Jab Tak Hai Jaan is a lush Bollywood saga
Starring Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, and Anushka Sharma. In Hindi with English subtitles. Rated PG.
It’s fitting that Yash Chopra’s last film would be so true to the formula that defined his tenure in Bollywood. Here is another lush saga about the invincibility of a love that crosses cultural divisions, national borders, class boundaries, and even time.
Samar Anand (Shah Rukh Khan) is a bomb-defusal expert with the Indian army. He is stationed in Kashmir, where he is known as the “man who cannot die”. Samar crosses paths with Akira (Anushka Sharma), who has her own reputation for fearlessness. She happens upon his diary, which provides us with the narrative move to return to his past in London, a decade earlier.
In that life, Samar was a new immigrant who worked odd jobs, including busking South Asian songs for mostly white passersby. (In the film’s world, you can make quite a living doing this.) He meets Meera (Katrina Kaif), a wealthy desi girl whose primary life skill is making deals with God to get what she wants.
After an extended dance sequence at a subterranean London rave, they fall in love. Meera, however, defies her own heart when she bargains with God after Samar is injured. Will their love endure her pact with the Divine? Or will the young Akira rouse his bitter heart?
The insistence that love never wavers is the key romantic trope that characterizes the narrative language of Bollywood films. Chopra was crucial in establishing that standard. Despite the opulence of the sets, the conspicuous consumption, the indifference to material reality or geopolitics, and the spontaneous eruptions of choreographed dance numbers, these films are really about the idea that once you love someone, you never stop.
So, yeah, it’s a fairy tale. And this one is as little and as much as it claims to be.
Watch the trailer for Jab Tak Hai Jaan.