and nimble shoulders. Every frame smacks of sincerity, commitment and immersive understanding of her character. Not an expression out of place, or a dialogue incongruously delivered, or body language amiss. From start to finish, her performance sizzles with authenticity, vigor and confidence. Towards the end of the film, when she finally opens up to her doctor, recounts her traumatic separation from her parents as a child, the effect it had on her , and then breaks down into genuine, wholehearted copious adult tears for the first time - we , as audience, get a little teary eyed as well. Its a beautiful shot by Director Gauri. The camera moves around in angle, captures the icy adamance of strong girl breaking down as she speaks, until her tears wipes away all traces of negativity, and slowly bringing back serenity and composure to her wet cheeks and puffed eyes. Beautiful!!. Very few times have I fallen so much in love with an actor in the course of watching of movie. This was one such moment. Alia bhatt will now be on my lips along with few others artists who I truly enjoy and love.
Bollywood ( I hate to use this term, but I guess OED has accepted it, and so will I) has this practice of letting go of great talent by projecting them in mediocre films. Unless one is lucky, or as in Alia’s case a strong family backing and clout exists, it is difficult to sustain excellence in Indian film industry where commercial success means more to its makers than anything else. Fortunately, Alia can chose her roles. She has the luxury of doing so. I will pray and wish she picks her projects with care, as she has already shown capable of doing. God willing, we would definitely like to see more of her in future.
God bless…
yours in mortality,

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