Day 335: I watched Dear Zindagi

And I really, really wanted to like it.

But I didn’t.

It was too long, far too stretched out. And just way too preachy.

(Music was also so shitty. WHAT ARE THOSE LYRICS?! How could every song be so terrible?)

Maybe, I’m not the audience, but I’m really bloody tired of Bollywood’s constant need to turn every damn premise with promise into mushy balls of baby food and force-feeding it down our throats by way of preachy, contrived writing.

I’m just, very, very over it.

So yeah, it was long and tedious.

But, there are a few things I appreciated.

First, it delved into an unconventional topic, for Bollywood. Mental health, the need to be tuned into one’s emotional hygiene (for the lack of a better word), and the dire need to fearlessly, shamelessly seek help when either are amiss.

Second, third, fourth and fifth, Alia Bhatt. I thought she was genuine, effortless and the only thing that saved the film. I have a newfound admiration for Bhatt this year. She seems determined and focused, and it shows in the trajectory her work has taken, and the skill she brings to the table today, than she did when she first broke into Bollywood. I think the word I’m looking for is growth. And I don’t mean growth in that serious, dowdy sort of way that the term has come to mean, in mainstream cinema. It’s almost like to grow and get better means to move away from entertaining to cerebral, thinking cinema. It’s not, and enough actors and films have proven how it is possible to entertain, to make silly, funny, lovely movies, and still be damned good at acting and deliver a message sometimes. It is the kind of Bollywood I’ve come to love and wait for. This year has been a disappointment on that front.

Earlier last week, I watched a smug SRK in an interview, dismiss her as “too good too soon” and I wondered what he possibly meant. It annoyed me that he made it sound like a bad thing. My infuriation deepened when he went on to tell her to try and be bad sometimes.

Waitaminute, I thought. Is he seriously peddling mediocrity as something to aspire for?

SRK wouldn’t stop. He went on to clarify what he meant by bad. Dancing around trees in sarees in unnaturally cold countries it seems.

Okay, I’m not the audience, I told myself again.

But you know what? I’m tired of not being the audience. Rather I’m tired of being in the group of people that is not considered an audience worthy of making films for. I’m tired of going into every hindi movie knowing it’s going to be too long/too preachy/too filmi/too OTT. I’m really damned tired of coming out of every film thinking oh it was watchable, but…

That’s the thing with mediocrity. It becomes the norm. And with hoards of people eating mediocre out of these filmmakers palms, nobody wants to or needs to aim higher. Nobody wants to be better.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Until someone young and capable like Alia Bhatt comes along, and suddenly we’re sitting up to take notice. Because despite privileged beginnings and becoming famous for being a ditz on a talk show, she’s doing so well for herself. In such a short span of time. This year, I was seriously amazed by her work in Kapoor & Sons, Udta Punjab and now Dear Zindagi. Of these, I didn’t even love Kapoor & Sons and Dear Zindagi as films, but I think she was stellar in both. In the past, she was fabulous in Highway, She’s versatile and she is solid.

This morning, I started typing this out as a ramble of the thoughts that kept me awake after the last show of DZ last night, and I belatedly stumbled in this essay just now that makes a similar rant and praises Bhatt’s skill, drive and most of all her ability to choose well. It’s right in saying the ability to choose films that stand up for issues, push the envelope in terms of progressive themes and topics that need a voice i popular cinema, without compromising on entertainment, is a special skill. And thank god Bhatt has learned it early. One can only hope she goes from strength to strength.

And I hope she never takes SRK’s “advice” seriously.

Oh, the other thing I appreciated deeply was the choice of men cast opposite Bhatt. Everyone except SRK has my heart. Sigh.

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