Gehraiyaan Review: Deepika Padukone steers Shakun Batra's complex love drama remarkably
Shakun Batra successfully strikes a balance of intimacy, shock, grief and above all love in Gehraiyaan.
Director: Shakun Batra
Cast: Deepika Padukone, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Ananya Panday, Dhairya Karwa, Naseeruddin Shah, Rajat Kapoor
Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime Video
Tu Marz Hai, Dawa Bhi - these five words of Gehraiyaan's title track sums up every character of the intricate story that is weaved by Shakun Batra along with writers Ayesha DeVitre and Sumit Roy. Gehraiyaan stars Deepika Padukone as Alisha, the yoga instructor and Dhairya Karwa as Karan, the writer - a couple who are in a live-in relationship. On the flip side is Ananya Panday as Tia, who lives a life of privilege, and Siddhant Chaturvedi as Zain, a real estate guy. The two are engaged and a fancy Tuscany wedding is in the offing.
As the four meet, Shakun Batra begins peeling the layers of Alisha, Tia and Zain's characters amidst the dreamy setting of the Arabian sea, the swanky Mumbai apartments and a beach-facing property. As seen in the trailer, Alisha and Tia are cousins who have grown up together but as life happens, they drift apart and their stark realities now stand in between them. Batra creates several moments of awkwardness and you can feel it in every frame. Deepika as Alisha and Ananya as Tia share this sense of discomfort on more than one occasion.
Batra's storytelling magic lies in the frames he creates along with his writers and cinematographer Kaushal Shah. In Gehraiyaan, he's done plenty of that using the ocean, reflections and the colour blue as an inspiration. On the surface, the life of a financially wealthy Tia and Zain seems picture perfect but as you go deeper, Batra reveals each character's shortcomings.
Spanning over two and a half hours, Batra never loses grip on the audience as his screenplay flows organically. From Alisha and Zain's affair to family back stories, the characters immerse deeper with every wave that the filmmaker uses as a metaphor. While the sea breeze swiftly carries the film's first half, it is the second half where life takes an ugly turn not just romantically, but even professionally.
The strain of this is easily felt on Deepika and Siddhant's shoulders who do a fantastic job of bringing it to the frame and keeping it authentic. Batra further weaves his plot into an entangled mess of lies, cheating and mistrust that his supporting cast keeps up with beautifully. Ananya Panday lives the privileged life of Tia, like she was tailor-made for the role, but is bogged down by the heavier emotions. Whereas, Dhairya Karwa makes his presence felt enough while sharing screen space with Deepika.
Shakun Batra, who is well-known for his other family drama Kapoor & Sons, also dials up the drama in the film's plot twist and climax that makes for a compelling narrative. His characters travel a journey, that is relatable and flawed, yet you do not root for anyone, you simply live it with them.
Deepika Padukone is truly the captain of this journey as the actress dishes out a gut-wrenching performance. Whether it is sharing screen space with the veteran Naseeruddin Shah or the panic attacks, Deepika digs deep and brings out the best. She also gives the younger actors their space to shine.
Gehraiyaan's standout attribute is also its empathetic treatment of depression, suicide, PTSD, anxiety and panic attacks. Using a board game of Snakes and Ladders as a metaphor for feeling stuck to portraying triggers, the film's narrative and makers are mindful to not go overboard but show enough to stir emotions. The film's dialogues further add substance to the screenplay combined with its thoughtful background music.
On the whole, Shakun Batra's Gehraiyaan is a deep dive into individual and family's past choices, relationships and why we do, what we do. The director has successfully struck a balance of intimacy, shock, grief and above all love. Is it really worth it? Oh, yes.