It is not rare to see a movie getting polarizing reactions. But, the novelty about deeply divided reactions and reviews for Gehraiyaan is the deep sense of betrayal in them. The movie was expected to be a study of the challenges of modern-day relationships. Perhaps, something that would help people understand the fast-changing world, where the idea of relationships, family, and love is ever-evolving.
There is nothing wrong with leaning into stories to seek answers for our internal conflicts. The traditional function of stories is to tell us how to make sense of life and how to experience it more holistically, and not repeating the mistakes made by those who came before us.
The audience couldn’t digest when Gehraiyaan did not meet their expectations, and took a sharp left from what they were expecting. Going by the reactions, it seems the filmmakers may have marketed the movie wrongly, as people are judging Gehraiyaan for what it never was — a contemporary tale of modern love.
Well, I could empathize with the audience, who seems to be simmering with frustration over undelivered promises. I, however, feel it’s a bit unfair to Gehraiyaan and its creators if we refuse to see it for what it truly is. I liked the movie. It may be because I didn’t have any preconceived notion about the film. By looking at the movie, again, with a set of fresh eyes and an open mind, perhaps, may help the audience to enjoy the movie a little bit. That’s my advice if you haven’t watched the movie yet; Also, consider this a spoiler alert.
Gehraiyaan is simply an extremely good-looking pulp fiction about love, sex aur dhoka. From the trailers, it was clear that the movie was about two people starting an affair outside their relationships. Infidelity forces people to lie and that soon spirals out of control. When the truth is about to finally catch up, the liars end up doing terrible things to cover up their lies.
Let’s not see the world of Gehraiyaan through our rosy frames and judge Deepika Padukone’s Alisha for getting out of it alive. It is the world of crime, where everyone is committing some sort of fraud all the time. Someone is getting cheated out of marriage, someone is getting cheated out of the property will, some are committing serious financial crimes. But, we all lose our minds, when someone decides to commit a murder. The only thing that would have been inconsistent with the narration, if Siddhant Chaturvedi’s Zain had suddenly developed a conscience, and he decided to come out clean by putting his love above himself.
Zain lives by the code: “Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat.” And that code belongs to Neil McCauley, a bank robber, from the movie Heat.
Zain is a homme fatale
It didn’t take a lot of time for him to fall for Alisha’s beauty. There was no interpersonal conflict, guilt, fear, or space for any drama when he decided to make romantic overtures towards Deepika’s character in her. His switch of loyalty from Tia to Alisha is almost instant. Mind you, Ananya Panday’s Tia was his fiancee, not just a girlfriend.
For Zain, Tia’s relationship is an intangible property that he could mortgage to fund his business ambitions whenever he needs. Sample this: When he feels that he could pay back the money he borrowed from Tia’s father, he decides to end it with Tia. And when he again falls on hard times and is in dire need of money, he decides to milk Tia’s affection from her for more money. He does n’t give two hoots about love if it does n’t support his ambition. The more you dig into his character, you will find nothing but trust deficit and bad loans.
Zain’s personality is so untrustworthy that it shocks you sometimes. In a scene when Tia confronts Zain and asks him about whether he’s doing a number on her, he brazenly ends up gaslighting the whole situation and makes Tia beg for his forgiveness from her. That’s pure manipulation.
The main suspense of the movie is whether Zain truly loves Alisha? Will he choose love over money? and more important question: between Alisha and Tia, who will Zain betray, first? He keeps us guessing. The writers of Gehraiyaan provide plenty of clues throughout the narration to give us an idea about Zain’s shapeshifting personality. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise when he picks himself over all others, once again.
Alisha’s characterization is rather straightforward. A woman who is stuck in an unhealthy relationship meets an extremely desirable man, who promises her a life she always wanted but never had. And he promises her to keep her happy, which has eluded all her life from her. In Zain, Alisha sees the key to the kingdom of never-ending love and happiness. But, it’s too late before she learns who he truly is beneath all that smooth-talking and entitled, swagger. Like Zain’s project on the island, which we only see from Afar, Alisha’s dreamboat never reaches the shores of the promised land. Her dreams of her are born, nurtured and buried right in the middle of the sea; between her troubled present of her and the promise of a glossy future.
Some themes in the movie deal with family trauma and the sinister gag of the circle of life. It reminded me of a line from director Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia: “We might be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.”
Just when Alisha and Tia think they have finally reached a place where they can make a fresh start, life throws a curveball at them, kicking them, perhaps, back into the loop of infidelity, guilt and trauma.