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Movie Review: Jab Tak Hai Jaan

November 18, 2012

Yash Chopra's last movie before his death, stars Shah Rukh Khan and Katrina Kaif — Courtesy Photo

With iconic director Yash Chopra’s passing, is it an end of an era? “Jab Tak Hai Jaan”, the director’s fourth collaboration with Shah Rukh Khan the question is better left unanswered.

A coffee-break later,this is what I have to say: Epic “lackadaisical” fail. There, I’ve said it.

The tradition of a warped sense of subliminal cinematic gratitude would restrain a totally bad write-up for JTHJ; but thankfully, I’m not prone to such sensitivities — especially if the end-product doesn’t give any reason to harbor faux notions. Still, tradition — or better yet, Yash Raj tradition, mostly restricted to Mr. Chopra’s filmmaking — plays a hefty, and panting-lumbering, role in writer/producer Aditiya Chopra’s film structure. There’s the usual half-baked love-triangle, foreign locations and an overlong running time.

Shah Rukh Khan plays two diverging shades of a standard guy, flung in the center of unconvincing Bollywood-prone circumstances. He is Samar Anand, a near-pennyless with dreams of music supported by a steady part-time job waiting tables at a restaurant. He notices, and falls for the film’s purposeless, rich-girl played by the very plastic-y Katrina Kaif. She is Meera, a beauty who is love-free until JTHJ reaches near-intermission time.

An illogically stuffed plot-twist, later Samar winds up in India as a bomb disposal expert.

Samar, when we meet him, is the army’s go-to guy with 97-on-the-spot bomb-disposals. Enter the weirdly-spunked gal Akira Rai, who he rescues when she near-skinny dips on an open-lake in Laddakh.

Played by Anushka Sharma, jammed and packed in short-shorts she is a self-labeled gen-x’er who darts away from relationships at the drop of a hat. Akira’s long-term plan, as she unabashedly puts it, is to be a documentary filmmaker and travel the world

Her bucket-list gets sidelined when she picks up Samar’s diary and reads his backstory. Smitten by his detached attitude, she targets him as her documentary subject for Discovery Magazine and then, as it happens often in JTHJ through an unskilled plot-twist, drags him back to London for the film’s last act.

While the end credits of JTHJ shows Mr. Chopra ably-directing the shoot, the film’s overtaxed first and third acts tell us something different: Aditya Chopra’s (and Devika Bhagat’s) screenplay needed an uncompromising, hard-look — and a meeting with a red marker.

While I do believe that a film is essentially made in the editing room, I also believe that one has to look at his screenplay and jot-out things that don’t work. For a producer, with too much money and personal preferences to pamper, the decision may not be that easy to entertain.

Anushka Sharma makes her bubbliness work for her, while Katrina Kaif, in perhaps one of her most stoic turns at play-acting, dulls-away on what would have been an easily multilayered character .

SRK is partially fine — and that’s where JTHJ is at its most criminalist. One expects Mr. Khan, at his current stature, to bombard our consciousness with a mesmerizing turn. Not make us go “oh what a ham!” Partially hamming it up, with slight neck-flicks for expressions, Mr. Khan flairs-in considerable restraint when he’s more burdened with weightless-weights in the middle of the movie.

Come on Bollywood! Give SRK something befitting his caliber. The charm’s there, he just needs that sweeping swoosh of intelligent stimulus to get things going — just like JTHJ does.