A heartfelt, simple confession. A stumbling rejection. An awkward handshake. And a surprise hug. This is one of the most beautiful scenes in Dear Zindagi, a film that addresses issues that most of us face, often secretly—abandonment issues, intimacy issues, parental issues. A million and one insecurities. The film takes us through the beautiful journey of coming to terms with our feelings and finding a way of expressing them instead of resorting to destructive outlets. The message is very simple: Life is beautiful, you are beautiful, your scars are beautiful, your baggage is beautiful. Dear Zindagi tells a nice, meaningful story, with the performances of Alia Bhatt (playing the character of a cinematographer, Kaira) and Shah Rukh Khan (Dr Jehangir Khan, a psychiatrist) elevating it immensely. I was left with a feel-good warmth in my heart near the end. And then the chair creaked.
The chair should not have creaked. I believe that SRK could have taken the scene and their relationship to much higher level, had the chair not creaked.
Shah Rukh Khan has been the ideal romantic dream for over two decades now. His respect for women in real life and the intense love that his characters portray on screen have spoiled romance for an entire generation to say the least. He has played the scorned lover, the passionate lover, the intense lover, the heartbroken lover, the gentle lover, the funny lover, the pure lover, the adulterous husband, the "oh I can't resist him" lover, the dying lover, the sacrificing lover, the wholesome family man lover and so many more roles to the tee. And these are just his romantic roles. He has had women falling for him in almost all his films.
And oh! Can he play love! The camera does not need to reach his outstretched arms, just one look into his eyes, and you believe that he loves you. Even in the most commercial, in-your-face films, he has brilliantly pulled off those couple of beautiful nuances about love that have left an entire generation swooning.
One of my favourite SRK looks is when he knows the other person loves him and he does not reciprocate, but still respects the feeling. In the scene in Dil Toh Pagal Hai, when Karisma Kapoor drunkenly blurts out her feelings for him, he pauses shocked, looks at her, smiles with tenderness, tucks her in, and while leaving just stops for a moment by the pillar. Even in the semi-darkness, one can see exactly what is going on in his mind. Similarly, in Jab Tak Hai Jaan, when he helplessly tells Anushka Sharma, not to repeat his mistake and fall in love so deeply, he has that look. He looks with so much respect to the love that is coming towards him. He respects love.
And that is precisely why I was let down just a little in Dear Zindagi.
The chair should not have creaked. I believe that SRK could have taken the scene and their relationship to much higher level, had the chair not creaked. He has done it so beautifully before. Given the charm, subtlety, depth and control that he gave the character of Dr. Jehangir Khan, it would have seemed much more real and heart warming. The scene is played beautifully with the hesitant, yet more accepting and sure-of-her-feelings Kaira, and a knowing, emotional and yet in-control therapist(who for the first time in the entire film, stumbles a little as he recites the normalcy of the feelings that have developed). During the hesitant handshake and the sudden goodbye hug, the surprise in SRK's eyes melts your heart. He has literally killed the scene.
It was all so real. And then the creaking chair happens. And I was left with a cliché. A real rejection would have made me feel much more for Kaira. The creaking chair just left me filled with disbelief.
It felt like the director succumbed to either the SRK love phenomenon. Or wanted to give another redeeming quality to Kaira. Neither was needed. But anyway, Shah Rukh Khan is my cliché for love. Whatever he puts on the table of romance is nothing less than a seven-course gourmet meal. So with or without the cliché, Dr. Jehangir Khan pulls out yet another brilliant facet of love and serves us with a delicacy that leaves us satisfied, while at the same time, wanting more.
PS: If you're wondering exactly what the creaking of the chair signifies, you'll have to watch the movie!