Saturday, November 17, 2012

Jab Tak Hai Jaan: One Bad Kasam!

(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.

Aditya and Devika guide the screenplay over this old-new tightrope with good intentions and almost pull it off, but in the end the silliness of the plot constructs overwhelm JTHJ. Yet it didn't stop me from enjoying the movie as a Yash Raj tribute - the last of a rare species that may well be extinct.


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.

Wow, I told myself, what a terrific way to acknowledge how love is expressed via song and dance in Indian films. The trappings here are traditional, but the movie stops shy of getting mired in them. The moves are Western street dance, with loosely Bollywood-inspired moves. There is no song just yet, just trash percussion. Later, with the courtship complete, SRK and Katrina take time off to break into song. More Bollywood creeps into the choreography - completing the transition from modern to traditional. This sequence entirely thrilled me.

Indeed, throughout the movie Aditya writes old fashioned dialogues but together with Devika gives the scenes a deftness that keeps the drama fresh. Here there is a lot of help from 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 know Katrina gets flak for her acting. Here her unwillingness (or inability - take your pick) to act by convention in the scenes serves the movie well. There is a scene in which she reunites with her mother in which she shows clarity of emotion and keeps it real. SRK helps out a lot by walking a really fine line between old world cinematic drama and hipper restraint. He squeezes plenty of emotion out of his scenes without necessarily resorting to melodrama.

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.

Where JTHJ really stumbles is in the two plot devices that are used to propel the story. First, Katrina - educated, modern and all, mind you - makes a mess of a kasam to God. Yash Raj is trying to tell us that all love is about sacrifice. By forsaking your love you are proving that you are a true lover. Pffft! Not when you are hurting yourself AND the one you love FOR NO APPARENT REASON, Yashji! At this point a number of us in the audiences started rolling our eyes.

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

7 comments:

Mind Rush said...

Nice! Great review! In the theater where I watched this film, people just laughed outright when the amnesia came about.
Was this unintentional entertainment? Or was it Yash Raj poking fun at itself?

Drift, your captions it all! Yes, it was old world, new world and everything in between thrown in.

This movie will provide you with 3 hours of amnesia from your problems. TO capitalize on this, do leave your brain in the parking lot.

Drift Memsaab said...

Wah, wah, Drift saab!
Kasam se, this is best LOL review I of JTHJ that I have seen.

Ritu said...

I'm not reading this since I'm planning to see the movie and you mentioned spoilers. But THE CAPTIONS ROCK! Katrina's expressions are perfect in each one. Looks like she spends a lot of time looking guilty in this movie. Ha ha.

Sidekick said...

Wah, Aspi brilliant captions - kasam se! :P

In my view - best scenes ji - end credits showing YRC shooting the film with the lovely title track playing.

The plot craters were just insulting to the audience but I could have got past them if the film has delivered the trademark Yash Chopra romance. I did not feel in the slightest for Katrina and SRK's characters, not their love and certainly not their heartbreak. Katrina felt to me like a Madame Tussaud's exhibit - incapable of generating even an iota of feeling, plus her plumped up lips were distracting.

The only scenes where I felt anything were when Anushka's character spoke of her resigned but helpless love for SRK in her scenes with him. That airport scene had emotional punch. Yes she was OTT and bratty and painful for the most part but in the emotional scenes, she held back and she really brought it!

I felt that in this underwhelming, plodding and idiotic story, two very brave ideas got lost -
1. In the cameo a woman in love forsakes family and a more importantly a child to pursue love but importantly her own happiness. This erases the cop out of an ending in Silsila.
2. Ultimately the film advocates a benevolent , understanding god - one who doesn't seek terrible,self flagellating sacrifices but one who gives you numerous opportunities to find your happiness.... if you're smart enough and motivated enough to seek it.

Aspi Havewala said...

Mind Rush, I don't think Yash Raj was poking fun at himself. Given that he did this all the time.

Ritu, come back and tell us what you thought after you see the movie.

Sidekick, loved the analysis. I have to say I didn't connect with any of the characters emotionally. And great points around (1) and (2) - those are major milestones for big Bollywood romances.

What is it with the puffed lips trend in Bollywood anyway. Just saw Priety Zinta's balloon lips a few weeks ago.

Radhika said...

Plot holes in this kind of movie are precious. These are like the flaws that make a postage stamp rare :) Kya mazaa aata agar sub kuch believable hota? Rooting drama in reality is a downer. Lets leave that to Hollywood. But the most unforgivable thing in this movie was Katrina. You need a memorable leads for this formaula to work..She pulled the movie into slumberland. Trust you to find something nice to say about her..but give it up:)

Aspi said...

I like Katrina! Who would have thought it would come to this :) Yes, I did enjoy the plot holes - they are way more fun when you do it tongue in cheek like in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan.