Monday, November 19, 2012

The 'fallacies' of Jab Tak Hai Jaan

Its been almost a week since it released but it has provided enough fodder for everyone to dig about it. As Jab Tak Hai Jaan rings in the Box Office cash registers worldwide, I would like to add my bit to the ongoing discussions and debates about the film. Mind you, if you havent seen the film, I suggest you to not read any further as the post contains multiple spoilers as they were necessary to throw some light on the analysis. So shut this page and go back to a theater where you can catch the movie, instead, and then come back and read this, because here I try to answer the questions in your mind.

I liked Jab Tak Hai Jaan. It 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, specially now when this is all we will ever see of him. But the humongous expectations have inevitably led to mixed reviews amongst audiences. Some connoisseurs of cinema have critically ravaged it, deeming it to be idiotically missing basic IQ material or shamelessly sloganeering a ridiculous script with much hype, giving way to a lot of unintentional hilarity and multiple ludicrous loopholes. On the other hand, for the common audience, its just another movie released during the festive season and they are flocking in numbers at the theaters to catch it, some liking it more, some less but no one really hating it. So is it really that bad?

To be completely fair, Jab Tak Hai Jaan does well with what it is meant to do, and despite being excruciatingly long, it never gets dull or boring. However, certain aspects of its creative territory have become common points of discussion on social media and otherwise. It brazenly borrows bits and pieces from many YC movies, probably the reason why you may feel it is retorting to contrived conveniences or beaten-to-death plot twists, but I would see it more as an anointment from the writers to the master who was making his last film, to sum it all up by taking plot points that have been remnant in many of his movies and weave them in another tale of lasting love. Amnesia graduates to a retrograde version, and the same character meets with a similar road accident twice. Too much coincidence? Yes, but in a stereotypical dogmatic belief kind of way, the place could be jinxed for him every time he is there. Though, it is definitely a conveniently plausible plot point that limits the movie far away from being path breaking, but again, was it meant to do that? More often than not, we watch countless Bond films just to revisit that old school goodness, and while JTHJ doesnt become the perfect swan song for Yash Chopra, it definitely does not hamper his legacy a bit. 

The other relevant argument is the difficult-to-swallow central conflict of the film. Who’d have thought that a simple promise made to God would become breaking bane of a relationship? While many sat back and laughed at this appalling choice, I am no fan of it either, but I see another point of view here. Yashji's characters have always been fallible, sometimes fatuous and sometimes just immature. In this one, Meera (Katrina Kaif) is a terribly unreal character. She is a 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, just because her new friend convinced her to. We all have seen people around us who start swearing by God when fronted with a difficulty or habitually trade with Him for the future to get what they want they want right then. She is exactly like that when she believes that her being with Samar (Shahrukh) would actually take his life, but cant help waiting for him 10 years or playing love charades with him when he loses his memory. Its a hypocritically confused character, but if you accept it with a leap of faith, it works from there on, as Meera chugs along making her stupid decisions, still hopelessly in love. She resonates another Meera from Cocktail, but this one aspires to be Veronica secretly instead of smugly reconciling in her pride, yet is too afraid to take the step. Samar's character is equally childish when he dares to challenge the same God who took away her love by facing death every day with much candor, while he remains elusive to trying more efficient ways of killing himself, if he really has to. Samar wishes to engulf in his own reticence, never daring to take the big step, still irrevocably hoping to get his love back, the only thing he ever wanted. You still end up rooting for the foolishly unreal characters that are weaved around for you. 

So can love in commercial cinema validate any kind of gap in logic? This is an alternate reality of Bollywood, seen through Yash Chopra films, where people are essentially good and for them love is everything and their behaviors can be validated by accepting them as faulty. JTHJ is a weak example of this argument, despite Chopra trying his best to tidy up his act by doing it properly. Watch Samar relive his younger days like a kid when he has been fooled into the idea that he has always been with the love of his life and you know that nothing meant more to him. Yet, there are larger loopholes that may not be ignored in this frothy romance such as the gamut of bombs being disposed or the British police officers allowing a brown stranger on the train to walk in and do his thing while they watch. What Chopra does manage to get right is to spread it all across two generations of lovers to bring forward how Akira's (Anushka) love is far behind in its intensity as compared to Meera's. 

In the end, JTHJ is just like any other Yash Chopra movie, a cheesy romance soaked in old-fashioned loveliness and drained with the new-age sensibilities. It is being liked for the same reason that people liked Kuch Kuch Hota Hai or Dil Toh Pagal Hai. A liberal dose of optimism, a reflection of unreal reality, and the magnanimity of love over all other things in life, all this and more made to look appealing with much conviction and defiant passion by Yashji himself. Jab Tak Hai Jaan was not meant to break the mold in the first place, but more like a finishing stroke by the person who created this mold, that of a old-fashioned storytelling where in even an army can have a song and dance sequence and a character can brush up his spoken English within weeks. Despite being clunky, I feel the makers were honest in portraying a situation wherein love trumps all. 

This is not a justification of a not-at-all-bad film with spirited lead performances, but more of an analysis of how the criticism may be out of context. 

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