Padayappa

Padayappa

Many thanks to regular readers Violet and KB for suggesting Padayappa (1999) when I asked for Ramya Krishnan film recommendations. I believe that director K.S. Ravikumar cast her after seeing Ammoru, and I understand why. Padayappa has an amazing cast, an often incredible story, and all the trappings of a revenge drama custom built for superstar hero Rajinikanth. It also has a strong female antagonist that was perfect for Ramya Krishnan, who won the Tamil Filmfare Best Actress for the role. The support cast includes such talented actors as Sivaji Ganesan and Soundarya, along with Manivannan, Lakshmi, Nasser and even a brief appearance by Prakash Raj.

Padayappa (Rajinikanth) comes home to attend a family wedding. He falls in love with poor but honest Vasundhara (Soundarya) however overseas educated rich girl Nilambari (Ramya Krishnan) decides she must have him for herself. Her branch of the family is riddled with self-serving weaklings and their machinations help hasten the death of Padayappa’s father, played by legendary actor Sivaji Ganesan. Padayappa stays in the village to support his mother and sister, sort out the cheating relatives, and also to try and woo Vasundhara. The conflict between Nilambari and everyone who gets in her way is the main focus, although there are the obligatory comedy tracks and lots of rousing speeches.

Padayappa-SuperstarPadayappa-Padayappa the hero

In Padayappa Rajinikanth is Superstar Rajni the Hero rather than using his considerable acting skills for a fully developed character that required any subtlety. The thing I always find admirable about Rajni is that he commits to the role and to the style of film he is in, and that conviction makes even the most preposterous shenanigans seem somehow right.

Padayappa is moral, righteous and has absolutely no self-doubt. He has all the trademark Rajni mannerisms from the snappy salute with whooshing sound effects, the cigar trick, the ability to force his enemies to attack him one by one and at a pace that allows him to win, the power to make multiple cars explode just by looking at them. There is some light and shade as Padayappa gets all silly and tongue-tied around Vasundhara, or as he grieves for his family’s losses but he is less a character and more a personification of Heroic Values.

Padayappa-against the oddsPadayappa-Flexing

Confession – I am so fond of Rajni that I really don’t care that his fight scenes are implausible or his ‘dancing’ quite terrible. But I could have done without the shirtless flexing.

I rarely take issue with the (usually considerable) age gap between Rajni and his heroines. Maybe it’s because I discovered him comparatively recently so to me he has always been an elder statesman of film. And to some extent his reputation overshadows any character he plays.  He’s Rajinikanth!

Padayappa-NilambariPadayappa-Ramya Krishnan 2

Nilambari is compelling yet totally unlikeable. A spoilt girl who never took no for an answer, Nilambari often does things more likely to be done by the hero – she stalks the hero, she grabs him and kisses him in front of everyone at a wedding then saunters off casually, she torments her rival (the lowly Vasundhara) and threatens anyone who tries to obstruct her.

Padayappa-Ramya Krishnan 3Padayappa-Nilambari and Vasundhara

Ramya Krishnan gave Nilambari a beautiful façade over a twisted and arrogant core. It is great to see an actress capable of such expression and subtlety and who is not afraid to reveal the ugliness of a character’s dark side. She took it up to Rajinikanth and more than held her own in their confrontational scenes.

Padayappa-beauty status and talentPadayappa-contrast

Nilambari’s outfits improved but her attitude never did.

There is a village tradition that couples should only marry when both want to, either through love or mutual agreement. Padayappa rebukes Nilambari saying a good woman should be well-mannered and demure, so it’s not exactly progressive but I liked seeing girls get a voice too.

Padayappa-Soundarya (2)Padayappa-awkward

Vasundhara (Soundarya) is Padayappa’s ideal woman. She is a servant in Nilambari’s household, but her family used to be wealthy. Devout and domesticated as well as very pretty, Vasundhara obviously likes Padayappa too. She and Rajni seem to have nice rapport and the courtship is more about shy conversations and sideways glances. It’s quite cute if predictable. Soundarya does well to build up a character that is only lightly sketched out by the screenplay and dialogue. I did yell at Vasundhara a couple of times to STOP TRUSTING NILAMBARI. Luckily her devotion earns her some snake assisted escapes from near certain death.

Padayappa-Soundarya

Soundarya also does an excellent job of dancing around Rajni in their songs together. She often has a cheeky smile on her face, so Vasundhara might have a colourful fantasy life to balance her dutiful side.

Padayappa-wedding wishesPadayappa-promise

The dynamic between Padayappa and Nilambari was interesting as this is an instance where the hero is quite passive. Padayappa doesn’t do anything to torment or punish Nilambari other than be happily married to the one he loves. She is insignificant to him, and that is what drives her insane.

The song picturisations have all the colour and excitement I expected. AR Rahman’s music is a good fit and his use of recurring motifs helps express the characters inner lives.

Minsara Poove sees Nilambari dancing her feelings for Padayappa as he sings for Vasundhara. It’s very pretty, apart from the bits that are happening in Nilambari’s fantasy. She really needed a better dream wardrobe designer. Suthi Suthi is colourful, with giant puppets and lots of costume changes for Soundarya and Rajni. Kikku Yerudhey is a little out of place in terms of the story and I think it was only there to get Rajni prancing about with lots of young girls (Padayappa’s daughter’s school friends) and drunk uncles. Or maybe just to let the director make his trademark cameo appearance.

Padayappa-carnage

There are fight scenes, cars stunts, a murderous cow (not a euphemisism for Nilambari) and all manner of excitement as well as the revenge and drama.

Padayappa-the dating advice committeePadayappa-advice gone wrong

Padayappa’s friends are largely there to provide comic interruptions but they also do an excellent line in relationship advice and support (and hiding behind trees).

Padayappa-Sivaji Ganesan and Lakshmi

The legendary Sivaji Ganesan had a small but pivotal role as Padayappa’s father and was still quite magnetic. Lakshmi made the most of her big scenes as the surprisingly fierce mother. The always excellent Manivannan made his character despicable and yet pitiful while Nasser was just despicable.

Padayappa-Prakash Raj

And a quite svelte Prakash Raj was a nice bonus as a police officer. The casting budget for this film must have been enormous.

At almost 3 hours Padayappa does drag occasionally but just as I was thinking that surely things must settle down, K.S. Ravikumar would ramp up the action. See it for a classic village family revenge masala style story with a first class cast and loads of colour and movement. 4 stars!

Iruvar (1997)

Iruvar

Mani Ratnam’s Iruvar is essentially a story about friendship but it manages to encompass cinema, politics and plenty of associated drama along the way.  From their first meeting in the film industry, through their membership in the same political party until Anandan and Tamilchelvam end up as rivals for the position of chief minister, the friendship between the two endures the many challenges they face.   Despite the disclaimer at the start that the film is a work of fiction, even a cursory glance at the biography of Tamil film legend M. G. Ramachandran shows many parallels between his life and that of the character Anandan (Mohanlal).  It’s also apparent that MGR’s real life political rival, M. Karunanidhi is the character Tamilchelvam, portrayed by Prakash Raj, while other counterparts from the same era are also featured in the film. Although I don’t know enough about the lives of M.G. Ramachandran and M. Karunanidhi to comment on how accurately the two characters do resemble their real life counterparts, not knowing the true events isn’t a hindrance to enjoying the film.  It’s an exceptionally well told story and features not only brilliant performances from the two leads Mohanlal and Prakash Raj but also features an excellent début from Aishwarya Rai.

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The film opens with the young Anandan (Mohanlal) looking for acting work and finally achieving his dream of becoming a film hero assisted by his friend Tamilchelvam (Prakash Raj).  The initial meeting of the two men typifies their characters.  Anandan doesn’t always seem to understand or agree with everything the poet Tamilchelvam says, but he is impressed by the man’s obvious sincerity and self-belief, and asks Tamilchelvam to write his dialogues for him.  Anandan is a simplistic man who just wants a good paying job so that he can look after his mother, while Tamilchelvam is more idealistic and wants to use his words to change the world.

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As Anandan’s star is rising in the film industry, Tamilchelvam continues to work as a screenwriter although he also becomes active in a Dravidian social party led by Velu Annachi (Nasser).  At the same time the two friends get married although Anandan is tricked by his mother into tying the knot with a local girl Pushpa (Aishwarya Rai) while Tamilchelvam marries Maragatham (Revathy), a girl approved for him by his political leader.  Despite their inauspicious beginnings, Anandan rapidly falls in love with Pushpa’s lively innocence and charm, although he leaves her with his mother when he goes back to work.  Tamilchelvam on the other hand spouts speeches about equality in marriage on his wedding night while Maragatham is more traditional and superstitious which doesn’t bode well for their future together.

IruvarIruvar

This song intersperses a romantic film song featuring Madhoo in a guest appearance with scenes from Anandan’s marriage presumably suggesting that the real-life relationship was as idyllic as the fairy-tale filmi romance.

As their careers progress, Anandan becomes a star, able to draw crowds although he doesn’t appreciate his popularity until it is forcibly shown to him by Tamilchelvam.  This is demonstrated in an excellent scene where Tamilchelvam takes Anandan up onto the roof to show him the hundreds of people waiting for a chance to catch a glimpse of the film star.  Anandan’s slow recognition of his fame is perfectly played by Mohanlal, but once he has recognised the fact, he knows how to work his popularity and make the most of it.  Anandan also joins Tamilchelvam’s political party, although he is looked on with suspicion by the other party members who feel that Anandan is using the party to further his film career, while Anandan feels that his film fame is being exploited by the party to pull in more voters.

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The contrasts between the two men are expertly illustrated in their interactions with each other and with the other characters.  The more idealistic and driven Tamilchelvam prints pamphlets and makes long inspiring speeches at political rallies while Anandan just declares that he wants everyone to be happy.  After Anandan’s first wife dies he marries his co-star Ramani (Gautami) almost by chance.  Ramani turns up on Anandan’s doorstep in distress, fleeing from her abusive uncle manager (Ravi) and since Anandan doesn’t seem to have much else happening that week he decides to marry Ramani to keep her out of her uncle’s clutches.  In contrast, Tamilchelvam sees Senthamarai (Tabu) at a political demonstration and arranges for her to come to Chennai to be his mistress.  Tamilchelvam is proactive and driven, and plans his life to realise his ambitions while Anandan is more reactive and laid-back, seeming to fall into his success by chance, although helped by his natural charm and talent.

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Aishwarya Rai has a double role and appears again as Kalpana, a new actress who works with Anandan despite his initial reservations, due to her resemblance to his first wife.  It’s an impressive performance from Aishwarya who is feisty and assured in complete contrast to her role as Pushpa.  She also looks gorgeous and the songs featuring her and Mohanlal are some of the highpoints in the film.  Kalpana is apparently based on Jayalitha, although seemingly only on her acting career,since the character doesn’t have any political aspirations in the film, and has an early and off-screen exit.

Iruvar seems to deal lightly with Anandan, using Tamilchelvan more as a contrast with the actor, although both men are treated fairly without any particular bias for one side over the other.  It’s a very human look at politics and the realities of power as these men, with their great ideals and desires to change the fate of the common man, still end up with similar policies to the previous party. Despite their eventual opposition in the political arena, Anandan and Tamilchelvan seem to be able to maintain their respect for each other, even as they battle to keep power.  Their relationship is complex and often threatened by the actions and opinions of others but both characters keep true to their basic personality, which ensures the friendship appears realistic. Mohanlal is superb as Anandan using his facial expressions to wring every possible emotion out of every scene.  He is often understated and conveys his emotions very simply but with great effect.  Prakash Raj is just as good as Tamilchelvam and his evolution from passionate young activist to elder statesman is perfectly portrayed.  The two combine together to make every moment they are on screen absolute gold. Santosh Sivan’s excellent cinematography also helps the film stand out with good use of camera angles to capture the large party rally’s contrasted with the more intimate scenes.

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I read that there was opposition to the film’s release (as might be expected given the reputations of both MGR and Karunanidhi) and certainly Iruvar has suffered at the hands of the censors.  A number of apparently stirring political speeches are muted partway through by loud music, and judging by the sudden jumps in the screenplay, a few seem to have been cut altogether.  But the relationship between the two men still comes across clearly and Mani Ratnam has drawn every possible nuance of their association in exquisite detail.  The censorship is interesting given that at one point Anandan makes a film which apparently portrays Tamilchelvam’s party in a negative light.  Tamilchelvam’s response is one that I’m sure all film-makers and reasoning adults would like to hear from more governments, particularly considering the recent issues surrounding Vishwaroopam.

Iruvar

The music and songs by A.R. Rahman are of a high quality and vary in style to illustrate the different cinematic eras encompassed by the film, although the time frame is never explicitly stated.  These range from the jazzy and more upbeat songs pictured on Kalpana to the more traditional and classically driven song Narumugayie.  Farah Khan was the choreographer which is probably another reason why the songs all work so well with all the dancers in sync.  This is probably one of my favourites as Aishwarya sparkles on the screen while Anandan and Ramani watch in the cinema. Anandan’s face as he realises Kalpana’s resemblance to his dead wife is a study in shock, horror and sheer disbelief while his wife is totally oblivious to his reaction.

Iruvar is a fascinating story about two very influential men, made even more absorbing by its basis on real people.  Although the censorship cuts do make some of the underlying details more difficult to follow, especially for those (like mysef) who don’t know the true story, that doesn’t detract from the compelling nature of the relationship between these two giants of Tamil film and political history. Entertainment and education all in one – perfect! 4 ½ stars.

 

Maryan

Maryan

Finally! It has been a long time since 3, but the wait has been well worth it. Dhanush is back in Maryan, a movie that sets out to prove that true love really can conquer all even if you were a bit iffy about that true love at the start. This is the debut film for writer/ director Bharat Bala and while generally he does a great job, there are times when the screen play lags a little, and the focus on desert imagery resembles a National Geographic special. However, superb performances from all the cast and A. R. Rahman’s wonderful soundtrack combine to ensure that Maryan is a film to savour. Plus English subtitles – perfect!

The film starts with Maryan (Dhanush) working in the Sudan for an oil company, where his love for Panimalar (Parvathy), his fiancée waiting at home in India, is perfectly captured by a brief phone call. But it hasn’t always been that way, and the film switches into flashback to explain just who Maryan is and how he came to be working in Africa when he is so obviously yearning to be home.

Maryan Maryan

This first section works very well, where Panimalar is seen as a lovelorn girl, chasing Maryan endlessly despite his disdain and often brutal rejection. Maryan is a fisherman who hunts in the traditional way and has developed amazing lung capacity, allowing him to remain submerged for longer than the other fishermen. He calls himself the king of the sea and obviously has an intimate relationship with the ocean which is really the only thing he cares about. Dhanush effortlessly establishes his character as a brash, arrogant young man who has his faults but is generally likeable and can dance up a storm.

Maryan

Slowly Maryan comes to appreciate Panimalar’s charms helped along by the active encouragement of his best friend, Panimalar’s brother Sakkarai (Appukutty). Dhanush and Parvathy play their roles perfectly here and the romance is expertly developed with an eye to small town sensibilities. Parvathy has a better than usual role as a heroine and she makes the most of it, using her eyes and body language to express her feelings as she establishes Panimalar as a feisty girl determined to get her man, no matter what it takes. There are a few funny scenes between her and her future mother-in-law Seeli (Uma Riyaz Khan) which work very well, and both Parvathi and Appukutty are to be commended for the way they manage to establish their sibling relationship so well in a few brief scenes.

Maryan

Despite the excellent chemistry between Maryan and Panimalar, there are a few miscues and the amount of violence Panimalar experiences at the hands of her beloved appears quite unnecessary. The initial slap when Maryan is frustrated by Panimalar’s persistent attempts to declare her love is perhaps understandable, but later scenes including Maryan saying, “Who else will I hit if not you?” are sadly all too common in Tamil films. I understand that this does depict real life where domestic violence is an ever present problem but I wish directors would use the characters to show that it’s just not acceptable rather than brushing it off as an apparently appropriate way for a character to show their distress.

Maryan

Maryan is forced to work in Africa to pay off debts incurred by Panimalar’s father Thomayya (Salim Kumar) and prevent her forcible marriage to Theekkurissi (Vinayakan). However just as Maryan is on the way to the airport to come home, he is kidnapped by Sudanese militants who hold him, his friend Sami (Jagan) and a fellow co-worker for ransom. While the African militants are poorly drawn, being caricaturised and frequently over the top, Dhanush and Jagan are both brilliant as they show their gradual mental and physical deterioration at the hands of their captors. There are some scenes here that are frankly uncomfortable to watch due to the sheer honesty of Dhanush’s performance and although this type of mental anguish is a role he has portrayed before he takes it to an entirely new level here. Jagan also seems perfectly cast as Sami, and his change from happy-go-lucky guy to terrorised victim is well portrayed.

Maryan Maryan

Despite all the drama, the film does drag a little in the second half. After all there are only so many times you can show someone running up a sand dune before it gets a little repetitive, but the hallucinations (yay – cheetahs!) and Maryan’s determination to make it home to Panimalar help keep things moving long. There is also a lack of hair continuity for Dhanush which is irritating considering the care which has obviously gone into the rest of the film. One good point is that Panimalar doesn’t do a disappearing act in the second half and the film does cut back frequently to show her initial despair and then fervent belief that Maryan is coming back to her. Parvathy is impressive in these scenes and her performance really is on a par with that of Dhanush.

Cheetah!Maryan

Technically the film looks and sounds beautiful. I’ve been enjoying A.R. Rahman’s soundtrack since it was released and the songs are even better on screen. The only one that doesn’t work so well is ‘I Love My Africa’ which has poor justification and picturisation but on the whole the songs are well placed in the narrative. I often don’t notice the background score on the first watch of a film, but here it is sweetly evocative and the natural music of the ocean and the desert are added in for haunting effect, adding to the magic of the images. The excellent cinematography by Marc Koninckx perfectly captures coastal Tamil Nadu and the deserts of Africa, highlighting the contrasting light of the two locations and make the landscape just as much a feature of the film as the actors themselves.

Maryan

Maryan is a film to watch for yet another amazing performance from Dhanush and equally impressive acting from Parvathy, while beautiful imagery and evocative music add to the overall effect. Even if the action part of the film doesn’t work quite so well, the love story is charming and inspiring. Watching Maryan you have to believe that true love really can conquer all and that’s a very heart-warming message to take home on a cold Melbourne winter night!

Raanjhanaa (2013)

Raanjhanaa

Raanjhanaa is not a conventional love story, and its two protagonists are not particularly likeable people, but their very human failings do make it possible to understand their mistakes.  Despite their flaws I wanted their love story to succeed even as it seemed destined to fail. Dhanush never fails to impress with his acting but I was apprehensive about his co-star Sonam Kapoor since I’ve yet to see a convincing performance from her – and I still haven’t.  But to be fair, Zoya’s self-absorption is integral to her character, so Sonam’s wooden and lifeless performance actually suits her character for a large part of the film. However Dhanush more than makes up for Sonam’s rather laboured performance and the support cast are all excellent, making Raanjhanaa a better film than reading Himanshu Sharma’s screenplay would suggest.

Young KundanTeenage Kundan

The film opens with a group of child artists playing the roles of Kundan and his friends.  The kids are charming and in a few short moments they define their characters perfectly, so that each further development makes sense given these childhood traits.  Kundan falls in love with Zoya the very first time he sees her, despite the fact that she is Muslim, he is Hindu, and he’s only about 8 years old. His adoration at first sight develops into a full blown obsession by the time Kundan reaches his teens and his first stumbling attempts to tell the object of his affection how he feels are cringe-worthily appropriate for the ‘stalking = love’ concept that Indian cinema seems to prefer. Kundan and Zoya

I’m always amazed at how Dhanush manages to transform himself into a young teenager so effortlessly, appearing suitably gauche and naïve against Sonam Kapoor’s rather clunky attempt at adolescence.  She lacks the vitality that made Shruti Hasan more believable as a teenager in 3, but there is some chemistry between the two actors which helps make the budding romance more credible.  Unfortunately at this point there is the first of too many scenes which involve slashing wrists as a way to prove true love.  It’s one of the things I particularly dislike since suicide as a plot device seems dangerous and irresponsible,  especially considering the statistics on youth suicide in almost every country in the world.  I can cope with the stalking, since Zoya definitely encourages Kundan (and I’ve been through the South Indian Cinema Induction Program) but I feel the wrist slashing is just inappropriate.

Kundan and MurariRaanjhanaa

The separation of the young lovers follows along fairly predictable lines, but what adds interest is the rival obsession shown by Bindiya (Swara Bhaskar) for Kundan.  Swara Bhaskar is excellent as the girl so obsessed with marrying Kundan that she will do absolutely anything to get his attention. She really deserves to win the guy just for her devotion and ability to put up with Kundan and his best friend Murari (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), but at the same time it’s obvious that Kundan would be a horribly abusive husband.  Swara Bhaskar is full of vitality and energy and lights up the screen whenever she appears which is in stark contrast to Sonam Kapoor’s rather bland Zoya. Mohammed Ayyub is also well cast and does a good job as Kundan’s friend alternating between egging him on, and trying (usually unsuccessfully) to restrain his more dramatic impulses.

Abhay Deol plays Akram, a student activist angling for election to government and the third member of the love triangle.   While Abhay plays his part well he seems too old to be a convincing student leader, even one who is seriously considering a political career. Still, he does seem to have more to offer than Kundan, as demonstrated by the difference in their respective modes of transport.

Kundan and Zoya scooterZoya and Abhay motorbike

 

 

 

 

 

 

The story seems to lose its way in the second half as the love story gives way to the political campaign and there are a few too many contrived filmi coincidences as Kundan moves out of Benares and into Zoya’s world.  But the changes in both Zoya and Kundan as their circumstances alter are well depicted and the consequences of their actions are shown to be greater than they could ever have imagined. As a teenager, Kundan’s every emotion is clearly visible on his face and his body language also transmits his feelings at every turn.  With the transition to adulthood he becomes more restrained until by the end of the film Kundan is expert at concealing his true feelings and doesn’t allow any of his emotions to colour his conversation with Zoya.  It’s a fantastic performance from Dhanush and director Anand Rai has drawn out every nuance in his character’s behaviour.

Raanjhanaa

After the first few scenes in childhood Sonam Kapoor keeps her stunned indifference expression throughout, but it is apt for Zoya’s personality so it does tend to work. She looks beautiful, but there is too much style and not enough substance in Zoya, particularly compared with Bindiya and even Akam’s sister Rashmi (Shilpi Marwaha).

RaanjhanaaZoya

The music by A. R. Rahman fits perfectly and the dance sequences are well placed in the narrative and generally help to carry the story forward.  Benares looks like almost any other city in North India until there are shots of the river, and then it’s suddenly magical as Natarajan Subramaniam and Vishal Sinha bring the city to life with their cinematography. It’s an impressive debut for Dhanush in Hindi cinema, and he does well with the language too (at least as far as my inexpert ear can tell).  Worth watching for a role that seems to have been made for Sonam Kapoor, an excellent performance from Dhanush and from the rest of the cast and a rather different view of “love”.

Jab Tak Hai Jaan

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”.