You know something just doesn’t sit right when a film that intends to be deep and meaningful uses crashing waves to symbolise the passion that exists between two people and how far they can go to meet this very passion. It’s like ICSE English Literature, where the curtains aren’t just blue, they’re blue. For all the hype that was built around Shakun Batra’s Gehraiyaan, the film really should’ve stayed at sea, and never come to shore. I don’t want to discount someone’s hard work. Believe me, I’m all up for bad cinema too, sometimes I enjoy the daftness. But either a film like Gehraiyaan is “supposed to be” far away from being a bad film or we, as audience, shouldn’t be daft enough to have any expectations to begin with. Having said that, I never walk into a film with expectations, so, we’re not left with many options here. In simple words, Gehraiyaan is a bad film.
The idea of the films reeks with potential, especially in the hands of Shakun Batra and his team of writers, Ayesha Devitre Dhillon, Sumit Roy and Yash Sahai. This is a film about honest, real people with all their demons in place. On paper, the film seems to have gone to the depths of man (and woman), and hence the title, but on screen, it translates to absolutely nothing. For a film titled depths, think of Gehraiyaan as a yacht that sinks in dirty puddle waters. I don’t want to use the Hindi idiom for this, but that is genuinely what I feel about the film. Gehraiyaan is nothing but a candy coated advertisement of familial relationships.
Both of Shakun Batra’s previous films – the fun Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu and the tear jerker Kapoor And Sons Since 1921 – delved deep into the idea and meaning of family. Not that it’s a compulsion to do the same here too, but Batra does do it, and fails like never before. I hate to discourage someone like this, but the two hours, twenty-eight minutes I spent in front of my screen seemed like an absolute waste of time. Family is a very tricky concept, especially in India where we have parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins – all living under one roof. It’s the most intimate form of “to each his own”. So I give Batra the benefit of the doubt, that maybe this time he didn’t want to talk about it with so much complexity. This is what I thought midway through the film. But as the film progresses (and boy! does it progress s l o w l y) you see Batra delving deeper into the minds of his characters and how they see family. Deepika Padukone’s Alisha is always haunted by her past, Tia (Ananya Panday) wants to build a future together and hold people close, Zain (Siddhant Chaturvedi) has seen domestic abuse at home and Dhairya Karwa’s Karan is a little sorted when it comes to family. These are four genius conflicts at conflict with each other. Instead of using their force, Batra minimises the effect and creates a story of infidelity that really picks up in the second half but sinks right back into that muddy puddle minutes into its voyage.
Built on the idea of forbidden love, Gehraiyaan is flirtatious at best. It’s like a gentle breeze swaying over the surface of things. When you think of infidelity, you immediately think of Karan Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. Maya, Dev, Rishi and Rhea – those were characters living unhappy lives with familial problems. In Batra’s film, the emotions are superficial, and the solutions more so. In Johar’s KANK, the gaze is never apologetic about the grandeur of life, Batra tries to do the opposite. His canvas, budget wise, is large, but he tries to fool the audience into believing that it’s not. If Rani Mukerji’s Maya was wearing gorgeous Manish Malhotra sarees, she owned up to it. But Deepika Padukone’s Alisha carries a 2 Lakh Burberry tote while struggling with financial issues.
What doesn’t help Gehraiyaan are the performances. Dhairya Karwa comes in and out of the film doing his best, but there’s not much to do apart from mouthing basic dialogues. Siddhant Chaturvedi is a let down, after his commendable Gully Boy debut. His Zain and Deepika Padukone’s Alisha fight to be the protagonist of the film. She outruns him in every frame. While Padukone herself gives a mediocre performance, Chaturvedi just doesn’t make the cut for me. Zain is a very complex character with way too many side. Chaturvedi fails to tap into the differences of Zain. He is uninspiring at best.
Padukone here is the biggest disappointment. With her performance in Piku, Padukone had proved that there’s no one who can do a “daughter” performance as good as her. But that’s just putting someone into boxes. As Alisha, perhaps one of most complex characters, she could’ve done so much with the layers of familial issues, trust, anxiety, hope, ambition. But all we get is a dry performance. She does shine in scenes, but after a point, even these scenes look all the same.
The real star here is Ananya Panday. As is evident, I haven’t liked any of Panday’s previous performances, but here she surprises me. As Tia, she’s so perfectly cast. In an interview, Panday had said that in real life she’s a lot like Tia. So maybe that helped her become Tia and deliver what even she will look back to while working on future projects.
Having said all of this, nothing pulls Gehraiyaan down more than the chemistry. When Ayan Mukherjee was working on Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, he had said that he sent his four actors on a trip or something for them to realise the importance of bonding. Here’s that’s what’s missing. Padukone and Chaturvedi have absolutely no chemistry, Padukone and Panday do not look like cousins who grew up together, Padukone and Karwa don’t make a couple. It’s only Panday and Karwa who work well together because they look the same age.
For a film that had so much potential, Gehraiyaan is a total disappointment. It tries too much, but can’t stay afloat. Instead, I would recommend watching nothing and if you have too much time, maybe stare at a wall… (not really, but you know what I mean)
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