I had promised I’d watch Jab Tak Hai Jaan as a mark of respect towards Yash Chopra. I did. I am not overwhelmed. But I am not sorry either.
All the recent films that Yash Chopra has directed require a great deal of suspension of disbelief on the audience’s part. Yes, it is my blind prejudice towards the man and his body of work (Daag, Trishul, Deewar, Mashaal) that makes me so stubborn, but in his defence, he also created this genre of fairy-tale romance and defined its elements. All of us know what his films have lately been about. Don’t like them, don’t watch them. But don’t complain if you do. It is silly of you to expect a neo-realist fare from the house that now sells romance, dreams and happily ever afters.
It is for this very reason I am not going to complain about the multiple basic inconsistencies in the film, like – How is an Indian Army officer allowed to sport a stubble? What are Olympic decorations doing in London stations in 2002? Why was a bikini-clad Akira (Anushka Sharma) surprised when she dived into a lake in Ladakh and found it freezing enough to kill her?
The plot is out there for everyone to know. Poor boy meets princess, they become friends and fall in love, until one vaada leads them to separate. Boy joins the Indian army, meets boisterous and aspiring documentary filmmaker, politely spurns her advances, but stays her friend. One thing leads to another and ultimately, the happy “the end”.
With hardcore SRK fans calling it his best performance ever and others hating him (because it has become a full-time hobby now), people with non-committal feelings about him are finding it difficult to take a moderate stand without feeling jostled. I’d say, he is among the better things in the movie – because Katrina, playing Meera, is still somewhere on the learning curve in terms of her acting and Anushka is annoying. It’s time she played someone that isn’t like her in Band Baaja Baarat, Badmaash Company or the Reliance Mobile advertisements. No one in recent times has managed a chirpy, happy-go-lucky character as well as Kareena’s Geet in Jab We Met. Everyone else just plays it over the top.
His chemistry with Katrina seems forced. And he is so elder-brotherly towards Akira, that any more intimacy and it’d have felt morally unpalatable. So it’s like saying a veteran beat two amateurs at the task. Big deal.
Having seen SRK in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, DDLJ, Swades and Chak De India, I long for another such performance from him. Here he seems unsupported and stifled by lesser competent co-stars, old-style Bollywood dialogue delivery and a long, loopy plot. His Samar Anand is made to flit between a threesome among boyish and love-struck Sunil (KHKN), confident and cocky loverboy Raj (DDLJ) and brooding man on a mission Kabir Khan(Chak De). But the magic of none of the character s blossoms fully enough to create a long-lasting impression.
The frames are beautiful. You really can never go wrong with framing shots in London and Ladakh, even with a Kodak KB-10. But that is not to take away from Anil Mehta’s good work. The music is absolutely non-Rahman, not in a complimentary way. Even Gulzar Saab’s work feels uninspired. And I must have said this a few hundred times by now. Katrina looks like a Yashraj princess, but she has a long way to go before she can carry off a instrumental-dance solo/duet like Sridevi (Lamhe, Chandni) or Madhuri and Karisma (Dil To Paagal Hai) did. Vaibhavi Merchant is definitely no Saroj Khan or Shiamak Davar. She shouldn’t have been hired by YRF for the job in any case.
The dialogue by Aditya Chopra is sore. But in a smart way, the father and son duo have used it to subtly poke fun at what we as an audience loved earlier, but now cannot stand. The younger Akira keeps talking about the older generation, their choices, preferences and idea of love. We are caught wondering whether we want to be there or here. Also, for some good reason, Samar voices for logic and practicality over a deal with “Sir Jesus”. That should have just happened earlier to save us at least an hour out the three that this film runs for.
Jab Tak Hai Jaan is the kind of story that all of us grow up wanting to be part of (at least most of the women do), and continue to want to believe in. How much of it we like or dislike depends upon our view of romance and relationships that is shaped in our minds as we grow older and live through our own experiences with love. In my opinion, I am more on the cynical side to be able to appreciate the film the way it is meant to be. But it will work for the incurable romantics.
Yash Chopra was a shrewd filmmaker. After Veer Zaara, he probably knew that his audience had shrunk. It was beginning to delve into films with darker subjects and “real” plots. Which is why he probably took this long to come back to the job to make a last statement. And also maybe that is why he had announced that Jab Tak Hai Jaan would be his last film. He had made the right call. For while better than Veer Zaara, Jab Tak Hai Jaan is no where close to his masterpieces. But no regrets as we will always have his best work, to remember him by.