The duration is a little over two hours and once we are done watching it, Gehraiyaan leaves us feeling absolutely… nothing. We feel precious little for all that transpired on screen, the characters their motivations, probably just a little sad that Anaita Shroff Adjania isn’t your stylist because it is goddamn hard to take one's eyes off Deepika Padukone. But that’s about it and this is Gehraiyaan’s biggest undoing. It tries to show us a lot but makes us feel very little. While the title literally means “depth” that’s precisely what the approach lacks.
Which feels like a betrayal because Shakun Batra with Kapoor and Sons gave us such a throbbing, well crafted film about family and the façade one puts, which he then carefully and masterfully rips apart to show us the raw and real lives of people and a few carefully tucked away skeletons in the cupboard. Gehraiyaan raised our expectations with the trailer. The frames looked gorgeous and a film that promised to be about messy relationships, love and romance seemed just what we needed. As it turns out, Gehraaiyan is more about people fighting their past demons rather than a film that explores infatuation and infidelity.
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Here are a few people who have had a traumatic childhood and have grown up scarred and slightly messed up because of it. Director Shakun Batra, who has also written the screenplay along with Ayesha Devitre Dhillon and Sumit Roy give us two couples. Alisha and Karan (Deepika, Dhairya Karwa) and Tia and Zain (Ananya Pandey, Siddhant Chaturvedi). We know them only by their first names and get a surface level understanding of where they are in their relationships. Alisha is a yoga instructor, trying unsuccessfully to create an app while managing finances as her boyfriend has left his well paying advertising job to write a book. The cracks are beginning to show. Tia and Zain appear happy living the cool yacht life. She seems madly in love while he is more passionate about his real estate project.
Gehraiyaan belongs to Deepika Padukone. She is in almost every scene, and also has her part written with the utmost care. The others however, aren’t offered the same courtesy. Dhairya’s Karan gets a step motherly treatment. We want to see more of him because the little that we manage looks promising. Ananya is the most retrained we have seen her on screen so far but she too gets a character that is never allowed to grow or develop. What was needed therefore was to have someone who is able to support, and reciprocate Deepika’s brilliance. She is versatile with her emotions, fierce when needed, vulnerable otherwise but Siddhant Chaturvedi clearly appears to be out of breath trying to match her. In scenes where he shares the frame with Padukone or Rajat Kapoor (who is also in the film and absolutely solid) Siddhant is so wooden, his inadequacies as an actor show up . Neither the emotional depth nor the sexual tension and sizzling chemistry comes through. So for all the talk of having Dar Gai on board, the “intimacy” bits too show signs of being staged, lacking in any kind of passion or flow. It’s all mechanical and bland.
The world created with the many shots of waves and the wide expanse of the sea mirroring the volatile emotions at play and subdued colour palette by DOP Kaushal Shah sure look attractive but because of the patchy screenplay, it never manages to draw us in. It’s neither enchanting nor transgressive and we remain at the periphery admiring Deepika who holds on to her character’s dark solid core and is left to do all the heavy lifting. Her scenes with Naseeruddin Shah or the ones when she is trying to tackle her anxiety and confusion are some of the most moving and perceptive in the film. But the sudden genre shifting plot twists; from a crime thriller to a corporate drama followed by the most clichéd end leaves us and a few characters on screen feel cheated. The manoeuvring of the plot remains lazy and unconvincing. And while a svelte Deepika breathes life into her role, overall Gehraiyaan is more style than substance.
Rating: 2.5 Quints out of 5