Director: Imtiaz Ali
Star Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Anushka Sharma, Chandan Roy Sanyal
Rating: 2 stars
How do you showcase picturesque countries to the less-travelled aam janata? How do you justify the concessions given by the tourism departments of the respective countries? You conduct a treasure hunt!
In Jab Harry Met Sejal, the treasure hunt is the search for the proverbial wedding ring. A ring that does ring a bell to several of Imtiaz Ali's films that are about journey, discovering yourself through the events in the journey, some soul searching, some self-talk, some nostalgia and oodles of desi music in foreign locations. Case in point: Tamasha, Rockstar, Love Aaj Kal etc In fact, at one point in time, the film was called The Ring. Tring Tring!
I cannot understand why Sejal (Anushka Sharma) had to be Gujarati. I hail from Gujarat myself and would have loved it if the protagonist was a Gujarati from small-town Gujarat and not from Mumbai. At least her pronounced 'Gujju' accent would have been believable! Stereotypes about Gujaratis being all about money (Baat hamesha paise ki hi hoti hai) isn’t the cliché you expect from Imtiaz Ali who once told me in an interview that today’s cinema is today’s literature. Well, this one is a bad, plagiarised copy of his previous scripts that were quite literary.
Another Imtiaz trope - the leggy lass from a good family who is a 'good' girl but itches to explore the dark side of life, albeit ‘innocently’, is seen here too. (Recall Ayesha Takia in Socha na Tha, Nargis Fakhri in Rockstar, Deepika Padukone in bits of Love Aaj Kal). That mainstream Hindi cinema still worships this virginal ‘simplicity’ in the age of Lipstick Under My Burkha, is regressive to say the least. For instance, Shah Rukh Khan telling his lady love that he won’t sleep with her like he did with the 'others' to indicate how special she is to him, is yawn-worthy!
SRK plays the tourist guide who takes Anushka on a European trip in search of her silly ring. King Khan, after his recent series of very stimulating motivational talks, goes into a teacher/preacher mode in this film but wears a DDLJ mask that frankly, should have been left behind in the DDLJ era! He accompanies a girl to her destination (in this case, the ring) and ensures that she is delivered safe to the man she is betrothed to. Of course, in the process, falls in love with her. How many times have we seen that before?
Now for some of the good moments. Shah Rukh carries Jab Harry Met Sejal on his shoulders and shows us glimpse of a sexy tattoo that is drool-worthy! The scene where he is touched by emotion when he wakes up next to Anushka, brings out a wow-pang, and so does the scene where he indulges in self-consolation. It is brilliantly done. Romance is his domain and the way he looks into a woman’s eyes to profess love is the stuff poetry is made of. Anushka writing a memo on the rules of travelling is interesting and JSK, for Jai Shree Krishna, a common greeting among Gujaratis, is uttered so casually that it sounds genuinely funny. Ghyasuddin Mohammed Qureshi (Gas) played by Chandan Roy Sanyal adds a touch of quirk to the movie that majorly has only two actors conversing with each other in exotic locations during their treasure hunt.
The scene just before the interval, where the duo challenges each other that they won’t fall in love, raises hope of an Imtiaz Ali twist. Alas, there is none! Similarly, 20 minutes before the film ends, is a scene when the duo separates and you feel there will be an aha! moment, only to watch it slide into a predictable abyss.
Jab Harry Met Sejal is a film you want to like but when you see the ‘Babe becoming Babita’ formula repeated yet again, you wonder why a filmmaker, known for his progressive, unusual films succumbs to clichés like this one.
I go back to the sublime Rockstar that ended with a Sufi quote - 'Beyond good and bad, there is a field, I will meet you there'. This film espouses the beautiful thought of 'Home is a Person' . Wish the script went beyond these one-liners and took us on a unique journey with a Geet or a Jordan instead of this been-there-done-that European tour.