Filmmaker Gauri Shinde initiated meaningful conversations with her film ‘Dear Zindagi’. Released in the year 2016, the film addressed the stigma surrounding therapy while emphasising the importance and relevance of mental health in our lives. Revolving around the life of a young and successful cinematographer, (played by Alia Bhatt), the film gives a closer look at her emotional struggles and how she rediscovers herself with the help of Dr Jehangir Khan, a compassionate therapist (essayed by Shah Rukh Khan). While the film received incredible reviews and an extreme outpour of love from fans worldwide, it was refreshing to see superstar Shah Rukh Khan take up this role with an important message and deliver something that audiences have never seen of him before.
Speaking to Film Companion’s Anupama Chopra in an interview in collaboration with ITC Fiama X NielsenIQ, Feel Good With Fiama Mental Health Survey 2023, centred around the showcasing and impact of mental health in cinema, Director Gauri Shinde opened up about working with Shah Rukh Khan and the importance of having him on board to make the story reach wider audiences, marking the film’s seventh year since its release.
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All praise for the star, Gauri Shinde said, “When I went to him with some four-five lines, I had the script ready anyway and I narrated it to him, and he said OKAY, what do I have to do. We discussed what kind of a person – therapist we wanted him to be and he had his own input, so we explored that, but the brief is essentially what’s in the script. It’s like how Shah Rukh is in real life, where you trust and believe him. I can’t think of anyone who could have played Dr Jehangir Khan and because of him, people have taken therapy a bit seriously. I needed a mainstream actor and star, apart from him being awesome and a great actor, you want to listen to him. The star quality was very essential for this film so that more people watch, it’s more accessible and therapy & mental health get through. if it was not someone like him, it may not have reached out this idea of therapy.”
Sharing a personal anecdote of how the film was inspired by her own life journey, Gauri Shinde further revealed, “I had this idea of a therapist and a patient because I had that experience, and I always was aspiring to have a therapist and I found that person in my life. I thought this would be great and if someone would do this and create a little more flexibility in therapy, it’s my ideal idea of therapy. It started with the thought of how I can describe this beautiful relationship.”
Available to watch on Netflix, ‘Dear Zindagi’ is written and directed by Gauri Shinde. The film was produced by Gauri Khan, Karan Johar, and Gauri Shinde under the banners of Red Chillies Entertainment, Dharma Productions, and Hope Productions respectively. It co-stars Ira Dubey, Kunal Kapoor, Angad Bedi, Ali Zafar, Yashaswini Dayama and Rohit Suresh Saraf in supporting roles.