J Hurtado, Contributing Writer
It’s difficult to talk about Jab Tak Hai Jaan without putting it in its proper context. Not only is the the final film of one of Bollywood’s most beloved auteurs, and the author of the modern romantic cinema in which so much of India still revels, Yash Chopra, it’s also the latest film from one of the Hindi film industry’s biggest stars, Shah Rukh Khan. It couldn’t be lugging around heavier baggage. There is the temptation to sentimentalize about Chopra’s career and allow that feeling to seep into any kind of critical response to the film, a reaction to which I may not even find myself immune, however, Jab Tak Hai Jaan delivers exactly as it is supposed to on all levels, and that’s not too shabby for a film with so much expectation to live up to.
The story line of Jab Tak Hai Jaan is not at all easy to compress. The film is 176 minutes long, which is even long by Bollywood standards these days, and Chopra uses all of that time to expand a ten year long love story to its emotional acme, leaving audiences drained by the time the credits roll. We’ve been up, we’ve been down, we’ve seen fire and we’ve seen rain, and by the time the film closes out with a behind the scenes montage of Yashji on set working on his final project, it’s just the topper that put me over the edge and threw me into emotional freefall. Yes, I fell for this film and I fell hard.
What I find most amazing about Jab Tak Hai Jaan is that the entire time I was watching it I was picking it apart, but in the end it resonates more deeply that it perhaps deserves. Aditya Chopra’s script is ridiculous. Coming from the man who penned and directed the defining film of modern Indian romantic cinema, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, the script for Jab Tak Hai Jaan is something of an embarrassment. Characters act in ludicrous ways right from the word go, insane coincidences determine every single plot turn in the story, and every few minutes I found myself thinking “what the f…” at the things going on in front of me; not least of which is a pivotal scene in which London Police allow a civilian Shah Rukh Khan to defuse a bomb on a commuter train just because he seems to know what he’s talking about.
Scenes like that pepper the film, and if it weren’t bad enough that they are there at all, sometimes they play major roles in the narrative. There’s nothing lazier than dropping unlikely (or downright impossible) plot devices into a film just because there’s seemingly no other way to move the story forward. Adi Chopra should know this, and his dad, Yash Chopra himself, should have questioned it. Neither of these guys are rookies, they’ve been around, and there are some seriously amateur-hour antics in Jab Tak Hai Jaan. That being said, the film doesn’t completely collapse like the house of cards that it is, instead it is saved by an unusually strong performance from Shah Rukh Khan as our lovelorn lead, Jagdeep, and a bouncy and rousing performance from Anushka Sharma, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite mainstream actresses simply for the energy she brings to every role. Continue reading