Intimacy. Infidelity. Incompatibility. Companionship. Communication. Commitment.
What defines a relationship's success? How do you evaluate the sum of good and bad and come at a result? And, does a relationship's success and failure define an individual's?
Leaving you thinking deep, pun intended, on all this and more is Amazon Prime Video's latest original movie, Gehraiyaan.
Directed by Shakun Batra and starring Deepika Padukone and Siddhant Chaturvedi in lead roles, the film takes on relationships (no, not just modern-day), individual identities, and the role that our choices, especially our 'mistakes', play in the way our life pans out.
Part of the story was clear from the trailer itself. Alisha (Deepika) and her long-time partner, Karan (a self-assured Dhairya Karwa), meet her cousin Tia (a surprisingly natural Ananya Pandey) and Tia's fiance, Zain (Siddhant Chaturvedi). The encounter is planned but what happens after it, isn't.
As sparks fly between Alisha and Zain (and yes, their chemistry is as natural as it is explosive), their lives, relationships, and careers slowly start to unravel.
To a casual observer, it is the affair that is the catalyst. After all, 'affair' is that deadly term that holds the power to absolve any and every other issue an individual or relationship may have.
But are those issues the cause of the affair, or does the affair lead to the issues? Do you pursue the right partner at the wrong time? Or do you stay with the wrong partner, because the timing of everything else in your life is right? Do our mistakes define us, or the way we deal with those mistakes?
Gehraiyaan raises these questions and to its credit, rarely gets preachy (except perhaps in terms of the last question, which ultimately forms the crux of the film's message - that you're more than your past and your mistakes).
However, what left me truly impressed is how the film peels apart layers of different relationships (not just romantic) to ultimately focus on the individual. Relationships, their highs and lows, don't exist in a vacuum. It's people, and their actions that turn into a chaotic, complex thing that sometimes ends in love, sometimes in hurt, and often, in a mix of both.
There is a moment in the film where Zain remarks, "I can't live in my past", and Alisha dejectedly reminds, "And I can't let go of mine."
However, when push comes to shove, the tales are flipped. Zain is unable to let go of his past for his ambitions, while Alisha pushes forward to what she assumes, is a different future. The way it ends leaves everyone scarred and as a viewer, the very urge to find someone to blame is strong.
In an eerily similar manner, Batra once again falls back to Kapoor & Sons and uses tragedy to draw sympathy for the obvious villain. Though here, it's far less subtle (and consequently, far less shocking) than in Kapoor & Sons, it is but a slight flaw in a film, that otherwise, left me questioning what we think of relationships and choices. While the melodrama and unnecessary twists could have been avoided, it does not take away from what the film is trying to say.
Siddhant and Deepika's powerful chemistry and natural screen presence were evident from the trailer and song videos themselves. But the two truly own every frame they appear in with assured performances - you may or may not fall in love with their relationship, but it is impossible to not be drawn into their lives.
However, while Chaturvedi is as convincing as an ambitious 'outsider' as he was as a rapper, Deepika is the real star of the show.
Every single time she appears on screen, every single gesture (kudos to the film for actually showcasing what mental health issues like anxiety can look like, and not fobbing it off as exaggerated melodrama or the worst, deranged portrayal), every dialogue leaves you reeling. At no point do you feel Deepika is anyone but Alisha - a woman battling her past, fighting the guilt of her present mistakes, and forcing herself to accept the consequences of her decisions.
For her part, Ananya too has come a long way from the ditzy rebel she was painted as, in SOTY2 and one can hope that there is more to her than beguiling innocence. Dhairya Karwa, as the 'goofball' mixed with frustrating writer, is your average 30-year-old who is robbed of ample screen time, but still makes an impact.
In some ways, perhaps because I recently saw these cinematic wonders, the film reminded me of Scenes From A Marriage and The Lost Daughter. While it is not in the same league as the two, especially in terms of nuanced treatment of a subject, it does achieve the same result - an ending that leaves you questioning the 'normal' or rather, the stereotypical ideas of relationships.
In a world where we often let bad decisions define us, and at times our memories of a loved one, Gehraiyaan is a reminder to move on, and let life catch up. Now, whether it catches up on good terms or bad, is perhaps, destiny. But your choices, are not.
Unless specified otherwise, all images are screenshots from the film on Amazon Prime Video and songs on YouTube.