Friday, 11 August 2017

Imtiaz School of Romance - Jab Harry met Sejal

The trailer was boring. The title too. Really. But the two songs I heard were good.
And then the reviews followed. Pure vitriol. It was like one fine morning everyone woke up hating Imtiyaz Ali and Shahrukh Khan. They did nothing right. This severe criticism made me severely curious about the movie, more than the trailer. I normally want to see for myself before criticizing something. 

Also, I am someone who writes dark, depressing, suicidal stories. The characters are hurting and life is never fair. One fine evening I just wanted a film that would ensure a happy ending. Just that. 

I quite liked the opening scene. Nostalgic shots in black and white interspersed with the peppy, ‘Safar’ weaving in scenes of loneliness amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. Jab Harry Met Sejal is a film about details. If you don't have an eye for them, you are watching the wrong film. The opening scene has Harry eating his food on the stone steps, it made me realize for the first time how our drivers or tour guides eat during the tour. In some quiet corner. Stealthily. Quickly. Tastelessly. It’s just part of the job. There is no joy to having food. The second shot is Harry sleeping on the seats of the bus stand/train station. And I am not a big Shahrukh Khan fan, but man, he is a good actor. In this scene, he needs to sleep horizontally on one of those regular waiting seats in a row. Before lying down, he puts down his bag and lies down in one smooth, swift movement like someone who has perfected the move through experience so much so, its like muscle memory. And that’s why it hurts. The effortlessness of it. There is a fine line between a wanderer and a homeless person. We see the hero on that fine line. That’s where I knew, the movie will not disappoint.

Premise is simple, Sejal has lost her engagement ring and she won’t go back till she finds the ring. And Harry, the tour guide that took them on a tour of Europe, has to help her find it. Harry has clearly told her that he is a ‘cheap man, jiska character thik nahin hai’. Sejal is the one who is neat and clean and has absolutely no issues with him or his cheapness. 

The film has flaws here that I glossed over...though it’s irritating. Here is a man who finds Sejal like a beautiful porcelain vase, complimenting her, saying he doesn't feel bad things for her. Now Sejal feels insulted. How can you find me not sexy. This reminds me of the scene in Jab we met, where our man is saying, ‘मुझे करना ही नहीं है रेप’ and the heroine almost coaxes/challenges, ‘तुम कर ही नहीं सकते’. My second problem is when she realizes he is lonely and offers to be his girlfriend. Now, if you are a freshly engaged woman who finds a lonely man, you offer to be his friend...not girlfriend. But well, that’s suspension of disbelief for romantic purposes. Thank you. 

Let’s come to the good part, now. After one silly chase sequence and even sillier reason to sleep out in some place in the open, on hard ground. Harry and Sejal are asleep on the floor, next to each other and in sleep they have come closer. Harry is dreaming about his Pind, the motif of गेहूँ के खेत and a duppata running over it. He wakes up to find Sejal curled up to sleep close to him. The proximity and dream have intermingled. Harry gets up, walks to a corner and squats down next to a post, holding it for support, in his moment of vulnerability, mumbles something to himself, I catch a word...raanjha and some others. It’s a beautifully captured moment. Though I’d have ideally liked the director/scriptwriter to focus a little bit more on this vulnerability quotient. Sejal wakes up and Harry you know why the singers from Punjab are such loud singers, it’s because they have to be louder than the sound of the tractor when they sing in the खेत। Now, this is a beautiful insight, right there in the film. It makes things real. You become close to a person not by sharing jokes, but by sharing your fears, your vulnerabilities, and here we see Harry doing just that. Quite a lot of people do not like Shahrukh’s acting, but in this scene we see him going from vulnerable to goofy in a moment and it’s smooth. It’s understated. 

My most favorite moment in the film happens when Sejal is asking Harry to pretend he is her fiancé, Rupen and has seen her for the first time, since morning now he has to take her to a cafe where his friends are waiting. Harry does as is told, Sejal pushes on...थोड़ा एमोशन से करो ना...and then you see why he is called THE king khan. Because there are certain things you can carry off because you’ve been that person all your life. Harry, the guide walks up the stairs...smiling...and as he whirls on the top step, he becomes THE man...someone who has swooned women on screen, all his youth...the body language completely changes. There is a confident swag, the camera slowly tilts down to follow him on the stairs...he comes close to Sejal, his hand goes just behind her left cheek, softly and brings her closer and kisses her on her forehead. Thankfully, Anushka is good and holds her own...melting in that moment. Silence is used wonderfully in this scene. When Harry is climbing the steps, it’s silent except for his footsteps and just as he whirls on the top, music plays on cue. I saw the movie and I was like, just for this scene, I’ll have to see it in the hall, again. And this time when I went, I did what I’ve never ever done. I took out my phone and recorded the one minute scene. Piracy be damned. This is for my mental peace. 

The genre of romance is such that almost everything seems to be done a thousand times. Yet this film surprises in its fresh scenes depicting love and longing. I could go on and on about the several scenes. And I would, but for this one, this is enough. Imtiyaz has created some magical moments in the film. And they are not stolen from other films, they are all fresh. In yet another scene, one of the last before they find the ring, Harry has been screaming the name of Kuljeet, a girl he loved long time back...but never tells anyone because 1. it sounds like a man’s name and 2. कोई तो होना चाहिए याद करने के लिए। And now he says, Sejal is a better name to scream...and he screams his lungs out. And I find that acting/overacting real. Very real. It hurts. Like goodbyes always do. 

Another thing that really stands out in this film is the music score. I just hope I don’t find out tomorrow that the music is stolen from some godforsaken foreign movie, that would actually break my heart. Music is woven beautifully into the film. It can't have the depth and layered texture that Gulzar or Rahman evoke or from the older classic films, but has a lighter, yet apt rendition in a lot of scenes. 

Goodbyes are a recurring leitmotif in the film. Sejal leaves for India, the director hasn't made a soppy goodbye scene but has completely reinvented the classic, ‘पलट’ scene. Harry wonders, what’s it that he has been searching all his life. He doesn’t just take the name...he calls out to her...not in a scream...but like a soul calls out to its soulmate...and such a call can never go unanswered. Sejal turns and looks love...and in हिज्र। 

The movie evokes old school romance. The way I remember. The way I would want it to be. A string of beautiful, perfectly timed moments. I have no idea why the audience rejected the movie. It has a good story, good acting, good dialogues, good music and good direction. Yes the characters could have been written better and everything else could have been a little better. The title sucks, really. But it’s a good movie. It’s a movie you could love despite its flaws. 

It would be difficult to create a film like this. Being a creative person myself, I understand a little about how it takes a lot of investment of self to create something like this. The audience and the media have been questioning Imtiyaz about the bad film. The rejection of this film makes me sad. 

I would like to watch films like these where I can believe that all will be well in the end. The heroine will come back to the hero or vice versa. I want to come home happy, seeing a romantic love that’s as unreal and filmy as films should be. 

Thank you Imtiyaz. Love you for making this one.

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