By Sunita Vijay
Gehraiyaan is intense – a story of love, deceit and pervasive melancholia that burrows into modern relationships, domestic chaos and the secrets people keep buried in themselves. We’ve seen Shakun Batra’s handling of disordered relationships before in Kapoor & Sons, a highly admired and enjoyable film. Gehraiyaan is also a fine film in terms of the emotional depth it reaches, exuding layers of characters and the shadows of the past that haunt to define one’s outlook, to build one’s nature. Shakun attempts to hold a mirror to society. We see ugliness, present-day relationship challenges, greed, lofty ambitions and opportunism reflected. Through this, he seeks to make us understand the relevance of more profound concepts like forgiving, letting go, and moving on.
Alisha, bearing a visibly sad demeanor, finds herself stuck in an unhappy relationship with her live-in partner Karan. They’ve been together for six years. Karan has quit a job in an ad agency to be a writer and is working on his first novel, which places the financial burden of running the house on Alisha. His half-hearted zeal speaks through his T-shirt, which reads – I’ll do it tomorrow. When Alisha meets her cousin Tia and Tia’s fiancé Zain on holiday, a turning point is reached. Tia is docile, while Zain is an ambitious businessman working on a big construction project leading an enviable lifestyle.
We witness the ‘cool’ life of two picture-perfect couples shot against a scenic backdrop – enjoying wine and leisure on beaches, in a luxurious yacht rented by Zain to impress clients, perennial cuddling, and carefree time onshore in darkness. It gives no inclination of their real life and their farcical exhibition of love. Soon, chemistry brews between Zain and Alisha as they share their unhappy, anxious childhood experiences, initially as budding flirtations, finally culminating in passionate love. On the one hand, Alisha’s strained relations with the ‘unsuccessful’ Karan escalate, and on the other hand, Zain living in the lap of luxury, helps Alisha open a luxurious yoga studio, and he also exhibits his wish to set himself free from the clutches of the overpowering parents of Tia; all sum up for a close bond.
The first half moves at a slow pace. The second half gains momentum but wobbles at places. As the pages turn, the layers unravel and the story slyly enters a dark zone. The screenplay, choreography, music all embellish the plot but what shines the most is the brilliant performance by Deepika Padukone supported equally well by Ananya Pandey, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Dhairya Karwa in their respective roles.
Alisha has horrifying memories of childhood. Deepika plays the tough role with utmost sincerity – the lingering agony in her eyes apparent even in the happiest of moments. Her body language, dialogue delivery and expressions bring her inner turmoil to the fore. She shines despite the melancholy that embraces her character.
Siddhant, who is merely a few films old, had a tough job pitted against a senior and seasoned actor like Deepika but nowhere does he fumble or cease to add the glamour and glitz required of Zain. He looks confident to live up to the expectations. We experience exuberant scenes on the yacht, in fine hotels, high-end apartments and a chic yoga studio.
Dhairya Karwa, as Karan, makes us connect with his part. He matches up to his role of a sweet, ordinary boy who has his bouts of angst when things fail to go his way.
Ananya Pandey is evolving. Her acting skills have gone up a few notches. She maintains the right balance between a girl who is innocent and rich but ignorant of the cunning people around her. She is truthful and believes in trusting the ones she loves.
Naseeruddin Shah has a small yet pivotal role of a sensible father. He shoulders the responsibility of presenting the most emotionally stirring scene in the end with Deepika – a reel that will be admired for its camera angles, dialogues, acting and impact.
Rajat Kapoor as Jitesh is slick and sharp. He is in Zain’s team, a man who knows how to nail things, a part he plays with ease.
Gehrayiaan has many coats to scrub – to explore the lives of four people intertwined deeply to create a gripping watch. Whenever the depths are fathomed, a high-rise wave engulfs the screen, exemplifying varied emotions – passion, turmoil, awkwardness, frustration and dismay. The film is intriguing in letting us probe the emotional depth – not providing a moment of distraction.
The minimalist dialogues, superb performances, background score, timely pauses, bands of silences enrich the experience. The use of the ‘f’ word in every breath by all characters defines the frustrations and chaotic web in each one’s life these days. Gehraiyaan is a good peep into the depth of present happenings and shallow relationships.
Gehraiyaan is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.