(spoilers ahead) In Jab Tak Hai Jaan, writers Aditya Chopra and Devika Bhagat, both work extra hard to make the movie a worthy farewell for its director Yash Raj Chopra (who passed away shortly after finishing this, his last movie). Written as a loving homage to sweeping YRF romances, JTHJ also keeps one foot firmly planted in new Bollywood. Often the writers remind us that this is old romance spun as a fresh story. "I'm old fashioned," muses Shahrukh Khan at one point. "I won't find a lover like you in my generation," complains Anushka Sharma.
In the first third of the movie there is a scene in which Katrina Kaif (as always I'm dispensing with character names here mostly because I'm not a critic) loses her reserve and uncorks her personality with help from SRK. At an underground club in London, SRK and Katrina have a flirtatious exchange about love and romance. Then SRK walks off. Momentarily, encircled by a crowd, both dance one on one. Both flirt with each other via dance as they touch and feel each other out.
AR Rahman's background score. ARR creates three distinct themes for each of the movie's leads - SRK, Katrina and Anushka. He hints at the emotion in key scenes instead of hitting us over the head with it. In most scenes, ARR decides to stay as far in the background as he possibly can. Later in the movie when SRK gets all hurt in love and suchlike and goes all Hurt Locker on us, the background score continues to underwhelm us in the scenes where SRK is defusing bomb after bomb. This is particularly smart because by not overplaying the thrills with big music, the movie doesn't drain or distract us. Even in the end, when there is one last bomb to be defused, Yash Raj uses a voice over in the scene to wax about love instead of squeezing out a nerve jangling climax. JTHJ has its background music to thank for helping it stay focused as a romance instead of yet another potboiler masala flick.
I felt Anushka was the weakest of the three leads - often overplaying her bit. She's blessed with stellar presence and with time she'll learn to emote without making it appear that she is having a conversation with herself. She also isn't helped by the fact that she doesn't have much to do in the later third. To keep her in play the writers give her scenes where she keeps repeating why she's engaged in the drama i.e. she's fallen hard for SRK and can't get over him. This repetition is a bit tiresome, but Anushka has such a flashy role (and great lines) that its easy to forgive her.
Later, SRK has two accidents ten years apart and forgets everything in between. Sarika (in a cameo) shows up and declares SRK has retrograde amnesia. She then proceeds in her role as looney, random, unethical doctor to ask all of SRK's friends to lie to him and create a fictional world so that he may recover. Holy Hannah! This kind of nuttiness is just too difficult to swallow in the movie and pretty much everyone in the theater was chuckling. By disrespecting their viewers with junk like this, the writers lost control of the story and the respect of their audience. "We want Son of Sardar!" yelled a wag in the audience. More laughter.
Was the ridiculousness needed to make this a fitting Yash Raj tribute because no other way would have felt right? Or could a third writer have joined the team, injected a common sense amount of reality into the flick and transformed ONE BAD VOW into a real WOW?
Also: Jab Tak Hai Jaan music review