Jab Harry Met Sejal

The expectations were high. The movie disappointed. Critics and audiences didn’t accept the movie.

What happened? A lot apparently.

So, here’s the problem with Jab Harry Met Sejal. (On a side note, it’s extremely difficult to get out of my mind When Harry Met Sally, and I am thinking When Harry Met Sejal! So zero points for originality there!)

One, it’s directed by Imtiaz Ali.

He is, in my opinion, a director who made two extremely brilliant movies with multi-dimensional characters: Highway (the compelling Alia Bhatt) and Tamasha (the talented duo of Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone). Imtiaz Ali also directed Rockstar and Jab We Met, another two rather awesome movies. So when one has that knowledge, one expects his next movie to top his previous ones. One expects his movie to have an interesting storyline, with characters that we care for. That this movie isn’t, thereby leading to massive disappointment. It’s only fair for the audience to expect something unique and fresh, and waited with abated excitement on what journey Imtiaz Ali will take everyone with him this time.

Two, the characters are not multi-layered.

Shah Rukh Khan is playing Harinder Singh aka Harry, a Punjabi tour guide with a Canadian passport. Anushka Sharman is playing Sejal, a Gujrati woman who stays back in Europe to look for her lost engagement ring.  Both these characters don’t have an interesting backstory nor do they have any depth. At times, there were moments when I thought, ok, wow, Harry has some sort of history with his country (was he ousted? Why did he leave? Is he suffering from a trauma?) But none of that happens. Instead, it just becomes a rather simple and mediocre story of a man longing to go back to his country.

If we compare it to Highway, we get to understand why Ali Bhatt develops an attraction to her kidnapper and craves for freedom. We also understand why her kidnapper (Randeep Hooda) is void of any emotions and feelings. Their backstories were deep and profound. In the same manner, in Tamasha, Ranbir Kapoor’s predicament is understood in the second half, which explains the whole putting on a pretend drama in Corsica. We also understand why Deepika Padukone is so keen to see Ranbir find his true self and heal in the process.

The journeys of these characters were intriguing and allowed us as an audience to experience their transformation ultimately leading them to redemption and freedom. It was all about these characters unmasking themselves. Layers were being peeled off to reveal their real identities and human nature.However, with Harry and Sejal, we don’t connect. Perhaps it has to do with their attitudes or their accent. I for one, couldn’t connect with Sejal and her Gujrato accent. I can understand that perhaps Imtiaz Ali intended for a “

However, with Harry and Sejal, we don’t connect. Perhaps it has to do with their attitudes or their accent. I for one, couldn’t connect with Sejal and her Gujrato accent. I can understand that perhaps Imtiaz Ali intended for a “zara-hatke” character, but it didn’t connect. Which is sad because then we really don’t care about her predicament (trying to find her lost engagement ring by retracing her steps all over Europe!). It’s the same case with Harry. We see glimpses of his recollections of his time in India, but we don’t really know what happened, except that he has vague memories.

Three, Europe disappoints!

Precisely Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Budapest, Prague, and Lisbon are shown as a seedy place where Bangladeshi illegal rob female pole dancers, all evening entertainment revolves around clubbing, and apparently, one such criminal in Lisbon is a Muslim who turns out to be a mouse than the lion he’s made out to be. Imtiaz Ali got it all wrong. Where are the charming little cafes, and parks, and museums and culture? These moments require the audience to turn off their brains and not even think to themselves: but that’s not really how Europe is. I wish Imtiaz Ali had seen other movies such as Before Sunset/ Before Sunrise, or for that matter Queen, where Europe is not shown through stereotyped eyes of someone from the Subcontinent. In fact, after a while, there were no distinguishing landmarks between all the European cities. What set Budapest apart from Prague? Not much really!

Four, the tone of the movie was confused.

Is it trying to be a comedy, either rom-com or black? Is it trying to be an emotional, human drama? Is it trying to be satirical, especially the Lisbon part where they encounter the criminal? The inconsistency of the tone of the movie confused us all too.

Having said that, I, however, found some moments in the movie that I felt were powerful. In particular the scene in Lisbon where Harry and Sejal are sitting at a café listening to a singer. No dialogues are spoken, but both convey to each other their newfound love for each other. It’s a scene reminiscent of Ranbir and Deepika in Tamasha during the song Tum Saath Ho. There are a few other such moments that reveal the chemistry between the two lead actors, and in these moments, I would feel like there is some potential and the movie will turn around soon. Sadly, that doesn’t happen.

Imtiaz Ali has gone on record to say the following:

“I am sure that a lot of people do not think that Harry Met Sejal is an intellectual masterpiece, but I did not intend it to be one. Some said you really need to be intelligent to understand an Imtiaz Ali film. For me, that was a blow. I feel that I have never been part of any intelligent club. I wanted to make a very simple film with all my heart.”

Seems like Imtiaz Ali will learn from this debacle and go back to what he does best.

Technically, it’s a great movie. The music was not memorable- perhaps Radha is the only one that will stick in your mind. The secondary actors were utterly forgettable. By the time you reach home from the cinema, you will probably forget most of the movie.

Watch it once, but watch it with very low expectation, and expect none of the previous masterful story telling Imtiaz Ali brought to us. If you are a die-hard Shahrukh Khan Fan, you won’t be disappointed, since he’s in every frame. Anushka Sharma does a good job but difficult to connect to. Overall, an all right one time watch that will disappoint more than please. Or better yet, go back to watching Tamasha or Highway, or even better yet, When Harry Met Sally!

2.5 out of 5

 

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