Jab Imtiaz Ali met SRK

You know how they go on and on about Imtiaz making the same story again and again and again — well thats true. Imtiaz does film the same story repetitively but the people inhabiting his story and the journey they undertake are different .Over the course of a decade , I’ve come to enjoy watching these messed up people fight between their heart and head , spectacularly self-combusting thanks to some external catalyst and then trying to pick up the pieces and move on. The reason why I’ve enjoyed this over and over again is because these people are messed up , quirky yet real and relatable. Harry and Sejal are no different , at least on paper .  But in trying to fit SRK in his world , Imtiaz has compromised with his characters and writing and this is the one thing that makes JHMS his weakest film till date.

On paper JHMS is a brilliant film with a cruel , stupid and stubborn woman finding love and kindness in the most unlikeliest places , when she is least looking for it. Sejal , the lawyer runs out of the Amsterdam aiport , catching Harry her tour guide unaware. She has misplaced her engagement ring and wants Harry to take her back to the hotel where she is sure to find the ring. Harry can see that she is visibly upset and tries to reassure her while also politely trying to lay it out that  he is no longer obligated to accompany her as the tour has ended. She reacts horribly , questioning his audacity to refuse her , putting him in the place of a lowly employee who should absolutely follow his employer wherever she deems fit. Sitting in his BMW car , she so casually says ” So its all about money” that you react the same way Harry does – with incredulity . She does not change a bit even when she falls in love with Harry.

Take for instance  , the cafe sequence in Budapest – she is clearly attracted to Harry and half in love with him but there is this classist , snobbish part of her that is repulsed by Harry’s job of a tour guide. She instructs him to act like her fiancé and the fool that Harry is , he acquiesces to her request and almost comes close to asking her about the next step when she puts him down with a cruel ” I’m not that kind of a woman who leaves her fiancé for a tour guide” retort  . Its Harry who is the hurt here despite his tall claims of being a rake and womanizer of the worst sort.

Consider the yaadon main sequence before they are kidnapped by Gas. They are in this club , having an intimate dinner and Sejal is in tears , listening to the sad story of the woman yearning for her beloved who left for India , in search of riches . Yet it is Harry who is the most affected. He knows that Sejal will leave him for the established fiancé and the stability he provides and that he “Harry” will be left yearning for Sejal . Some time later , by the beach he talks to her about his first love – Kulwant Kaur and almost confesses his feelings by expressing his angst at her inevitable departure and she doesn’t get a chance to react at all. Even at a later point in the film where they seem to gel like spouses do and are clearly in love with each other , she claims to be in a dream world , emphasizing that she would give up an ideal partner and ideal life with him and return to the real world. No wonder this hurts Harry and he acts out on his hurt , giving her an out to leave him.

What is so fascinating about Sejal is that she is so casually cruel to Harry and at the same time , keeps looking up to him for validating her self worth . She compares herself to Harry’s ex , the stripper they meet in their search for her ring , random women that she has heard about and cannot stand the fact that Harry finds her ” sweet , beautiful , china vase types”.  She realizes that he is her ideal partner and yet keeps reminding herself and him that women of her class do not fall for a tour guide and keeps bringing up the fiancé who never bothers to stay in touch , when her moments with Harry get too difficult for her to handle. I was fascinated with this woman , her classist , snobbish nature , that messy superiority and inferiority complex that she seems to suffer from , her decision to have a honey moon fling before she settles down as a proper Gujrati wife and the moment that made her come to terms with the inevitability of love. Sejal with all these facets and quirks is criminally ignored in the movie which is about her , because Harry is played by none other than the SRK.

Because Harry is Shahrukh , we don’t see enough of the character’s vulnerabilities and hurt . Heck we don’t see him as Harry even : there is that DDLJ wall Raj hangover around him which he is unable to shed , despite trying hard to achieve that feat. I almost wish that Imtiaz had casted a lesser known star as Harry – Diljit for instance . Diljit would have played Harry the way Harry was meant to be played – a second fiddle , catalyst and love interest to Sejal who grows up , becomes confident, falls in love with herself and Harry and learns to look beyond the social tags associated with people and identify them for they are – fellow humans who need respect , kindness and love . Alas , Harry is played by the Super Star SRK and we are left yearning for the movie this could have been – A story of a woman coming into her own and growing up. Better luck for the next one Imtiaz Saab , but I really liked this one too.

P.S. Its a criminal offense to release such a wonderful soundtrack the day the movie released. Its one of Pritam’s best so far and needed more air time before the release.

P.P.S. Imtiaz has used the songs brilliantly to underline the narrative as usual. Take Radha for instance . The punjabi lines rendered by Shahrukh , talks of a lotahrio who keeps flitting between lovers , yet he is at that point , irrevocably and subconsciously in love with Sejal . The Hindi lines rendered by Anushka talk of Radha and her undying devotion , yet there she is , flirting with Harry , despite having every intention of going back to Rupen. Kudos! Irshad and Imtiaz, Job well done !

P.P.P.S. Movies can be read differently by different people and hence their views can be different. Please give this movie a chance. It doesn’t deserve the vitriol and absolute hate that it has been receiving from most quarters.

P.P.P.P.S I will try to come back and write about some sequences from the movie that I really liked and about Chandan Roy Sanyal’s Bangla gangster at some point.









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