Recently released on Amazon Prime Video, Gehraiyaan generated quite the hype with its steamy trailers and young soulful music. So popular was the soundtrack itself, that the song doobey is now the number one trending Instagram reel song in India. In reality, the film deals with issues that are starkly distant from the catchy tunes and intimate scenes we witness in the trailers. It deals with issues of infidelity, greed and ambition, without demonising its protagonists. Consequently, it has generated a lot of debate in the country. The makers of this film should be proud of that alone. In a country like India, where people are keen to keep their personal and private lives separate, where we like to pretend that sex, desire and infidelity are alien to Indian culture, this film has given us a slice of reality. Some critics noted that the film does not represent India. They are right, in that it does not represent all of India. It does reveal a facet of our society that very much exists and thrives in a marginal section of the country.
Without giving away too much, here is a sneak peak into what to expect. The film’s female protagonist is Alisha, played by Deepika Padukone. She is a young yoga instructor with a tragic family history. She is looking for a more fulfilling relationship, all the while desiring for professional success. She wants people to invest in her app, she wants her own yoga studio, a better house. She constantly compares her cousin’s circumstances to her own. Cousin Tia, played by Ananya Pandey, lives lavishly in a seemingly perfect world. Alisha’s actions are not governed by love and attraction alone, but also by materialistic desires. There are plenty of motives that drive her towards Tia’s boyfriend Zain, played by Siddhant Chaturvedi. Zain provides her emotional fulfilment while funding her yoga studio. Zain is attracted to Alisha and helps her out of his love for her. However, with major plot twists and unexpected story lines, we witness our characters desire much more than romantic love, deep emotional support and a meaningful relationship. This is not an ideal world.
Infidelity is not the only vice portrayed in the film, although that has overshadowed every other aspect of the story. Gehraiyaan means ‘depths’ and the characters in this film reveal theirs with different motives, feelings and actions. All the other characters are similarly imperfect. Even Alisha’s mother, who is idealised and deeply mourned by her daughter, is revealed to have skeletons in her closet. Our otherwise ‘sweet Tia’, has secrets that unveil selfish desires. As the story unfolds, the audience comes to realise that these characters are just as flawed and complex as real human beings – all of us. Under certain circumstances and motivations, driven by ideas of success and happiness, real people do horrible things. Alisha, Zain and Tia are a reflection of this faction of Indian society.
Gehraiyaan does not claim to be a morality tale. We do not support Alisha or Zain’s infidelity or Tia’s greed, but we do recognise that real people sometimes do fall into temptations. The film is not, as some have said, about skin show. Nor is it pornographic. There are intimate moments that are suitable to the plot, and that’s really all there is to it.
Gehraiyaan reveals its characters in all their complexities sans an overtly judgemental and condescending tone, thanks to the scriptwriting. Deepika Padukone does well in peeling off layers of Alisha as the film progresses. Alisha is emotionally traumatised, vulnerable, lonely, envious, but also a survivor who will literally fight for her life.
Ananya Pandey has been well cast as Tia. The actor’s youth translates nicely into the character’s apparent naivety. For a change, Dharma Productions has cast fewer mainstream Bollywood actors. I recommend this film. For people who miss feel-good morality tales, with flat characters, I recommend watching some of Dharma Productions’ earlier offerings.