Jab Tak Hai Jaan

Directed by: Yash Chopra

Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma

WARNING: This review contains some spoilers.

All images courtesy of: http://www.glamsham.com

October 21st will be a day I won’t ever forget. Not only did it hold the unpleasant memory of a near-fatal car accident that I had survived but was now joined by the sad (and untimely) demise of Yash Chopra, a man I have never met, yet the cosmos he created on screen has dominated my dreams since I started watching Hindi cinema as a child and on that secret list of hopes I did dare not share with the world, was the hope that one day I would get to meet this architect of my notions of love and romance and in wilder dreams, observe him at work or even work with him.

It is at once wonderful and sad that Jab Tak Hai Jaan (JTHJ) will be the only film made by Chopra that I will review with any objectivity; as my blog only came into existence in 2008, there will be a heavy amount of bias when reviewing his catalogue of amazing work (which I intend to do next year). At the start of the film, I found myself fighting a battle of fanboy versus film reviewer – for instance, I wasn’t too sure about Katrina being cast  but this was Yashji’s swansong; surely he couldn’t be wrong? As the film progressed, I gave into my instincts and realised the only way to watch JTHJ was to treat it like any other film.

Not that JTHJ is like any other film. The canvas is huge, the colours are beautiful and you can bet your bottom paisa that every detail has been carefully and lovingly constructed. But more importantly, this film marks the end of an era. There were some wonderful moments that can only be described as “filmi” – a lingering shot here, a pause before Samar breathlessly says something romantic over there, the kudos of bringing two top heroines into the frame together and creating a heightened sense of drama in a seemingly effortless manner. And these will never be recreated again, as quite simply, they were unique to Yash Chopra. For me, these were the best parts of the film and the moments when I was immersed in the world of Samar, Meera and Akira are still playing in my mind.

There were a few wobbles – the film meanders unnecessarily at times and not in a good way either, especially in the first half. I also felt Meera’s character could have done with more definition – though this is, in part, down to Katrina’s performance (which I’ll come to shortly), the writing doesn’t give her the clarity or direction that Akira’s character has. Also, as amazing as the songs are, I was personally disappointed Saans got screen time over Heer (which is my favourite track on the OST) and that the songs literally came all in one steady flow also (in my opinion) hampered Meera’s character arc which in turn affects the whole film.

Performance wise, Katrina was the weakest link for me. Whether it was her emotional scenes or being romanced by SRK, I wasn’t convinced. Yes she dances well and looks ethereal but her main job is to sell the contradiction that is Meera – a modern woman with a traditional outlook. It is a tall order and a tad too ambitious for Kat, inspite of having Yash Chopra directing and SRK co-starring. To her credit though, I thought she was stronger in the second half (as there was less of her – ouch!) and only seemed to come alive in her scenes with Anushka where her strong but silent suffering turn sits comfortably next to Anushka’s youthful impatience. Speaking of Anushka, she throws herself wholeheartedly into the role and brightens up the screen, entertaining and emoting on cue and sharing a strong chemistry with SRK. For me, I felt Anushka understood her role more than Katrina did – it was almost as if Kat has to be coaxed out a non-existent shell whilst Anushka has to be reined in and it seems the latter’s approach worked better.

As for SRK, there was never any doubt – cometh the hour, cometh the man. Right from the first frame, SRK is in the zone and delivers a blast of fresh unadulterated SRK charisma that is like a summer breeze and will leave his fans needing a lie down to absorb all the nutritional value his presence imparts. Having seen a few interviews promoting the film and the video of SRK in conversation with Chopra, I felt he made Samar an affectionate tribute to Yash Chopra himself, sometimes imitating his voice or mannerisms which I liked and since Chopra’s demise, seemed poignant. In a way, JTHJ is as much a celebration of the SRK that is universally loved and loathed as it is of Chopra’s creative ethos.

Without a doubt, I recommend seeing JTHJ. No, it isn’t a perfect film nor is it the swansong I had hoped it would be. But it is a wonderful reflection on what Hindi cinema used to be and what it is now. I also thought JTHJ was optimistic about the future – Chopra doesn’t pretend to understand modern conventions but he demonstrates classics never go out of style and forever reverberate with audiences. I will be seeing it again when the hype subsides so that I can view it with my head rather than my heart and hope to get a clearer reading of it then. Regardless of what one may feel, JTHJ is an important film and it will be interesting to see how Hindi cinema will move forward after such a loss. One thing is certain – they don’t make them like this any more. RIP Yash Chopra.

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