Dear Zindagi movie review: Alia Bhatt, Shah Rukh Khan film offers bumper-sticker self-help

Dear Zindagi movie review: Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt film could have been a solid drama with emotional heft but despite great performances by the two stars, the feature remains strictly boiler-plate.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5
Written by Shubhra Gupta | Mumbai | Updated: November 26, 2016 10:58 am
dear zindagi review, dear zindagi, dear zindagi movie review, Shah Rukh Khan, alia bhatt Dear Zindagi movie review: Shah Rukh Khan’s shrink sits Alia Bhatt’s Kaira in a cosy consultation room, takes her off for long walks on the beach, and teaches her that playing with waves is not just a game. It is Life itself.

Dear Zindagi movie cast: Alia Bhatt, Shah Rukh Khan, Yashwasini Dayama, Ira Dubey, Kunal Kapoor, Ali Zafar, Angad Bedi
Dear Zindagi movie director: Gauri Shinde

When we meet Kaira aka Koko (Alia Bhatt) in Dear Zindagi first, she is working. On a set. Looking at the world through a lens, constructing pretty images. We know, from her smile, and from the appreciative comments of her co-workers, that she is good at what she does.

To have a female lead presented as possessing a profession from the get-go, and excelling at it, still feel like a significant step for a Bollywood movie. And to have Kaira declare to a current love that she has had a fling with another feels nothing short of a revolution.

Right there, within a few minutes of the opening of ‘Dear Zindagi’, director Gauri Shinde has us intrigued. We want to know more about Kaira, about what makes her tick, what she wants to do, because she wants to do something, be someone.

Watch | 5 Reasons To Watch Alia Bhatt And Shahrukh Khan Starrer Dear Zindagi


And then, just as suddenly, the film gets becalmed. It stops moving. It becomes, instead, a sea of words, where Kaira and her besties — played by Ira Dubey and Yashwasini Dayama (last seen in ‘Phobia’), and her potential romantic interests (Kunal Kapoor, Ali Zafar, Angad Bedi) — chat up a storm, in living rooms, bars, parties, cars. And nothing happens slowly as we get to know that the confident Kaira is actually just a sorry mess, and underneath all that bluster lives a scared little girl, dealing with childhood trauma and abandonment issues.

Watch | Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt on Dear Zindagi


What could have been a solid drama with emotional heft—the qualities that made Shinde’s debut ‘English Vinglish’ such an engaging watch–built upon the exploration of the fact that our adulthood is shaped by our childhood in ways we don’t really understand, turns into a kitchen sink talkathon, where all the characters are given lines which are meant to be deep but come off mostly banal and obvious.

The vehicle through which, or should we say whom, Kaira Learns Life-Lessons, is a dishy shrink played by Shah Rukh Khan. Dr Jehangir Khan has her sit across him in his cosy consultation room, takes her off for long walks on the beach, and teaches her that playing with waves is not just a game. It is Life Itself.

Also read | Dear Zindagi celeb review: Bollywood says Shah Rukh Khan, Alia Bhatt film’s too good

Real-life therapists might gape when they see Dr Khan brushing off rules, dimpling his way through his sessions, while giving Kaira, and us, lectures on the virtues of finding the right chair only after experimenting with several (for chair, read relationship, and roll your eyes).

More eye-rolls are caused by the dialogues which are straining to be natural, but end up being far too many for much too little. Finally, despite Alia Bhatt’s clear and present spark ( she keeps disappearing into the construct of the Fragile, Vulnerable Little Girl, coming up for air only once in a while) and Shah Rukh’s raffish charm (he keeps reaching out for the right `sur’, a mix of gravitas and lightness, and catches it only occasionally, letting us notice the white in his beard : hey, look, there’s a superstar playing his age!), ‘Dear Zindagi’ comes off as a film which could have done with less preciousness, and more plot.

dear zindagi review, dear zindagi, dear zindagi movie review, alia bhatt Dear Zindagi movie review: The dialogues of this Alia Bhatt film are try hard to be natural but end up being far too many but say too little.

Given the potential of the theme—growing up pains, and walking past the past– and the attractive leads (both Bhatt and Khan work well together, she with her gamine grin which falters when she remembers something troubling, and he with his twinkly come-to-me-and-it-will-all-get-better vibe, making sure we notice how being grizzled becomes him), ‘Dear Zindagi’ should have been a much better film. What we get instead, in spades, is bumper-sticker self-help notes which are strictly boiler-plate.

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  1. T
    Jun 21, 2017 at 3:56 pm
    I totally agree with your review. It has amazingly convincing performances but I could not look past the obvious contradictions and the weird shaky moral ground the plot is based on. I don't understand how one is supposed to be feel sympathy for Koko when she finds out about her fling having gotten engaged. Considering some scenes back when she admits to having slept with him in front of her then BF. Its not that I take personal offence to her actions, but the way the therapist tries to help her feel normal about everything under the pretext of his chair theory, and somehow tries to messily link everything to her childhood looks like some very smart manipulation more than anything. It looks great on screen because of the performances but the logical flaws and loop holes like these make it a ridiculous watch. And the shame here is how the audience is so blind? Or maybe they are too accepting of om behavior just for it is presented by a pretty face?
    1. Manohar Lal
      Jun 18, 2017 at 8:34 am
      The writer's comments on the 3 Khan superstars is funny and spot on. Note - the second 'real' for Salman Khan should have been 'reel'. Humsafar got me hooked on pakistani dramas in a way that I never experienced before. I agree that there are far too many hackne dramas most of which I can barely make it to 3-4 episodes before abandoning them. After plodding through too many of them, Dil Lagi once again captured me. It is a marvelous drama - visually beautiful and has strong writing, acting and direction. It was refreshing to see two strong women pitted against each other instead of the usual torturous victim role in the daughter in law. : wblogw /
      1. Sheldon Fernandes
        Jun 6, 2017 at 2:24 am
        chal nikal be kaise reviews likhti/likhta hai. agar teri wajah se yeh movie maine nahi dekhi rehti toh... akkal hai ya nahi. movie dekhi bhi hai kya? ya fir director se preview ko bulaya nahi aaaya islie a review diya. Lemme review this review now, You get 1/10.
        1. Sheldon Fernandes
          Jun 6, 2017 at 2:28 am
          I agree, the movie had scope for improvement. but it wasnt 1.5/5 bad.
        2. arun malhi
          Apr 23, 2017 at 1:28 pm
          its a good movie give motivate to teen ager when they get hurt from any relation ship and tell them they can live there life by there own i love it because i like SRKs that chair VALI LINE it was awsm that we should get choice in life while choosing our life partner we shoud try it and choos which is good and comfortable for us nd our your life ...DEAR ZINDAGU
          1. D
            Deepankar Ghosh
            Apr 17, 2017 at 12:56 am
            Your review deserves 1.5/5. Its an amazing movie which you might not have been able to understand but who cares. I loved the film & had recommended all my friends to watch & even they loved it. No idea how you critics view a movie but if you give 1.5 to a movie like Dear Zindagi then your viewpoint must be . The audience doesn't give a about the viewpoint of so called professional critics like you. You have never been so wrong Shubhra Gupta & if the guys at The Indian Express have any common sense then please fire this lady. Who knows she might turn out to be a KRK admirer. Her thinking seems to be pointing at that direction.
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