Teri aankhon ki namkeen mastiyaan
Teri hansi ki beparwaah gustakhiyaan
Teri zulfon ki lehrati angdaiyaan
Nahin bhoolunga main
Jab tak hai jaan, jab tak hai jaan.
Tera haath se haath chhodna
Tera saayon se rukh modna
Tera palat ke phir na dekhna
Nahin maaf karoonga main,
Jab tak hai jaan, jab tak hai jaan.
Jab Tak Hai Jaan is a story of love. A love that breaks yet binds. A love that creates distance and yet brings closer. A love that stands the test of time and makes time stand still. A love that goes weak-kneed at the sight of the other, but is strong enough to take on the world. A love that is bitter-sweet, inflicting pain and pleasure in equal measure.
This is the kind of love that binds Samar and Meera together. The love that Samar feels for Meera when he first sees her breathlessly running through a snow-clad church path that he shovels for a living. The love that he feels for her when he sees her engaged in earnest ‘conversations’ with god. The love that he feels for her when he sees her walking down London Bridge or jostling in the Underground or taking a stroll in Hyde Park.
But Samar (Shah Rukh Khan) and Meera (Katrina Kaif) belong to different worlds. She is the pampered daughter of a millionaire NRI, he does odd jobs to survive in London. When she offers to give him English lessons on the condition that he perfect her Punjabi singing, the two start off as friends, but sparks fly soon enough and despite her English fiancÚ, Meera finds herself swept off her feet by the charming street musician who brings her alive for the first time in life. Ice-cream dates, singing in the rain and a couple of trysts between the sheets in his one-room tenement later, she unceremoniously calls off the relationship. Reason? We won’t reveal it here, but let’s just say in this age of Y2K12 it is at once silly and superficial.
Ten years later, Samar is a major in the Indian army, stationed in Ladakh. A man who makes his living out of detonating bombs, Samar still carries the pain of bitter separation and an unspoken rage against the world. He is the man who has defused 108 bombs, but has never worn a bomb suit because he believes that he is constantly challenging god into keeping him alive. “Zindagi bomb se zyada zakhm deti hai lekin zindagi ke liye toh koi bomb suit nahi hai”, is what Samar believes in. He is ‘The Man Who Cannot Die’.
Enter Akira (Anushka Sharma), an intern with Discovery Channel, whose documentary on the man who looks death in the face is her passport to a permanent job with the channel. Initially brusque, Samar gradually warms up to the livewire Akira, who, though she self-confessedly belongs to the “instant make-out, instant break-up generation”, falls for him “totally, madly, completely”. But he still holds a candle — or a ticking time bomb — for Meera and a visit to London on Akira’s request causes their worlds to collide once more.
Like many of his romances, Yash Chopra sets Jab Tak Hai Jaan in the ‘love is life’ mould, making you root for the lovers, celebrate their love and feel their pain. In his last film, the King of Romance fuses his tried-and-tested formula with a certain freshness that imbues the first half with a range of layers and rescues a flaccid post-interval. Chopra knows romance like no other and though the Samar-Meera love story is overlong and pulpy at times, he offsets it with an inherent tenderness and honesty of feeling that tugs at the tear ducts and makes a lump rise in your throat.
The love story at the centre, though emotionally manipulative, is beautifully built. The Shah Rukh-Katrina romance is passionate, but lacks the fire of the SRK-Kajol chemistry. And for all those getting excited by the fact that the pair kiss not once, not twice but thrice in the three-hour running time, let it be known that it is no more than a brush of the lips. [Still, this is SRK’s first screen kiss since that steamy train ride with Deepa Sahi in Maya Memsaab 19 years ago!] Shah Rukh’s chemistry with Anushka is far more easy-going, the good-natured banter between the two camouflaging the simmering sexual tension.
At 180 minutes, Jab Tak Hai Jaan feels overlong, especially in the loopy second half. It doesn’t help that the film employs age-old Bolly tropes like accidents and amnesia to propel the story forward, with the ending a tad too predictable.
But Shah Rukh Khan, Yash Chopra’s go-to man over the last decade-and-a-half, makes Samar his own, lending the carefree lover an innate charm and the brooding loner an impenetrable intensity. He walks into our hearts as the ever-smiling street musician and marks a place in it as the man betrayed by life. Katrina has, over the years, developed as an actress and as Meera she balances worldly maturity with the helplessness of a woman in love. Meera is offset by Anushka’s infectiously energetic Akira, with the six-film-old actress allowing her eyes to mirror the myriad emotions in her heart. Rishi and Neetu Kapoor put in delightful cameos, displaying perfect chemistry. Sarika has too little screen time, but just adds to the nostalgia value of Jab Tak Hai Jaan.
Chopra’s final act behind the camera is complemented by the cinematography, with Anil Mehta’s frames of lively London, picturesque Pahalgam and the breathtakingly beautiful Ladakh landscape proving to be a clear #win. However, the same can’t be said about A.R. Rahman’s tunes, none of which look and feel better in the film than they sounded off it. Only Challa, powered by Shah Rukh’s energetic charm, makes an impression.
Jab Tak Hai Jaan may be far from the perfect film, but if you have three hours to spare, try and keep a date with it. It could be your final tribute to the man who taught many of us to fall in love. And to grow in it.
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