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Jab Harry Met Sejal cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Anushka Sharma, Chandan Roy Sanyal
Jab Harry Met Sejal director: Imtiaz Ali
Jab Harry Met Sejal star rating: 1.5 stars
The title is smile-inducing. We know instantly that the aim of Harry meeting Sejal is to kick-start a romance between two unlikely individuals which is meant to grow gradually, skirting a curve here, ducking a bouncer there, till it locks in, into a glorious forever after.
Imtiaz Ali’s latest come-fall-in-love-on-the-road journey, starring Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma, touches those high points only very intermittently, making it a sadly missed opportunity: given Ali’s propensity to create mood and perky dialogue, and the fact that SRK and Sharma have worked well together in their previous pairings, this should rightly have been a knock-your-socks-off rom com.
But this, in one word, is a dud.
Harry (SRK) aka Harvinder is a travel guide in Europe. Sejal (Sharma) is in search of a lost ring. And when they meet, nothing happens very slowly. Good Gujju girl Sejal is loud and clear about her rights, and lets Harry, the dissolute, raffish rolling stone, know what’s what in no uncertain terms. But there really is nothing going on between them: it’s just a lot of yakkity-yak minus frisson.
What we do get is a trip through beautiful European spots, with Harry and Sejal trying to find what they are looking for. The ring is, of course, just a metaphor. Both are, of course, searching for the other.
What you need in such films with their flimsy one-line plots, is the magic and mystery of love blossoming between two people. And full-blown wonder. All in short supply in Jab Harry Met Sejal, which comes off as a same-old mix of Ali’s older films, in its flashes of Jab We Met, Tamasha and Love Aaj Kal.
Which leaves us searching too. For moments which show some spark between the two leads. ‘Sweet si’, ‘sister-type’ Sejal and the ‘chalu, chalta-hua, cheap’ Harry are much too fraternal with each other. We do see that fire, but all too briefly. And is this really how Gujju ‘bens’ talk? All ‘ne’ and ‘che’? Sharma is a game trier but rendered ineffective, and SRK fails his famed charm offensive, for the very first time: the director has a lot to answer for.
The songs come and go, and except perhaps for a couple, they don’t really register, which is a let-down too, because Ali has given us some absolutely fabulous songs which work by way of telling us more: about the story, about the people singing those songs, about their motivations. There’s also a wholly superfluous diversion involving a ‘desi’ goon (Sanyal) whose only purpose seems to add length to the film. What is he doing here?
Finally, it comes down to counting the momentary pleasures of this disappointing film: a bit of the sparring between Harry and Sejal, the breathless awareness that the other exists, and the realization that without the other, it’s simply not worth it.
At this point in his career, Shah Rukh Khan is ripe for a great, old-fashioned but modern-day romance. This one is not it.