As Dear Zindagi completes six years, we look at what makes it a ray of sunshine and its relevance despite its imperfections.
“Dear zindagi” is not how I address my zindagi. On most days, I address it like, “Ugh, zindagi, why?” However, watching the film ‘Dear Zindagi’ on any given day makes mine feel a little less ugh! The film revolves around Kaira (Alia Bhatt), a budding cinematographer, who takes therapy sessions with Dr. Jehangir Khan aka Jug (Shah Rukh Khan) after sleepless nights and sadness as her career, and romantic relationships give her a hard time. The film is considered the pioneer of open discussions around mental health in India and like most pioneers, it is imperfect. But its heart seems to be in the right place which is what makes it so relatable.
If you are an urban adult woman, Kaira will look like your soul sister. She is pessimistic and angry at the world for being unfair. Her landlord is constantly bugging her. Her boyfriend makes sexist jokes like he gave her the job because she is hot. Commitment in relationships is terrifying because one day your boyfriend could be pouring love on you, and the next day you find out that he is getting engaged to his ex. Building a career in most male-dominated professions is a challenging ladder to climb for every woman. Perhaps the best thing about Kaira is that she is imperfect. Through the course of the movie, she accepts her mistakes, learns how to navigate through life, and be happy on her own.
Initially reluctant, Kaira finally visits Jug when gloom won’t leave her and sleep won’t visit. Jug is a happy-go-lucky psychologist who helps Kaira live her best life. His manner of offering therapy has some problems. Therapists don’t take you cycling to the beach because their relationship with their clients is formal in nature. Jug gives “advice”. Psychologists don’t do that. Instead, they guide the client and help them figure out what is best for them.
However, the portrayal of therapy in the movie is remarkably close to authentic. There are always numerous therapy sessions to help you discover the most promising ways to go ahead in your life. Therapy is not only about trauma; you can talk about anything right from your ex-boyfriend to your family troubles. Therapy sessions end at a specific time decided by the therapist. You can’t call them up and rant whenever you want. You might feel close to your therapist after confiding in them. However, you can never be friends with them because this will take away their objectivity. Unfortunately, what’s also true is that therapy is mostly accessible to urban, upper-class people. Also, therapists can’t help you to a certain extent. After that, you have to put in the effort, learn, and solve your own problems. Therapists’ job involves making you not require their help.
Not only therapy but the film also deals with other matters sensitively. For instance, parents are not perfect. They hurt their children at times and children have the right to be angry at them. You don’t have to forgive your parents if you don’t want to, but you can try to understand them. It’s also normal to be emotional. In Jug’s wise words, “Tum agar khul kar ro nahi sakogi, toh khul kar hass kaise sakogi?” Jug also mentions that it is perfectly fine to have had multiple relationships. It doesn’t say anything about your character. It is also okay to have an unconventional job. You need not be a lawyer or professor to deserve respect. You can be a cinematographer or a therapist or a writer as long as it makes you happy.
Despite its flaws, Dear Zindagi remains a great first attempt at normalizing mental health issues related. You can watch it ten years from now and still find it to be a ray of sunshine.
Dear Zindagi is currently streaming on Netflix.