A tryst with the stale

Yash Chopra’s last valentine to his romance devouring audience is not necessarily a befitting one.

One might have thought that ‘Dil tho Pagal Hain’ was an aberration in his oeuvre but after watching ‘Jab tak Hain Jaan’ there’s no doubt in my mind, that Yash Chopra, in his final days of filmmaking, preferred to go pulpsoft on the realism that infused his romance laden relationship sagas.

A tryst with the stale

Film: Jab Tak Hai Jaan

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif,

Anushka Sharma

Director: Yash Chopra

‘Jab tak Hain Jaan’ is a torturous journey through a romantic quadrangle of sorts. Odd-jobs man, 25 year old, Samar Anand (Shah Rukh Khan) is in London because his mother did not want him to join the Indian army like his father and forefathers. 21 year old Meera (Katrina) is the daughter of a rich Industrialist who prefers to have a ‘gora’ husband than a ‘brownie’ that her father(Anupam Kher) has lined up for her. Akira (Anushka Sharma) who makes her presence felt ten years later, when she is 21, is in London to wrest her dream job with Discovery channel. And then there is ‘God’ or Sir Jesus, whom Meera uses to keep Samar at bay for ten years. Join the dots and you will get a narrative suffused with not-so-memorable songs, unattractive dancing, silly dialogues and a set of unbelievable events that lengthen the exasperation close to an eternity.

Logical flow was never a strong suit of the Yash Chopra brand of cinema and ‘Jab Tak hai Jaan’ does not attempt that impossible. The narrative in fact expects us to take several leaps of faith in it’s attempt to traverse a journey of 15 odd years from London to Pahalgam/ Leh-Ladakh and back with the three lead characters doing their bit to make life as complicated as only man can make it. To make it worse, Samar goes from handyman/day labourer to head-waiter to Captain in the Indian Army in a span of ten-15 years and while in that process also acquires a restaurant in London, albeit by proxy. And the logic behind his becoming a super expert in the specialist ‘Bomb disposal Squad’ of the Indian army is simply priceless.

He has so much hurt locked-up against God and Meera that he is challenging him to take away his life just so that he can prove Meera’s beliefs wrong. And in the meantime he is also holding himself aloof from the wiles of a springy fountain of youth and energy that goes by the name Akira. Fun loving and clear about her goals and her wants Akira, in YRF parlance, represents the new generation who is too busy making a grab for what they want as opposed to the old school represented by Samar and Meera-who don’t mind waiting for the right time to legitimise their feelings for each other.

If the theme of ‘Dil Tho Pagal Hai’ was about waiting for the right man, the theme of ‘Jab tak hai Jaan’ is waiting for the right moment. And to justify that flaky premise the narrative has Meera’s mother and her paramour (a nostalgia driven cameo by Neetu and Rishi) waiting it out till the time was right for her to leave her husband and little daughter – run away into the arms of the lover who waited for 8 long years. So Meera and Samar obviously had to go one better and extend the so-called waiting period for love from 8 to 10 years.

Morality and ethics are obviously putty in the hands of love. A few tears shed at the right moment can wipe away hurt locked-up for decades. And a promise made to God can be reversed 10 years later with the use of faulty logic. Believability is not easy to come by and the ennui experienced is so terrible that you just stare and wonder at the temerity of the brains that put this smaltzy mix together.

The regressive and old-fashioned premise, typical done-to-death tropes, unlikely coincidences and the unjustified positioning of the lead characters in Devika Bhagat and Aditya Chopra’s screenplay are too much of a stretch and stick out like a sore thumb. The pace of the film is a little too lethargic and indulgent and makes the experience a little too unbearable to sit through. There is little of the trademark tenderness, freshness or passion that we’ve come to expect from a Yash Chopra product.

The lead combination may be new fangled but the visual dynamics are old-school. Every scene in the film looks like it’s been drawn out from one  or many of the Yashraj ventures of yore. It all looks and sounds just too banal to pass muster. As a matter of fact there’s very little tension in the film and this despite A. R Rahman’s background score that tries hard to orchestrate a momentum that is non-existent in the development of this shaky romantic drama.

Shah Rukh Khan lends Samar his usual innate charm while Katrina manages to keep a straight face despite having to mouth inane dialogues in the expression of a conflict that appears ‘invalid’ from the moment it makes an appearance. Anushka Sharma as Akira is just another version of the character that Karisma Kapoor assayed in ‘Dilto Pagal Hai’ but her zingy, energised take is most refreshing. Anil Mehta’s cinematography gives life to a narrative riddled by unjustified jumps of logic. His visuals are lustrous soft romantic picture postcards supporting a love that is simply put, unimaginable in the present context.

The real difference then comes from the music and lyrics but unfortunately it’s not a favourable one. While the lyrics penned by Aditya Chopra himself , sound out of place and just a tad too ‘punjabi’ when set  in a ‘firang’  city like London , it also does nothing to lend power to an already faltering romance. A. R Rahman’s experimentation with heavy orchestration and synthetic tunes for the songs, makes the going even more difficult.

It’s not the usual standard of music that one would expect from a Yash Chopra film. Even the soft and whispery ‘Saas mili…’ doesn’t have the depth to keep you invested in the sensual promise of it’s suggestiveness.  This love story then- even though the last from Yash Chopra, is a weary and quite unremarkable swan song, if at all!


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