Movie Review: Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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For the first ninety minutes or so, Jab Tak Hai Jaan is vintage Yash Chopra: catchy songs, glamorous locations, and Shahrukh Khan executing another smoldering performance. Things fall apart after the intermission break, and the film spirals into absurdity for its final ninety minutes. It’s hard to imagine being more disappointed.

The story begins as ultra-cool soldier Samar Anand (Khan) diffuses a bomb in a Ladakh market before saving a bikini-clad young woman (Anushka Sharma) from an icy lake, leaving his jacket with her. The woman, Akira, finds Samar’s journal in the jacket pocket. Reading it, she discovers that Samar wasn’t always the gruff soldier he is today.

A prolonged flashback to ten years earlier shows Samar working odd jobs in London, supplementing his income busking on the streets. He becomes smitten with a beautiful Indian woman (Katrina Kaif) he overhears praying to Jesus to bless her with a handsome Anglo husband, and not a boring Indian one. Samar and the woman, Meera, form a bond as he teaches her to sing in Punjabi and she teaches him to speak English.

Since Jab Tak Hai Jaan is nearly three hours long, Samar and Meera can’t get their happily-ever-after so early in the movie. Meera makes another promise to Jesus that hinges on her never seeing Samar again. That’s where Samar’s journal ends.

The unfolding of Samar’s and Meera’s doomed romance is the best part of the story. Khan is so handsome and suave, it’s possible to believe he really could charm all of London with his singing and intermittent guitar strumming. Yash Chopra gives Kaif a solo dance number that allows her to have the spotlight to herself, and she shines during the opportunity. Also, her body is amazing.

When events in the story return to the present, the whole film goes south. Akira, an aspiring documentary filmmaker, returns Samar’s journal and finagles her way into being embedded with his army unit on an assignment for the Discovery Channel. Her motive is allegedly to understand how Samar’s past influenced his refusal to wear protective gear when disarming bombs, but she really wants to make him forget about Meera and fall in love with her.

Sharma is as winsome and adorable as ever, but her character is an idiot. In addition to her moronic romantic plot, her lack of professionalism nearly gets her killed while following the bomb squad around, for whom she serves as a hybrid kid sister/sex object.

Things only get stupider from here. Writer Aditya Chopra resorts to the laziest of all possible storytelling clichés: amnesia. Aditya doubles down on the stupidity by alleging that retrograde amnesia can be cured by allowing the friends and family of the amnesiac to invent and play out a fictitious alternative life story for the patient to fill in the lost years, rather than just telling the patient the truth.

Jab Tak Hai Jaan‘s dumbest moment comes when the London police department allows Samar to disarm a bomb because “this guy just might know what he’s talking about.” Next time I’m in London, I’ll be sure to ask the cops what other dangerous matters of national security they farm out to random foreign civilians. Sounds like fun!

I’m not sure how the plot got so out of hand. Aditya Chopra is a better writer than this, and it’s unfortunate that this is Yash Chopra’s last film. The candid behind-the-scenes shots of the director that accompany the closing credits are the real highlights of Jab Tak Hai Jaan.


33 thoughts on “Movie Review: Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012)

  1. Vinita

    There are so many technical flaws, almost too numerous to count, it makes it painful to watch almost 3 hours of this illogical movie. Wish I could get a refund!

  2. Keyur Seta

    Oh so you saw it much before 😀 Good to know we agree on most of the points. Even I was put off by that amnesia thing and was moved by Yashji’s footage at the end. It does feel sad that this is his last film.

    1. Kathy

      The man who wrote this review said that the audience at his theater in Dallas, Texas, stood and clapped during the closing credits. Since I saw the first show of the day at 11:30, most of the audience just left. It’s worth staying.

  3. Amrendra

    Haven’t got the chance to see it yet…but disappointed after reading your review. 🙁 Had high hopes…anyways, will still watch it once anyways.. for SRK and Anushka..

    1. Kathy

      Going into JTHJ with modest expectations should make it more enjoyable, Amrendra. It’s amazing how good Anushka is in a silly role, and SRK is SRK, as always. 🙂

  4. Shah Shahid

    I didn’t have much high hopes for this film. Seeing a middle aged man (I’m sorry but he looks it) strumming a guitar playfully on the streets with a montage of him doing odd jobs isn’t cute or charming… it’s sad and pathetic.

    I’ll still watch this as it’s Yash Chopra’s last.

    1. Kathy

      What a wonderful world it would be if directors were willing to cast 45-year-old actresses to play 25-year-olds, and the audience accepted it without batting an eye. 😉

      1. Shah Shahid

        It would be a glorious world indeed. There are times when even female leads seems cradle robbingly inappropriate for their male co-stars. EKK MAIN AUR EKK TU comes to mind recently.

        I would actually prefer seeing more of the “Mrs. Robinson” dynamic.

    1. Kathy

      Ha ha ha! That’s the best description I’ve heard of Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Niket. Priceless. Thanks for that!

  5. Wasim

    Awesome movie by Yash Chopra and SRK is always best with his amazing acting nice romantic movie hope it would be a blockbuster hit

  6. Anish

    Would you say it is worth a one-time watch, Kathy? Although there are only 4 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, all of them are positive.

    1. Kathy

      Hi, Anish. For Bollywood fans, it’s certainly worth watching just because it’s Yash Chopra’s last film. SRK and Anushka are very good in JTHJ, but I don’t think there’s strong enough content to warrant a second viewing. I also don’t think I’d recommend it to someone new to Bollywood.

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  10. RayMas

    I’m posting here for the first time, and would firstly like to say that i’m finding myself regularly checking your site for movie reviews. Really enjoying your reviews and your commenters as well.
    I found JTHJ a mixed bag. it felt as if the two halves of the movie were directed by two different people. I agree with you that Yash was capable of doing a better job, and it is unfortunate that this was his last movie. I wanted to say that i found the second part of the movie much better (in terms of acting at least), until ofcourse it all went to shit when the amnesia thing was used, and the bombing one as well. The idea wasn’t that bad, however the execution was rushed and scene done too lazily. The dialogue wasn’t all that great either except the ones written for Sameer. The inconsistency was irritating.

    However at the end of it, i’m still finding myself thinking about it. It was a shame they didn’t give Sameer and Akira a more credible and substantial history (Anushka’s character may have been silly, but her performance was what saved the movie some grace for me). I have to say that i only appreciated the music after watching the movie. Mr A.R Rahman still has it.

    I feel that Yash had a really nice concept in his head, and having seen his better movies, i feel the emotional effect was still achieved. Its just unfortunate how complacent the heavyweights of bollywood get and feel they can get away with insulting their audience’s intelligence. This is probably why the smaller productions are coming up with the more quality cinema these days.

    I think your 2 star rating is completely justified, however all that was missing was some care in the writing department. Oh and Vabhavi’s choreography just doesn’t do it for me. Sorry for the huge spiel.

    1. Kathy

      Great first comment, RayMas! Thanks for joining in the discussion! You hit on something that I didn’t explore fully in my review: the audience knows that Akira’s romantic pursuit of Samar will never succeed. Akira has as much chance of making Samar fall in love with her as I have of making Shahrukh Khan fall in love with me. It robs the second half of the film of any romantic tension. This aspect of Jab Tak Hai Jann reminded me of Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna, in which Kareena Kapoor’s character spends the whole movie telling Sohail Khan’s character that she’ll never leave husband, and she never does.

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  12. Fernando Gros

    Just found your site today and I’m glad I did. Excellent reviews. I agree with much of what you wrote and although I enjoyed the movie for it’s better moments (most of which occurred in Ladakh & Kashmir) it could have been so much more.

    1. Kathy

      Welcome to the site, Fernando, and thanks for the kind words! I think I would’ve felt differently about the movie if it didn’t have the amnesia subplot. That’s just one of those storytelling gimmicks I can’t abide, unless it’s done with real purpose. As you said, it could have been so much more.

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  16. Rebecca Armstrong

    It was indeed a ridiculous movie. The bomb scene in the London train was not believable. If a brown-skinned guy starts mumbling about detonators and explosives with a ticking bomb nearby, the police are far more likely to take him down as the suspected terrorist, not let him “defuse” the bomb.

    Even more ridiculous, in my opinion, was the bit about Anushka Sharma documenting the Indian Army’s bomb squad for the Discovery Channel. Nobody who knows anything about the Army or who’s even lived in India would ever believe that. That a reporter alone, and that too a young woman, would ever be allowed to tag along with a bomb disposal squad in Ladakh/Leh is unbelievable. Or that she’d behave like a ditzy schoolgirl with his team, treating them as buddies, slapping shoulders, sharing meals, sleeping on the ground along with the group. It just doesn’t happen. Even if a few soldiers were stupid enough to allow it, the minute any officer saw that, she’d be thrown out and never allowed to film the Army again.

    The amnesia bit removed any remaining suspension of disbelief, it was such a shockingly childish device to use.

    Yash Chopra was never known for being subtle or realistic, but usually I can put up with his extreme flights of fancy because of other redeeming elements. Veer-Zarra was also unbelievable, but hey, there’s some chemistry between SRK and Preity ZInta, it follows a tradition of other romatic melodramas from Romeo and Juliet to Laila-Majnu, so there’s some context that lets the audience put aside their objections and just enjoy the romance. But this movie has nothing, the romance is weak, the chemistry isn’t there. The movie tries too hard moving between two worlds – India and the west – and does justice to neither. It’s a mish-mash of contradictory belief systems that looks completely fake in both contexts.

    A sad end to Yash Chopra’s career.

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