It was hard to miss Jab Harry Met Sejal this year. Imtiaz Ali returns to the direction. There is the return of the successful Shahrukh Khan and Anushka Sharma. Pritam returns to the composition. All it took to wait for the film. Then the phase of the flops came and the film scored a peak of failure by being a commercial disaster. Shahrukh Khan experienced another flop in his career.
Poor start, catastrophic story and even the critics were not there to save the ship from sinking. It got a 2.50/5 average rating according to the critics. We are very far from the notes of the filmmaker and his cast. This well-deserved flop proves that the Indian public is no longer blinded by the star power.
Many remember Imtiaz Ali for Jab We Met and Love Aaj Kal, his two biggest box office hits. I tend to think that these were sympathetic but rather generic films. They revealed certain themes of travel, initiation quest, escape, personality conflicts. It got revealed only from its independent transition with Rockstar, Highway, and Tamasha. The incredible trio is one of the admirable filmographies of modern Hindi cinema. So it was with great expectations that I awaited his new film. In reality, it is rather a compromise, a bridge between the two facets of its creation. But we'll come back to that.
Jab Harry Met Sejal opens with the magnificent "Safar" in the opening credits. It introduces us the main male character. The title is poignant. With subtle words, it announces the color with a tint of unconcealed melancholy. We follow a journey that does not use the journey as an initiatory quest but rather as a flight of oneself. Besides, there will be the very little question of travel in the end in this film, contrary to what one might think.
It is far from being the hymn to escape that the filmmaker loves so much. here the movements of the characters are artificial. They move to give an impression of movement, to agitate before them an absurd and derisory goal. It is not the journey that will make them take into account what they are actually. Imtiaz Ali seems to have traveled enough through his films. He went to the four corners of the world to discover himself. He tells us here that it is time to assume the answers and to create a real life. It is time to be happy, if only to set an example, said the poet.
Yet the film will not be devoid of defects and some of its limits also feel from the credits. The image is strong, but the execution is a little too pressed. You see, he's sick of his life! seems to shout us a director that we knew finer.
And what is surprising is that the first part got built on various defects. I had read in several critics that the second part marked the narrative fall of the film. No, the real major problem of Jab Harry Met Sejal is in its first half hour or even its first 40 minutes. It reveals a story that struggles to take off, with uneven rhythm. The story is too mechanical and circumstantial.
It leads us from a point A to a point B. So the film finally has something more to tell us than a simple predictable scenario. The dialogues a bit too telephoned and random subtlety does not help us to invest as much as we would like. Another major surprise, Anushka Sharma who passes by her film initiation. The naive part, pure, sweet, sister-type does not pass. And this uneven start reaches its climax during a ridiculous and grotesque pursuit.
But it is strange at this precise moment that the story begins. Now let me take things in hand! And what a pleasure to rediscover the talent of the filmmaker. The following sequence gives us some clues about the psychology of Harry's character. One feels better his dark face and his inner demons. We face with a character who refuses to show any weakness, who prides himself on his alleged lack of feeling.
Beyond this obvious reason, the lyrics create a discrepancy between Harry and Sejal. On one side is the cynical charmer with detached couplets. On the other Sejal repeats the mimicry of the Bollywood heroines. It is there that Ali finally succeeds in making us believe in his Sejal. And that is where Anushka finally finds the right tone. a love tinged with religious tones.
And as soon as 'Radha' ends, the important principles arise. The relations between our characters get clear. At this point, the psychological coherence shown by the characters is not common. But it is not illogical, far from it! Although opposed in appearance, we face with two beings on the margins of society. The non-romantic and tactile relationship of the couple will in part recall an Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.
Jab Harry Met Sejal can thus explore with intensity. This time subtle human relationships analyze the very nature of love and seduction. The film allows itself a certain sensuality that will surprise the fans of Shahrukh Khan. But it is not a free provocation. It is striking to see how Ali distills an erotic ambient. It is rather sexual tension, carnal attraction remaining half-tinged.
The director does not forget to bring the touch of comedy to avoid the pathos. One gets a hilarious sequence in a German hotel between Harry, one of his ex and Sejal. The sequence of selfies by Sejal is also a pure success.
And we move from one country to another, from one city to another. The arrival in Portugal already marks a sense of urgency in the conscious characters. Everything escapes them and that the situation of the dream can only be temporary. It is this realization of Imtiaz Ali telling us that the journey is not eternal. No matter the beauty of the road trip, you will have to go home.
So what to do? To abandon everything or struggle to bring a part of this dream into the rough reality of everyday life? Jab Harry Met Sejal become more and more intimate and sensitive and delicate. There is the magnificent sequence of the night, by the sea. Shahrukh Khan possessed by his role screams his regrets to calm and impassive waters.
The film continues in this voice. There are alternating moments of dream, lightness and moments of pure emotion. One would have liked the story to take a little more time. The journey was so pleasant that we would have liked to extend it.
I said in the introduction that Jab Harry Met Sejal is a bridge between the two facets of the cinema of Imtiaz Ali. And this may be the filmmaker's only mistake with this film. Ali wanted to regain the universal cinema that characterized his old films. Except that it no longer sticks. And the defects of the film come from this hybrid compromise.
The general public wants rhythm. Let's offer him a chase that comes out of nowhere! The general public wants reversals. Let us add these unlikely secondary characters. The general public does not have time to think too much? We will go faster on the end, leaving many psychological questions unanswered. Apart from these compromises, Jab Harry Met Sejal is a good movie.
Shahrukh Khan equals the subtlety and shadowy part of Ranbir Kapoor in Tamasha at times. Sejal gets developed with intelligence. The quest for self and the questioning of our place in society and our search for love is also mastered. The excellent soundtrack is perfect. The direction is neat, with beautiful scenes.
On the cast, Shahrukh Khan offers us a new performance. Many moving sequences allow him to recall the subtlety of his game. One does not become the king of Indian cinema overnight. He justifies every second his status as a living legend of Bollywood. We are still waiting for a superstar who will be able to touch his charism on the screen.
If she struggles to get into her character, Anushka Sharma takes the pace and also shines. It is one of his only films where she fails to always match the actor by his side. She offers us beautiful moments of emotion. As for the secondary roles, they are almost all dispensable. They are rare.
Jab Harry Met Sejal speaks better about love than many recent romances. Jab Harry Met Sejal questions the inner person, denial and the absurd quest for happiness. Watch this movie because it unveils a Shahrukh Khan and a sparkling Anushka Sharma. The images make sense, the real filmmakers use a strong symbolism to talk to us, to convey ideas.
So why this failure? Why such a disaster? Jab Harry Met Sejal has nothing to envy to movies of this kind released in recent years. First of all, that laziness and the lack of open-mindedness of the general public are of great help. When King Khan is in a movie, he has to be universal, to be able to touch everyone. Especially when he finds romance, his kind of predilection.