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Indian filmmaker Shakun Batra’s third feature film began streaming on Amazon Prime Video on Friday. Titled Gehraiyaan, the film stars Deepika Padukone, Ananya Panday, Dhairya Karwa and Siddhant Chaturvedi in lead roles. Prior to the release, the film was publicized as one about complicated human emotions and relationships.
Gehraiyaan is certainly not an easy film to watch. You may like it for the complexities, and, you may dislike it for those very complications in the plot. For me, it was a superficial game of infidelity blended with an intense, emotional drama about dysfunctional families and the psychological effects of parents’ choices on their kids.
Reiterating on the ‘complicated’ aspect of his new film, Batra says, “Gehraiyaan is about complex and modern relationships, and how people step outside the norms, into the grey. In Indian films, we have oversimplified the idea of love. We have a very romanticized idea of love and it was important for me that I tell a more complicated, messier, and murkier story. I decided to delve into a world that was not so simple. I wanted to zoom out and understand love from a more objective place.”
Reminded that simply stepping out of the socially accepted norms of marital bond or love is not a novel subject at all, the filmmaker says, “Mahesh Bhatt’s cinema jumped into the subject. But, we have often hidden it in the garb of finding the soulmate in such movies. Gehraiyaan is not a film where the protagonist steps out in search of a soulmate. Also, Bhatt sir’s films rely a lot on the shock value and are often sensationalized. (Not judging that) Each one of us can choose a unique way of telling a story. For me, it was important I tell stories of my characters and what happens in their lives. Intimacy is only a part (of the story).”
Asked if he hopes to start a conversation around the subject, Batra says that he believes the responsibility of changing a society is too huge for a filmmaker and films should be conversation starters. He adds that the responsibility of a filmmaker lies in ensuring that the movie does not offend people. “Regardless of your own belief. (With Gehraiyaan), I did not want to offend, neither did I want to be the smarter voice. I just want to open a conversation. However, we also wanted ensure that we do justice to the scenes, characters and our story. We knew that we were making a grown-up film for the grown-ups.”
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Batra made his debut as a director with the 2012 film Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu and his claim to fame, Kapoor & Sons (2016) was his second outing. Asked if he wishes to continue with relationship dramas for his future projects, he says, “I follow my curiosity, I have not had a vacation to sit down and ask what do I feel now? I am certainly looking for growth, but growth does not necessarily come from changing the subject. It comes from exploring the psychology and characters. Right now, I feel like making films with drama and sentiments.”
A remarkable thing about Gehraiyaan is, that it is the first Hindi feature film to credit someone as the intimacy director. India-based Ukranian filmmaker Dar Gai has been credited as the intimacy director for the film, and she has said it was Batra’s idea. He adds, “I think we are over-discussing intimacy (during the promotions of Gehraiyaan). I just hope over the next two or three years, intimacy direction becomes a common and normal part of filmmaking in India. I hope it becomes part and parcel of filmmaking, just like choreography and cinematography are. We do not talk about those in isolation.”
(The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.)