Director: Shakun Batra
Cast: Deepika Padukone, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Dhairya Karwa, Ananya Pandey,
Naseeruddin Shah, Pavleen Gujral
Language/Country: Hindi / India
Duration: 2 hr 28 min
Release date: 11 February, 2022
Deepika Padukone hasn’t been in such an intense, heavy film in a long time. Last time we saw her filled with rage, crying and throwing things around was in ‘Cocktail’ (2012). But even that film was light and breezy in the first half compared to ‘Gehraiyaan’, which is intense throughout.
‘Gehraiyaan’ is a warning tale for grown ups, following yoga instructor Alisha (Deepika Padukone) who is in a sparkless long-term relationship with her currently unemployed boyfriend Karan (Dhairya Karwa from ’83’). They live together in a cramped Mumbai apartment and Alisha tries to make ends meet while working on a new yoga app. Her cousin Tia (Ananya Pandey), in contrast, has led an exciting life in America and is engaged to Zain (Siddhant Chaturvedi), an ambitious financier and businessman who owns a fancy yacht. The two couples spend time together after Zain and Tia return to India. And before they know it, sparks fly between Alisha and Zain. What follows is an affair that is exciting and daring.
We feel the chemistry between Padukone and Chaturvedi as Shakun Batra’s film explores the deeply resonant and increasingly relevant themes of generational trauma and inheritance of toxic traits and habits. Padukone’s Alisha has depression and a dreadfully ever-present feeling of being stuck in life. Her mother had suffered from a similar predicament with her actions leaving both Alisha and her father traumatized and broken. We watch Alisha struggle with this history and begin to understand how difficult it can be to let go of your karmic past and break out of a toxic cycle. This karma is highlighted by a perfect punchline at the end. Zain, like Alisha, is also battling his own demons. Perhaps this is what brings them so close to each other as they get each other in a way that their respective partners could not. Zain grew up under his abusive father, and we watch as he struggles to fight these same violent traits emerge from within himself in some really suspenseful scenes.
Padukone and Chaturvedi are brilliant in their roles but so is the entire supporting cast, who are equally capable of earning our sympathies and keeping us engaged in this emotional story just as the leads are. Ananya Pandey is an absolute gift in this drama. Playing Tia, Alisha’s innocent and loving cousin, it is a delight to watch her. The scenes where she converses with her mom on the phone really go to show her vast range in vulnerability and crumbling inner strength. Naseeruddin Shah, as Alisha’s mourning father, looks haggard and old. He’s an emotionally defeated man who still loves his child but is not able to show it as a parent should.
Without revealing much, let’s just say that the film is realistic, cool and observational in the first half with some moments which are intense and depressing. And in the second half, the drama becomes a bit unconvincing. Like a potboiler or crime show, there’s a significant rise in melodramatic moments mixed with some thrills which are not very different from police procedural shows.
Interestingly, the movie has been accused by haters – with none of them having seen the actual film – of romanticizing and condoning extramarital affairs. This accusation is utterly laughable. We won’t be revealing any spoilers but let’s just say this: the characters involved here are anything but lucky or happy. In fact, some viewers will go further to call this movie a moral lesson against cheating.
The soundtrack by OAFF and Sevaram is absolutely stellar. The songs are electronica pop with synths that are on par with international music. Those viewers who aren’t keen on the story about broken people trying to fix their lives can still enjoy this movie for its memorable songs.
The drama is also visually ravishing with crystal clear images of beaches and ocean waves splashing rhythmically. When we get photogenic faces combined with photogenic landscapes, what we get is an engaging drama.
Those who are not used to slow, steady films might not find ‘Gehraiyaan’ to be the best movie of this year. Maybe the slightly slow pace is what’s leading some viewers to call the drama “overhyped”.
Ultimately, ‘Gehraiyaan’ is a drama with a good looking cast in good looking locations. And we must give a shout out to Padukone’s fabulous wardrobe by Vogue India’s Anaita Shroff Adajania. It’s filled with intrigue, drama and even suspense as any entertaining film should inspite of having some flaws.
‘Gehraiyaan’ is now streaming on Prime Video.
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