If ‘it’s complicated’ could have an entire movie to itself, we’d get Shakun Batra’s Gehraiyaan. It’s ‘Kapoor and Sons’ but about 40 layers deeper, and with numerous crisscrossing subplots that take you into the twisted lives of Alisha, Tia, Zain, and Karan. I am not complaining though and—as a viewer watching Deepika Padukone, Ananya Panday, Siddhant Chaturvedi, and Dhairya Karwa bring to life Batra’s layered writing—neither will you!
All in all, Gehriaiyaan is a beautifully twisted, emotionally draining, and daringly dark take on human relationships.
While there might be times you’ll want to rewind to catch up with the unfolding narrative, there’s a sense of mystery that will keep you hooked till the very end.
The anchoring plotline
As shown in the several trailers up until now, Deepika’s ‘Alisha’ and Ananya’s ‘Tia’ are first cousins who grew up together. Several DVD footage-fuelled flashbacks of the two kids enjoying their summer home in Alibaug show us a fond childhood shared by the two. Yet, as the film begins, one can sense that the two central characters, now all grown up, have probably not met in years.
When they do reconnect, Tia is dating Zain (Siddhant Chaturvedi) and they have been together for nearly three years. Karan (Dhairya Karwa) and Alisha, although not as well-off as the other two, are not in a good space in their six-year-long relationship. As the story unfolds, one cannot deny the inevitable chemistry between Alisha and Zain. Herein begins the drama.
What starts off as an escape from a loveless relationship soon turns into a twisted tale of family ties, sex-fuelled manipulation and even a jumpscare.
In the end, Gehraiyaan deals with several topics—from the fragility of human relationships to understanding the psychology of pathological liars, from mental health disorders to a sense of coming of age. There’s no denying you really need to rewind to catch up at some points.
The direction, cinematography, and screenplay
Batra’s screenplay—co-written by Ayesha Savitre, Sumit Roy, and Yash Sahai—is an ode to ageing Millennials and that quiet anxiety we’re all subconsciously dealing with. When Alisha said, “I feel stuck,” there’s no way in hell you did not feel that. This film is an embodiment of that clusterfuck feeling, with three characters bringing their own trauma to the table.
A big part of Gehraiyaan’s effect is the subtle direction. Like the light hanging off the head when Alisha realizes she’s screamed at her dad a little too harshly or Tia’s confusion when she’s about to confront Zain—there’s realness in those moments. Kaushal Shah’s observant camera captures the undertones in their situations.
The dialogues are all superbly naturalistic as if you’re in the room with the actors. All points to the team for really thinking the small moments through—the characters react much as their situations demand and, for that, I am especially grateful!
The background score, composed by Kabeer Kapthalia and Savera Mehta, is rich and hauntingly melodious. By the end of it, you’ll not be able to imagine the film without it. They have a special power of making you feel things, I am not kidding!
Deepika is a league of her own. Her performance is spectacular, to say the least. She carries the weight of the film and delivers a performance that cannot be easily matched. What do I even say about Ananya? I think our entire nation owes her an apology for dismissing her so quickly because, goddamn, can she act!
Dhairya's role is minimal but he plays the uninterested boyfriend role to its full capacity. Rajat Kapoor and Naseeruddin Shah too have their fair share of screen time and are always a pleasure to watch.
It’s Siddhant Chaturvedi who is ambitious in his role as Zain. He is meant to play the suave rags-to-riches tycoon who feels no remorse for his manipulative ways, yet there are points in the film I wished someone more charming was playing the part. I missed Fawad Khan and the resilient energy he brought to our screens.
In the end, does it even matter?
Batra really tries to outdo his last masterpiece. However, there are too many subplots and themes in the movie—perhaps trying to embody how human lives are inherently complicated. However, it would’ve been even better had the film been stretched into a three or four-part series, taking sufficient time to flesh out the details. Like the family structure that forms the core of all the dilemmas, more context for Alisha and Karan’s relationship, etc.
At the end of it, it’s Deepika who is running the show with her hyper-real acting skills and her sidekick, the exceptional music!