Thursday, November 15, 2012

Movie review: Jab Tak Hai Jaan (Hindi)

Before I delve into the movie review, here's wishing everyone a sparkling Diwali! May the festival of lights brighten up your lives with happiness and prosperity!

We had a nice and quiet Diwali this year. We wanted to stay at home to celebrate our first Diwali in our new home. I had a friend come over for dinner. The day whizzed by with a visit to the temple, conveying wishes to family and friends, beautifying the house, performing prayers, lighting diyas (lamps), making jelabis and other festive dishes, engaging in pleasant conversation and enjoying a hearty meal!

Now for the movie review...

Jab Tak Hai Jaan (JTHJ in short), released this month is a Hindi movie and the last directorial venture of the legendary filmmaker Yash Chopra starring Shahrukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma in lead roles. I couldn't think of a better way to end the Diwali celebrations than watching a love story with a Yash Chopra stamp on it. In my opinion, anyone who can make a movie like Dil Toh Pagal Hai is a genius. And Yash Chopra was a true genius. A visionary filmmaker who could interpret love in a way that could resonate with audiences of any generation. The man behind Dil Toh Pagal Hai - a movie I fell hopelessly in love with, a movie that I can never get tired of watching, a movie that was iconic in so many ways and most importantly, a movie that revolutionized Indian love stories. So, I feel I am justified in having sky-high expectations from his last directorial venture.

I feel bad as I say this but JTHJ for me was in one word - AVERAGE. It could have been magnificent but an ill-conceived story drags it down (quite literally if you consider the run-time of 180 mins!).

What makes cinema enjoyable for me is a good story - PERIOD. That is what gets me every time. I don't care who the director is, who the actors are, where the movie is shot or what kind of music it has. Unfortunately, that is where I find JTHJ's BIGGEST flaw. It has one of India's legendary directors, three of Bollywood's biggest stars, music by Oscar winner A.R Rahman, breathtaking locales of London & Kashmir (basically everything going for it) and yet it falters in many places especially in the second half, crippled by a weak story and poorly etched characters.

***Plot summary***

Samar Anand (Shahrukh Khan) is a young man working odd jobs in London to support himself. He is charming and carefree and has the knack of spreading cheer wherever he goes. One of his sources of income is being a street musician and that is how he comes to meet Meera (Katrina Kaif), a beautiful, young and wealthy businesswoman whom he falls for instantly. Meera is engaged to Roger, her childhood friend, someone she is comfortable with and whom her father (Anupan Kher) wholeheartedly approves of. Meera and Samar strike a deal - he has to teach her a Punjabi song while she has to teach him propah English. Soon, cupid strikes (thanks to an epiphany that Meera has courtesy of her estranged mother) and the two realize that they are meant to be together. However destiny has other ideas and a near fatal accident forces the lovers apart. Meera breaks Samar's heart as a result of her penchant to make ridiculous bargains with God and our hero is left angry and grief stricken. He returns to India and enrolls in the army where he goes on to become a bomb diffusion expert - a career that pushes him towards the jaws of death every day. 10 years goes by and we see present day Major Samar Anand working on an assignment in Ladakh. 

Enter Akira Rai (Anushka Sharma) a twenty-something, thrill-seeking, free-spirited girl who comes to Ladakh as an aspiring documentary filmmaker. She discovers Samar's weathered dairy and after learning about his situation, develops a curiosity in him. She expresses a desire to make a documentary on his life titled "The Man Who Cannot Die" and in the process ends up falling head-over-heels in love with him. On Akira's behest, Samar arrives in London to help her validate her documentary to further her career but ends up being a victim of another accident. The trauma he suffers leads to retrograde amnesia and has regresses 10 years back. The last thing he remembers is the earlier accident and the only the events preceding it. Now it is left to Akira and Meera to help Samar bring back his memory and reveal the harsh reality of the situation.

How the lovers re-unite forms the rest of this poignant tale.

My thoughts...

The first half of the movie is good. It is fresh and breezy and the chemistry between Samar and Meera is palpable. The first time pairing of Shahrukh and Katrina brings in a sense of novelty which is one of the strong points of the movie. However the movie begins to derail towards the second half. There are moments in the story which the audience just cannot buy. It is a little hard to swallow that a modern, independent girl who smokes, swears, makes out in a telephone booth, cheats on her unsuspecting fiancee is bound by self-made promises and vows to God. It just seems a bit trite. The two minute appearance by Meera's estranged mother who offers her profound advice about love and life although moving was not entirely convincing. You could probably even overlook that but then why on earth introduce the whole retrograde amnesia angle? Was it really necessary? The moral of the story could just as well be - look both sides before crossing the road dude! (sorry...couldn't resist that one). A bit old-school if you ask me. That whole accident business just stretched out the story like a piece of chewing gum. Not to mention the British police allowing a complete stranger to diffuse a bomb without a stitch of protection in the London underground! An educated audience cannot accept things like that. And the last 45 mins or so of the movie is downright exasperating. However, a few moments between Samar and Akira in the second half of the movie were still touching and memorable. In general, there are numerous moments of tenderness throughout the movie to offset the hackneyed twists and turns and it is in these moments that you see the celluloid magic of Yash Chopra.

A word on the performances - Shahrukh Khan (SRK) being the King of romance is at his charming best. He looks good too and more so in his army attire (the stubble works!). His appearance is in-keeping with the 10 year jump in the story. How he manages to convincingly romance girls half his age is a mystery to me! SRK always excels when he stays true to the character and delivers a controlled performance (as in Swades and Chak De). JTHJ belongs to Khan all the way. Katrina Kaif has been dealt a raw deal with a poorly defined character. She looks gorgeous (the quintessential Yash Chopra heroine - minus the chiffons) but her character is the weakest link in the story and unfortunately she isn't enough of a seasoned actress enough to portray convincingly. Anushka Sharma is a talented actress and genuinely likeable but she needs to tone it down a little. There is a not-so fine line between being bubbly and being perpetually high on Redbull! She has played the character of a strong-willed, free-spirited, independent girl before so the character of Akira is probably not new to her. I loved her in her previous movies but in JTHJ, I felt she was over the top. Yet she still managed to do the needful by injecting a whole lot of spunk into the movie which made the movie interesting. As for the supporting cast, Anupam Kher, Neethu Singh and Rishi Kapoor have nothing much to do in insignificant cameos.

The music is soulful as expected from the musical maestro, the cinematography is brilliant, all the actors look amazing and there is the classic Yash Chopra concept of idealized love that you can't help but be smitten with. The lush meadows, pristine white snow, postcard locales, attractive people and picture perfect frames are like sweet indulgent need them once in a while because they make you happy. That being said, you need considerable patience to watch this movie, but even with its inherent flaws, I would recommend a one-time watch. 

Jab Tak Hain Jaan is Yash Chopra's ode to love and the last chapter of his illustrious career in the Hindi film industry spanning decades. He has left behind an enviable legacy that represented his unbridled passion for love, life and cinema. Yash Chopra, you will be sorely missed!

I give this movie a very generous 3 out of 5 stars

1 comment:

  1. Was searching for the review and landed have nice place....keep going....


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