Movie Review: Jab Harry Met Sejal (2017)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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Jab Harry Met Sejal (“When Harry Met Sejal“) feels like a movie constructed in reverse, only concerned with where the characters wind up, but not how or why they reach their destination. A lack of motivating factors makes it hard to invest in the characters, regardless of our affection for the actors playing them.

Harry (Shah Rukh Khan) finances his itinerant womanizing as a tour guide in Europe, bouncing from city to city on the run from memories that ultimately aren’t traumatic enough to warrant their blue-filtered flashbacks.

Before Harry can leave the airport after waving farewell to his latest batch of tourists, one member of the group flags him down, in need of help. Sejal (Anushka Sharma) lost her engagement ring, and she won’t return to India until she finds it. She’s sure she lost it in Amsterdam. Or was it Prague?

The first red flag in Jab Harry Met Sejal is that, despite having spent the last month leading Sejal, her fiance, and their families across Europe, Harry has to ask her name. Did he not learn it during the previous thirty days they spent in each other’s proximity? Not even by accident?

It’s suspicious that Sejal appears to have made no impression whatsoever on Harry, in spite of her undeniable beauty and his reputation as a guy who notices beautiful women. There is an uncomfortable subplot about Sejal’s insecurity about her sex appeal and her specific desire for Harry to find her sexy — a desire that manifests early in their ring-hunting adventure, well before Sejal develops any attraction to Harry (who evidently made as little an impression on her during her family vacation as she did on him).

If the point of Sejal’s engagement-ring-wild-goose-chase isn’t for her to create an opportunity to act upon a preexisting attraction to Harry, then what the hell is she doing? She blackmails Harry into working for her, threatening to falsely report him for sexual misconduct if he doesn’t. Sejal is sort of trying to live it up before her marriage to a guy named Rupen, but we don’t know enough about Sejal, Rupen, or their relationship to understand what’s really driving her actions.

During the course of her journey with Harry, Sejal declares herself his temporary girlfriend, complete with spooning benefits — but only until she finds her ring, she warns, cautioning him not to fall for her. The fake molestation threat plus her (kind of) leading him on gives the whole story an icky Men’s Rights vibe, made worse by Sejal’s classist assumption that she can buy an infinite amount of Harry’s time for the right price.

The temporary girlfriend idea is too stupid a conceit for people of the characters’ ages and intelligence levels — Sejal is a lawyer, for Pete’s sake — to concoct on their own. Writer-director Imtiaz Ali doesn’t seem to care why the characters get together, just that they do. He trusts that the audience’s desire to see characters played by Khan and Sharma get together — as they did in the delightful Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi — will trump their desire for narrative authenticity.

Khan looks amazing, smouldering and magnetic as ever. Sharma is goofy and adorable, especially during an awkward dance scene in a night club. Their performances are darned good, even while playing characters who don’t feel like real people. Ali is a much more talented filmmaker than this. Relying on his actors to shoulder the weight of an entire movie without a solid story to support them isn’t fair.


11 thoughts on “Movie Review: Jab Harry Met Sejal (2017)

  1. JustMeMike

    We agree that overall , the film is less than the star appeal of its principals. Sharma and Khan are surely better than this.

    But here is where we differ. Are we really sure that Imtiaz Ali is as good a writer or director as we think or hope he is. He seems to be writing the same film over and over – boy meets girl and both are attractive, and there’s heaps of travel involved but the premise is always the same – the boy and the girl are always (at the start) of each film hopelessly mismatched.

    Jab We Met – the happy go lucky working girl (Kareena Kapoor Khan) meets the depressed scion (Shahid Kapoor) and he is approaching suicide.

    Love Aaj Kal – Deepika and Saif Ali Khan – she’s looking for Mr Right and he’s depressed

    Highway – Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda. She’s about to be married, he’s small time hoodlum. She accidentally stumbles into his robbery of a gas station and she ends up as a kidnapped victim.

    Tamasha – Deepika and Ranbir Kapooor two travelers meet in Corsica. Both are somewhat lost spiritually so they decide to have a faux romance while traveling, then go their separate ways

    And of course JHMS follows the pattern to a degree, and as you said – Imtiaz pays little or no attention to the details of what is a thin plot line to begin with – as he weaves a road film into a romance film with the not really lost engagement ring as the bauble that unifies-keeps them together,

    I enjoyed the film mostly but didn’t care for the multiple endings –
    a) She finds the ring and doesn’t tell him immediately then She leaves
    2) He crosses Europe to attend her wedding which has been called off

    At this point will we really be surprised that the film will end with their wedding AND him driving a tractor in some field in Punjab – which was of course telegraphed so very early in the film.

    I’d like to see Imtiaz say no to the next rom/ that is offered to him and take on a different genre. May be a spy thriller, or a drama.

    But on the plus side, I’d definitely look forward to seeing Anushka and SRK paired up again.

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