Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012)

A Yash Chopra Romance

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Yash Chopra’s career in Bollywood, Chopra’s swan song, the romance Jab Tak Hai Jaan, is a breath of fresh air amidst the slew of Indian remakes and high-energy action pictures flooding the contemporary marketplace. After an eight year hiatus, legendary Indian filmmaker Yash Chopra announced that he would return for one last directorial venture before his retirement at the end of 2012 with Jab Tak Hai Jaan — translated to As Long As I Live in English — but passed away on October 21th 2012, at the age of 80 due to dengue fever just as the project was complete. Chopra’s son, Aditya — who directed several of the romance scenes to give them more of a contemporary feel — was handed the managerial reigns, piecing the final remains of the picture together after his father’s death. It’s interesting to note that Yash Chopra planned to shoot scenes at the Swiss Alps — which would have reflected his trademark directorial style — for the film’s title song before his passing, but Aditya cancelled the shoot and chose to leave the final picture as it was, claiming that he didn’t want to ‘tamper’ with his father’s vision.

Jab Tak Hai Jaan tells the story of Akira Rai (Anushka Sharma), a curious Discovery Channel intern, who finds the diary of a bomb-disposal expert, Samar Anand (Shah Rukh Khan). The diary recounts Samar’s earlier years as a struggling immigrant living in London, working as a street musician who also performs several menial jobs to support himself and his roommate Zain (Sharib Hashmi). While working part-time as a waiter, Samar meets Meera (Katrina Kaif) at her own engagement party and the pair instantly hit it off, forming a genuine friendship. Feelings become blurred when the couple begins to fall in love after a night of wild street dancing. Meera eventually acknowledges her affection for Samar by breaking her engagement off and telling her father about her hidden relationship.

'Step Up' ... Bollywood style!
‘Step Up’ … Bollywood style!

As things begin looking up for Samar, he becomes the victim of a serious accident while riding his motorbike and is rushed to hospital. Without thought, the hysterical Meera asks God to save his life, promising that she’ll never see him again if God helps Samar recover. In true Bollywood style, Samar pulls through, and Meera admits her vow to him. Angry, Samar leaves Meera and London, challenging God to keep him alive while he risks his life every day, as he believes that his death is the only way to get Meera to lose her faith. To risk his life daily, Samar decides to go to India and enlists in the army, becoming a fearless bomb-disposal expert. When the heartbroken Akira finishes reading the diary, she tracks Samar down in an effort to reconnect the star-crossed lovers and restore their connection.

From the onset, it’s clear that the interaction between the leads, Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma is the picture’s greatest asset. Shah Rukh Khan, Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003) — who gives his first ever-onscreen kiss — is terrific as usual, proving once again that he is one of Bollywood’s leading talents. Here Khan displays his diversity as an actor as he is full of zeal, hope and life in the film’s first act, yet balances that out with a more sullen and serious performance as the hardened military man, nursing a death wish and a broken heart, in the second half. As for Katrina Kaif, Ek Tha Tiger (2012), I’ll admit it, I love Katrina Kaif, and while others have criticized some of her work, I find her both enormously charismatic and hypnotically gorgeous. While Katrina does fall short in some of the picture’s more emotional scenes, she gives a sincere performance as Meera, the female lead, however, her vibrant presence and radiant beauty are almost unparalleled when compared to others currently working in the industry, easily compensating for her slight shortcomings. What’s more, Khan and Kaif’s chemistry shines, keeping this romantic drama alive.

Even Shah Rukh Khan can't resist the infectious Anushka Sharma
Even Shah Rukh Khan can’t resist the infectious Anushka Sharma

Additionally, Anushka Sharma, Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola (2013), delivers a show stopping performance with her assured portrayal of the bubbly go-getter Akira Rai, who knows exactly what she wants and goes for it, gelling well alongside the dour Khan. As Sharma’s energy is so infectious, it’s virtually impossible not to feel for her character or her circumstances. Other notable mentions go out to Rishi Kapoor, Love Aaj Kal (2009) — as his usual jolly flirtatious self — and Neetu Singh, Do Dooni Chaar (2010) — as Meera’s mother — who share a few important moments with Kaif and move the narrative forward, reminding us that genuine love remains unbroken.

The film’s biggest pitfall is its script by Aditya Chopra, Veer-Zaara (2004), and Devika Bhagat, Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008), which is honestly rather cliché; Aditya could have been more imaginative given the picture’s significance and scope. To make matters worse, Aditya uses a shady tactic in the film’s final act in order to propel the narrative forward, resulting in déjà vu whilst generating major pace and length issues — the film runs at a whopping 176 minutes and could have gone with some slight trimming, ditching the unneeded final plot twist.

In true Yash Raj style, cinematography by Anil Mehta, Veer-Zaara (2004), is terrific, with lush costumes, glossy production and art design all round, while sets and locales are evidently tailored to put viewers in the mood for love, and love lost or broken. The boisterous music by A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire (2008), is also decent, with the dance sequence Ishq Shava being a true showstopper thanks to the remarkable Kaif, who truly shines alongside dozens of freestyle dancers in an underground club and aboard a boat on the River Thames, whilst Jiya Re is amazingly fun and catchy — the track is also used as Akira’s theme — giving Sharma her moment to shine in a relatively memorable string of scenes. Although enjoyable, the soundtrack does lack that ‘grandeur’ vibe Yash Chopra pictures have become renowned for.

Clearly, a Yash Chopra Romance!
Clearly, a Yash Chopra Romance!

While the picture does contain its fair share of blemishes, Yash Chopra leaves us with a legacy that shall remain inimitable and his last picture, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, is Chopra’s parting gift to the world, reminding his many hordes of fans to remain faithful to those they love and to live their life to the fullest. With winning performances and chemistry from leads Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma, the picture is satisfyingly wrapped up in a classic Yash Chopra recipe of unattainable love. At the end of the day, Jab Tak Hai Jaan will remain a special film in the history of Yash Raj Films, and one that every Yash Chopra fan should watch. Take the journey and celebrate Yash Chopra.

3 / 5 – Good

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Jab Tak Hai Jaan is released through Yash Raj Films