The man in question has lost his heart to a flawless beauty while shoveling snow outside a grand cathedral in United Kingdom and now defuses bombs in the Indian army.
The concerned pretty woman is in the habit of trading with God by making small-scale sacrifices (will give up chocolates, fur) in order to realise her wishes. And how this practice costs her (and us) heavy forms the crux of the plot.
Their lives and loves are interconnected through a kiss, two road accidents and a dramatic shift of backdrop from the swish streets of London to the striking landscapes of Ladakh and Kashmir, which unfolds an old-fashioned love story plagued by prolonged complications.
Welcome to world of grand romances in Yash Chopra’s breezy, signature treatment that distracts us from son and fellow filmmaker Aditya’s farfetched story.
Jab Tak Hai Jaan is an elegant, harmless entertainer for most part until the latter’s obsession with generating larger-than-life passions by rehashing the Veer-Zaaraesque scenario — lovers forced to stay apart over mandatory misunderstandings or foolish reasons (like in this one) relegate it to a not quite.
But for all its contrived elements and climatic predictability, Chopra Senior’s swansong starts out with a spring in its step. Like in any film of this genre, the viewer is primarily concerned with just three things – how they fall in love, what comes in their way and how they overcome those obstacles and get back, if they do, together.
Phase one goes about like a dream what with Anil Mehta’s soap-washed, sparkling visuals. It’s wintertime in London 2002 (although a clumsy detail reveals the recently hosted Olympics event in the city courtesy a prominent cut-out in the background) even as Shah Rukh Khan’s Samar, a waiter and part-time singer and Katrina Kaif’s rich heiress Meera banter and bond over few weeks of tuition.
He volunteers to teach her a Punjabi song as a birthday surprise for her daddy (Anupam Kher in a now-you-see-him-now-you-don’t brand of appearance. The actor just vanishes without explanation in the second half). In return, she gives him a lesson in English Vinglish like the difference between constipation and conversation.
SRK-Katrina’s brand new and torrid chemistry hits its peak during a fantastic dance duel against A R Rahman’s thumping beats titled Ishq dance. And then comes the most authentic display of affection from an actor who’s romanced a bevy of beauties in dozens of mushy flicks and famously refused to get intimate on screen. Although the spoiler is all over the internet, let’s just stop at saying it involves Katrina’s textbook pout. The deed sure comes as a huge surprise and is likely to be talked about for days to come.
At this juncture, Jab Tak Hai Jaan is as pleasant as its visuals. One suspects the classic rich-poor divide to crop up at some point and create trouble in paradise but Aditya, instead opts for something sillier. His idea of romantic idealism and virtue forcefully surrenders Meera’s ‘gali ki gundi’ spirit into an extreme example of a god-fearing soul to provide the plot with its most ludicrous twist. Her sentiments are exquisite but her logic is plain stupid making Meera quite impossible to root for.
JTHJ revives itself momentarily with Anushka’s Band Baaja Baarat-reminiscent vivacity in complete sync with the cheerful scenery of once-again glorious Kashmir. She can call herself Akira or Godard for all I care but that’s straight off Shruti Kakkar in a tomboy’s wardrobe. Her unrestrained camaraderie with the somber, stubble-sporting army man SRK offers a playful contrast from the dreamy first act. How he develops this sudden switch in aptitude from foie gras to firearms is best not asked.
But by phase three of this romance, the screenplay has gone completely haywire and filled with a series of turnabouts that wouldn’t look so out of place in a Manmohan Desai caper. The last half an hour meanders at a snail’s pace and packs in one daft development after another. And I can’t help agreeing with the man in the seat next to mine who remarked, ‘Is this the uncut version?’
Length and logic aside, Jab Tak Hai Jaan makes up for Rahman’s low on soul soundtrack with a subdued performance from SRK in a genre he knows by heart. While I personally preferred his rugged in uniform appearance and wounded recluse act better than the somewhat jaded lover boy strumming a guitar, he rises above the superficial in the most ordinary moments with his searching eyes that have clearly seen a lot and are coming to terms with a life gone by.
Although a Yash Chopra heroine is always a much-anticipated treat, Katrina is let down by a feebly written role and unimaginative, routine styling. Anushka definitely scores better.
Ultimately Jab Tak Hai Jaan is nothing more than lovely fluff that could have been shorter, snappier but is definitely worth watching once for the man whose name appears against the bright blue sky – Mr Yash Chopra.
Stars : 2.5
This review was first published on rediff.com.