Director: Shakun Batra
Cast: Deepika Padukone, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Ananya Panday, Dhairya Karwa, Naseeruddin Shah, Rajat Kapoor
Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime Video
Tu Marz Hai, Dawa Bhi: These five words from Gehraiyaan's title song encapsulate each character in the complex story woven by Shakun Batra together with writers Ayesha DeVitre and Sumit Roy. Gehraiyaan stars Deepika Padukone as Alisha, a yoga instructor, and Dhairya Karwa as Karan, the writer, a couple who are in a direct relationship. On the other hand, Ananya Pandey as Tia, who lives a life of privilege, and Siddhant Chaturvedi as Zain, a real estate man. The two are engaged and will soon have a lavish Tuscan wedding.
As the four meet, Shakun Batra begins to peel back the layers of Alisha, Tia and Zain's characters amidst the dreamy atmospheres of the Arabian Sea, Mumbai's luxury apartments and beachfront estates. As seen in the trailer, Alisha and Tia are cousins who grew up together but, as life goes on, they drift apart and their harsh reality now comes between them. Batra creates various moments of embarrassment and you can feel it in every frame. Deepika as Alisha and Ananya as Tia share this uncomfortable feeling on more than one occasion.
The magic of Patra's storytelling lies in the stills he created in conjunction with his book and cinematographer Kushal Shah. In Gehraiyaan, he did a lot of that using the ocean, reflections, and the color blue for inspiration. On the surface, Tia and Zayn's financially rich life seems perfect, but the deeper I dig, Batra reveals the flaws in each character.
Over the course of two and a half hours, Batra never loses control of the audience as the film's script flows effortlessly. From Alisha and Zayn's relationship to family stories, the characters are immersed in each other with each wave that the filmmaker uses as a metaphor. While
The first half of the film is quickly carried away by the sea breeze, it is the second half where life takes an ugly turn not only on an emotional level, but also professionally.
The pressure of this can be easily felt on the shoulders of Deepika and Siddhant, who do a great job of bringing it to the tire and keeping it authentic. Batra also weaves the plot of him into a tangled mess of lies, cheating, and mistrust that his support staff hold up so well. Ananya Panday lives Tia's characteristic life, as if she is tailor-made for the role, but she is overwhelmed by more intense emotions. While Kroh's theorem makes her presence palpable enough as she shares screen space with Deepika.
Shakun Batra, best known for his other family drama Kapoor & Sons, also introduces the drama in the plot development and climax of the film, making for a compelling narrative. His characters travel on a journey that is interconnected and full of flaws and yet you don't support anyone, you just live with them.
Deepika Padukone is truly the captain of this journey as the actress gives a heartbreaking performance. Whether sharing screen space with veteran Nasseruddin Shah or panic attacks, Deepika digs deep and brings out the best. She also gives the younger actors room to shine.
A notable feature of Gehraiyaan is also his empathic treatment of depression, suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and panic attacks. Using a board game of Snakes and Ladders as a metaphor for feeling stuck in the players' portrayal, the film's narration and makers are careful not to overdo it, but show just enough to evoke emotion. The film's dialogue adds substance to the script along with thoughtful background music.
Overall, Shakun Batra's Gehraiyaan is a deep dive into the past choices and relationships of an individual and a family, why we do it, and what we do. The director strikes a balance between intimacy, shock, sadness and, above all, love. Really worth it? Yes, sure.
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