Nostalgia. Sentiment. Hope. These might be among the three emotional reasons to watch director Yash Chopra’s swan-song.
But it isn’t nostalgia that you feel when you watch Shah Rukh Khan riding on his Enfield in his Aviators and into the frame to diffuse a bomb in his tight T-shirt into the centre of Leh market.
The Oscar-winning film Hurt Locker and the complexities of the bomb disposal expert come to mind. But then a flashback transports us back to London, when Khan is a young 25 (if you can believe that), and then, as he stretches his arms out as if embracing London Bridge, nostalgia sweeps over you. Sentiment is the veneer over Jab Tak Hai Jaan. Glimpses of Yash Chopra of yore, a deeply entrenched sense of the past and related archaic values and a strong requirement for a suspension of disbelief are pervasive. That kind of settles the feeling of hope that you were clinging on to.
It ebbs as you struggle to endure three hours of sentiment, nostalgia, a 47 year old star pretending to be 25 and Rahman’s uninspired music.
Anil Mehta’s lensing keeps you captivated through the songs, street dances (which are more Hispanic than you are likely to find in London), romance and divine intervention that follow.
Khan plays Samar, a struggler in London who juggles multiple jobs in order to make ends meet. A chance encounter with Mira (Katrina Kaif) results in a barter arrangement – he will teach her how to sing a Punjabi song and in return she will teach him ‘gentleman’s English’.
No prizes for guessing that the pair fall in love but Mira’s blind, constant deal-making with god (if you make this happen, I will give this up sort of thing) leads to the couple having to part ways.
Cut to 10 years later – Samar is now a Major in the Indian Army and the subject of aspiring 21 year old documentary filmmaker Akira’s (Anushka Sharma) showreel film titled ‘The Man Who Cannot Die’.
Akira, a spirited girl in hot pants, becomes the centre of reels of footage about her interactions with Samar and his bomb disposal squad. She hears his poignant story about fated love and falls for the stubbly, sombre Samar who stares death in the face every day.
The film really slags at this point, distracting from the central love story, creating a potential love triangle that threatens to take shape when the action returns to London.
By now you are tired to guessing what further twists the script has slipped in. The reason for your indifference is the absolute lack of chemistry between Khan and Kaif. Though she tried hard, and looks nice, Kaif is rather lifeless and unconvincing. Khan pulls out every trick from his bag but the sparks just do not fly.
Sharma bring some life to the party, although she veers towards the hyper. Khan is highly watchable as the older Samar but can no longer carry of the young carefree loverboy.
But when the credits roll and the tribute to Yash Chopra unspools, you are reminded about nostalgia and sentiment; and irony!
And for all those reasons, you forgive the old-fashioned foibles, focus on the prettiness of it all and decide you would rather like than dislike Jab Tak Hai Jaan.