Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Jab Tak Hai Jaan: Unending romance
It is difficult to judge “Jab Tak Hai Jaan” solely as a movie. Like it or not, it is the swansong of one of the defining directors of the Indian film industry and you cannot help but think of Yash Chopra’s legacy as you watch his last film.
There are shades of “Kabhi Kabhie”, “Dil To Pagal Hai” and “Veer Zaara”, and as you watch Shah Rukh Khan kissing Katrina Kaif on a lush, green meadow, you cannot help but think that this man knew his romance.
The best parts of “Jab Tak Hai Jaan” are undoubtedly the scenes between Shah Rukh Khan and Katrina Kaif. This is about pretty people falling in love — not a hair out place and every scene straight out of a postcard.
These are people who are poor but own expensive guitars and designer leather jackets, and this is a world where even when someone throws away two coffee cups with reckless abandon, they land in exactly the same way. It might be unbelievable, but it is all very beautiful on screen.
Khan and Kaif are Samar and Meera, the picture perfect lovers in this three-hour saga. Their story, a huge chunk of the first half, is the best part of “Jab Tak Hai Jaan” and Chopra makes sure he gives it enough screen time. It also helps that the chemistry between the two leads is crackling. Kaif brings a softness to her character that makes it difficult to take your eyes off her.
So far, so good. But then comes a plot twist flimsier than a chiffon saree on a Yash Chopra heroine. Meera, a rich London girl who is prone to making “deals” with God (giving up smoking, or wearing fur if God grants her wishes), makes the most ridiculous deal of all when Samar meets with what appears to be a minor accident, promising that she won’t meet him again if God saves his life.
Samar leaves London and goes from being a waiter to leading a bomb disposal squad in the Indian army. Goodbye reality, hello suspension of belief. He metamorphoses into “The Man Who Cannot Die”, disposing bombs without any safety gear. Enter the most irritating character you will encounter at the movies – Anushka Sharma, playing a documentary film-maker chronicling Samar’s story.
Her over-the-top, shrill performance will set your teeth on edge. Her entrance also marks the downward spiral of the film. Hackneyed plot devices like memory loss, a random bomb on a train, and some corny dialogue mean that the film degenerates rapidly and while Katrina’s re-entry does provide some relief from Sharma’s Cheshire cat grin, it doesn’t do much for the pace of the film, which takes its own sweet time getting to the end.
Samar does get the best lines in the film and Shah Rukh Khan carries it off with trademark style — strumming a fake guitar, or defusing a bomb with equal aplomb. He carries off the rather flimsy script admirably and shows why he is best at romancing women.
In his last film, Yash Chopra makes some references to the new generation’s ideas of romance, throwing around words like “sex” and “relationship” rather carelessly, but it is obvious that old-world romance was his forte. For a man who gave us “Kabhi Kabhie” and “Silsila”, “Jab Tak Hai Jaan” is certainly not a fitting swansong, but it is a reminder of why his brand of romance always worked.