New Delhi: Legendary filmmaker Yash Chopra signed off with a flourish with his romantic drama 'Jab Tak Hai Jaan' - his last film before his death this year. The film has his signature courtships and nuanced complexities set in India and London.
But the film falls far short of expectations that come attached to swansongs. Chopra, who's the master of emotional dramas such as 'Kabhie Kabhie' and 'Silsila', simply fails to create a magnum opus with JTHJ. The scrutiny is greater because Shah Rukh Khan, the protagonist of the film, is back to the genre he ruled for over two decades before experimenting with science fiction and negative roles in classic remakes.
So what went wrong in 'Jab Tak Hai Jaan'? And how could the film have been a better send-off for the iconic director?
Plot: For starters - the film is weighed down due to the lack of a cohesive plot. The film hinges on one women's promise to God to stay away from the man she loves for the rest of her life. It's a bit far-fetched. She makes that promise right after he is hit by a car. She makes her peace with Jesus Christ in the end, but not before she has wasted 10 years of her life. Shah Rukh on the other hand returns to India and enlists for the Indian Army - age be damned. The man who was shown waiting tables in London because he wasn't cut out for any specialized career, becomes the army's most coveted bomb disposal expert. People expecting a tragic twist in the end were rewarded with a happy ending to the romance that waited its turn. But somehow the ending falls flat. A better screenplay would have elevated the film to another level.
Cast: There is no doubting that Shah Rukh is Indian cinema's quintessential romantic hero. He's the boss in the matters of the heart. Or he was, until age begun to mark his face with its lines and creases. His 25-year-old portrayal of a busker in London just doesn't cut it. The heroines look much younger than him and his moments with Katrina came across as stiff and awkward. An older female lead cast would have worked wonders.
Heroines: Heroines have always formed a crucial part of Yash Chopra's romances. From Rakhee to Rekha, Waheeda to Madhuri, the Chopra heroines are all about understated sensuality and elegance. Though immaculately turned out, Katrina is wooden throughout the film. She's glamorous and has perhaps scripted the best piece of percussive party dance number ever but fails to add depth to her character, making it very difficult for her audiences to feel any sympathy for her. Anushka Sharma as an over-eager intern for the Discovery Channel is much more believable. She tries to channel Kareena Kapoor in a 'Jab We Met'-type pitch to Shah Rukh, but for the most part she's annoyingly chatty and overdoes her brief.
Music: This isn't your usual AR Rahman. The maestro's magic touch is lacking and none of the songs are memorable even after months of promotion. The selection of background voice artistes is poor, because Shah Rukh and Katrina's voice do not match with them and the resulting product jars on the ears.
Different leads: Though it sounds improbable, but could Chopra have chosen different leads for his film? Though Shah Rukh makes the role his own, he does not fit into the lover-boy image at 47. Who could have worked for this role? Ranbir Kapoor would have been a good alternate choice along with
Parineeti and Priyanka Chopra.
Length: The length of Jab Tak Hai Jaan is a major issue. At 179 minutes it feels far too stretched. The editing could have been crisper.
Attention to details: A struggling Pakistani, who could not hold down a job long enough to save some money to send back home, makes it big as the manager of a posh eatery in London in 10 years' time with the help of a fist full of bank notes. A rich NRI girl falls for the busker. A reporter shoves a camera in the face of a bomb disposal squad officer while he's defusing live ammunition. The same reporter, who is supposedly an expert swimmer, plunges into a freezing Ladakh lake for a dare and almost drowns. It's the lack of attention to details that takes away half the joy from watching JTHJ.
Sex: Sex and intrigue have always been integral parts of Chopra's films. While a pair of dandelion would have sufficed in the 60s and a shot of two pairs of legs rubbing against each other in the 70s, it simply does not make the cut in 2012. Audiences are bred on much rougher stuff in films, videos and television series and the sexually loaded moments in the film fall flat.