MOVIE REVIEW: Jab Harry Met Sejal – How To Fall In Love “Ghachar Ghochar” Style

Jab Harry Met Sejal (2017)
Directed By: Imtiaz Ali
Produced By: Gauri Khan
Written By: Imtiaz Ali
Starring: Shahrukh Khan, Anushka Sharma, Aru Krishansh Verma & Chandan Roy Sanyal
Music: Pritam, DJ Diplo
Lyricist: Irshad Kamil
Background Music: Hitesh Sonik
Production Company: Red Chillies Entertainment

Movie Review By: Sadia Chowdhury

[WARNING – This review contains spoilers]

Recently I read and fell in love with a book by Vivek Shanbhag, titled Ghachar Ghochar. A nonsensical term which can be used to describe some of the most momentous moments in one’s life. Coincidentally, that is exactly how I felt about Friday’s big release, Jab Harry Met Sejal.

In the history of cinema, there have been films like Doc Hollywood (1991), Nayika Sangbad (1967), Chori Chori (1956) or It Happened One Night (1934), where the purpose of everything seems pointless, other than the fact that it is a mere excuse for the boy and the girl to meet. Everything else simply goes above and beyond everyone’s heads. We know how it will start, where it will lead to and how it will end, yet we can’t help but watch everything unfold. This movie is one of those.

Jab Harry Met Sejal is the seventh project directed by Imtiaz Ali, a third-time collaboration between actor Shahrukh Khan and actress Anushka Sharma and a first-time collaboration between Imtiaz Ali, Shahrukh Khan and Anushka Sharma. Needless to say the latter makes our eyes shine bright like a diamond!

Jab Harry Met Sejal is the story of Harinder Singh Nehra aka Harry (Shahrukh Khan); a philandering tourist guide and his unwitting encounter with Sejal Zaveri (Anushka Sharma), a woman traveling in Amsterdam, who seems to have lost her engagement ring. She is insistent on Harry tagging along with her to find her ring. Harry tries his hardest to not get involved, while Sejal after trying everything else, reduces to threatening Harry by filing a complaint against him, should he not agree to help her.

Thus begins Harry & Sejal’s journey through the beautiful locations of Amsterdam, Prague, Lisbon, Budapest and Frankfurt, in search for the missing ring. Along the way, many Ghachar Ghochar events take place, which makes them both realise that “jo dhoondte hai, woh mil hi jaata hai” (What you seek, you find).

Director Imtiaz Ali has mentioned in many of his interviews that this movie is all about heart, and it truly breaks mine to see how the script fell short from turning this movie into an epic destination love story. Everything else worked fine for the film – the acting, Shahrukh Khan and his gorgeously mane, Anushka Sharma and her continuous streak of delivering refreshing performances with each film, Pritam’s music, Irshad Kamil’s lyrics, Shahrukh Khan, the hair and makeup, the wardrobe, the beautiful locations, the cinematography…. Shahrukh Khan.

But what was a let down is how the script just went Phurrr somewhere along the line and left Khan and Sharma to somehow take the movie over to the finish line, on their own. I almost wish the film was 90 minutes long, which could have possibly hidden its weaknesses.

Having said that, I am glad to see the script staying away from making the typical, mundane mistakes movies nowadays make. For example, the case of Sejal’s lost ring was introduced fairly early into the film and her introduction genuinely felt like a random circumstance. Or the scene where Sejal prepares to chill out with Harry after Mayank’s wedding, but a frustrated Harry questions her and her actions. It was refreshing to see the man having a breakdown for once, while the woman being lethargic about the situation.

Composer Pritam’s partnership with Imtiaz Ali goes a long way. His music always takes the story forward. While Pritam delivers yet another soulful soundtrack with Jab Harry Met Sejal, certain song placements in the movie seemed a little disorganised and unnecessary.

However, what lacked in the script was momentarily forgotten by some really beautiful scenes and dialogues delivered by Shahrukh Khan and Anushka Sharma. As you watch the movie you get the sense that there are only three characters in the story – Harry, Sejal and the locations. Everything else is just fleeting.

Khan and Sharma completely take the film on to their shoulders, smoothly playing off each other, fully understanding the timings and requirements and delivering something that stays with you even after the movie ends. Their chemistry is on a unique level and the fact that they are genuinely comfortable with each other comes across on screen and works to their advantage. 

Shahrukh Khan is slowly starting to move out of his comfort zone, becoming a little more extrovert and trying out new characters, is refreshing on its own accord. Even though he plays a romantic hero in the film, Khan’s Harry is not Raj or Rahul. Harry is a walking bag of carcinogens, unlike his previous famously romantic heroes. Despite portraying a drinking, shagging, lonely soul, Khan manages to make the audience empathise with Harry.

Harry drowns his sorrows in the bottle but once the alcohol and the morning after wear off, he looks almost ashamed of his loneliness and his actions. In stark contrast to the scene where Harry and Sejal almost giving in to one another’s feelings but Harry fumbles as if it is his first time and eventually backing away from anything happening between them, preventing both from waking up to a regretful morning after. Also, Harry’s “Rajpal Yadav”-esque muttering to himself is weirdly endearing.

All credit to Khan for making that complicated compilation come across really well. But what doesn’t seem significant is Harry’s backstory – he ran away to Canada from NurMahal, Punjab, with the aspiration of becoming a singer, instead, a couple of decades later he becomes a tour guide in Europe, who drinks and sleeps around?

Anushka Sharma is fun to watch on screen. She is a non-complicated, straight forward actress who is true and loyal to her characters and performances. What makes her even more exciting to watch is that she chooses to portray characters that are uncommon in the land of Indian cinema. Having said that, the character of Sejal feels like one of life’s biggest mysteries, for all the not so positive reasons – who is she? Where did she come from? Why does she behave the way she does? What is going through her head? Why is she so obsessed with wanting to be desired? Sharma’s Gujrati accent works as well as a French man lost in a foreign land.

True to the meaning of her name Sejal (river), the character sails and waves through the script and the storyline. But I expected the writers to create at least one or two tidal waves to throw the character off her axis. Alas, that never came. Or maybe it did in the scene when Harry and Sejal coaxed one another to see who would fall for the other first, or when Sejal found her ring or even the scene when Harry subtly asked her whether she would ever consider ditching her boyfriend and run off with him. But the lack of powerful dialogues, fleshed out characters and scenes made it feel like a 2inch rise in the water during the high tide.

Sejal may be a caricature of Imtiaz Ali’s previous protagonists, i.e. Jab We Met’s Geet and Tamasha’s Ved, but she reminded me more of Twin Peak’s Janey-E Jones. Despite Sejal’s limited to none backstory, and not much room for character growth, Anushka Sharma did manage to keep the audience engaged in her character and I for one, am really looking to all her future projects, one of which will see her working opposite Shahrukh Khan once again.

The rest of the characters in the film played their part well, especially Mayank, played by Aru Krishansh Verma. His timely entrance and exists created an easy pace for the film. For the life of me couldn’t figure out the purpose of Chandan Roy Sanyal‘s gangster character called GAS aka Ghyassuddin Mohammed Qureshi. Although he was funny, for a character who is supposed to be a Bangladeshi illegal immigrant, why he spoke like a Bengali from West Bengal, India, is beyond my understanding.

A special mention should go to the costume designers, Ildikó Andó and Aki Narula for realistically dressing the actors and not make them look like they just walked the ramp for Alexander Mcqueen’s new Spring/Summer collection. Another special mention goes to composer Hitesh Sonik for those hauntingly beautiful background scores and themes for Harry and Sejal. It helped to create the mood and emotions the scenes required.

Despite all its flaws, Jab Harry Met Sejal is a fun romantic movie, with it’s own range of intensity brought on by Shahrukh Khan and Anushka Sharma and refreshingly staying away from being overly mushy or melodramatic.

I just wish the script provided the necessary support which would have propelled the characters and actors to a new trend.  But you know what they say, “bas-ki dushvār hai har kaam āsāñ honā, aadmī ko bhī mayassar nahīñ insāñ honā” (‘Tis difficult that every goal should be easily achieved. For a man, too, to be human, is not easy to achieve).


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