×

Jab tak hai jaan

Even by the freewheeling, mood-swinging standards of Bollywood, the pronounced disparity between the pre- and post-intermission halves of "Jab tak hai jaan" is more than a tad jarring.

With:
With: Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma, Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Singh, Anupam Kher. (Hindi, English dialogue)

Even by the freewheeling, mood-swinging standards of Bollywood, the pronounced disparity between the pre- and post-intermission halves of “Jab tak hai jaan” is more than a tad jarring. Indeed, viewers may feel they’ve been treated to an oddly matched double bill — a delightfully vivacious romantic dramedy, followed by an Old Hollywood sort of psychological melodrama — by the time the closing credits roll. And yet, almost miraculously, the disparate elements add up to an improbably entertaining hybrid, one that, judging from opening weekend grosses in India and North America, ticketbuyers will have no difficulty accepting.

To be sure, some of the pic’s early B.O. success (on the subcontinent, at least) may be attributable to its cachet as the final completed work of Bollywood icon Yash Chopra, the prolific producer-director who died Oct. 21 at age 80. (Photos and footage of the late filmmaker are respectfully displayed during the opening and closing credits.) But even auds unfamiliar with Chopra’s career — indeed, even viewers uninitiated with the intoxicating excesses of Bollywood cinema — likely will find much to enjoy in this spirited masala of music and emotions.

Opening scenes strike a mildly portentous note while introducing Indian army officer Samar Anand (Shah Rukh Khan) as a coolly proficient bomb defuser in Ladakh whose utter lack of regard for personal safety might seem excessive even to the adrenaline-junkie protagonist of “The Hurt Locker.” Samar has earned the title “the Man Who Cannot Die” after a long string of successful missions. Right from the start, however, it’s clear he’s at least partly motivated by a death wish.

The mood brightens appreciably when Samar meets cute with Akira (Anushka Sharma), a spunky Discovery Channel intern and would-be documentarian who fortuitously takes a swim near a beach where Samar is enjoying some R&R. He rescues her from drowning, but doesn’t stick around long for thanks.

Before zipping off on his motorcycle, however, Samar chivalrously leaves the dripping damsel his jacket. And wouldn’t you know it, Akira just happens to find his diary in a jacket pocket, and spends the next hour or so reading about Samar’s carefree days as a waiter and street musician a decade earlier in London.

That’s where we see him enthusiastically wooing Meera (Katrina Kaif), a wealthy but reticent beauty who loosens up quite a bit after they engage in a “Step Up”-style dance-off, one of several full-tilt production numbers set to the pulsating music of Bollywood mainstay A. R. Rahman.

Scriptwriters Aditya Chopra (the director’s son) and Devika Bhagat borrow a page from Graham Greene’s “The End of the Affair” to delay the couple’s happily-ever-aftering. Post-intermission, there’s some residual playfulness in the plotline as Akira, now hopelessly smitten with Samar, contrives to document his bomb-defusing exploits for the Discovery Channel. She manages to overcome his gruff emotional reserve, leading to a sweetly loony scene that has them dangling from a bridge and swapping jokes while he figures out which IED wire to cut. But when Samar visits London to confirm details in Akira’s doc, “Jab tak hai jaan” takes an abrupt turn into very serious, even soap-operatic territory.

Thanks in large measure to the appealing sincerity of the three lead performances, the film remains rooted in some semblance of emotional truth even as its multiple contrivances and vertiginous tonal shifts veer perilously close to absurdity. Khan is particularly impressive in the way he maintains his equilibrium during the story’s vacillations between exuberance and intensity, and he’s persuasive whether his character is dicing with death or dancing with joy.

Helmer Chopra is just as sure-handed, hitting the sweet spot between seemingly unrestrained buoyancy and rigorous formal control. He’s aided immeasurably by the contributions of editor Namrata Rao, lenser Anil Mehta and, especially, choreographer Vaibhavi Merchant.

Kaif is most effective during the pic’s second half, in scenes that emphasize Meera’s deeply felt fear that she may drift from God if she follows her heart. Sharma is borderline exhausting in her sprightliness, but more often than not, and especially when she swirls and shimmies while singing an uninhibited ode to “falling in love with myself,” she, like the pic itself, is well-nigh impossible to resist.

The title translates as “As Long as I Live.”

Jab tak hai jaan

India

Production: A Yash Raj Films production. Produced by Aditya Chopra. Executive producer, Aashish Singh. Directed by Yash Chopra. Screenplay, Aditya Chopra, Devika Bhagat.

Crew: Camera (color), Anil Mehta; editor, Namrata Rao; music, A. R. Rahman; production designer, Sharmishta Roy; costume designer, Manish Malhotra, Shiraz Siddique, Urvashi Shah; choreographer, Vaibhavi Merchant; sound (Dolby Digital), Dileep Subramaniam; casting, Shanoo Sharma. Reviewed at AMC Studio 30, Houston, Nov. 18, 2012. Running time: 176 MIN. (I: 87 MIN., II: 89 MIN.)

With: With: Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma, Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Singh, Anupam Kher. (Hindi, English dialogue)Shah Rukh Khan and Katrina Kaif in "Jab Tak Hai Jaan."

More Film

  • The Lion King

    'The Lion King' Looks to Roar Life Into Domestic Box Office

    Hollywood just can’t wait for “The Lion King” to hit theaters. That’s because Disney’s highly anticipated remake is expected to draw herds of moviegoers at a time when ticket sales are seriously struggling. Box office watchers predict that the studio’s grand return to the Pride Lands could become one of this year’s biggest hits. “The [...]

  • Sarah Wright Takes Charge of Sky

    Sarah Wright Takes Charge of Sky Cinema After Management Shuffle

    Sarah Wright, Sky’s top acquisitions exec, will take on responsibility for Sky Cinema after a management shuffle at the pay-TV giant. Wright fills a role vacated by Ian Lewis, who recently left Sky after 20 years. He was one of several Sky staffers to leave after its takeover by Comcast. As director of Sky Cinema [...]

  • Jodi Long Running for SAG-AFTRA Secretary-Treasurer

    Jodi Long Running for SAG-AFTRA Secretary-Treasurer on Matthew Modine Slate

    Veteran actress and union activist Jodi Long is running for secretary-treasurer of SAG-AFTRA as a member of Matthew Modine’s progressive Membership First slate. She is facing Camryn Manheim, who announced her candidacy on July 9 as part of the Unite for Strength slate for the re-election of union president Gabrielle Carteris. Unite for Strength and United [...]

  • Toni Monty

    Durban FilmMart Head Toni Monty: ‘Africa Has Its Own Story to Tell’

    The Durban Film Festival’s industry program, the Durban FilmMart, celebrates its 10th anniversary as the leading confab for filmmakers from across the continent, with a lively program of panel discussions, seminars and workshops unspooling from July 19-22 in this sunny seaside city. In addition, 10 fiction and 10 documentary works-in-progress have been selected for the DFM’s [...]

  • Maternal-Hogar-Sister-Paola-and-Nina-sleeping

    Locarno: Charades Acquires Competition Contender ‘Maternal’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Having seen large success with Cannes Critics’ Week and Annecy Cristal winner “I Lost My Body,” Paris-based Charades has confirmed its acquisition of international sales rights to “Maternal” (“Hogar”), written and directed by Italy’s Maura Delpero. The awaited fiction feature debut of Delpero, a documentary filmmaker whose won a Donatello Award nomination for dock-feature “Nadja [...]

  • BAFTA Backs BIFA’s Unconscious-Bias Training for

    BIFA’s Unconscious-Bias Training Rolls Out to BAFTA Voters, Wider Industry (EXCLUSIVE)

    The British Independent Film Awards is opening up its unconscious-bias training to BAFTA voters and, more widely, to anyone who judges the work of others in the film and TV business in the U.K. With the makeup of award-nominee and -winner lists under close scrutiny, BIFA introduced its unconscious-bias training last year. Its voters, jurors, [...]

  • Instinct

    Carice van Houten's 'Instinct' Picked Up By Films Boutique (EXCLUSIVE)

    Berlin-based international sales agent Films Boutique has picked up psychological thriller “Instinct,” starring Carice van Houten, who received an Emmy nomination Tuesday for “Game of Thrones,” and Marwan Kenzari, recently seen in Guy Ritchie’s “Aladdin.” “Instinct” has its world premiere on the Piazza Grande at the Locarno Film Festival next month. “Instinct,” the directorial debut [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content