Movie Gehraiyaan: An Ode To Luxury Yachts And Alibaug!

The Amazon original Hindi movie Gheraiyaan (Depths) that premiered on Prime Video on 11th February 2022, is set to give tough competition to quite a number of Hollywood movies in terms of the use of swear words, live-in relationships, passionate love scenes, endless rounds of drinks, brats independent of their families and so on; if not for the promotion of luxury yachts and the tourist spot of Alibaug with its beaches and bungalows near Mumbai. The movie features one of the top heroines of Bollywood Deepika Padukone in the lead role of the protagonist (Ayesha), not exactly that perhaps in hindsight, and other accomplished actors like Siddhant Chaturvedi (Zain), Ananya Panday (Tia), Dhairya Karwa (Karan), Naseeruddin Shah and Rajat Kapoor. It is cowritten and directed by Shakun Batra. The movie is produced jointly by Bollywood tycoon Karan Johar’s Dharma productions, Viacom18 studios and Jouska Films. The shooting schedule and release of the movie had been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Gehraiyaan basically involves four upwardly mobile families of Ayesha, Tia, Karan and Zain with relationship tangles, interconnections and cross connections. Ayesha and Tia have been inseparable childhood friends, and had to part as Tia’s family moved to the US while Ayesha lived in Mumbai and Nasik with the childhood trauma of her mother’s suicide and an estranged relationship with her father (Naseeruddin Shah). Both of them have their respective live-in partners, Karan for Ayesha and Zain for Tia.


As grown-up Ayesha, the yoga instructor, and Karan, the writer, struggle for their ambitious careers quarreling a lot in the process, there appears on the scene a grown-up-too Tia who wants to reunite with her childhood friend and brings along her live-in partner Zain who is also struggling to fulfill his dream project with the active association with Tia’s family. The movie opens promisingly in a flashback of Ayesha’s past and then the reunion of the friends. But then, the movie breaks loose and the unfolding saga of the conflicting, interconnecting and cross connecting relationships finally lands up far away from exploring the ‘depths’ of human relationships or evil. I sat through the rather longish movie just due to the mention of ‘suspense’ as one of its genres, and I had to undergo a suspenseful wait for the ‘suspense’ to unfold. And when it does unfold it just adds more ridicule to the supposedly abstract theme of the film.


The obsession of the four leads along with three of their families to go to Alibaug again and again to just freak out hits you hard, making it rather inexplicable. Of course, the fact that Zain, the stressed-out character with a dream project, does own a luxury yacht to impress upon his prospective lenders, still cannot explain the obsession. Most of the duration of the film is devoted to cocktails and binge parties on-board and in the bungalow in Alibaug with the spicy add-ons of betrayal, love triangles and the lustily repetitive love scenes—the last being showcased very boldly thanks to the streaming platform code. As the stress levels of the characters rise, the use of swear words becomes an increasing function of that.


Humor or any sense of it is entirely missing either in the dialogues or in storytelling. The only point that made me laugh out loud is the dialogue of Karan’s father who expresses in exasperation, ‘Ye kya  f***, f***  karta rahta hain!’ (Why he keeps on uttering f***, f***!)! If the director wanted to score some points in women’s liberation front by allowing the female leads to have as exactly equal rights of having live-in relationships, casual choice for partners, use of swear words and so on as that of the males, his experimentations falls flat when he tries to explain the suicide of Ayesha’s mother which turns out to be as regressive as most of commercial Bollywood movies.


Deepika Padukone, the huge favorite with Indian moviegoers, uses the most of the lusty ingredients, perhaps to her detriment, because the producers might not try for a theatrical release in India just for this reason and of course, for the strict ‘family entertainment’ regulations of Bollywood, even after obtaining a certificate from the censors. If the director wants us to believe this is indeed the changing face of modern India he is dreadfully wrong. While women literacy and freedom from a patriarchal society remain the most urgent priority his prescription is not on the right direction.


On the positive side, performances of Deepika, Ananya and Siddhant are excellent as per the requirements of the script: cinematography is state-of-the-art; and the narration still has a good flow despite the flaws. The ‘suspense’ angle had better be left untold here for the benefits of the OTT viewers who’d like to watch for all reasons, right or wrong. The last shot of the movie showing an elderly lady exclaiming ‘Ayesha’ in front of Ayesha leaves me smelling a rat. Are they planning a sequel? Sordid details, kept safe and sound in the plot so far, cannot possibly make a sequel, it can only succeed in making the viewers squeal! 


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