If only Jab Harry Met Sejal had met the audience halfway. Or, perhaps an honest viewer before the Imtiaz Ali movie reached the screens. Because, this is a debacle there’s no recovering from.
The movie, which stars Anushka Sharma and Shah Rukh Khan, begins promisingly enough – filled with the promise of lush European countryside, great styling and panoramic shots – but plunges downhill far too quickly.
The premise? Sejal – who makes a cute show of telling Harry her name through rapid gesticulations of the hand – gets engaged to her boyfriend Rupen in Amsterdam while on a family holiday. Right before boarding the flight back to India, however, she discovers that she’s lost her engagement ring. A row with the fiance ensues and she stubbornly decides to stay back to look for the ring. Herself.
All well and good. Except – why doesn’t the fiancé care about the ring too? And why doesn’t he bother getting in touch for the next several days?
Sejal then enlists the help of Harry, a brash and rather brazen Punjabi tour guide, who has been at the Sejal family’s beck and call for the duration of the tour. Harry agrees to help her find the ring – only so she wouldn’t complain to his superiors – and thus begins a journey that you know can only end in a love story.
So far so good. The movie is dotted with loud but lacklustre songs which you forget the minute they’ve stopped playing – a far cry from the smashing soundtracks of movies like Tamasha and Rockstar. You’ll be happy to know, however, that the other backbone of an Imtiaz Ali movie – the travel – holds supreme in this one.
Harry and Sejal give you an ample view of Amsterdam, then Prague, Budapest, Lisbon, and Frankfurt – as they retrace the steps Sejal may have travelled with her fiancé after the ring was placed on her finger. Somewhere in the midst of all that travelling and scurrying around, the very Punjabi Harry and the very Gujarati Sejal fall in love.
Now, here’s where the beauty of an Imtiaz Ali movie shines through, because the love stories he scripts (ala Rockstar, Jab We Met, Highway…) are almost entirely seamless, floating effervescently above the mundanities of our daily lives.
But sadly, this is where the light at the end of the tunnel goes out. The movie goes through certain inanities as Sejal assures Harry he needn’t feel ‘looonely’ whilst she’s around and he can consider her his girlfriend. Er, what-why-who?
To cut a long story short, the ring is finally ‘found’ (let’s just say it was never really lost) and Harry and Sejal, in the process, discover vulnerable facets of their lives. Sejal prepares to go back while still in love with Harry and Harry makes no attempt to stop her, whilst still in love with her.
It is somewhere around this juncture that you are still desperately waiting for a miracle – hoping for an ace up the sleeve, a rabbit in the hat just waiting to be pulled out. Surely Imtiaz Ali has one? Unfortunately, such is not the case – and Jab Harry Met Sejal ends with a whimper and not a bang.
The performances look good, and Anushka Sharma is particularly believable as the self-assured engaged woman who speaks with a strong Gujju accent, knowing what she wants and going for it. Shah Rukh has finally been given an out-and-out romantic character to play, and he plays up the romance with elan. The performances are not enough to salvage a vapid movie, though.
Go for this one if you’re an ardent fan of either the director or the two main leads – I’m still recuperating and hoping to revive with a better film from their stables.
CAST: Shah Rukh Khan, Anushka Sharma
DIRECTION: Imtiaz Ali
DURATION: 2 hours 24 minutes