Imtiaz Ali

Cinephile Stock: Jab Harry Met Sejal


Written and Directed by Imtiaz Ali
Produced by Gauri Khan
Starring Anushka Sharma & Shah Rukh Khan
Aru K. Verma & Chandan Roy Sanyal
Photographed by K.U. Mohanan, ISC
Edited by Aarti Bajaj
Music by Pritam
Background Score by Hitesh Sonik

Imtiaz Ali’s last film was my favourite film of the year it released in. Highly underrated and not-properly-understood by audiences and critics, Tamasha was an incredible film, set as it was in the Imtiaz Ali Universe.

Jab Harry Met Sejal is in the same space….well, almost. Locations change more frequently as Ali takes the audience on a tour of Europe. And how does he improve upon the sights of Europe? He hires Shah Rukh Khan as the tour guide and Anushka Sharma as a traveller looking for her lost engagement ring.

Harry is a Kanidda da Punjabi (technically….his passport is Canadian) who is suppressing memories of his pind and getting into bed with women, mostly travellers on his tours. He is, in his own words, cheap. Sejal is one of the travellers who has lost her engagement ring somewhere on the tour and wants to find it. She drags Harry along, mainly because her family trusts the guy (no background checks there) and his boss, on the verge of firing him, consents. Thus begins the journey which takes the duo to a number of places, where they meet a number of ‘characters’.

Aarti Bajaj does some swift work with the scissors, enabling the film to keep moving in places where it could’ve stagnated. Picturesque locations are aided by K.U. Mohanan’s elegant cinematography. It’s better than his work in Raees, which was drenched in bright colours. Here, the colours are more subdued and the pictures look more lifelike.

Pritam is unable to match up to Rahman. The music is better than it was in the last two films he composed for, but I have to admit that I am getting tired of Arijit Singh. He’s not the sole singer in the film industry, is he? There are some trendy, upbeat numbers like Radha (Sunidhi Chauhan and Shahid Mallya’s vocals are fantastic) and Beech Beech Mein, and there are also the more soulful, more Imtiaz Ali numbers like Safar and Hawaayein. Hitesh Sonik’s background score is not too evident in the film but is soaring when it turns up.

The film has only two supporting characters (Thanks, Imtiaz, for not crowding it with too many to handle). Aru K. Verma as Harry’s fellow guide Mayank does a pretty good job. Chandan Roy Sanyal as the illegal immigrant/criminal Gas is riotous, adding to the troubles of the guide-traveller duo.

Anushka Sharma is fantastic as Sejal. She nails the Gujarati accent and mannerisms. Her comic timing is incredible and she is pretty good in the more dramatic portions too. The sense of individuality her character has is greater than what Deepika had in Tamasha. She isn’t reduced to a supporting character, which would’ve been terrible for the film. She owns her moments in the film with ease.

Shah Rukh Khan is on a roll. Fan, Dear Zindagi, Raees and now this. I officially forgive him for Happy New Year and Dilwale and sincerely hope he doesn’t slip back into that kind of movies again. This is Shah Rukh as a character not a lot of people are used to. He sheds the ‘lover boy’ tag and becomes cheap, crass and womanising, very anti-Rahul/Raj. He is a tad bit over the top in a couple of scenes but does well for the rest of the film. The Punjabi accent feels authentic and adds a lovely touch to the character. Add to that the brooding expressions, the charming smile, the dimples and the intense dialogues, and you have the entire package of Shah Rukh Khan the actor (Yes, I’m a fanboy.)

The lion’s share of the pie is, without a doubt, Imtiaz Ali’s. After having made three rather serious films, he writes a fun, frothy story. He doesn’t relegate one character to the sidelines, even though the story is more about Harry than Sejal. His dialogues are incredible, laugh-out-loud hilarious at times and worth pondering over on a few occasions. The humour works because it isn’t crass or vulgar. It’s naturally funny. As usual, Imtiaz has an underlying theme. How we may attempt to hide our real selves (different from Tamasha because Ved didn’t know who he was.) in order to create a perception people will have of us. Imtiaz even showcases a bit of class divide, of how we may treat someone we believe to be inferior to us. There is also the offering that one shouldn’t bottle up what one is feeling. If you don’t tell another person what you’re thinking/feeling, you’ll never know their point of view. Imtiaz scores on the direction too, simply by keeping the film short (140 minutes approx.) and tonally light. He could’ve made it darker despite the story but he doesn’t. The sole quibble I have is that Imtiaz stays within his comfort zone of self-discovery. Another film like this and people may actually not want to see someone find themselves again.

Jab Harry Met Sejal is a fun movie, one that can be watched with anybody (I watched it with around 500 people, none of whom I knew). It is worth a watch, just so one can have a hearty laugh after a rather serious month in terms of films. The premise is unique and it’s a pretty good ride.

Verdict: E (Entertaining and Enjoyable)

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Up next on CINEPHILE STOCK: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s Bareilly Ki Barfi on August 18. BUT! A different segment is out on Independence Day, so drop in to check that out! Cheers!

Varun Oak-Bhakay



Tamasha: A Spectacular Spectacle

   This was one movie I was very very keen on watching, which is something that cannot be said often for Hindi films. Imtiaz Ali is a rather talented man. He is a good director-writer (Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal, Rockstar, Highway) and was a revelation as an actor in Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday as Yakub Memon. Ranbir Kapoor has not had the best year, given that both Roy and Bombay Velvet failed. But he was awesome as Johnny Balraj. It takes guts to agree to a role like that and had the film released before Roy, it would’ve garnered a lot more credit for its protagonist. He has been amazing in so many films: Wake Up Sid, Rocket Singh, Rockstar, Barfi, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. Why wouldn’t you wait for a film of his? Deepika Padukone is fabulous. She was brilliant in Piku. And she has been great in Cocktail, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani too. And their chemistry is crackling (a little too crackling for the CBFC).

So, let’s get to the point. Tamasha is a simple enough story if you have a loaf (Not of bread, you fool!). Two people meet in Corsica, France by chance. They mutually agree to lie about themselves to each other, hence sparing themselves the needless act of behaving properly in a foreign land. Four years later, they meet again. This time, they choose to actually introduce themselves. It leads to what, atleast for me, was a rather enjoyable experience. Ved/Don (Ranbir Kapoor) loves to hear and tell stories and one thing he grasps from all of it is in this one line that he utters: Wahi kahaani phir ek baar, Majnu ne liye kapde phaad, Paar tamaasha beech baazaar!

1. DIRECTION: Imtiaz Ali always has a fresh take on a story that we all seem to think is the same. That is the man’s way of telling you that each story is the same, only the treatment and interpretation of it is different. He directs with some amazing flair and transforms into a complete storyteller even with this one. He is, undoubtedly, one of the finest directors in Bollywood.

2. MUSIC: Irshad Kamil has written thought-provoking songs which enhance the plot of the film since they too have a story to tell. Music to the words by AR Rahman is pleasant to listen. Matargashti, Safarnama, Chali Kahani and Tum Saath Ho are my personal favourites from a thoroughly enjoyable album.

3. STORY: The story of Tamasha is highly unusual. It isn’t something that you hear or think of at any point of time. But finally, Imtiaz Ali returned to the happy ending of the story. While I personally didn’t feel bad for Janardhan/Jordan after Heer’s passing in Rockstar, Highway was different. The journey of it added to how bad one felt for Veera after Mahabir dies. A refreshing story with a twist of events that one expected but was still eager to watch.

4. SCREENPLAY: The screenplay is not too long, nor is it too short. While the exploration of places isn’t quite possible, it is interesting to watch things unfold in Corsica.

5. CINEMATOGRAPHY: Ravi Varman has done a brilliant job with the camera. The colours give a really nice feel to it. Matargashti was really well shot. The landscape of Corsica was captured in a magnificent manner, as was Simla.

6. EDITING: Aarti Bajaj has edited some really interesting films: Paanch, Black Friday, Paan Singh Tomar. Her editing ensures that the film doesn’t get too dull and moves briskly enough to keep the audience engaged.

7. DIALOGUE: The dialogues are very well written and are completely in sync with the moods within the film. Utterly hilarious in many sequences and rude in the ones that have words bleeped out (Sanskaari CBFC).

8. PERFORMANCES: Yash Sehgal as the younger Ved is really good. And his performance is boosted by the fact that he looks like Ranbir Kapoor. Piyush Mishra as the old storyteller makes the character come to life. Javed Sheikh provides praise-worthy support as Ved’s father. Deepika Padukone continues her rollicking run of performances with Tara/Mona Darling. She is especially good in the scene with the restaurant manager in Corsica. She makes you enjoy and love her character. Ranbir Kapoor delivers after his class act in Bombay Velvet. He has two shades in the film: the story-teller and the employee. In the former, he puts up a display of the fun and imaginative side of his character. In the latter, he manages to make the audience laugh at his sucking-up. He brings about a certain madness and rage to the character whenever the script needs it. All in all, one of his most powerful performances.

If you’re interested in a different story, try Tamasha. And also if you don’t mind non-linear screenplay and songs which play mostly in the background but add a fascinating touch to the cinematography and story.

My rating for Tamasha-8.5/10