(Published in The Friday Times, Lahore, on 30 November, 2012, retrieved from http://www.thefridaytimes.com/beta3/tft/article.php?issue=20121130&page=22)
Cast: Shahrukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma
Director: Yash Chopra
Rating: 3 stars
Perhaps only Yash Chopra understood what Shahrukh Khan had to be cast as. People tried to give us the Hero Shahrukh, the Comedian Shahrukh, the Restrained Shahrukh, the Anguished Shahrukh, the Crazy Shahrukh, the Passionate Shahrukh, the Adorable Shahrukh, the Roguish Shahrukh, the Devious Shahrukh, the Cool Shahrukh, but Yash Chopra created the Lover Shahrukh. And as the lover, he could be a stalker, dreamer, charmer, singer, and all of the above.
It was Chopra who ushered in Shahrukh Khan’s Raj-Rahul era, and got him chasing pigeons and women across Europe wearing ridiculous costumes. Somehow, though this guitar-sporting, nasal-voiced character was fresh from his cringe-inducing obsessions, we lapped up the new avatar. And somehow, when he’s closing in on 50, Shahrukh Khan can still become that twenty-something maverick, getting Papa’s Pets into bed with his irresistible rakishness.
When Jab Tak Hai Jaan begins, you’ll roll your eyes, not least because two soldiers of the Indian Army fondly discuss Major Samar Anand, the-man-who-cannot-die, in a Q-and-A session, as he’s defusing a bomb. “Where are you going?” “Bomb suit for Major Anand, sir.” “Nahin pehnega woh”. “Whaa...?” “Yep, what do they teach you in army school?” “Boy, is this the man who holds the records for maximum number of bombs defused?” “Yes, ninety-seven. This is the ninety-eighth.” “Whoa! Is that why you’re grinning and practising math here, instead of looking on worriedly?” “Yes, and also Yash Chopra’s films only have a portion in flashback. So he can’t die right now.” “Is that why they call him the man who cannot die?” “No, that’s because he defuses bombs with his bare hands, silly. Like they’re not bombs, but the baahon of his girlfriend.” “Heee, I’m so glad I joined the Indian Army just so I can watch this hottie defuse bombs.” Okay, not exactly that, but you get the picture.
Right now, Major Samar Anand is too cool to stop drinking tea when a chick dives into freezing waters, and screams out for rescue. But, once upon a time, as he tells his little diary, life wasn’t a series of zakhm-s. Once upon a time, he could open his arms and revel in the snow he was supposed to be shovelling away, and allow himself to fall in love with a racist evangelist.
Honestly, with some modifications, God TV would be proud to present this film. It’s Jesus versus Love. And the guilt Meera (Katrina Kaif) carries around with her could put many of the network’s presenters – and guests – to shame. Of course, this doesn’t stop her from inflicting a horrible hot-stepper routine on us. Nor does it stop her from pole dancing on the London tube. But we knew all that from the trailers that hogged our television screens anyway.
But, despite all this, despite a Nirupa Roy-ish attack of amnesia, courtesy a series of accidents, despite the corny exchanges between two women in love with one confused man, despite the plentiful asides, despite the fact that Rahman has somehow been prevailed upon to throw in “aahaahaahaahaaa”s and “laalalaalaalaa”s every time someone says “mere liye” or “tere liye”, there’s something about Jab Tak Hai Jaan that makes you want to give it a chance.
Maybe it’s because Shahrukh Khan has a way of making us grin at truly awful wordplay. Maybe it’s because the film pulls back just in time from an overdose of maudlin. Maybe it’s because the Chopras are so caught up in their fantastic dream world, where couples make out as cops write out their fines, that we want to be swept away too. Maybe it’s because we’re allowed to depart from formula, and forget about the parents after Anupam Kher, Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh make their cameo appearances. But the characters grow on us, and we find ourselves embarrassedly rooting for a happy ending. Anushka Sharma, playing the peppier-than-popcorn Akira Rai, evolves from making us want to slap her into making us laugh with her. Katrina Kaif doesn’t have much to do except feel guilty, and she does that reasonably well. It’s a rare frame that doesn’t have Shahrukh Khan in it, and at those times, he’s the subject. He milks the film for our laughs and tears.
However, we do have ample opportunity to feel superior. Like when the Indo-Pakistani friendship that’s a staple in YashRaj productions fails to turn tearjerker, because you’re wondering in which script the friends write letters to each other. And like when we spot Olympics 2012 boards all over 2002 London.
Yet, the movie’s worth your while, and if you don’t agree, you’ll still laugh at the creepy tribute video that has Yash Chopra monitoring intimate scenes from a few inches away.