Stories of infidelity always tread a fine line, especially in societies where it is deemed proper to stick with something even in the face of irredeemable logic, rather than give into passions. Especially when the story is about a bunch of impossibly good looking people in impossibly good looking places. And then there will be the hue and cry of the movie promoting cheating. Which doesn’t really make sense considering in most of these movies, the cheaters are usually never left unscathed or happy. It is usually our own fear of being stuck in the vicious cycle of unfaithfulness which finds expression in these criticisms of any genuinely gripping film on the theme.
All of which even this film, Shakun Batra’s latest, Gehraiyaan, has to face. But the director has always been remarkably good at etching out the intricate web of emotions in families with complex histories; I am a huge fan of both his previous works, Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu and Kapoor & Sons. While this film may not have the narrative drive of both of those, it still packs a heavy punch.
Alisha (Deepika Padukone), a yoga instructor, lives with her partner, Karan (Dhairya Karwa), a former ad agency worker turned aspiring novelist, in Mumbai. Her cousin, Tia (Ananya Pandey), on a break from the US with her real-estate magnate fiancé, Zain (Siddhant Chaturvedi), in tow, suggests a weekend getaway to their childhood home in Alibaug. Alisha, whose relationship with the laidback and jobless Karan has been floundering, finds a spark with fellow outsider Zain and they give into their passion with a series of furtive trysts. But as with every affair, the question soon looms before them on where they are going with it. Should they take the drastic step of upending all four of their lives and break the news to their respective partners? Things are made more complicated by the fact that Karan and Tia are longtime buddies and that Tia’s father is one of the major investors in Zain’s schemes. There are also long pending resentments from Alisha’s childhood, when her father (Naseeruddin Shah) and Tia’s were business partners before her dad upped and left the business to start a new life with his family in Nasik. There are dark secrets from the period involving her mother which slowly come to light as the movie progresses. More worryingly for Zain, a grafter who has worked his way up into the world of privilege he now finds himself in, is that his company is in increasingly dire straits which lurches him into a cycle of stress and desperation.
Like I said, it is a bunch of mostly privileged young people who are at the forefront of this drama. Yet, the screenplay and acting grips as does the impressive cinematography, whether it is in the interiors of cramped apartments and luxury yachts or in the beautiful villa that they getaway to. This is a world of grey shades, without anyone really claiming to be holier than thou. The yacht may seem like overkill, though not surprising considering this is after all a Dharma production, yet it too holds a key place in the scheme of things. The third act of this film takes a decidedly darker turn into thriller territory, and this may find favor with some while others may find this to be the weakest part of the story. But I believe it still works, despite the plausibility at times. The resolution may seem conveniently wrapped up but the last scene does throw a bit of a spanner in the works before leaving us abruptly.
The acting is all good. Siddhant Chaturvedi, Ananya Pandey and Dhairya Karwa are all mightily impressive in their roles, but this is a movie which rests mostly on the well-toned shoulders of Deepika Padukone. There was a time when I found her presence in a movie to be a harbinger of mediocre acting and supermodels trying to take the easy way out, but she has genuinely worked on her skills and can be considered a bonafide star actress by now. Here she embodies the passion, confusion and agony of Alisha with such consummate authority that we get drawn into her story. She also helps articulate a perpetual fear we have, seeing our parents’ shortcomings; are we capable of overcoming their mistakes or will we repeat the sins of the parent? A special mention to Naseeruddin Shah’s smaller but still heartfelt role. The pain of a parent misunderstood by his child and silently grieving for ages comes through by the end and is a touching denouement to his and Alisha’s arc.
So no, I don’t think the movie promotes cheating in any way. It does however showcase some interesting performances and themes surrounding choices and their repercussions as well as guilt and forgiveness. You may or may not like it, but you most assuredly will not be left bored.