The trouble with Jab Tak Hai Jaan

For a love story Jab Tak Hai Jaan has all the right ingredients — Shahrukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma, London, the celebrated (late) Yash Chopra as director and Oscar-winning A R Rahman as music composer.So why, in spite of its every effort, does the film not work for even a diehard Khan and Chopra fan like me?

Mind you, it is a successful film. The Rs 45 crore, three-hour long saga has reportedly crossed Rs 100 crore in box-office revenues. The producers Yashraj Films will typically get one-third of that Rs 100 crore after taxes and trade share. Add overseas and other revenues and the film will end up making a respectable profit. It is however one of the most dissatisfying Yash Chopra films.

What went wrong? Why Yash Chopra’s last film is not his best

Some of the reasons are obvious. Among other things Jab Tak Hai Jaan (JTHJ) could do with one hour of editing and a good make-up artist. Both Shahrukh and Katrina look cakey.

It is the other, not-so-obvious reasons that bother the hardcore Chopra fan. Jab Tak Hai Jaan is an old-style ode to old-style love told in a new setting. Khan loves Kaif. She believes that he will die if they are together so she gives him up. He becomes a bomb disposal expert in a bid to prove that he could die even when he is away from her. The battle, as Khan’s character puts it, is between ‘her faith and my love.’

JTHJ is too tentative. It tries hard to justify the old-fashioned values in the film with a modern setting and an in-your-face character like Sharma. There was, it would seem, no need to do that. A nice, toe-wriggling, heart-string pulling love story can never go out of fashion. And Chopra has told so many of them — Kabhie Kabhie, Silsila and Dil To Paagal Hai (DTPH) among others — so beautifully.

Throughout the sixties, seventies and eighties Chopra remained the master at pushing the creative envelope, within the boundaries of mainstream cinema. Some of his best films — Deewar, Trishul, Kaala Pathar, Daag — had characters and situations that no filmmaker would have dare attempted in those days.

Rakhee as a hard working secretary/assistant, indispensable for any boss she works for, and Waheeda Rehman as an unapologetic, unwed mother, in Trishul. As Rishi Kapoor’s mum in Kabhie Kabhie, Rakhee is one of the most progressive mums shown in Indian films at that time. Amitabh Bachchan’s attempt to come to terms with his cowardice in Kaala Pathar was about facing one’s weaknesses and discovering one strengths, at a time when introspection was not done in Hindi films. Lamhe, Chopra’s personal favourite, was about a man’s love for a woman half his age.

But as the industry corporatised, multiplexes came and audiences changed, Chopra seemed unsure. Veer-Zaara (2004) came seven years after DTPH.

And JTHJ has come eight years after Veer-Zaara. For someone who liked to explore relationships through his films, the new idiom of intimacy, family and friendship was proving to be elusive. In some ways then the setting — a lusciously shot London, sunlit Kashmir, Sharma as a Discovery filmmaker — are substitutes for the idiom. It however takes away totally from the story that Chopra wants to narrate — of a man’s faith in his love.

Just after DTPH, Chopra had told me that he learnt a lot on that film because he worked with a really young crew. In that film the young crew had embellished the story with the right touches — the techno dances, the costumes, the Pepsi guzzling hero. But DTPH remained, at the core, an out and out toe-wriggling, soul-stirring love story that remained true to its premise — you have to wait for the right person in your life. In JTHJ the young crew probably, took over. So what you have is an MTV crossed with Star Plus love story which meanders till you want to ask — where is Yash Chopra?

The writer is a media specialist and author. Follow her on twitter at

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