Jab Tak Haai Jaan is a slow, deliberate romance with lush visuals, improbable events and attractive people that persist in their beliefs long after a period of reflection and reconsideration is warranted. A typical Yash Raj film in many respects, with the notion that love is all you need, it sheds some of the YRF dated coyness when exploring a modern romantic relationship. Maybe it’s affection for the Yash Raj heyday or sadness for the recent passing of Yash Chopra, but despite some issues with the story, I found the style appealing and almost timeless.
Shah Rukh Khan is Samar Anand, an introverted bomb disposal expert who chases after death. Katrina Kaif is his first love, Meera, a rich girl caught between being dutiful and being happy. Anushka Sharma is Akira, the ambitious young journalist who stumbles across Samar and decides his story must be told. Samar’s early romance is revealed via a diary Akira finds. I really liked the way the plot was constructed initially but when the love stories intersect Aditya Chopra unleashes all the daft medical and action plot twists he could fit on what was left of the post-it note he wrote the screenplay on. But until that all started to unravel, I was caught up in wondering how it would be resolved and who would get the happily ever after ending.
In some respects Shah Rukh was more convincing as 28 year old livewire Samar than Katrina was as his 21 year old girlfriend. That is less evident in stills so I ascribe that more to his energy and performance than just makeup and styling. Samar was too good to be true as he navigated life in London and juggled multiple menial jobs, being everyone’s friend. But the floppy-haired puppy enthusiasm was punctuated with some sarcasm and smoulder that gave him more bite. Shah Rukh’s dancing in Ishq Shava exposed his weakness in current dance styles. I thought it could have been choreographed and shot better to support the illusion of his youth.
The 38 year old Samar in 2012 was a different man, and I could see why a bright young girl like Akira would be attracted to him. He was worlds away from her usual flighty boyfriends and had an intensity that matched her own drive. The stubble, rougher haircut and a more determined physicality made soldier Samar a more daunting and attractive presence. He portrayed the transition of a man in love from the first flush of hope to the cold anger of a passion denied. The romantic scenes between Meera and Samar are quite frank and acknowledge the physical relationship without being sleazy. There were many opportunities for Shah Rukh to overact and he took very few of them. Samar is a perfectly unreal hero but Shah Rukh puts the heart in his character.
Katrina was disappointing after some good performances in recent films, and lacked warmth and expression. I could understand Meera’s character but rarely felt much for her. Meera and Samar were very convincing as the newly in love who imagine they are too cute for words but are actually a bit sickening to everyone around them. They lived in a bubble of romantic fantasy. Katrina as the 10 years older Meera was more effective as her reserved demeanour and greater fabric to skin ratio gave her more substance. Her decision making was still flaky and for someone who is supposed to have such a strong religious affiliation her lying to Samar was questionable. I was raised a Catholic so the idea of giving up something to show God you meant business is quite familiar. While I don’t share the belief I could recognise it as something people I know do as a matter of course. Only not to such a filmi extreme.
Anushka was let down by some truly stupid behaviour by her character but leaving that aside, her acting was excellent. Her warmth and rapport with SRK was lovely. They had some nice scenes talking about love and what it meant to them, and a believable affection developed between Akira and Samar. She spends time following Samar about on his work – defusing bombs! as if! – and of course she falls for him. Akira was a modern city girl with a career on her mind and not a chiffon sari in sight. I did wish she would wear more appropriate clothes in some scenes as she seemed to live in micro-shorts regardless of climate or custom. Mind you, Anushka has the legs for it. As the ‘other woman’ corner of the triangle, Anushka gave Akira a real sense of possibility, of being a viable alternative to the past love in Samar’s life. She spoke up for what she wanted in life and love.
The final section of the film is loaded with so much improbable melodrama and outright WTFery that the love story is swamped. I don’t want to get too spoilery but can anyone imagine a scenario in which a suspected bomb is found in London and a brown skinned man muttering about Semtex and fuses is allowed to casually wander in and assist the police? The drama could have been heightened without all the silliness and sidetracks.
The supporting cast occupy so little of the story that if you don’t take to the Big 3, there is little respite. Rishi and Neetu play small but important roles, and Akira has a fun fanclub of soldiers in the Bomb Disposal Squad. Anupam Kher is mercifully restrained as Meera’s dad.
The scenery in Ladakh and Kashmir is superb and one of the reasons I would recommend a big screen viewing of this film. London is presented as a beautiful and slightly magical city, the perfect backdrop for a fairytale love. There are nods to YRF classics that enhance the vintage filmi mood and it’s all a bit dreamlike.
Musically this is a bit disappointing but I think that is more to do with the placement and the picturisations than the actual songs by AR Rahman. Saans is reprised several times (happy as I am to gaze at SRK in a wet t shirt, or less) and Heer was a non-event. There is little dancing, and what there is lacks good choreography (or suitable dancers). I just don’t think a ra-ra skirt or a silly hat compensates for not doing the steps justice.
I must be getting nostalgic in my old age. Despite all the faults I found much to sink into and enjoy in Jab Tak Hai Jaan. See it for a charismatic and committed performance from Shah Rukh, the bright and beautiful Anushka and the lavish visuals. Do stay for the tribute to Yash Chopra over the closing credits.
Heather says: I’m a Shahrukh fan, so of course I was going to enjoy Jab Tak Hai Jaan no matter how ridiculous the plot, but what surprised me was just how much I absolutely loved it! Sure, there were problems with the story, mainly due to the dodgy medicine and bomb defusing Temple mentioned, but Yash Chopra really did have a gift for displaying human emotions and portraying love as a grand and enduring passion without forgetting that love can also be small, petty and selfish. The classic Yash Chopra motifs are here; a love triangle of sorts, separation and sacrifice and that’s what makes it come together so well for me. Of course it helps that Shahrukh was back on form with effortless transitions between the happy and jovial Samar during his relationship with Meera and the more silent, reflective and stoic soldier when he meets Akira. The little flashbacks to his previous character with the occasional joke work perfectly and his chemistry with Anushka was great. Not so with Katrina who was stiff and wooden despite the promise of the earlier scenes. I don’t think either her styling or the character helped, but she just wasn’t convincing as Meera and she’s another actress I’ve added to my ‘must not be allowed to cry in a film’ list! Anushka on the other hand was scintillating and looked incredibly beautiful. Her life and energy was infectious and her part of the story (apart from some dodgy Discovery Channel moments) worked very well.
As Temple says, the film looks magnificent is worth watching for the scenes in Ladakh and Kashmir alone. But more than that, there are solid performances and a return to classic Bollywood romance that can’t help but enchant. Sadly it is the end of an era, but with Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Yash Chopra has proved that he really was the ‘King of Romance”.