If you can struggle through the first half of this movie, with its extreme versions of a woman who appears to be histrionic, you will get a second half that is much more intense and mature. This is typical with Bollywood films. They start out with characters who seem like people you have never known (unless you work in a psych hospital) because they often have bizarre personalities, overact their emotions and then there is the dancing and usually lip synching. In this film they actually added what appears to be a real singer. What I found sad was the deterioration of their society by trying to imitate western culture instead of embracing their own. However, the attachment issues are what this film is really about. Something I did not even realize until they finally brought in the psychotherapist, who was actually portrayed in a realistic and therapeutic way, to give a nod to an acceptance of psychology in a culture that does not embrace this at all (not unusual as most cultures don’t).
The therapist is played by Shah Rukh Khan, a very famous actor in India who has played everything from a person with Asperger’s to a psychotherapist. The last film I saw him in he acted like someone sniffing cocaine through the entire movie, so it was refreshing to see him in a more serious role. They actually show the psychotherapist with ethics in this film. Of course there is some suspense now and then as they try to bait you into thinking he might do something very bad. It made me tense because I am tired of seeing these disturbing portrayals of psychotherapists in the media. I even kept thinking, please, please, don’t do it. He didn’t. However, what the psychotherapist is able to uncover, with his unconventional, but appropriate, modalities are the young girl’s attachment issues.
Attachment issues occur in infancy when a child is removed from the mother and father for whatever reason. I have seen this occur with a woman who’s mother was taken from her at birth for quite some time because of the mother’s mental health issues. A young man I know had yellow jaundice and was hospitalized for a week – with mother coming in each day but for only an hour. Another young man was kidnapped at a year and a half by his father and the mother had no idea of his whereabouts. All foster babies in social services end up with attachment issues. In this movie, the girl’s father’s business goes under and the parents leave her with grandparents and go in search of work via new business deals. She writes to them daily but they never respond to her letters. Mom returns with a baby, temporarily and still does not return to take daughter back until later when her child fails miserably in school.
Thus the real concern here is mother being taken from baby or young child and the child is unsure whether they will return. As a result of this, the child develops coping mechanisms to survive. In this movie, the child sought to get attention from her parents, when they did return and she was seen as an unruly child. The parents (this is not unusual) do not take responsibility for the fact that their child is behaving as a result of their actions early on. As an adult, she is unable to attach to the men she believes she is in love with and runs away from them before they have a chance to abandon her.
Many women come to me with an inability to have healthy attachments as a result of birth trauma (or trauma as a young child). I have spoken about Narcissism on here quite a bit and this is similar but not the same. With Narcissists, the parent (s) is there but they do not form a healthy attachment to their child or they are not warm and nurturing and able to respond to the babies needs. Attachment issues can be seen in a variety of diagnoses as it really depends on how the person has interpreted the situation, their emotional intelligence level and the meanings they have placed on scenarios around them. The only constant I see is an inability to have a healthy relationship with a partner. I see unhealthy relationships with parents as well because it is hard to fix these things. The parent (s) is not in therapy. Sometimes the parent is a Narcissist, a substance user still, have mental illness, or they are ignorant to self-awareness in general because they live in denial. With foster children or adopted children, if they are able to find the biological parent, the parent is unsure how to attach to them after all these years. This causes more trauma.
In this Indian movie, “Dear Zindagi,” (2016) it appears that everything comes together within about ten sessions. This is not realistic but it is a movie and they had spent an entire hour or so showing you a histrionic woman doing things like bouncing around in her apartment so you could watch her hair twirling around (about three times there was a scene like this for several minutes). Several scenes of she and her work mates getting drunk, and the second break-up scene was very confusing because I wasn’t even clear they were in a relationship in the first place (mistake in scriptwriting or editing, who knows). In real life, it is easy for this therapist to see attachment issues but not so easy to help a person turn it around.
Childhood wounds are not as easy as having a nice conversation with your parents or bringing them flowers, as she did in this movie. It is not easy to grow up and act like an adult with your parents, when you have been behaving like a teenager around them for most of you adult life or just rejecting them completely. It is difficult when there are multiple babies from fathers and finances are more of a priority then self-awareness and healing. When a couple comes in for therapy and working on communication issues are taken over by dual self-esteem problems that are very deep and untouched. So you are not looking at a simple process. Nonetheless, I think the movie did do some good things. Show psychotherapy in a positive way – to get people to consider this as an option. It opened the door to a conversation of attachment issues, though I don’t believe they actually ever used this phrase. It became an intellectual discussion about life, even though it did not start out this way.
Try to be patient with the subtitles if you are not a foreign film fan like myself and give this movie a try if you can relate to the above. It is on Netflix and I think you will find it entertaining and enlightening if you can be patient through that first half.