Sunday, November 27, 2016

The shrink arrives in Hindi cinema with the homely soubriquet -- dimaagh ka doctor (DD)

Gauri Shinde has done it again. After English Vinglish, she now brings an interesting presentation, Dear Zindagi. While EV was a homely tale with the unexpected twist, DZ is much more predictable and also much more metropolitan in its sensibility. It is a straightforward tale of repression and pain in a bourgeois household. There is not complexity. But it has to be that way. The bourgeois family has to come to face to face with its neurosis, and it has to be done in a gentle fashion. So Shinde does it gingerly. It is a muted black-and-white struggle. And it has a relatively happy ending.
What is distinctive about the film is the arrival of the dimaagh ka doctor (DD) in the Hindi film. And of course, the DD has to come in Hindi film colours and tones. Shinde manages this part very well. Shah Rukh Khan does the honours as Dr Majid Khan, who carries his own share of emotional discontent and distress. But the surface harmony is not disturbed. There is warmth and there is rapport between the physician of unhappiness and the sick, unhappy person.There is a light touch to the internal agony.There is no hint of darkness or the abyss. There is no despair that is supposed to go with cavernous psychological states. Shinde walks the tight-rope quite adroitly.
It is Alia Bhatt who spreads light and radiance in this film of grey tones, losing her shirt when has to, pursing her lips most of time as a way of coping with the emotional seismicity, and laughing her way through despite the pain in the heart. Bhatt displays amazing empathy for the role of the young girl with emotional scars. She has done this kind of a role in Highway and in the bit role in Udta Punjab as well as in Kapoor and Sons. There is the natural apprehension that Bhatt might burn herself out in doing these emotionally intense and stressful roles.
The debating point about Shinde's tale of arrival and departure is nicely Hollywoodian. The shrink like the television and the refrigerator becomes an acceptable symbol of status and modernity. Like the ubiquitous doctor in the white coat, it is possible that the cool psychoanalyst, no psychiatry please, will be a regular character in the future middle-class family dramas.
It would be take another decade or so before a Hindi film director would be able to show the spiritual mentor/guru in either saffron or white playing the role of the psychologist to the Indian middle class family of small and big town India. It would be an interesting experiment.

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