Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jab Tak Hai Jaan [2012]

MPAA (NR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
Los Angeles Times [Mark Olsen]
Times of India [Gaurav Malani] [Meena Iyer]
Hindustan Times [Anupama Chopra]

I came across Jab Tak Hai Jaan (directed by famed and recently deceased Bollywood director Yash Chopra [IMDb], screenplay by Aditya Chopra [IMDb] along with Devika Bhagat [IMDb]) largely by accident here in Chicago.  I had been at our city's current "flagship" movie theater, the AMC River East 21 on Illinois Street, to see a different film and saw this film advertised.  Sticking to my earlier plans, I proceeded to see the film that I had come to see, but afterwards looked the current film on the IMDb database and made subsequent plans to see it as well.

And I'm certainly glad that I did.  Most moviegoers in the United States will now be familiar with the phrase "Bollywood," and even the grand sketches of its success "back in India."  The success of English language films like Monsoon Wedding [2001], Bride and Prejudice [2004], as well as actors/actresses like Irrfan Khan (appearing recently in Life of Pi [2012] as well as The Amazing Spider Man [2012]) Freida Pinto (Miral [2010], Rise of the Planet of the Apes [2011], The Immortals [2011] and Trishna [2012]) and Dev Patel (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel [2012]) all having been introduced to American audiences in the Slumdog Millionaire [2008], have gradually increased American (and especially Hollywood) appreciation for the movie-making talent that exists on the Subcontinent.

Indeed, it would seem that American artistic/film-making community existing in Hollywood has tried very hard in recently years to embrace both the talent, and no doubt profit-making potential existing in the so-called "BRIC" countries -- BRAZIL (recent Hollywood productions The Incredible Hulk [2008] and Rio [2011] as well as the Brazilian films like Central Station (orig. Central do Brasil [1998], City of God (orig. Cidade de Deus) [2002] and The Craft (orig. Riscado) [2010], Day of Black (orig. Dia de Preto) [2011], Once Upon a Time Was I, Veronica (orig. Era uma vez eu, Verônica) [2012] reviewed here), RUSSIA (recent Hollywood productions like Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol [2011], The Darkest Hour [2012] (the Chernobyl Diaries [2012] take place in neighboring Ukraine ;-) as well as Russian films like Elena (orig. Елена) [2011] reviewed here), INDIA (English language films listed above as well as more "artsy" film-festival caliber Indian films like Patang [2012] and Valley of Saints [2012] reviewed here), CHINA (like the fantastic/"Indiana Jones" quality H.K. originating film Detective Dee and the Phantom Flame (orig. Di Renjie) [2010] as well as the more artsy but again of the highest quality Snow Flower and the Secret Fan [2011] reviewed here).

So it would seem both inevitable and IMHO supremely positive that well produced Indian language (and _excellently subtitled_) authentically Bollywood films would start showing regularly in American cinemas (and from the previews shown in conjunction with the showing of the current film, it would seem that a steady stream of Indian Bollywood films is going to start playing at the AMC River East theater hiere in Chicago).

So then, after such a rather long introduction to this film, what is it about? ;-).  Well not surprisingly (for Bollywood films) it's a grand and great love-story.

The film begins by introducing us viewers to Major Samar Anand (played by famed Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan [IMDb]).  He's presented as a legendary "sapper" (one who defuses bombs), who defuses the most intricate of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) set by Kashmiri (generally Muslim) terrorists/freedom fighters (depending on one's point of view) all across Kashmir.  And he does so WITHOUT EVER WEARING ANY PROTECTIVE GEAR.  He goes where only robots and other otherwise _very well protected sappers_ go and generally makes short work of diffusing seemingly incredibly complicated bombs.

Samar's character/job no doubt pays homage to both the recent Oscar-winning American film The Hurt Locker [2008] but above all to the Indian Sikh character named Kip in Michael Ondaatje's famed novel The English Patient (Amazon) made subsequently into an Academy Award winning film (Amazon).  In Ondaatje's story, Kip was portrayed as being "sapper" (and largely under-appreciated) during World War II.

In the current movie, Samar is certainly respected by his fellow soldiers in the Indian Army who consider him almost a legend.  It also becomes rather quickly clear that he's gained the admiration of some of India's young women as well.  In fact, in one of the first scenes of the movie, we see a beautiful young woman, who we soon learn is a young broadcast journalism apprentice "for the Discovery Channel" named Akira Rai (played by Anushka Sharma) come up with a scheme to try to draw his attention.  He decides to jump right in front of him into a huge, deep and cold reservior by whose banks he's gone to rest after disarming a particularly complicated IED, forcing him now to (eventually) jump in and rescue her as well.

Save Akira he does.  But after leaving her with his jacket to warm her (remember Kashmir is at the "roof of the world" so the water in its lakes would be _really cold_) he coldly drives off with his motorcycle back to the base, leaving her alone there to contemplate what just happened.

Now _why_ would someone become both such a risk-taker when it comes to disarming bombs and then so cold around women?  (One recalls famous question asked of another man named "Sam" in another this time Hollywood film (Casablanca [1942]) asking him why he treats such good-looking women women so badly, noting "Remember, they might grow scare one day...").  But both Sam in Casablanca and Samar in this film had their stories ... And with a somewhat hokey plot-twist (but look this film _is_ a romance) Akira soon finds out Samar's: For inside Samar's coat pocket, which he had left her to warm with, was his journal ... and the rest of the story unspools from there ...

For 10 years back, when Samar was in his 20s, Akira reads, Samar was a carefree Indian expat living in London, working odd jobs and happily playing Punjabi songs on the street on his guitar.  And it was there that he had fallen in love ... to a far wealthier Indian young woman, named Meera (played by Katrina Kaif) his age, who was destined to take-over her father's (played by Anupam Kher) highly successful London-based business.

How would these two meet?  Well, Samar first spotted Meera while working as a street sweeper in front of a presumably Catholic Church in a fashionable residential district of London.  (Meera would go to the Church to pray at night and ask "Sir Jesus" for various favors.  But being a good girl, would always make some sort of a sacrifice as well. "Sir Jesus if you grant me this, I'll give-up that..."  It's kind of a naive kind of prayer but it suits her still optimistic 20-something character).  Samar spotted her coming out of the Church but she didn't really notice him.

However, she does notice him some days later happily playing his Punjabi songs in some London park somewhere and she later comes to him with a request: She wanted him to teach her how to play a nice Punjabi song for her father's upcoming 50th birthday which would also actually signal the beginning of his retirement.  (There's an ancient Indian tradition that the first stage of one's life is to be devoted to the basic physical aspects of life, above all caring for and creating one's family.  Then in the second stage of one's life, beginning around 50 years of age, with the parents having been taken care or and the kids grown and _getting married_ to begin to _withdraw_ from the physical world and begin to focus more on one's Spiritual life.  Approaching 50 myself now, I do have to say that I do think that I appreciate now some of the wisdom present in this tradition).

So Meera's _not_ infatuated with Samar at this point.  She just wants to hire him to teach her how to play her guitar better.  But Samar, who is perhaps more taken with her already, tells her that he doesn't want her money.  Instead, he tells her that he'll teach her for free, BUT that she's going to have to trust him, because, he's going to teach her to play more than just the notes.  And he does ... and in the course of those lessons that involve far more than just guitar playing (but emphatically _not_ "simply hopping into bed together" that _again_ would be way too "easy") she does both begin to find herself, and yes, fall for him.

But, of course, the two are not of the same _class_ (not necessarily caste but class is the issue here).  And Meera's dad (remember, he's getting himself ready for a traditional Indian style retirement and so has to get all his loose ends together) has de facto _arranged_ a nice marriage for his daughter to a nice, good-looking. responsible and almost certainly to be successful English-boy Meera's age named Roger (played by Jay Conroy).  What to do?  Pick the almost certainly to be successful English "hunk" named Roger, or the smiling, hardworking and charming Samar who's dirt poor and actually lives with a similarly dirt-poor Pakistani room-mate (played by Sharib Hashmi)?

Asking Sir Jesus to help her to "do the right thing" and follow her father's wishes, she promises to not get further involved with Samar.  BUT, of course, she _can't_ keep that promise. ;-)

Then when she definitively realizes that she can't be without Samar (and tells him that) Samar kisses her and drives off on his motorcycle ONLY TO GET INVOLVED IN AN ACCIDENT RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF HER.  She drops to her knees ... and promises Sir Jesus if he spares Samar his life that she'll _never see him again_.  Samar lives ...  4 days later, Meera comes over to the hospital to tell Samar (who's very happy to see her ...) to tell him that she prayed for his life ... and ... since he has it back, she now must never see him again AND SO LONG AS SHE NEVER SEES HIM AGAIN, HE'LL BE "OKAY."  Readers, do you now understand _why_ Samar could take a job like a "bomb diffusing expert" and NEVER wear any protective gear?  (So long as he never saw Meera, he would live, but without her he just wanted to die...)

Now that's ONE HECK OF A MESSED-UP / "IMPOSSIBLE" ROMANCE.  And certainly, the _young_ currently 20-something Akira, reading this Samar's sad story is REALLY, REALLY IMPRESSED.  So she asks her boss to allow her to make a story about "The Man Who Can Not Die" ... and much, much still ensues.

It's a Bollywood movie so all has to end well.  Even (and thankfully) Meera's somewhat messed-up theology gets fixed (why would "Sir Jesus" keep Samar alive only to keep him apart from her???) But much still happens and even the more or less inevitable evolving love triangle -- involving Samar, Meera and Akira -- gets resolved, in interestingly enough, a definitely an "Eastern" sort of way ;-).

It does make for a great and grand love story and yes I'm _not_ at all surprised that Meera and later Akira would find Samar (and his life) so fascinating.  For life is, indeed, more than just "hitting the right notes."

All in all a Great story and great job! ;-)

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1 comment:

  1. I was thinking it will break all records.. but shahrukh you dispointed me :(
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