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”.

Do Dooni Chaar (2010)

I was pleased to see this as part of the Indian Film Festival as Do Dooni Chaar didn’t get a cinema release here, despite starring legendary couple Rishi and Neetu Kapoor. It only attracted a very small audience at this showing—maybe 20 people —which really surprised me. Half of that number ran for the door when the subtitles failed to materialise, in search of someone in charge. But all was OK. The film was restarted (the Indian audience members complained loudly and jokingly about having to watch the titles again), the subs kicked in and we all settled down. Well, I hadn’t moved. I was going to watch it regardless so it was more fun to listen to all the huffing and grumbling!

The film was picked up for distribution by Disney and that tells you almost everything you need to know. It’s a nice film with message about decency and family, all wrapped up in a sweet sentimental shell. There’s nothing to object to, but I didn’t feel there was much to get excited about either. It was just… nice. And sometimes a nice film is just what you want.

Rishi Kapoor plays Santosh Duggal, a maths teacher and father of two. His wife Kusum (Neetu Kapoor) runs the household on his very limited income and maintains the cramped apartment to the best of her ability.


The kids, Payal (Aditi Vasudev) and Deepu (Archit Krishna), are typical teenagers and want all the latest things and best brands. They don’t have a lot of respect for their father, and see his poverty and lowly job rather than his values and intelligence.

The film opens to an argument about how Santosh’s INR7700 tax refund would be spent. The Duggals are a noisy, argumentative family, and the scene is punctuated by doors slamming and lots of shouting as people careen around the tiny flat. Kusum wants a fridge while the kids want everything from an iPod to dish TV. Payal, depressed by her lack of cash and stylish clothes, is a moody teen who bosses her weedy boyfriend around.  Deepu, or as he prefers to be called, Sandy is cruising by on charm. Until he comes unstuck, Sandy is a slick character with an eye for the girls and an unusual fried chicken based romantic style.


The central issue of the film is the pressure on Santosh to buy a car to replace his antique scooter. The car represents so many things to the Duggal family; success, status, independence, pride. But they can’t afford it. They have to budget carefully to have chicken for dinner so a car is a huge deal. The stress of this situation almost drives Santosh to make some extremely dubious decisions and accept money for giving a bad student a passing grade. He seems to embody the nice guy who finishes last, held back by his honesty and simplicity. He refuses to allow Payal to take a call centre job, ostensibly because it will delay her education, but as Kusum points out he also forced her to leave work on their marriage. She is at her wit’s end trying to keep up with the needs of her family when outgoings always exceed their income. The clash of old school and new world thinking is played really well and the arguments have the authentic ring of conversations that have been had over and over.

Rishi is so effective in the quieter, more soulful, moments when he drops some of his actorly mannerisms and he really looks and sounds like a tired dad.  He has a lovely conversation with Deepu/Sandy where they talk about why Santosh didn’t fly into a rage over a discovery and ends with him quietly asking the boy to make the right choices. Santosh’s relationship with Payal is more challenging and those scenes are more vocal and aggressive. But Payal discovers a new admiration when she sees how much he meant to his old students, and how highly they thought of him for his work ethic and standards. I have to say, Rishi didn’t look at all at home in the tiny apartment and I wonder if he went to boot camp to learn to handle an iron. Neetu plays Kusum as the driving force inside the family home, channelling her energy into alternately cajoling and threatening her husband and kids.  She is charming and energetic, refusing to let the exhaustion of her routine slow her down. Santosh and Kusum have a very delicately played scene where they try not to discuss the potential bribe, and Kusum is all for taking it although she doesn’t want to do anything seriously wrong. In a scene at a family wedding, Neetu drags Rishi out to dance and they prove the old sparkle is still there, even if his moves are suspect. There would be something a bit amiss if they didn’t have great chemistry!

I wish I hadn’t read some interviews with the Kapoors about the making of the film. They both went on a bit too much about how their costumes were just average off the rack shop bought clothes and how they didn’t mind wearing something so common to make the film work (I’m paraphrasing). So every time Rishi pulled on another of his knitted vests, I felt an eyeroll coming on. But Rishi IS synonymous with knitwear so it was also quite pleasing.

The supporting cast were all good. I especially liked Aditi Vasudev’s performance. She was bratty and whiny but also had Kusum’s strength of will. She wasn’t at all glamorous, and looked like a typical student. Akhilendra Mishra was also fun as the neighbour Farooqui. He and Rishi had some lovely scenes as the men tried to avoid their warring wives.

I really enjoyed the family scenes, and thought the dialogue was excellent in those episodes. I was less taken in by the scenes with the neighbours, and the final ‘I just make sweets but a good teacher makes great human beings’ speech was just too much for my taste. The message had been coming through loud and clear so being hit over the head with it for the final fifteen minutes or so was overkill.

I also loved the neighbourhood locations and the glimpses of shops, houses, schools and other settings. I always like a film that gives me a strong sense of place and Habib Faisal did an excellent job in making the locations seem so real. The soundtrack is punchy and matched the inner city feel perfectly.

It was a pleasant enough way to spend a couple of hours, and always nice to see old favourites show they still have form. It’s an almost old-fashioned film, and it promotes values of decency and honesty. It is very sentimental, but not too syrupy. I give Do Dooni Chaar 3 stars.