23 Comments

Jab Tak Hai Jaan Non-Review: Wherein I Become An SRK Fan All Over Again

Man, I don’t even know where to start.

I mean, usually I have an angle when I start to write about a film – some primary thing that I took away from it that becomes the center of my ramblings.

But with Jab Tak Hai Jaan, there’s just too much going on.

First of all, it’s a Yash Chopra film. Not only that, it’s his last film – a fact that I still find utterly inconceivable.

Second of all, Shahrukh Khan.

Thirdly, the above are making it very difficult for me to approach this with any amount of objectivity.

And yet -

Fourth of all, I have major, major issues with the story and script (ADITYA CHOPRA YOU ARE THE ABSOLUTE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE).

So. Let’s start with -

The Story

Inspired heavily from Graham Greene’s novel (or more likely, the Hollywood adaptation of it starring Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes) The End Of The Affair, the central conceit of the plot is about a girl (Katrina Kaif’s Meera) who makes a dubious bargain with God : save my beloved’s life (SRK’s Samar, following a car accident) and I promise You I will never see him again.

In the Hollywood film, this bargain is striking and believable – and leads to questions in the viewer’s mind – deep questions, like the nature of Faith, the power of Love, and indeed – what is God anyway, and is He even real and what happens when we break a promise to Him?

Compelling stuff and seemingly ripe for a Yash Chopra adaptation, a milieu of film that pretty much designed the Art of the Filmy Sacrifice, where more than one plot turn has occurred because “God” literally comes out of somewhere (usually via rain) to save the day.

And yet, and yet – in JTHJ this central conceit, the lifeblood of the plot – is shoddily handled. Meera’s “promise” seems utterly childish and silly, therefore unbelievable, never justifying what should’ve been the torturous  inner struggle of a woman torn between her faith in God and her love.

What saves it to an extent are the scenes where Shahrukh’s Samar challenges her faith – magnificently convincing as the man who wants nothing to do with Meera’s God and sets out to prove that he, not God, decides his fate. Armed thus, he faces the very death Meera wants to save him from by diffusing bombs everyday.

But before that, he charms the pants off of us by singing, dancing, romancing and (oh yes) KISSING (OMG BEST SCREEN KISS OUT OF BOLLYWOOD EVER EVER EVER).

Excuse Me While I Gush About The Kiss

I mean, he can totally ditch that no-kissing policy now. Like right now, and for good. Because as a lifelong Bolly-viewer, I have to admit that Bolly-kissing just makes me groan because it’s so awkward. Even the one in Dhoom 2, between Ash and Hrithik. And somehow, the bigger the star, the more awkward the kiss.

But not with SRK my peeps. Not with SRK. It’s a lovely, lovely, non-squeamish, heartwarming, like “I can’t believe that actually worked” kind of  kiss.

AND HOLYSHIT SHAHRUKH KHAN IS KISSING ON SCREEN!!

Fine. Enough about the kiss.

Then, there’s Anushka Sharma’s Akira. She (the Discovery Channel intern) wants to make a film on Samar after learning about the whole tragic love story slash bomb-diffusing mission and dubs him The Man Who Cannot Die.

But after watching him diffuse a couple of bombs she (of the “sleep with many men with many different accents” school of thought) totally falls in love with him. Who can blame her? He was wearing black and had a beard. And he was brooding.

Frankly though, this entire sub-plot was unnecessary and I felt that it was an Aditya Chopra concoction designed explicitly to “represent” the “modern” generation’s non-traditional values, a generation rather flatly portrayed as the kind that believes in fast sex and faster break-ups, and wouldn’t even sacrifice an iPhone if their (or their lover’s) life depended on it.

To me, Akira was a compromise made by Aditya for a generation that would scoff at “traditional” premises like sacrifice, faith & star-crossed lovers who can’t “get over it”  –  offering her up as a counter-balance to all that “crazy eternal-love-God stuff” going on in the main plot. The way Akira makes her exit only reiterated to me that she actually didn’t have much to do in the film at all – she ended up making no difference to either Samar or Meera, and therefore, to the story.

Which just makes me feel like – stay true to the story man. If it worked in The End Of The Affair, it would work in this film if there was enough conviction in the deeper themes it evokes. But then we all know that Aditya Chopra is a businessman first, and a storyteller second. So too much screen time is wasted on strange plot twists, coincidences and other story devices that don’t work (the entire Akira track, the memory loss track, even all the bomb diffusing stuff which has a certain metaphoric appeal but falls flat during execution, especially post-interval).

For me, that is the ultimate tragedy of JTHJ, Yashji’s last film. And Yashji, I believe, was a storyteller first and a businessman second, which is why he never compromised with the emotional components of his stories, even in a plot as “far out”  and hard to swallow as Lamhe.

Not every story that is worth telling has to appease the majority. But when you seek to appease the majority by compromising the story, you end up with something rather half-baked, lacking conviction.

But Do Not Fear

Because Shahrukh Khan is there to make you forget absolutely everything I just wrote.

After all the drama and controversy of the past couple years since Ra.One, JTHJ brings back the SRK that the world fell in love with. It’s not just that he’s playing the romantic hero once again, but that he’s playing one that isn’t a caricature of the very “Raj” that the Aditya Chopra/ Karan Johar combo built.

This romantic hero is new and fresh, charming and brooding and utterly magical in every way possible. There’s no question that if there’s any one reason to watch JTHJ not once, but over and over, it’s for an SRK who proves that he still has “it” – “it” being his absolutely uncanny ability to make the viewer giddily happy simply by virtue of his screen presence.

Fangirl Alert

There was a moment when I was watching him on screen (during the Challa song I think) where I had the thought that more than any other actor of his (or any) generation, Shahrukh has this amazing capacity to just warm your heart when he’s given the right character.

His performance in JTHJ reiterated to me why he is who he is. Beyond box office, beyond the King Khan label, beyond the superstardom, this man just has this innate capacity to entertain, to make happy, to make you feel all warm and gooey and fuzzy in your heart. If there’s any secret to his superstardom, I think it’s this ability – which despite all the off-screen drama, remains intact to this day, on that magical silver screen.

And no. Amazingly, he doesn’t look old or miscast at all. He’s just bloody perfect. No one has ever looked so good in either fauji fatigues or a waiter’s uniform.

Katrina & Anushka

Like I tweeted, Katrina didn’t suck as much as I expected her to, knowing that it was an important role and indeed – if Meera didn’t work, the film wouldn’t work at all. She doesn’t work 100% (there’s that vacant face expression thingy that Kat still hasn’t managed to grow out of in some scenes), and yet overall, I felt like she didn’t ruin the character or the film.

Plus she looks absolutely gorgeous, celestial almost (apt for a Yash Chopra heroine) and ultimately likable, despite the flaws of the character. Katrina is as good as her director, and her performance is only proof positive of Yash Chopra’s ability to extract touching, convincing performances. Even out of wood. (There I said it).

Surprisingly, it was Anushka that completely over-did her part as the spunky, carefree, “mast” girl. I totally wasn’t expecting her to disappoint me because she’s proven herself as a good actress and this kind of role, especially, is tailor-made for her. But I don’t know, she almost seemed a little uncomfortable, too forced, trying too hard in some of the scenes.

And it didn’t help that the character itself was tacked on to service the audience, rather than to service the story.

And So…

The striking thing about JTHJ though is that despite the glaring problems with the storytelling, it’s still addictively enjoyable. Maybe it’s because of Shahrukh’s sheer, unrelenting charm, or Katrina’s ethereal beauty or Anil Mehta’s gorgeous cinematography.

Or maybe it’s the Yash Chopra magic.

As I write this, I realize that several of his films have fallen very short in the story department (Kabhie Kabhie had quite a convoluted plot beneath all that gorgeous poetry) – but that has never taken away from his ability to weave the filmy magic such that you (or at least, I) am willing to do away with the transgressions of the script and just let myself be taken by the earnest innocence of the emotionality, and more than that – Yash Chopra’s inimitable ability to create those magical moments within celluloid relationships.

It’s something that struck me recently when I re-watched Dil To Pagal Hai, another film that tells a rather juvenile tale – and yet it’s all so eminently watchable – the characters, the scene construction, the songs and above all, the fuzzy innocence of love and hope and sacrifice and beauty all coming together to create a glorious filmy bubble bath warmly lit by candles and fragrant with rose petals.

You get that too with JTHJ and eventually, for me, it overpowered the story holes.

Finally, if there’s any one thing that justifies this being Yash Chopra’s last film, it’s Shahrukh Shahrukh and Shahrukh who clearly put his whole heart, the whole of his career, indeed his life and his love for Yash ji himself, into his performance. If for nothing else, you must watch it for him.

And of course, for Yashji.

Get Filmy Rating:

For SRK Fans:

ZOMG!!!!!!!!SRKISTHEBOMBDOTCOMILOVEHIMFOREVERANDEVER

For Sane People:

ZOMG

OMG

MEH

WTF

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23 comments on “Jab Tak Hai Jaan Non-Review: Wherein I Become An SRK Fan All Over Again

  1. Just wrote my review for The NRI and my thoughts are almost identical to yours. Minus the SRK drooling. And I had no idea about it being inspired by The End of the Affair. Interesting insight into the whole storytelling vs commerce thing between father and son Chopra too! But then DDLJ is one of my fave films to date, so can’t speak too ill of Adi.

    Think I may give SOS a miss though. Looks far too masala for my tastes!

  2. And loved your film-rating system ;)

    • Shai,

      Ooh, will check out your review. And yeah DDLJ is one of my all-time faves but from what I understand, he may have had a lot of help from Honey Irani on that one…and I tend to believe that because I haven’t liked anything he’s done since then…

      Yeah, SOS is way too masala for my tastes too…definite miss.

  3. you know my friend i had to eye walk past the breakdown of the story, but wait was it anything like the guess that i put when we first saw the trailer??, because if it is I pretty much rock. And yes i didnt get to see it today, but i’m seeing it on Sunday. I just spent the whole day watching SRK and loving him again so along with me being Team Shiny Vampire(( Bella is still a vamp whore), i’m gonna go sit in the cinema and drool and dream and appreciate the magic of the two romance kings at work. thanks for the review . and arent you relieved that it didnt suck?? i mean i was. He’s King for a reason

    • Londongirl,

      i can’t tell you how happy SRK made me with his performance…like he was purely magical. As for our story breakdowns….hmmm, I think we were way off LOL, but you’ll see soon enough anyway.

      As for the kissing-Gauri connection, I really don’t know as I tend not to speculate about them but my feeling is that he did the scene more out of respect for Yash ji than for anything to do with Gauri….but that’s just me guessing blindly. Who knows? OBVS if anything goes wrong with them, I’m next in line ;)

  4. and another thing, more filmi gossip but i dont know if you noticed this, that he hardly ever talks about Gauri anymore (tweets and stuff) especially after the Priyanka thingummy, do you perchance think that might be why now he has decided to end the ban on kissing, he used to say it was out of respect for his wife that he didn’t do it??? i just get the feeling they live separate lives right now. not that i’m planning to step in and snatch him up or anything *cough* . righttt

    • I think you’ve got it just right londongirlindetroit. Shahrukh doesn’t speak of his wife hardly ever. He’s an aging men trying to recapture his youth with all these young girls that he’s old enough to be their father. He doesn’t show any respect for Gauri any more. I have lost my respect for him as well.

  5. Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrfectttttttt review! COPMLETELY AGREE with you…though i still feel Kat was slightly responsible for not making me believe in the 10 long waiting years…THE MOVIE IS SRK SRK SRK alll the wayy!! and i hate AC for that stupid screenplay…Hoping someone will give Srk his due credit! LOVED YOUR BLOG GETFILMYYY…i’m jst too excited!!

    • Thanks Laxita!

      It’s a total treat for SRK fans no doubt, but argggghhh ADI!!! Many people feel the same as you about Kat, but somehow for me she wasn’t so bad…hehe prolly because I was expecting that she would be really awful… :)

  6. You are giving me hope! All the negativity on Twitter and elsewhere was making me nervous, but with your review I’m giddy all over again. SRK!!! *squee*

  7. After seeing the film, I feel like murdering Aditya Chopra…the man cannot write a consistent screenplay to save his life….it’s even more disappointing because SRK was sooooo good…he totally rocks it in these intense roles….I just wish we got to see him romance and charm the audience like this in a better film….I really wanted this to be a great romantic film for SRK, hopefully this isn’t his last one…damn u, Aditya Chopra for messing this up!….sorry, can’t help myself…

    As for Katrina, she’s just not an actress – though she managed some scenes well and looked good with SRK…Anushka was OTT at times, and yeah her character just didn’t sit right with me…more disappointment…

    On a side note, that was my exact reaction on seeing SRK kiss on screen….but he pulled it off, it was convincing and natural looking…his expressions are just ahhhh…don’t see why some fans are crying about this….wouldn’t mind seeing him do more of that:)….

    God, there’s so many more things I could say…this is not how I wanted YC’s last film to be….but somehow want to see it again for SRK…I still remember watching him romance Divya Bharati in Deewana when I was 12 and thinking, “this guy just has it”…and 20 years later, he still has it:)….

    • Dilse,

      Hahaha, are fans really crying over the kiss? That’s like funny and cute at the same time. I know how you feel, we were all hoping it would be the PERFECT movie and it’s not…but at least SRK was awesome. (Totally with you on the Deewana thing!) That makes up for many of the imperfections.

      Seriously, as long as Adi is running YRF, every film out of there is going to annoy me, I just think he’s too clinical and business-minded.

  8. Despite the goofy plot points, the film totally stole my heart. The quiet elegance of YC’s direction helped me overlook many of the screenplay glitches. It also helped that SRK and Katrina made for SUCH a sizzling jodi. I think that this is SRK’s first really great romantic pairing in a long, long time. I was actually more impressed by Katrina’s performance than you probably were. She was warm and graceful, and rather reminded me of a young Sharmila Tagore. I’ve never found her more than generically pretty before, but she fairly glows in this film. Also, that dance bit before Ishq Shava was amazing; I think she’s more suited to this more Western, athletic style of dance than Bollywood dancing, where she seems rather robotic. I didn’t have any problems with Anushka’s performance at all (kinda loved her, actually), and she, too, had some great chemistry with SRK, who, by the way, effing owns the film. I’ve been very frustrated with SRK since Chak De, for I think that, among the superstar leading men in BW, he is the most watchably versatile and dynamic. (I can objectively say that Aamir is a great actor, but he rarely has sex appeal or unpredictability onscreen, while Salman, for all his magnetism, isn’t a good actor at all.) He seemed to have put his talent away and brought otuta bag of SRK’s-greatest-hits tics whenever we was required to a big, mainstream crowd-pleaser. But in this film, he is every bit the superstar while delivering a nuanced, heart-wrenching performance. Plus he really brought sexy back with this one.

    • Sal,

      Yeah Anushka’s performance worked for some, majority of people seemed to hate Kat even more than me, but the big factor for me is that Kat didn’t bring the film down – I thought she played her part well. The Ishq Dance totally blew my mind and that is Kat totally in her element. And hey! That mini-skirt-bra thingie wasn’t so jarring after all, it was amazing how all the songs within the context of the film, with the picturizations, came out so seamlessly.

      Agree with everything you said in the second half of your comment re SRK. This was him just acting, with no other producer-concerns in his head. And boy, did he bring it – this wasn’t superstar SRK, no greatest-hits-tics, it was just Shahrukh doing a role from his heart (also the Yash Chopra effect probably) gaaah, I could gush about him forever!!

  9. Was waiting to read your review!! Just saying “yes!” “exactly!” and ‘Too right!’ to all of your points and have written my review on JTHJ on http://www.shahrukhkhan.org Agree whole heartedly with ZMOG!!!!! rating….following on from Sal above, yes Shah Rukh looks tres tres sexy in the black army issue t-shirt which is probably why he refuses to don (Don!) a safety jacket with the definitely non- sexy head gear;))….and doesn’t he look pretty drool worthy when he is asleep??…..sorry I will stop gushing now! What came through for me in the film was how much Yashji loved ShahRukh and wanted the audience to love him as much too. Definitely Shah Rukh has also played his part magnificently and I am so glad he didn’t ham it up…he played it just right without too much ffaffing about. This man makes love with his eyes…so the very brief lip-lock(nice!) and bed scene (blink and miss) were just very natural and without self-consciousness (I think Shahrukh has grown out of being very shy with his co-stars!)…I dont think he would have done it without Gauri’s ok though. So londongirl I think that although there was a cool period in his relationship with Gauri early this year, I think they have sorted out issues (if any) between them and get on pretty well now. I thought they have been looking pretty close lately and Gauri looks actually carefree and even happy. May God Bless them both…Anyway I digress….I agree with getfilmy that the screenplay by AC does push the boundaries of credibility…but I guess its the same in most films of this genre (would any sane person go to a freezing mountain top in shorts or a chiffon saree without their Marks and Spencer thermals, can a Shah Rukh Khan be a dance choreographer to Madhuri Dixit, can a wife not recognise her husband simply because he has shaved off his moustache and is wearing tight jeans??)…..I do agree that maybe it wasn’t necessary to mention the ages of the character…Shah should have played 35 and 45 IMHO…playing 25 at 47 is a bit of a stretch, even for my darling cheddar gorge….but Anupam Kher playing 50??? Im 50 for heaven’s sake!!
    Will be seeing the film again tomorrow (I always try to see his films at least 8-10 times in the cinema….I know, I’m sad but can’t imagine what Id rather be doing…lol) and will just enjoy another 3 hours with my hero!

    • Anna,

      Aww, so lovely to have you join the gushfest. Frankly I don’t care what SRK is doing or not doing with Gauri, that’s his business. All I know is that the kiss worked on the screen and for it to be SRK just makes it all the more impressive.

      As for the script, yeah I don’t mind the illogical transgressions like chiffon sari in the snow – that’s just classic Yash Chopra – but it’s when the heart of the story doesn’t flow as it should, and gigantic plot devices are thrown in haphazardly when they could easily be improved…that’s when it bugs me. The age thing didn’t bother me at all, I was amazed that I totally bought SRK as a 25 year old, maybe because they didn’t make him a juvenile 25 year old (like Saif in Cocktail), but a lovely, ordinary guy.

  10. i just want to delete that now. and its 28 not 25. i still thought it was pushing it. i cant express how much I love SRK in this film so i wont even try. all i know is i want to see it again, and that ishq shava has been humming around me all day, the dance was fire. loved it. and yes she of the wood Ms. Kaif did not suck.

  11. I wanted him to end with Akira !!

  12. Well written review ………i definitely feel the same about the movie…….despite so many flaws in the script/story……i trully loved jthj just bcoz of SRK……….so charming, cute, intense……n yes this guy is definitely the badshah of romance……his voice…his eyes….n of course his dimpled smile……has always made me go crazy……n yet again he’s charmed me with his performance on jab tak hai jaan………surely watching it once again……..

  13. Loooooved your review. HATED Adi Chopra for that HOPELESS Script. LOVED SHAH RUKH for making that lousy movie watchable. And that KISSS—wow!!! So Sweet, so gentle, so Tender…I could melt and actually cry. It was so Pure and Magical….love you Shah Rukh

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