The Yash Raj Films brand has been synonymous with quality romances that are as melodramatic as they are tear-jerking, and Jab Tak Hai Jaan is no different, what more with the late legendary Yash Chopra at the helm to direct what would be his last film, meant to celebrate his 50th anniversary milestone in Bollywood. A posthumous release that was already intended for a Diwali release this year, this movie has all the elements that are hallmark of the director, reuniting with his leading man Shah Rukh Khan to whom he gave a breakthrough, and pairing him up for the first time with red hot Bollywood IT girl Katrina Kaif, and YRF's prodigy Anushka Sharma in her second feature with SRK after Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi.
And what a sprawling love epic this is, spanning two different decades with the promise of a romance that goes unrequited on either end, combined with plenty of lovelorn moments that would keep you guessing who will end up with whom if at all, in this romantic triangle that only Yash Chopra can weave, and yet enticing you to hang in there even if you've seen almost all of his works. Nicely crafted into a solid three act structure lasting close to three hours, this film takes its time to put its three main characters through the paces, allowing emotional investment into all of them, that reap benefits when you too get drawn into their plight, and wonder how the chess pieces would move for the best possible outcome.
We see Major Samar Anand (Shah Rukh Khan) being the shining star of the Indian Army's bomb disposal unit, clocking almost close to a hundred IED diffusion and doing so in daredevil fashion. Some call him the man without fear, while others coin the term the man who cannot die, because his job is high risk, but he doesn't take the necessary precautions. The routine involves going off for a little quiet time for himself after having stared death in the face, but this time round got rudely interrupted by the vivacious Akira Rai (Anushka Sharma), who is adamant to get a stint with Discovery Channel, and chanced upon Samar's diary of sorts which got left behind.
And this natural flashback provided a look into the Major's past before his army career, being a multiple job holder in London in order to make ends meet, from shoveling of snow to the waiting on tables, to being a fishmonger, and busking in the streets. Fate allows him to meet poor little rich girl Meera (Katrina Kaif), and before you know it, their constant interaction to exchange tips in the learning of languages form the basis of their relationship, even though Meera is engaged to a rich scion. I suppose no girl can resist the charms of a man who can serenade at multiple London landmarks, and dance the way SRK does.
But here's the catch which I thought was an extremely bold move. Religion comes into play, and this takes on proportions and depth of discussions about how some put religion as priority, having empowerment over their lives, that it could sometimes lead to paralysis of sorts. To save Samar's life, Meera makes a pact with her spiritual father, and I suppose only a bet as big as exchanging one's happiness with the life of another, can bring that prayerful wish to fruition. But this causes bitterness in Samar because how can one do battle with Jesus? It's almost impossible, but if this rivalry of one's heart, toward man and toward god, isn't colossus, then I don't know what is.
I suppose what Yash Chopra's story was trying to say, is that without love, or keeping the faith, one's life can get really inward and withdrawn, losing that fun element with all things going really serious, and at times, reckless. Samar goes back to India and fulfills his family lineage of military men, but chooses the riskiest of professions, if only to tempt the higher being at taking his life away, and in such fashion to put a dent in his ex lover's faith. Akira enters the picture, and finds this old fashion love of the previous decade a lot more meaningful than the present throwaway ones that centers around physical love. The second half after the intermission sees the relentless pursuit Akira has for Samar, only for her constant advances to be continuously rejected, because in essence, Samar's heart was locked in on another, and left for dead.
As if that wasn't enough - with how Samar has turned into a Meera even without his knowledge, in shutting people out - Yash Chopra has more up his sleeves when he has to put everyone together, forming tremendous tension especially when throwing in one of the oldest plot elements in the book for a romance, albeit too with one too many hospital stays. It's decision time, and you'll find yourself taking sides as to who Samar should eventually end up with, after having emotionally invested an hour with each heroine. Characterization here is top notch in making everyone of them rich and real, that you'll probably see shades of yourself, or people you may know, in one or more of the leading protagonists.
Shah Rukh Khan once again shows why he's one of the leading men in Bollywood, with his fine all round performance in being a younger man who is full of zeal, hope and life, with the world ahead of him given his hard work, and yet balancing that out with a more sullen, serious look as the hardened military man with a death wish, nursing a broken heart and resigned to the impossibility of challenging god. Between the two leading ladies, it is difficult to pick who actually had an edge over the other, but if it's a personal choice, I'd give my vote to Anushka Sharma if only for her assured portrayal of a bubbly personality who knows what she wants and is a go getter, being in for a challenge when encountered with emotions she has yet to handle, compared to the more indecisive character that Katrina perfectly portrayed, in what would be a classic Yash Chopra model of the unattainable femme fatale responsible for the total breaking of hearts.
Cinematography is great, as you would come to expect from a Yash Raj production, with lush costumes, glossy production and art design, sets and locales being nothing but the best to put you in the mood for love, and love lost or broken. Music by none other than A.R. Rahman also lifts the film into epic greatness, befitting a contemporary love story of our time. If anything, Yash Chopra's parting gift through his films, and this one in particular, is a reminder to keep the faith, that love will come in good time, and to remember to live life, not be afraid of it. A definite must watch backed by all the right reasons.