Jab Harry Met Sejal movie review: Shah Rukh Khan-Anushka Sharma are too hot for this pakau disaster
Jab Harry Met Sejal is not When Harry Met Sally. With its bow to one of the greatest Hollywood romances ever made, the title of Imtiaz Ali’s new release seemed to suggest that his film would be not a mere romance but a conversation on the very meaning of love, attraction and the whole shebang that goes with it.
Maybe instead Ali should have opted for the name Much Ado About Harry and Sejal. Because, with due apologies to Bill Shakespeare, barring the chemistry between the lead stars, this is precisely what the film amounts to: nothing. The “nothing” about which “much ado” was made in one of Shakespeare’s most famous works.
Shah Rukh Khan here plays Harry a.k.a. Harindar Singh Nehra, a Punjab-born, Canadian passport-holding tour guide in Europe who is forced to accompany Sejal Zhaveri (Anushka Sharma) on a trans-continental search for her lost engagement ring. Harry had been assigned to her group — consisting of her family and friends — as they travelled across Europe for a month, when her boyfriend Rupen proposed marriage to her, and slipped that ring on her finger. She promptly misplaced it. Rupen sees her carelessness as an indicator of her lack of commitment, so she decides to stay back, find it in the haystack that is Europe and prove to him how much she loves him.
Obviously, this gives Ali the opportunity to combine his two favourite cinematic genres, the road movie and the romance. The locations (Amsterdam, Prague, Budapest, Lisbon and Frankfurt) are picturesque, of course, and cinematographer KU Mohanan delivers on the visuals. The same cannot be said of Ali’s writing of his characters’ motivations.
Jab Harry Met Sejal is a lost cause from the word go. Sejal’s reasons for staying on in Europe, her pile-on behaviour, Harry’s back story, her carelessness as she wanders lonely streets and darkened nightclubs in alien lands — none of it is credible and frankly, neither Sharma nor Khan appears convinced of why Sejal and Harry do what they do.
Sejal keeps insisting she is devoted to Rupen yet also keeps pushing Harry to admit that she is f**kable (the euphemism she uses is “laayak”, the Hindi word for “worthy”, I kid you not). The pressing question that should have kept a film like this going is: do they get together in the end? The truth though is, that within about 30 minutes of Harry-Sejal’s running time, I did not give a damn.
It is hard to believe that the man who made such thinking entertainers as Jab We Met and Tamasha has created this boring film. Worse, through Sejal’s teasing ways, her stupidity and a troubling conversation she has with Harry’s ex-girlfriend Clara in Frankfurt, Ali seems to be quietly making a rather disturbing point about the meaning of consent in sexual relations, women who — as the prejudice goes — ‘ask for it’, women who cry rape after ‘asking for it’ and so on.
Perhaps this should not come as a surprise considering that, although some of his heroines have been strong women, the writer-director did, after all, come up with a very problematic man-woman relationship in Rockstar, and has casually featured rape jokes in both Rockstar and Jab We Met.
As Harry and Sejal wade through philosophical bullshit about finding oneself, finding the one you are meant to be with and so on, Jab Harry Met Sejal gets more exasperating with each passing minute. There is a fantastic Indian word for pretentious art of this kind: pakau.
I honestly wanted the film to end when just 45 minutes had passed…
…But it did not.
…It lasted for 99 minutes thereafter.
…Yes it did.
In the midst of all this pointlessness, SRK and Sharma’s torrid chemistry is the only thing that kept me from falling off to sleep in the second half of Harry-Sejal. Although she is young enough to be his daughter (seriously SRK, why are you doing this?), in a scenario where male stars tend to want to act with women half their age, I would rather see these two together than Khan with any of the other 20- or 30-somethings in the industry.
He is getting hotter with age, she has infectious verve and the charisma to match him pop for pop, crackle for crackle, spark for spark. Harry-Sejal’s premise is beyond jaded, but the Sharma-Khan on-screen equation is so sizzling, that I cannot remember the last time I wanted to see a couple have sex in a film as much as I wanted to see this pair get down and dirty.
So do they? Well, if you are willing to subject yourself to Ali’s mind-numbing take on the definition of a soulmate (no doubt that is what Harry-Sejal fancies itself to be), then you will find the answer for yourself.
The only other positives I can think of in Jab Harry Met Sejal are Hitesh Sonik’s pretty background score and the pizzazz in Pritam’s songs, especially 'Main banoo teri Radha'. After a while though, even that is not enough and in fact, it feels like there are just too many numbers packed into the film.
Jab Harry Met Sejal is occasionally funny, but not half as funny or cute or ruminative as it clearly thinks it is. Hats off to Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma for managing to raise the Centigrades in this otherwise pakau disaster.