Review: Jab Tak Hai Jaan
Director: Yash Chopra
Indian Express Rating: **1/2
The title of Yash Chopra’s swan-song has a retrospective bitter-sweetness to it : the veteran director did not live to see his film in the theatres. ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ has released, in old YRF tradition, on Deepawali, but what the title manages to say pithily takes the fllm nearly three very long hours, and the pay-off isn’t as sweet as it should have been.
The story may be set in today’s times, but the theme is vintage Yash Chopra, wherein true love happens only once in a lifetime, and it trumps all else. Samar Anand ( SRK) has two lives, and two ladies. He oscillates between London and Leh, and between the rich miss Meera Thapar ( Kaif) and the spunky go-getter Akira Rai ( Sharma) : the London-Meera axis happens pre-interval, with Samar shuttling between being a busker with a yen for sufi ditties, a waiter and a supermarket assistant, and romancing his pretty lass on the side. In the second half, he plays a dishy stubbled bomb disposal expert in Ladakh and the Kashmir valley, being stalked by gutsy Dilli girl Akira who is dying to be a reporter with the Discovery channel.
Aditya Chopra’s story had potential for a solidly detailed telling, and it should have turned into a crackling romance in his father’s seasoned hands. But the film bumps along the twists that are telegraphed miles ahead, the plot-holes loom larger and larger as the clunky plot progresses, and it gets stuck in the oldest shtick in the world : a lead character suffers from a bang on the head, twice, and, believe it or faint, memory loss. So you don’t quite get a ‘main kahaan hoon, main kaun hoon’ kind of solemnly-intoned ‘retrograde amnesia’, but it’s close. There are also a few laugh out loud sequences while sundry bombs are being disposed, a few more which involve the Indian army going about its business, and others which escalate in the second half. But I’m not going to spoil them for you : you need to experience the hilarity first hand.
Chopra’s trademark expertise in keeping the drama at just the right pitch is only patchily evident. Not all the songs have emotional connect, another Chopra strong point, and the A R Rahman soundtrack doesn’t quite overwhelm either. I loved the ‘Challa’ song, though : in its sweep and its lyrics, it encompasses the kind of romance that was completely Yash Chopra’s. Of the two ladies, Kaif rises to the occasion only occasionally; the rest of the time, she’s too pallid to leave any impact. Where’s the spirited Kat? And Sharma’s bubbliness, though nice, seems stretched, and much too familiar.
Finally, what keeps you with the film is Shah Rukh Khan, who is on the top of his game. He pulls every familiar trick of his, and he comes up with a couple we haven’t seen before. This is the star in a lover boy avatar we haven’t seen him in for a long time, and being able to stare intensely into his leading ladies’ eyes lets him shed his clown-self, and allows them to swoon. Fittingly, Yash Chopra’s final film will be remembered for the guy who gave the director a boost when he needed it, back then with ‘Darr’. Watch this one for Shah Rukh, who can still do the dimpled boy wonder and the older lover with a wry smile and wounded wink and sexy nudge.