Hello Zindagi: Confessions of a Mermaid
The Flight of Karan Johar's Muse
Karan Johar seems to have sprouted waxwings and soared far beyond the reach of the common man. There seems to be a problem of plenty – who finances KJ these days? Why do you lure the unsuspecting audience to the theatre and then lull them to sleep with such terrible fare? The way social media was swamped with teasers of this movie prior to launch betrayed confidence on the part of the producers that this movie will fall flat on its face. Expectations of the discerning spectators, like the waning tide, had already ebbed. Planted reviews have given this movie three stars and more, I would give it no more than a half.
If your idea of Sunday entertainment is to hear a spoiled, privileged, silver-spooned brat gripe about her childhood problems, which at best may be describable as dull by the frontbenchers, then go for it. Alia, a ‘hot’ cinematographer, feeds off lover’s souls as hobby, and then pins up the remnants on her drawing board as war trophies. She has issues: she is scared of committing; she cries foul when her suitors depart. On the verge of breaking down with a surfeit of rejections, she seeks therapy from Sharukh, a psychiatrist.
The second half of the movie – the time when you should consider your money well down the drain and write off your losses and walk out – is all about Alia pouring out the peeves of a childhood spent pining for filial affection, and Sharukh listening closely, slipping in occasional words of wisdom like: “Don’t let your past blackmail your present into spoiling a bright future.” Quiet a mouthful, isn’t it – well, you get quotes from philosophers and thinkers aplenty. Why do I get the nagging feeling all along that it’s the audience receiving therapy, and not Alia?
Had it not been for the loveliness of Alia: splashed over the landscape as a refreshing breath of cool mint; or the calm, mature character of Khan – the unconventional psychiatrist – the interpreter of dreams and maladies; this movie would have probably invited many-a missile of rotten tomatoes and eggs hurled by a miffed Sunday audience; who’d shelled out the crispiest of the new currency, which Modi Bhai had sprung on the hapless Indian public. (I nearly spelt it out as pubic!)
At Interval time, I wondered what fullness had half-transpired that deserved an interlude? The answer was hard to find. Nothing much really happens in the first half that calls for a cessation of hostilities, except a magnanimous gesture on the part of the producers to let the audience gather generous portions of insipid nutrition by way of popcorn and coke from the foyer, as well as to stretch their benumbed limbs. And in case you’d missed the point of the movie till halftime, Sassy Missy Alia appears on screen during break to reveal that this movie is about – quote-unquote – “ her journey of self-discovery, her reaching out to her friends, and her determination to do things on her terms.” Thank you for telling us – for, we didn’t know.
The ongoing to-and-fro, academic dialogue, verbal parlay, inane dithyramb was a bit too pseudo-intellectual and esoteric for me. It seems the center of the world has been narrowed down to the tip of a needle, atop which stands lovely Alia – she’s the lodestar of your universe for three hours, and you’d better like it. Her hate speech against well-meaning parents and the world at large, and the ensuing therapy, is Freudian delicacy, served with pungent Indian asafoetida, blazing onions and fiery curries.
The lame jokes too escaped my notice: I figured I’d have to come back armed with a ‘Laugh- Button” to do justice to my missing sense of humor – Sharukh himself confesses many-a-time that the writer needs to tell better jokes! Neither did the dialogues: neither well crafted nor meaningful, earned my approval. After some time a hum rises slowly in the hall among the restless spectators, and sustains till the whistle is blown and the gates are thrown open for people to take flight.
And lastly, no work of KJ is complete without a curious reflection on the dilemma of gay persons, and here too, we have parents cajoling a daughter to confess if she’s a ‘Lebanese,’ a supposedly humorous twist on ‘lesbian’!
This work of entertainment has as much spice as a desiccated jalapeno; its wit exceeds meaning but falls far short of purpose. Avoid – unless you need sleep therapy.