A Yash Chopra Romance... after 8 years! This is enough to attract moviegoers to the cinehalls; as it is somewhat (probably) the last romantic saga of its genre. A dying genre - and one which built Bollywood on International front - and sadly, Indian cinema have been reverting back to primitive masala dishes in the last 5 years. That the King of this dying genre will breathe his last before its release makes it even more heartbreaking, special and magnanimous. Even more irony is that the revered legend titled his last rendition as Jab Tak Hai Jaan! Because yes, Yash-ji will be remembered tab tak hai jaan! But will it be the same case for Jab Tak Hai Jaan too? Before I start reviewing the movie, it's needless to say why there are even bigger expectations than just being Yash-ji's last. It's the return of Shah Rukh Khan to a true romantic film. There's a dream cast assemblage. Divine locations of London and Ladakh. Soul-swinging music of AR Rahman & Gulzar. A divali release. Perfect theatrical trailer. [Futile] Legal controversies and so on... There are no true words to describe the sky-high expectations for Jab Tak Hai Jaan.
2002 - Samar Anand (Shah Rukh Khan) is a happy-going desi small worker in London who inadvertently (or deliberately) spreads smiles, happiness and obviously love. How he transits from this charming, generous and sincere lad to a A-Grade bomb expert flirting and escaping death everyday, is the core of Jab Tak Hai Jaan. Between these transitions, there's Meera (Katrina Kaif) - a London gal who shares a profound relation with Jesus Christ and is engaged to someone. She's a modern-day Sahiba love-struck by her own Mirza; minus brothers but enters Jesus. 2012 - A boisterous, chirpy, full-of-life girl from the 'Love Aaj Kal' gen. - Akira Rai (Anushka Sharma)'s life is saved from drowning by our grumpy Bomb Disposal Squad Major and who dreams of making it big as a documentary film-maker. What follows is the conte of Samar through Akira's narration and its true culmination. Jab Tak Hai Jaan is the story of these 3 characters entangled in a co webs of emotions and twists and in the myriad of passion, deception, promises, heartbreak, forgiveness, sacrifice, agony and love.
Jab Tak Hai Jaan's story is delectably simple and its twists are nothing unwitnessed. However, Yash-ji weaves a richer fabric with his nuanced filmmaking that makes every scene a delight to watch. Yash-ji is in the leagues of the ones who changed, revolutionized and popularized Bollywood Cinema with their celluloid making. In the same veins as the likes of Raj Kapoor, Hrishikesh Mukherjee & Ramesh Sippy. But his forte is not about showing perfect artsy cinema but to strums the emotional quotient of its audience. He connects to your heart instead of your brain. He creates a farewell spell with Jab Tak Hai Jaan that do mesmerize for the majority of the movie and many moments that invades your very breath; even outside the cinema house.
The first half is obviously the breezy part with the second-half more on the dramatic quotient. As a scene-by-scene breakdown, I'd mention: Samar-Meera's first conversation, the underground dance battle, the railway confession, the scenes with Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh, the twists at the first-half ends, Akira stalking Samar by the river-side, the wrapping shots of Akira's documentary with Samar, Meera's reunion with Samar, Akira re-discovering a new Samar, Samar's realizations in the London rains, the church scene following that and Akira-Samar's confession at the airport. All are rendered fabulously; with some even giving goosebumps.
However, the movie got one major flaw that prevents it from establishing itself as a timeless masterstroke - its length. The 3 hours [approx.] is a too lengthy and starts testing your gratuitous patience. What makes it bearable and justifies it to some extent, is the thought that this is the last time you'll witness such a high-scale romance unfold onscreen, so better cherish it in its entirety. Still, this noble intention will apply only for die-hards fans of Yash-ji or Shah Rukh Khan. For the neutral, this drawback can prove to be tedious. Also, the extensive length of the movie makes you disconnect in some parts of the movie and thereby, highlights minor blemishes that wouldn't have been noticed with crisper editing.
Getting back to direction, Yash Chopra also re-innovates himself in his swan-song. For instance, the King of Romance manages to convince his brightest heir to lip-lock on celluloid for the first time. He also shoots the best dance face-off on Bollywood screen till-date. We even get to see a feisty Anushka in bikini-clad or to see a backless Katrina Kaif in a Yash Chopra movie. But forget vulgarity, they don't even look indecent for a single instant. The shared moments of the characters appear like poetic metaphor instead and cuddle your senses with its old soul romance. Only Yash Chopra can present the aesthetic, pristine beauty of London and Ladakh in such splendour beauty. Anil Mehta's cinematography does full justice to Yash-ji's bewitching capture instincts.
The story by Aditya Chopra takes a way too convenient route but luckily, Yash-ji's last expertise touch acts as saviour to it and drives the boat to its destined shore. Aditya redeems himself with his dialogues though; where the best are obviously reserved for Shah Rukh Khan. The easy-on-ear dialect makes instant connect and delivers unforced smiles at many junctures; instead of the forced smirks in nowadays' movies. AR Rahman's music and background score is wonderful but is a notch-below to Yash-ji's previous movie scores - Dil To Pagal Hai and Veer-Zaara! Yet. they are wonderfully shot on screen and brilliantly penned by Gulzar. Saans and Challa stood out for being the soul of the movie but the soul-stirring Heer, the full-of-life Jiya Re, the aforementioned dance battle and Ishq Shava grows on you too. The music will make history if the movie does; otherwise it was hummable pleasing melodies.
SRK is a complete charmer when it comes to romantic avatar and this one is no different. It's not his best performance but he illuminates the screen throughout and doesn't go over-the-top like his previous recent ventures. His emotional sequences at both halves’ end impels the viewers (and his cynics) to admire his heartfelt acting and he rocks as the tough army man. The little said on SRK, the better since he barely needs praises when it comes to do what he does best. Katrina Kaif got the most complex character and can be said to be 'acceptable'. To her credit, it's probably her best performance till-date but one wishes, she did handle it with more dexterity like how she burns the dancefloor. But luckily, her chemistry with SRK is stunning and sizzling (no matter age difference) and since 95% of her scenes are with SRK, her character doesn't tick you off. Anuska Sharma is a scene-stealer throughout. Vivacious, cute and a powerhouse of energy that repeatedly sweeps you off your seat, Anushka pitches an impressively pleasing performance; reminiscent of Karisma Kapoor in Dil To Pagal Hai. Rishi Kapoor & Neetu Singh impels the film to a turning point with thier superb cameos. Anupam Kher does fine. Jasmine Jardot is hot and dances exceptionally well. Sharib Hashmi is excellent.
Overall, Jab Tak Hai Jaan is not Yash Chopra's greatest; like poetic purists will have hoped it to be. It's neither flawless nor a masterpiece but it has enormous merits to stand firm without limping in those 3 hours. Like a cherry on a cake, it might not be the most entrancing or delightful ingredient but it's always a sweet finale to your feast. Jab Tak Hai Jaan is far more than escapist entertainment and it follows a continuous narrative that stays true to its old-romance genre by blending admirably with today's culture. Whether the movie becomes eternal or not, Yash Chopra will remain eternal. For the void he left will never be filled again but the moments he left us will never be forgotten either. This one needs to be savored for all die-hards of Yash Chopra and Shah Rukh Khan's fans and should be watched for all neutrals; atleast as a tribute for one of Indian cinema's greatest person to don the director's cap. Yash-ji ki jaadogari kaam se, Unn ki pyaar-wali nazakat se, unki akhri mehkani pehkash se, ek baar to mohabat kar lo, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Jab Tak Hai Jaan! 8/10.