For someone who keeps a close watch on trends online, I’m blissfully unaware of the film marketing and promotions that take place with projects in Bollywood. It’s usually only closer to the date that I get my claws all in and invested, if at all. Gehraiyaan didn’t offer me that choice. I was exposed to “Deepika Padukone’s” house style of marketing with compelling bytes and interviews and even a minor feud with a Z list microblogger celebrity, all of which was all over the internet and exchanged over one-on-one texts and DMs. For a brief moment, I was even all too invested in a dress she wore for a promotional event.
All of the criticism, then, in the light of the publicity done for Gehraiyaan should not be surprising. For every promotional media commodity in the form of event appearances, reels, and short format video distribution, Gehraiyaan received the same flak. There were reviews floating on Twitter hours after the film was released on Prime, with the synopsis simplified as a joke for the audience to laugh about. Most agreed with the content, “thank you, I will not waste my time with the film”. Others, meanwhile, were surprised and confused. “Should I watch Gehraiyaan? Is it really that bad?” Nobody could tell for sure.
The critics of the film were largely positive. Their positioning touched across the themes in the film- family, generational trauma, infidelity, dating, and sex- all of these were largely simplified in the fringe reviews online by one and all. No two persons can have the same experience to the same problem and yet for both ends of the spectrum to reflect staunchly different opinions meant the film needed to be streamed.
In all fairness, this sort of public anger and response set a new precedent for film journalism and marketing alike. While the publicists usually work around a digital plan to market the film with collaborations and promotions, Gehraiyaan and more web exclusive projects will, in some way, compel the producers and the team to look at devising solutions on how best to tackle a situation where your film has been attacked by the mass audience online without much ado.
Two of my friends told me in confidence over DMs, “I really liked the film” and were just as taken aback by the polarizing reaction by folks online. Another, who was unconvinced about the film, texted me through the last half hour complaining about the absurdity of the things going down by the minute. Among common criticism, the length of the film was a common one. Remember this dating app friend? He offered the best one-liner (which, admittedly, is not original), “Gehraiyaan should have been an episode on Made in Heaven and it could have worked beautifully.”
How does one answer if a film is worth watching or not? How is it that a beautifully made art film cannot garner the same response as a trash project that makes crores? It’s partly down to word of mouth and partly down to the project itself. Would I say Gehraiyaan is a badly made film? I don’t think so. It has its technical problems especially with editing, the lack of “intimacy” within “intimate scenes” and Bollywood-izing the last half an hour. Do I think the film deserves the amount of hate it got for the problems? Absolutely not. I’ve seen half-assed projects do better because they are far from mass public scrutiny and happily exist in the oblivion of the audience who consumes the film and forget about it.
The fact that so many people responded to Gehraiyaan online makes you wonder if the film truly hit a nerve with one and all and that is where I feel the film succeeds. It prompted questions from those who hated it and then again from those who loved it, making it a highly debatable subject when it could have just been forgotten by now. If you haven’t streamed Gehraiyaan yet, I’d urge you to go down that road yourself and see if you resonate with either or sentiments.
However, this isn’t a film that I can write an objectively fair review for I enjoyed it thoroughly and I don’t think I’d agree with the tear-down approach for this project in the least. For everyone who said that people only liked this film cause Amazon paid them to give a positive review, my message to Shakun Batra and the team is that I’m still waiting to get my payment for I have received no such information.
The film is available for streaming on Prime Videos in India.
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