Aesthetics Are What Make and Break Deepika Padukone's 'Gehraiyaan'
How aesthetics play a vital role in making and breaking Deepika Padukone-starrer 'Gehraiyaan'.
In The Picture Of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde writes, “Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic,” and perhaps that’s the aesthetic that Shakun Batra seemed to be going for with Gehraiyaan. This is the mood that sets the tone for this 2 hours 20 minutes long, domestic noir-like film. Right from the music, to the costumes, from the colour palette to the locations, Gehraiyaan emits emotions of melancholy and fatigue, that attempt to form an aesthetic, only to falter at evoking empathy. Although, deciding the effectiveness of aesthetics in Gehraiyaan isn’t that simple, and to cancel it completely, is nothing if not a reductionist approach, because much like Batra’s own characters and stories, the efficacy of his aesthetic, lies in a grey space. However, if there’s anything certain in Gehraiyaan’s uncertain world, then it is that aesthetics play a vital role in making and breaking the film, and truth be told it does both.
The waves of Gehraiyaan hit our shores when the makers released a 1-minute teaser in the form of its title track with the lines Tu marz hai, dawaa bhi… that instantly started trending on Instagram Reels.
The title song, as well as others, seemed to be tailor-made for the algorithm, but that was it, for the music. It isn’t an album that you can connect to, or will ever go back to. Best case scenario, it will play in your head for a fortnight, and then disappear into oblivion with all the other ‘reel audios’.
The texture of the song matches with the larger aesthetic that the movie aspires to create, and therefore sounds tired, distant, and dysphoric. This results in the music being strangely unsentimental, much like the entire film. One part of it makes it understandable, as the film wants to capitalise on the growing madness around ‘reels’ but it’s the same ambition that makes it forgettable. Music in any film has the power to make it bearable, and memorable, but Gehraiyaan loses its chance there as well.
Gehraiyaan also created a lot of buzzes, regarding its intimate scenes, and how it had an intimacy coordinator on set, which was a first for Indian cinema, and that’s something I believe that was honestly long due. However, the entire commotion regarding intimacy was futile because, despite the alluring intimate scenes that aspire to be liberating, Gerhaiyaan fails to make us feel anything. The intimacy is too inorganic and designed, to really make you feel the passion, the infatuation, and the impulsiveness that Batra wants to make his audiences feel. While Alisha (Deepika Padukone) and Zain (Siddhant Chaturvedi) both individually look quite beguiling, together they are unable to make the sparks fly. Tia (Ananya Pandey) is all too oblivious and lost in wonderland, to really make a significant impact, and Karan (Dhairya Karwa) is one-dimensional more or less, despite Karwa’s promising act.
However, all’s not lost in the aesthetics, because Anaita Shroff Adjania just steals the thunder with the costume design. They are the most emotive element in the entire film, and starkly represent the character’s mood.
She also builds a muted and cool colour palette that furthers Batra’s theme of melancholy. Tia wears colours like light blue, light pink that represents her liveliness, while Alisha’s is given darker shades like seaweed green, brown, or mauve, which symbolise her trauma and complexities. The costumes are also flowy, and casual, adding to the unhinged, but nevertheless nuanced texture of the film. Zain oscillates between business formals, and beach florals, a transition that also aids his character tone and mood.
Along with the costumes, one must also give it to Kaushal Shah, the DOP who has done a phenomenal job in oscillating between wide expansive shots of the sea, and zoomed-in shots of Alisha’s house, or the scenes where she and Zain are intimate. He also utilises shadows to drive the narrative of their clandestine affair further, while shots with Tia are bright and light-filled, much like her costume colours. As for the locations, the gigantic waves that hit the shore are symbolic of the tumultuous lives that these characters lead externally as well as internally. As the narrative focuses only on these four characters, the only time the camera isn’t on one of them is when it is covering the ocean or sea tides that provide the much-needed break from the constant dialogue and movement, therefore providing the solace of aesthetic that Batra longed to provide, but unfortunately it’s not enough.
It is this aspiration to be marketed as a dainty and aesthetic film that rid Batra of his greatest asset, the ability to create authenticity and palpability while discussing the intricacies of human emotions, and relationships, something his former venture, Kapoor and Sons did exemplarily, however, Gehraiyaan in its quest to be aesthetic ends up being nothing more than a mood board. Despite the excellent costume design, cinematography and colour palette, the potential to carry a film on its shoulders, lies only in the story, which in Gehraiyaan’s case, was weak, vague, and unfocused.
(Takshi Mehta is a freelance journalist and writer. She firmly believes that we are what we stand up for, and thus you'll always find her wielding a pen.This is an opinion article and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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