If you can stomach Alia Bhatt’s inordinate “cuteness”, pungent pouting, camera mimicry for the first third of the film, you’ll enjoy this flavorful Bollywood flick.
“Kaira” (Bhatt) is a talented, but unrecognized neophyte, cinematographer. Commercial work and cameo scenes pay the rent but she is in a lacuna professionally and personally; lacking the aptitude for commitment, intentionally sabotaging her attachments she is need of a “Brain Doctor” a psychiatrist/psychologist to aid in eliminating barriers preventing progress, notably in the realm of the heart.
“Dear Life” escalates, comes alive with the arrival of “Dr. Jehangir Khan”; Shah Rukh Khan is phenomenal as “Jug”, an unorthodox brain doctor who subtlety, sensitively peels away layers of years and obstacles, hibernating, cauterizing Kaira’s emotional growth. Khan’s best characterization in eons; gone is the silliness, nervous twitching, languid, teary-eyed looks; intelligence and kindness spew from Jug without losing his levity; when the bell goes off, Kaira’s time is up, never allowing the client/doctor relationship to bleed into the personal; professional, genuine to the core.
The film serves an invigorating interpretation of mental health; you do not have to be bipolar, suffering from PTSD, a non-functioning psychotic to seek the help of someone trained in the intricacies, complexities of the psyche. Bhatt and Khan have redolent chemistry as the patient who slowly materializes from the chrysalis of deniability and the doctor nurturing her emergence.
Writer/director Gauri Shinde (“English Vinglish”) proves once again her inimitable grasp of the human condition.