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By its own admission in the song Doobey, Gehraiyaan is Besabar, Bekhabar, and Doobey - too much happening, clueless, and finally drowning.
Gehraiyaan is a mess. And not the kind of beautiful mess that’s highly esteemed in art forms like Kintsugi and Wabi-sabi.
When you think of Gehraiyaan, visualise chicken broth with the choicest assortment of vegetables and herbs in a pressure pan left on the stovetop unattended on high heat. What do you expect! It will eventually blow up all over the place. And if you’re around, in your face as well. It’s no longer beautiful as it was when it went into the pan initially or an imperfectly perfect mess, as in the case of any form of art.
That’s the kind of trauma that ‘Gehraiyaan’ leaves you with after watching the movie, which should have ideally come with a trigger warning.
Talking of chicken, the characters in Gehraiyaan sound more like roosters than human beings. When Karan proposes to Al, I could totally empathise with and relate to Karan’s father when he quips, “Kya fuck fuck karta rehta hai!”
Gehraiyaan is about two cousins, Tia Khanna and Alisha Khanna, and their respective fiancés, Zain Oberoi and Karan Arora. Things get knotty as they should when Alisha and Zain are attracted to each other and have a clandestine affair.
First, the good part! The movie is shot beautifully. Like art, everything looks aesthetically on point, even if it’s a mess.
Gehraiyaan is a perfect mess. The characters are beautiful to look at with their gorgeous faces and tautly sculpted bodies attired in the best designer wear. The lead cast looks straight out of a Vogue cover magazine.
But, that’s also the Gehraiyaan movie’s problem as it doesn’t go beyond the surface and delve into the depths as its title promises.
Gehraiyaan could have easily been another cult movie like Dil Chahta Hai or Dil Dhadakne Do, which were high on both style and substance.
Alas! the film tries to juggle several genres from romance, drama, erotica to thriller and finally ends on a suspense cliffhanger. Gehraiyaan falls severely short and ends up being confused in its focus and direction.
And, why do the characters have to have a troubled past to justify their infidelity? Why can’t we simply portray attraction and infidelity that happens spontaneously and out of choice, and not necessarily because of childhood trauma?
Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna was a much more honest and bolder movie than this contrived take on infidelity. Even Saans, the 90s Doordarshan serial written and directed by Neena Gupta.
Though the movie explores intergenerational trauma in Alisha’s family and its disastrous consequences, you cannot help wondering if the mental health angle was brought in as a prop for Gehraiyaan to be taken seriously as a movie. A poor excuse for its shoddy writing, perhaps!
It’s gimmicks like these that make you go looking desperately for the promised depths in Gehraiyaan.
Perhaps, that’s why the filmmakers keep lashing out stunning visuals of aquatic blue waves in front of your face as a timely reminder (more like a slap) of the oceanic depths.
Unfortunately, Gehraiyaan floats on the surface level and never fully explores the intricate depths and complexities of human relationships. There’s nothing profound about it at all.
Deepika Padukone has been evolving with every role she portrays on screen. The turning point in her career was when she played the character of Veronica in Cocktail, and instantly became the poster girl for the contemporary urban Indian woman who has agency. She went on to play more diverse and complex roles since then. She was outstanding in the movies Piku and Chhapaak, which I thought was her best performance to date back then. But she continues to up her game in Gehraiyaan with a nuanced and mature performance. However, her performance may come across as repetitive because of the similar emotionally intensive roles she has been essaying in the recent past.
Ananya Pandey made a stellar debut in the ‘Student of the Year 2’ with an impressive performance. In fact, Aditya Seal and she were the only saving graces (read acted well) in that glossy shallow movie. Pandey nails her role as Tia in Gehraiyaan bolstering her position as an actress who can be equally glamorous and render memorable performances.
The letdowns in the Gehraiyaan movie were the main male leads. Especially Siddhant Chaturvedi, who I felt was a case of bad casting in this role. For a film that claims to be deep, the main male lead’s performance is a dampener. He fails to come anywhere close to the antagonist protagonist that Shah Rukh Khan pulled off charmingly in Baazigar. The chemistry between Deepika Padukone and Siddhant Chaturvedi was sub-zero, and the intimate scenes between the two actors were tedious to watch. I couldn’t help recollecting the smouldering chemistry between Deepika Padukone and Irfan Khan in Piku. Or the playful and passionate chemistry between Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh in Ram-Leela and Bajirao Mastani. Even by basal, carnal, and animalistic measures, the Gehraiyaan lead pair were nowhere close to the scorching chemistry between Emraan Hashmi and Jacqueline Fernandez in Murder 2.
No offense! But it’s hard to believe that Siddhant Chaturvedi has two women pining for him in this movie. Sporting a lopsided smile and flaunting six-pack abs is not going to make the cut. Maybe he will evolve into a finer actor in the years to come, but he doesn’t match up to Padukone’s prowess as of now.
Deepika Padukone deserved a more seasoned and refined actor opposite her who’d match her in every way. And age has nothing to do with it. Someone like Vicky Kaushal perhaps would have brought that much-needed maturity and depth to the table.
Ironically, one of the male leads is a writer, and it’s amusing that the Gehraiyaan movie writers couldn’t even sketch his character well. Unbelievable that the filmmakers portrayed the writer’s character as a male version of a bimbo in the movie! I feel the most for Dhairya Karwa, who plays Karan Arora, an aspiring writer. He’s treated like the third wheel in the film. For a writer, he comes across as anything but cerebral or intellectual in the movie. He’s also far from observant (an inherent writer’s trait) of his girlfriend’s affair that happens right under his nose.
Apart from some good performances from the female leads, Naseeruddin Shah and Rajat Kapoor stand out with expectedly remarkable performances.
Apart from Alisha having the agency to move out of a relationship, which is the only feminist action in the movie, there’s hardly anything that shows women in a good light.
But Alisha’s agency is undermined when she chooses a bigger loser over a smaller one. It also makes you question her bold move.
Alisha decides to walk out on her boyfriend only when the rich guy promises her the moon and stars, and she gets lured by his tall claims.
Would Alisha have dumped her Karan if no rich guy was luring her with money? Until then, she was supporting and tolerating the manchild.
As for Tia’s character, played by Ananya Pandey, the less said, the better. Hers is a highly privileged character, and nothing is remotely empowering about her in the movie.
It was embarrassing as a woman to watch how the female characters were sketched and portrayed in the movie, albeit the backstory of intergenerational trauma. The only intelligent woman in the film is Tia’s mother, who tries to make her see things from all perspectives.
A woman dies by suicide, and every female character is a victim. All the women are played around like putty and manipulated by the men in Gehraiyaan.
The movie highlights the patriarchy, especially in the elite sections of our society, where men control money and power. They plot and scheme and go to any lengths to maintain their supremacy. And it’s again a man, in the form of Alisha’s father, played by Naseeruddin Shah, who’s shown as her saviour. Only when he gives the wise message about being bigger than one mistake does Alisha move on. It seems like she always needs a male shoulder to cry on or seek validation for moving on.
There is no trust between Alisha and Tia. When finally there’s some hope of the two making peace towards the movie’s end, the director butts in with a twist to divide them further apart. There goes your sisterhood flying out the window.
Gehraiyaan joins the serpentine list of movies that fail the Bechdel test.
By its own admission in the song Doobey, Gehraiyaan is unaware, directionless and drowning.
The plot was interesting, but the execution lacked finesse and depth. And so, Gehraiyaan ends up being a snoozefest!
Something went seriously wrong with Gehraiyaan though the story held promise with the themes of infidelity, intergenerational trauma, and karma. The writing and casting of the movie fall severely short.
As a case in point, Dil Chahta Hai had a focused plot and was brilliantly directed by Farhan Akhtar, who was just 27 years old then. The casting was on point, and the male and female leads were equally matched – Aamir Khan, Akshaye Khanna, Saif Ali Khan. Preity Zinta, Sonal Kulkarni, and Dimple Kapadia. The camaraderie was warm, and there was a trajectory in the inner lives of the characters, which kept us invested in them.
Gehraiyaan is a below-average movie with a few good performances and timeless songs. It would have surely been a flop if it had a theatrical release. It’s fortunate to have gotten viewers now because of an OTT release. I think Gehraiyaan had the potential to be a worthy web series where the filmmakers could devote ample attention to fleshing out the characters and pacing the plot well.
Watch ‘Gehraiyaan’ if you have an Amazon Prime subscription and have nothing else better to do in your free time. But be warned that you might end up like Shehnaz Gill cursing ‘Such a boring day, such a boring people!’ after watching it.
First published here.
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Tina Sequeira is an award-winning writer and marketer. Winner of the Rashtriya Gaurav Award in association with the Government of Telangana, Orange Flower Award by Women’s Web, India's leading website for women, read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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