In spite of having a chequered track record at the box-office, Imtiaz Ali has managed to create a niche for himself. The filmmaker enjoys a good fan following among the people living in bigger cities, specifically the urban youth. The media discusses his work often than other filmmakers who have delivered far more successful films. So, whenever an Imtiaz Ali film is up for release, it generates curiosity amongst a section of the audience. With ‘Jab Harry Met Sejal’, the filmmaker teams up with Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma for the first time. The language used by Imtiaz Ali in his films to bring love to the fore has been picked up by several young filmmakers in the recent past. Shah Rukh Khan, of course, has been bestowed with the title of ‘King of Romance’. The two of them, along with Anushka who is one of the finest performers around, coming together makes one look forward to the film and see the kind of film this collaboration has resulted in.
Harinder Singh Nehra alias Harry (Shah Rukh Khan) is a tourist guide based in Europe. One day, Harry sees off a group of two Gujarati families at the airport. Just when he is about to leave, Sejal Zhaveri (Anushka Sharma), a young woman from the group comes running to him and tells him that her engagement ring has gone missing. Harry asks her to write an email to the travel agency with all the details and assures her they will do the best they can to get her ring back. Sejal is not convinced and urges Harry, who is indifferent towards her and her problem, to help her find the ring. She further tells him that she will pay for his services and will complain to the agency about him if he refuses to help her out. Unwillingly, Harry agrees to go on a ring-searching trip with her.
Imtiaz Ali has often faced criticism for incorporating oft-repeated themes in his films. With time, one felt he was running out of ideas or subjects to explore. Going by the promos of the film, one thought it would be in the zone of a ‘Socha Na Tha’ or a ‘Jab We Met’ and would not be as intense as his last three films (‘Rockstar’, ‘Highway’ and ‘Tamasha’). Neither the film is half as fun as his first two films, nor does it have the flawed but palpable intensity of ‘Rockstar’. The director shows his penchant for extracting some genuinely warm moments out of the most mundane activities but how much can one do when a film is crafted out of a wafer-thin plot. In his last three films, his central protagonists were seen indulging in certain activities or behaviour that would not be considered normal by societal standards. However, there was still some rhyme and reason behind what they did. In this film, Sejal starts clinging on to a guide who, initially, has not done anything that would make him seem likeable. She follows him to a shady nightclub and even gets in trouble in another place. He goes on to the extent of asking him to consider her as his girlfriend till the time they are travelling together. You start wondering what is really bothering this law graduate who hails from a wealthy business family, to behave so frivolously. The only reason you can think of is that it is an Imtiaz Ali film.
Even when one does warm up to an Imtiaz Ali film, there are certain scenes or moments that stay with you long after you have seen the film. One comes across such moments in the film but they are few and far in between. The entire sequence involving Harry and Sejal falling asleep in a deserted building, having a conversation, breaking into a song (“Radha”) and getting friendlier with each other is sweet. The climax sequence, though clichéd and predictable, is executed well and managed to bring a smile.
Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma made a good pair in ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’. Though ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ was more of a Shah Rukh Khan – Katrina Kaif love story, the chemistry that Shah Rukh and Anushka shared made many of us root for them as a pair. In this film too, their chemistry is just right. Shah Rukh Khan looks dapper and pulls off certain scenes in a way that serve as a testimony to the fact nobody does romance better than him. Anushka Sharma looks beautiful and delivers a stupendous performance. She does not go overboard with the Gujarati accent; it is stereotypical but cute. Aru Verma is good as Harry’s assistant. Chandan Roy Sanyal leaves a mark in a cameo as the illegal immigrant. Evelyn Sharma and Kavi Shashtri are wasted in cameos that do not give them any scope to perform.
Many of the songs are used as snippets and have been wasted in a film that will not stand the test of time. The soundtrack, one sincerely hopes, is remembered for a long time as it is Pritam’s best work till date. The placement of the songs is terrible; most of them despite sounding great slow down the pace of the film. The background score (Hitesh Sonik) is quite good. The film is shot in some of the beautiful locales one has seen in the recent times and KU Mohanan captures the scenic locations very well. The editing (Aarti Bajaj) could have been sharper.
As mentioned earlier, a lot of young filmmakers seem inspired by Imtiaz Ali’s style of storytelling. Films like ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’, ‘Dear Zindagi’ and ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ had a few scenes that reminded one of the kind of storytelling one has come to associate with his brand of cinema. One has seen enough of the confused urban millennials dealing with first world problems. While it is perfectly fine to have a certain approach or style in the way you tell your stories but a film should have some novelty value. It should have elements that distinguish it from the filmmaker’s earlier work and should offer something new to the audience.