Gehraiyaan: More Than What Meets The Eye

If you look hard enough, almost everyone is guilty of something
Gehraiyaan: More Than What Meets The Eye

Just like the ocean hides unfathomable depths, there is more to people and their choices than what meets the eye. The movie Gehraiyaan (aptly titled) explores just that. It follows the lives of Alisha, Zain, Karan and Tia, their past and how it factors into the morally and objectively wrong choices they make. Revelations come to light and layers are pulled back to unearth the murkiness that lies underneath. If you look hard enough, almost everyone is guilty of something.

Alisha, played by Deepika Padukone is an ambitious yoga instructor who dreams of living a better life: "like the other half", as she puts it. Her drive and ambition aren't reflected in her boyfriend of six years, Karan (Dhairya Karwa), who has left his job to pursue his dream of writing. He's perfectly content with the life they share, which partly stems from him coming from a place of privilege and partly because he's just an easygoing guy. This difference in their aspirations is the major bone of contention between them.

Living a life that is in stark contrast to theirs is Tia (Ananya Pandey), Alisha's cousin and Alisha and Karan's childhood friend. For all intents and purposes, she and her fiancé Zain (Siddhant Chaturvedi) live the "other life" Alisha strives for — yachts, Tuscany weddings and a beach house in Alibaug. Zain is a suave real estate developer who has clawed his way to be where he is, albeit with help from Tia's father, a fact his future mother-in-law never forgets to remind him of. Despite being one of them, Zain feels othered due from the constant reminder he's not the sole contributor towards his success and a general sense of suspicion with which he is regarded by Tia's mother, because of her own experiences in the past.

So when Zain and Alisha meet at an impromptu getaway, they realise they have more in common with each other than with their respective partners. As Karan and Tia enjoy their reunion, Alisha and Zain are often left out. They get to know each other, more so by Zain's initiative. They both feel like outsiders, coming from humble but troubled families, the only difference being that Zain had seemingly made his way out while Alisha was still struggling. The depiction of their infidelity is nuanced: you understand their choices even if you don't agree with them. At one point, Zain says he wishes they'd have met under different circumstances, and you can't help but wonder "What if?"

As the central character, much of the onus falls on Deepika Padukone to deliver, and she delivers it to gut-wrenching perfection. You can relate to her feeling like she's the unluckiest person around, to her effort in not ending up 'stuck' like her mother and how that plays into the choices she makes. The scene on the yacht, and the events that follow capture Alisha trying to grapple with grief, shock, guilt and the realisation of what Zain had planned for her. Her life was crumbling in all the ways that mattered. In these moments, Deepika's performance really stands out.

Siddhant Chaturvedi plays his role of a charming, hotshot real-estate agent and a manipulative, cheating fiance with equal elan. There are moments you almost begin to sorry for him as he desperately tries to reign in the mayhem that he has unleashed on his own life with bad choices —be it in his business deals or in his personal life. Emphasis on the word 'almost', because it's made abundantly clear that he has no qualms about lying and gaslighting his way out of any tough spot he lands in.

Ananya Pandey as Tia delivers a solid performance, with some skeletons in her own cupboard that come tumbling out. Dhairya Karwa does justice to his role as the laidback Karan, but there's not much for him to do. Rajat Kapoor is brilliant as the menacing and scheming businessman, ready to go to any lengths to save himself from the line of fire.

Shakun Batra's ability to weave in facets of real life is truly commendable — most prominent in a heart-stopping moment where Tia gets hold of Zain's phone. She doesn't manage to switch off the screen before Zain is back, which he notices but chooses not to confront her, while she looks away guiltily. It is for this reason that it's inconceivable that he and the three writers (Ayesha DeVitre, Sumit Roy and Yash Sahai) would come up with two twists in the story that seem more and more absurd after the shock value has worn off. You don't see them coming, and when it's over you are left wondering if they really happened. However, one of them brought us the scene where Alisha realises how deeply she had misjudged her father all along. Naseeruddin Shah is simply brilliant as he lays forth his rationale behind what he did and leaves us with an important message — there's more to us than the mistakes we make along the way.

The cinematography by Kaushal Shah is enchanting; it almost feels like we have been invited into their world painted in shades of blue. The interspersed shots of the waves and their sound of rising and crashing provide a welcome relief. Another unsung hero is the background score. It's fresh, unique and serves to drive home emotions perfectly, whether it is the thrill of budding illicit love or the feeling of foreboding for the future. The songs, especially Doobey, are a wonderful accompaniment and are here to stay.

All in all, Gehraiyaan isn't worth missing. You are guaranteed to go in expecting something but the movie will surprise you. People expecting Kapoor & Sons-esque magic will be disappointed, but the world will take a hold of you and you'll come up for air on the other side of an oddly satisfying open ending.

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