Jab Harry Met Sejal: Wish they hadn’t!
Yeah, yeah. Splicing words together in the title cleverly from his own blockbuster (‘Jab We Met’) to the American ‘When Harry Met Sally’ does not alone a hit film make, Imtiaz my friend. Nor does the undeniable combination of Shahrukh Khan and Anushka Sharma, valiantly though they try.
To be fair, there are some well enacted scenes despite the story being based on a weak premise. I mean, whoever heard of any woman being unable to find something and not upchucking the contents of her capacious handbag at once?! Like I said, weak premise. Could have still worked, if Imtiaz Ali hadn’t seen fit to explore half Europe in this silly chase for a lost ring and become so engrossed himself in his travels as to forget he had a movie to direct.
Toh ji we have Harvinder Nehra a.k.a. Harry (SRK) a tour guide in Amsterdam, who meets Sejal Jhaveri (Anushka Sharma) when her family hire his tour company’s services during their European sojourn to celebrate her engagement with Rupen. Pachi su thaiyyu, Sejal refuses to return to India with her family as she has apparently lost her engagement ring, over which her fiancé is justifiably giving her grief. We are then made to believe this conservatively reared gujjuben is allowed to traipse all over Amsterdam, Prague, Lisbon and Budapest in the company of a sole male, a tour guide, “Herry,” in search of the blasted ring, as if it would still be winking up at her from the gutters of Prague weeks later! Speaking of gujjubens, I’ve yet to see one wear the sexy, barely-there outfits Sejal does and not get spanked by her pappa!
Somewhere along the way the duo bump into Ghyasuddin Mohammed Qureshi (Chandan Roy Sanyal) a petty, Bangladeshi crook operating a smalltime gang in Lisbon. As the Bangladeshis have pretty much exploded onto the western circuit, it is not so odd to find European goondas speaking Hindi, but it IS odd to have him bested so easily by Sejal. As far as acting skills go, kudos to Sanyal for holding his own faced with the SRK.
The end is SO predictable. Harry flies to India the day before Sejal’s wedding, hoping to tell her finally that he loves her – after the mandatory frank-talk-with-friend scene that leads to the mad airport dash. Now the hackneyed plot can only go two ways: either he gatecrashes the wedding and Simran, sorry, Sejal’s papa throws the mother of a fit, or the girl herself has called off the wedding and mopes quietly in a corner hoping her moron lover will invest in an air ticket. (If young people in India followed Imtiaz Ali’s befuddled reasoning, the population graph would dip satisfactorily as there would be fewer unions.) And now, hold your breath, YES – we have the great, fat, Punjabi scene bunged in, with dancing sardars and tractors in the fields, which, to show how “different” an Imtiaz Ali movie is from a Yash Chopra one, are not sarson but wheat! Also, it’s neither here nor there – but SRK makes for a most unconvincing sardar!
JHMS seems to be a patchwork of individual scenes rather than a complete story. Despite some clever dialogues, the tedium of the pace is another point to be reckoned with: the audience can see the pair is attracted to each other and shift restlessly in their seats as the protagonists parry words by senseless ‘challenges.’
Shahrukh Khan remarked in a recent interview with Rajeev Masand, that the only thing Imtiaz Ali asked of him is he consciously stay away from acting like Shahrukh Khan. This has been largely achieved and, thank heavens, his irritating, trademark “hehehehe” has been curtailed in this movie. The man has an intrinsic, beguiling charm that makes his performance appealing, never mind that he is looking too old and jaded to play the dashing lover now. By the by, whether he speaks German or Punjabi or Bengali, they sound the same, so perhaps he should desist from multilingual attempts! Anushka Sharma on the other hand, worked very hard on getting the Gujarati accent in place; perhaps too hard, as the “ne’ she tacks on is spoken more by older women than young lassies Sejal’s age. (Strangely, Sejal’s sister and fiancé have no Gujju accent at all!) Nonetheless, a good effort. Even so, the two actors are unable to pull off any great passion play; SRK kissing Anushka has got to be the clumsiest on-screen kiss ever, notwithstanding that he is the greatest romantic actor since Rajesh Khanna.
The songs are so vapid it is hard to believe this is the same Imtiaz Ali who gave us ‘Jab We Met.’ Clearly, Pritam did not put his best foot forward for JHMS. Thankfully, Ashley Lobo and Vaibhavi Merchant did; SRK fans will see him in some unusual (for him) dance steps.
As cinematographer, KU Mohanan did a damned fine job with Amsterdam, giving its cheese markets and canals by night a loving cinematic form. And then presumably he started smoking the same thing his director was, because this magic is not repeated with the other cities. This is not the first time Arti Bajaj has been a let-down as editor; the film could easily have been snipped by at least 20-minutes. The lady needs to practice her craft more because, if even the audience can tell the movie is a series of shots hastily put together, boy, then we’ve got trouble!
Imtiaz Ali is credited as writer and director and to him therefore, must be ascribed the sole blame for the film falling flat on its face. As I mentioned, some dialogues are indeed cleverly penned and, abetted by two skilled protagonists, there are many laughs in the movie. As director though, Ali appears to have relied too much on the story itself to see the movie through and the story lacks the link in certain sequences. Even working with a basic supposition of a lost ring, it stretches the audience credibility to go looking for the same halfway across Europe, heirloom though it may be. My conjecture is that either the burden of shooting in so many foreign locales with varied language issues, or else the thrill of visiting said locales himself on the producer’s budget, distracted Ali so much that he did not do justice to the director’s baton. And, as Shahrukh Khan admitted in the same interview as referred to above, he needs a director to tell him what to do.
*Written exclusively for The Film Writers Association of India