Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jab Tak Hai Jaan redefines love stories with much novelity, a fitting end to a legendary career

Jab Tak Hai Jaan, a movie that is inevitably in the center of everything as it releases today, not so strange for any Shahrukh Khan film. Diwali turns out to be the most gregarious and prosperous period for any big releases, over years. Last year, Khan came out with his magnum opus, Ra.One, which tuned less hearts than it imagined to and this year he is back again. But Jab Tak Hai Jaan is no ordinary film. It is the last film of Director Yash Chopra who expired recently, the man who was a magician without a top hat. Touted lazily as the King of romance, Chopra's range of work was above and beyond any imbecilic categorization. And yet, no one can picture a romance like he did. Stanley Kubrick died in March 1999, months before the release of his last film Eyes Wide Shut, and with Yashji's demise, Jab Tak Hai Jaan has no longer remained a film, but the final assured stroke of the grandmaster who has weaved many a delectable moments for over 50 years. He left us climactically, weeks before JTHJ opens, providing his last filmi flourish. A storyteller to the end, they say. It is indeed hard to see JTHJ objectively for the film that it is, without being crippled by a feverish nostalgia for the man. Yet, I wish to attempt here to give my heart out without much baggage, and see it as any other film.

Yash Chopra directing after am appalling gap of 7 years since Veer Zaara. Shahrukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma. If that wasnt enough, the savory duo of Gulzaar and A R Rahman coming together once again, and for the first time with YRF. Jab Tak Hai Jaan had already caved out a monstrous place in our hearts, right when the poster and the trailer released. Over the weeks, it grew to be most awaited film of the year, christened with the feel of an epic love story and bespoke for the millions of fans who wanted Yashji and SRK to do just that. Rahman's score was received with mixed reviews, some found it old-fashioned, some found it just not good enough or constrained. But not one could eschew himself from the burgeoning hype of JTHJ, right upto its release, hopelessly waiting to be transported into a surreal world of romance. But does it work? Will it be a fitting culmination to an illustrious career, now that fate has destined it to be?

Yashji's Jab Tak Hai Jaan is a simple story of love, soaked in an old-world loveliness and strained with the new-age sensibilities. At a running time of around 180 minutes, JTHJ is excruciatingly long, but Aditya Chopra and Devika Bhagat's screenplay is laced with enough meat to never make you look at the exit door. The story of JTHJ has been hidden well in the wily promos and has indeed become the biggest point of speculation amongst the expectant audience. JTHJ borrows a lot from many films of Yashji, not explicitly but more with subtlety, almost mashing up this one to be an anointment from the writers to the master, who had decided to retire after this film. Yet, it turns all the material around with a sunny charisma and courts the audience with a searingly heartfelt film. Yashji's characters and his relationships are always strangled by life, needing intent and patience to get through, and even if they do, it may not be the right time for the love to bloom. A line delivered by Rishi Kapoor to Katrina, in a small sequence during the vineyard getaway of the leads, sums up the entirety of the film, and Yashji's vision behind it. But JTHJ takes its own time to setup the canvas of romance, amongst its leads, so much so that that the first half seems to drag endlessly, pointing its needles much below your behemoth expectations. But the second half makes up for it, and more. It is the last hour of the film that lifts it above being just a good film to being a strikingly well-made film, shedding all the fatigue to make a lasting impression on your mind. Death doesnt come if you find it, and love doesnt happen when you want it to. Yashji drives this point home successfully gushing on his fallible, sometimes foolishly immature characters. His leads make silly deals with God or challenge Him for his decisions, fall in love irrevocably or are just too cinematic to be real, but the novel treatment of emotions, the softness rendered by sheer passion and the unabashed conviction of Yashji woos you before you find out. 

Despite its contrived conveniences of plot twists such as the accidents or the bomb in London train, or a familiar territory with some indulgent sequences like Katrina reuniting with her mom or the multiple convos with God, Jab Tak Hai Jaan is quintessentially charming and intense, relentlessly offering you the best of cinematic emotions as it chugs along. The last hour of the film filches all doubts you had about it as it throws in an uncanny turn in the tale that sets up a conflict of love amongst its leads. However, the film executes it with no expected sappyness or loony sadness making it all the more real. The plot moves swiftly and the characters tell out things to each other without much beating around the bush, while the film, deftly handled by Yashji, quietly shys away smartly from unnecessary exaggerations. The characters may be immature or fatuous, but its the depth of their love that keeps you invested in them. Yashji has always had a special place for his heroines. Katrina plays the typical Yash Raj heroine, modeled on modern habits and retro emotions, while Anushka does the new age spunky girl character whose real self resides somewhere inside the chirpy accouterments. Despite a clunky slow first half, the second half packs in the ramshackle well enough to mesmerize any audience, with enough moments pulling your tears out. The only people who will not like it are the ones who are disturbed by an idea of cinema that excludes manipulatively frothy yet genuinely hearty love stories. 

Produced by Yash Raj Films and First Step Productions, Jab Tak Hai Jaan is crammed with every penny that could be spent on its production. Rahman's music does not strike a chord instantly but is not the one that can be petered with time. Heer and Challa definitely remain the pick of the lot, closely followed by the others. The films uses four of its songs in the first half itself and it kinda gets monotonous, as they didnt have to be there. Gulzaar weaves magic with his words, once again, giving JTHJ the delicacy and the moxie, both in good proportions. Anil Mehta's cinematography offeres a ditsy conclusion. While he captures the beautiful Kashmir with much flair, he captures London mostly with campy tourism hangovers. Production Design by Sharmishta Roy and Shanoo Sharma's casting of the supporting cast is brilliant. Having one of the most loved couples of Bollywood for an edgy sequence of infidelity just garnishes the bold to be socially acceptable. Namrata Rao's editing could have done with a more organic approach, but I guess the producers would have wished to include most of the things that Yashji had shot. 

Anushka Sharma has always been the one you can lean on, when it comes to acting, but it is Katrina who matches up neck-to-neck to her in Jab Tak Hai Jaan. Saddled with a callous character arc of someone who is God-fearing naive and a hopeless romantic at the same time, or a businesswoman who will also go to a shady party and dance her heart out to feel free, Kaif emerges from the deep seas of sleepwalking a imparts a tenderness to Meera slipping quietly into the shoes of a Yash Chopra heroine. She is irrational and immature, and thats what makes you love her as the centerpiece of this story. Anushka, on the other hand, plays the part like another chapter of her bubbly girl book, and still does it pretty darn well. Carrying the best lines of the script and a brutish attitude, she is anything but tender, yet she is that girl-next-door that is indispensable for your heart. I often sit back and ineffectively debate with myself to single out Shahrukh Khan's best performance in his career. Jab Tak Hai Jaan just makes my struggle harder, but I like it that way. Playing down his character like a shadow of the leading ladies or like an outcome of their actions, SRK looks wondrously sharp, convincingly younger, gravely serene and ineffably in love, meandering between all of them without any difficulty. Look at him in the scene where he talks to Anushka about bombs and death, the scene where Katrina meets him before intermission, or the scene where he behaves like a child who found his old puppy when Anushka takes him out in London towards the end, he rises and shines above everything else. Many scenes he is just quiet and dimply, like Katrina, but then there are other scenes where one look or one sneer displays a world of emotions. JTHJ will go down as one of the most restrained mature performances of SRK, the ones which we like to see more. Rishi and Neetu Kapoor are the immaculate show stealers who have the talent to make it for a mention in any review even when they did a 5 minute scene in the movie.  

Jab Tak Hai Jaan may not be Yash Chopra's best film as the legend has too much in his oeuvre to beat, but is definitely a point in cinematic history that will be remembered with emphatic reverence. It is indeed a well made film, both for the lovers of old-fashioned cinema and the flag bearers of new age, balancing out well on the path it was meant to be. A few creative bits may stick out in the storytelling or the first half may be dull-ish, but the overall impact smoothens up the edges coupled with spirited performances. It has taken a roaring start at the Box Office, even on a Diwali day, and is bound for greatness, even when Son of Sardaar is caving into its business. The diaspora audience would inexorably swoon as they watch SRK get back to his romantic hero roots, while the audience in India would be served a very fresh charming tale that reminds you of a lot of things and still has its originality. Alas, this is all we will ever see of Yash Chopra. His style will be missed, his conviction remembered, as no one else can direct like him. I strongly urge you to watch Jab Tak Hai Jaan in a theater, and stay till the end credits as YRF pays a tribute to the legendary filmmaker!

Rating - 3.5/5

2 comments:

  1. Great review Sudeep! I would have given it a 4.5 had the movie been a bit short (a good 10 min in the first half would do it).
    Nonetheless, still a great movie by Yash ji and one of the finest performance by SRK (even Big B acknowledged it)

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  2. I fell in love with Anushka as the carefree amateur filmmaker who would do anything to achieve her goals. She has improved vastly as an actor and in the end I was little bit disappointed as I was hoping that she (instead of Katrina)would become SRK's last love.
    Finally, a fitting way to end his illustrious career and yes, Yash ji will be missed.

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