Gehraiyaan, considered a Domestic noir is clearly inspired by Woody Allen’s psychological thriller ‘Match Point’ (2005). I spent a good two hours and a little more watching it and at the end of it all, Gehraiyaan left me feeling absolutely nothing. The movie fails to make us feel even precious little for what all transpired on screen and feel totally fails to understand the motivations that move the characters. This for me 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.
This feels like a betrayal because Shakun Batra with Kapoor and Sons gave us such a throbbing, well-crafted film. It is about a family and all things good associated with it, which he then carefully and masterfully rips apart to show us the raw and real lives of people. In time a few carefully tucked away skeletons in the cupboard come out. Gehraiyaan raised similar expectations for me with its 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.
Here are a few people who have had a traumatic childhood and have grown up scarred and slightly messed up because of it. Alisha and Karan (Deepika, Dhairya Karwa) and Tia and Zain (Ananya Pandey, Siddhant Chaturvedi) are the central characters. 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. 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.
Films have to feel consistent in the world they set up and for 100 minutes or so this one manages to do that. Gehraiyaan's world involves millennial men and women trying to find meaning and happiness, dealing with childhood traumas and things left unsaid, and navigating some thorny moral quandaries. But soon after, Gehraiyaan completely loses itself in what can only be described as a point of no return. Its world is fractured, it's all out of control, and it goes overboard (in one instance, quite literally). Staying through Gehraiyaan's final half-hour feels like a severe case of whiplash.
Deepika Padukone is in almost every scene, and also has her part written with the utmost care. The others, however, aren’t offered the same courtesy. Karan on the other hand gets a stepmotherly treatment. We want to see more of him because the little that we manage looks promising. Ananya is the most restrained we have seen her on-screen so far but she too gets a character that is never allowed to grow or develop.
In my opinion, what was needed therefore was to have someone who can support, and reciprocate Deepika’s brilliance. She is versatile with her emotions, fierce when needed, vulnerable otherwise but Siddhant Chaturvedi appears to be out of breath trying to match her. 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 as an intimate director, the “intimacy” bits too show signs of being staged, lacking in any kind of passion or flow. It’s all mechanical and bland.
Also, Deepika’s 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 feeling cheated. The maneuvering of the plot remains lazy and unconvincing to me.