Tejas Nair | August 05, 2017
Rating – 3/10
Director Imtiaz Ali used to be the go-to guy in Bollywood for travel movies, thanks to Socha Na Tha (2005), Jab We Met (2007), Love Aaj Kal (2009), and most recently, Highway (2014). Although this romantic drama does embrace some elements of Ali’s trademark styles, it eventually ends as a disaster.
Sejal (Anushka Sharma) is a young bride-to-be who at the end of her Euro trip realizes that she has lost her engagement ring. She asks, or rather commands, her tourist guide Harry (Shah Rukh Khan) to help her find the ring. With much reluctance, Harry extends his travel agent hospitality and agrees to help her. Soon they form a friendly relationship, with both of them hoping, and partly confident, that they do not, and will not, go overboard. Can they become more than friends? Why does Harry seem so mysterious?
While one will definitely get an answer to the first question, there’s no guarantee for the second one. Although it looks like Harry is just getting by with his monthly salary from Cox & Kings, he seems to be living a rather comfortable and luxurious lifestyle. He gets panic attacks about his mysterious past but the film never goes there until the end. Sejal, on the other hand, fakes a Gujarati accent and believes that appending “ne” to the end of every sentence is absolving her from the crime she is committing by talking. There is no character development, and the friendship they forge is entirely superficial. Harry does not want to get involved with Sejal, but dons the chivalrous cap because he’s the dude. Most of the times, it’s just Sejal imparting some law points to a random stranger because she’s a lawyer back in her country. On the whole, the wafer-thin plot is about their engagement ring hunt – a silly drama – which the characters themselves know and express quite a few times throughout the film.
It almost feels like director Ali stopped paying any attention to the advancement of story and let the lead actors take charge. As a result, it does go haywire in the second half, with no one having any idea as to how to salvage the film. Chandan Roy Sanyal comes in as a small-time criminal but instead of salvaging, ends up fouling up.
It is not comfortable to watch Khan act as a young travel agent who has bathed in wisdom. He starts poorly but then picks up as the romance kicks in, a field that he has lots of experience in. The performance still does not match up to his past aura of a young heartthrob who took Bollywood, its leading ladies, and its collective audience by storm almost a decade ago. His recent filmography (Fan and Dear Zindagi in 2016, and Raees earlier in 2017) evince a shift in approach, slightly moving away from the genre he was once so comfortable in. This film evidently breaks the chain. Sharma looks like she is acting. Whatever she does never fails to surpass the limits of overacting, and fueled by her cringe-worthy accent, everything falls down. It can even be said that it is Sharma who screws up this broth along with Ali’s awful writing. Either way, it can be unanimously agreed that both Sharma and Khan cross the threshold of overacting, which cannot be tolerated even if one considers the genres.
The music is perhaps the only good thing about the film, which aptly fits the story. Production and costumer design are very good, but they still throw up questions about the characters. How is Harry affording such expensive merchandise?
If watching a man and a woman fool around in exotic European cities is the perfect idea of cinematic entertainment, then this is the film to go for this weekend. If any other filmmaking parameters like logical plot, humor, or just plain romance matter, look for options. It sends out a lousy message at the end and then attempts to develop Harry’s character. How anti-climactic!
If analyzed from a pedantic mind, there are several issues that hound the film-watching experience. It would be enough to say that one of the songs is picturised on the lead characters just as they wake up from a not-so-comfortable slumber. They have not brushed yet and are never shown doing it later either. Minimum sanitation is what one expects.
BOTTOM LINE: Imtiaz Ali’s “Jab Harry Met Sejal” is an enterprising film which could have been a lot better had it been made with some effort. With the actors made to do what they think is best, the film stumbles and does not provide what its viewers are seeking.
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