Old-school romance doesn’t quite seem as classic as it ideally should – 2.0/5.0

The tragedy of Jab Tak Hai Jaan is in it trying to sell soulful romantic idealism in drastically different contemporary times. The very idea seems assuredly outdated and the mechanisms difficult to approve of. The film’s irrational story doesn’t provide us with any strong character – none of the three pretty individuals who people this film are clearly etched, while their motivations do not always justify their odd actions. A jaded lover in England joins the Indian army and becomes a bomb-defusing expert because of his girlfriend’s misplaced faith in God. The girl (played effectively by a tender Katrina Kaif) thinks their liaison will end up tragically because of an earlier barter. An over-wrought conflict; it reaches ridiculous heights and ends up making this film disproportionately melodramatic, even by the late Yash Chopra’s standards.

Our hero is Shah Rukh Khan (Samar Anand), playing himself – the lover-boy to the hilt who first recognises his signs of affection for the affluent lass, and then appears genuinely apprehensive about the probable romance. We have seen this character before. We have seen Shah Rukh woo his woman with his playful charisma and committed intensity. But here, the actor seems a tad misplaced as his characteristics aren’t exactly age-defying. The heroine, on the other hand, is swept off her feet soon as she’s mastered Punjabi lyric, the initial reason of their cute-meet. The romance is ruined as a result of God-fearing Katrina and then Shah Rukh voluntarily takes the deadly job in the Indian army so as to defy death every day. So much that he doesn’t even bother wearing a bomb-suit. Remember, his very reason to join the army is not patriotism. It is to prove a point.

Here’s where we meet the annoyingly over-indulgent Anushka Sharma who wants to go to Afghanistan and Iraq to make documentaries, (har accent ke bandey ke saath sex karna hai). That’s Aditya Chopra’s idea of a contemporary woman, one that tries to off-set the collective old-school romanticism of SRK-Katrina. What happens later isn’t worth explaining. I don’t think it is even worth the view as it is an unnecessary and pretty much, unimaginative exercise in driving home the point of true love that conquers everything; even self-inflicted maladies.

Apart from ideological problems, the film has terrible logical lapses, one that includes a major mental condition. Shah Rukh, with his crippled memory strolls around London’s tube station and memory miraculously is resurrected when the police declare the train unsafe as it is carrying a bomb. Of course, Samar Anand jumps to the rescue and can differentiate the red from the blue instantaneously. Back in India, we never even learn who sends the bombs and why at such exotic places. One absurd sequence includes SRK’s half-hearted flirting with Anushka as he randomly cuts off wires he doesn’t like.

There isn’t anything wrong in trying to make old-school romance relevant. But Aditya Chopra’s script doesn’t possess the prowess to knock the point down and rather meanders aimlessly between London and Ladakkh, between cathedrals and camps. After a point it becomes an exhaustive exercise and the star power – all serious faces anticipating something dreadful that is about to occur – fails to captivate the viewers.

The underlying religious theme – of God being a constant reason for conflict is a strong element within the film that takes a good ten year’s time to resolve itself, without much rational reasoning.

Like all good Bollywood films we shouldn’t ask for too much logic, but the film isn’t even laced with the profound lines or overwhelming music to compensate for. What it does have is performance and dreamy visuals. Especially by Katrina Kaif whose melancholia is hauntingly conveyed through her cautious dialogue delivery and a tender presence that is half guilt-ridden, while the other half tries to convince her of having done it all for the good. Shah Rukh Khan, well, is in his comfort zone and the careless abandon in which he revels in the first half is aptly replaced by an uptight gravity when playing in the army.

Jab Tak Hai Jaan essentially wants to assert the romantic idealism long associated with Yash Raj, but its narrative is marred with contrived plot points & misplaced religious ideas. The film’s epilogue where we see Yash Chopra during the making of the film is more emotionally overwhelming than the 3-hour long and over-wrought melodrama.

By – Ankur Pathak


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