Red Chillies Entertainment’s “Jab Harry Met Sejal”
Producer: Gauri Khan
Written and directed by Imtiaz Ali
Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Anushka Sharma, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Evelyn Sharma, Aru Krishansh Verma & others
Now, if this film were to be an unconventional tourist brochure with a story and two characters behind the visuals just as fillers, it would rock! What remains with you after you leave the movie hall are the beautiful locations of Europe, especially the streets and bylanes!
For then, we would not mind the tourist and her gallant and gritty guide, both confused about what they want out of life, for reasons unspecified and mysterious in Harry (Shah Rukh Khan)’s case. With Sejal (Anushka Sharma), it is the usual political correctness of an engaged girl – formulae done to death in that now-too-jaded genre called rom-com. Make that NRI rom-com.
And as we have often stressed, confused lovers in Hindi films are a no-no, especially in modern hands. Look what happened to Ali’s “Rockstar” and “Tamasha,” Karan Johar’s “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” and those twin Imran Khan-Kareena Kapoor Khan debacles “Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu” and “Gori Tere Pyaar Mein” among so many others!
And that’s what this film is finally all about: a moth-eaten story set in a moth-eaten genre told with moth-eaten predictability. There are two cosmetic differences: one, the wrong man and wrong woman are not lead players here (the man is seen only once on Skype, and there is no wrong woman). Two, as in other such films in recent years, the couple does not sleep with each other, though, if you understand the all-important difference, they do sleep together. How? Well, watch the film if you must!
We wonder how so many pseudo-intellectuals, as well as pretentious directors, manage to con Shah Rukh Khan (in the worst phase of his career even as he is consistently getting better as an actor). The list is too long by now – and the (non-) results are showing. Even more mysterious is how even Farah Khan and Rohit Shetty are not truly connecting when in combination with the actor, whose thinking has otherwise always been healthily mainstream.
These are times when SRK will have to do either classic Hindi entertainers attuned to the times or get in interesting messages via mainstream cinema like in the films of Akshay Kumar. Such pre-historic derelicts are passé, and only Ali keeps making them repeatedly despite their pathetic cinematic value and zilch commercial results. Truth be told, the man has been moving around one storyline (but for one differently deviant “Highway”) for 12 years after his lovely but flop debut “Socha Na Tha.” And only “Jab We Met” stayed afloat.
So, the story is that Sejal, who has lost her engagement ring somewhere in Europe (!) forces guide Harry (Harinder from the fields of Punjab, with a mysterious and seemingly self-inflicted “kami” or deficiency in his life) to travel searching for it, as she thinks of various places where she could have forgotten or dropped it! Mind you, the places are not venues in the same city but as far apart as Amsterdam, Budapest, Frankfurt, and Lisbon! Of course, all this gives time for intimacy and later love to develop.
The casting of Sharma as a prosperous and modern Gujarati girl from Mumbai is wrong, simply because it is so superficially restricted to a few facial expressions and clichés like “Ne” (no?) and similar mispronunciations typical of Gujaratis. A Gujarati scribe sitting next to me at the press screening scoffed at this stereotypical depiction of a Gujarati girl just days after Sharma claimed that her character was exactly not that!
Sharma is sincere but ends up like she always acts in her inferior roles – expressions, body language and tones remaining much the same. It is Shah Rukh Khan who, despite looking a shade haggard again, shines as Harry. Again, at the base, it is quite a routine performance for him, but Khan makes sure he gets the nuances right and brings in that extra something that he has been doing in every performance since “Fan.” His characteristic way of whipping up irritation within to end in wry and whimsical humor is excellently done. No supporting artiste has a role worthy of mention, including the oh-so-boring and needless track of Chandan Roy Sanyal as an illegal immigrant (social angle, anyone?).
On the technical side, the camera work is awesome (cliché! cliché! but then, that’s the description for the entire movie!) and the locations spectacular, especially the streets. The background music by Hitesh Sonik is quite nice, but at least within the film and in the way the songs are used, the music is disappointing. The playback voices for Khan do not suit him at all, and in particular, Arijit Singh should be penalized for his consistent mispronunciation.
Methinks the director requires a long holiday from work, learning the craft of making HINDI movies that connect with informed and aware entertainment-seekers of 2017 rather than with a few ‘yes-men’ or impressionable media critics that will not take the film anywhere. And Khan should do an introspection on why “Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi” almost a decade back was his last true-blue hit that brought in a minimum twice its investment and performed well across the country and the globe.
Till then, Hindi cinema’s worst-ever season (yes, all of 7 months!) continues.