There is so much sentiment attached to Jab Tak Hai Jaan, it is almost sacrilege to suggest that the film that would be Yash Chopra's last is anything but perfect. But Jab Tak Hai Jaan is one mere episode and the closing, poignant chapter in the illustrious career of a man with an unbridled passion for life, love and cinema, whose actual legacy was his unfaltering belief in a love eternal, and this is what Jab Tak Hai Jaan represents.
Samar Anand (Shah Rukh Khan) is an odd-jobbing immigrant in London, muddling along with his comic English, but with an unquashable spirit and a song in his heart. While busking, he meets Meera (Katrina Kaif), a Daddy's girl still nursing childhood wounds and with a habit of bargaining with God. The promise of English lessons in exchange for singing lessons results in the two falling rapidly in love. But when Samar has a car accident, the superstitious Meera makes a deal with God, praying for his life, in return for which she would make the ultimate sacrifice of her love, leaving him forever.
He, in his defiance, determines that the strength of his love is greater than her fear of losing him, and challenging her Gods, he sets off to Kashmir to become a bomb disposal expert, courting death fearlessly at every turn. Akira (Anushka Sharma) is an intern at the Discovery Channel, who stumbles upon his love story and decides to film a piece about The Man Who Cannot Die. Misfortune follows when Samar makes an unexpected return to London at Akira's behest and the lives of the three become intertwined.
The film also heralds the reinvention of the Yash Chopra heroine in the form of Anushka Sharma: a vivacious, modern woman with a spirit of adventure and no time for the wistful longings of those who love. Chopra brings his traditional audience kicking and screaming into modern times, where sex precedes love, and a young girl unashamedly broadcasts her ambition to sleep with a man of every world accent.
It is almost a contest between the old order and the new, as Kaif, even with her liking of cigarettes and seductive gyrations, is at heart the traditional heroine, who would willingly wither away, sacrificing love for family and God. The fun-loving Sharma wins out on celluloid, if not in the story, with a vibrant and refreshing performance. Kaif, while necessarily winsome, fragile and irritatingly self-sacrificing, lacks the punch and guts that render Sharma that much more interesting. Yet, in keeping with the conventions of a traditional society, it's no surprise who gets the guy in the end.
Khan shelves his no kissing rule, making up for lost time with a series of intimate trysts with Kaif, bringing Yash Raj in line with the uninhibited, boldness of modern youth, though it's still slightly jarring for a traditionally prudish audience.
There are beautiful shots of Ladakh, the seductive Ishq Shava dance-off between Kaif and Khan is captivating, the dialogue engages - though is on occasion forced - and though Kaif's contribution is rendered lacklustre by dint of Meera's absence of backbone, Khan and Sharma proffer substantive performances. The story is just too episodic, built on a tenuous premise hinged on Meera's, quite frankly, dumb-arse deals with God and an unlikely happening, when the man who daily evades death in a former militarised zone, is struck down twice in a motor vehicle accident, five minutes after arriving in London.
Technical details aside, the film is invested with a healthy dose of Shah Rukh, the very heart and 'saans' of Yash Chopra and the message which he lived and breathed through his films: that love is eternal.
The spirit of Yash Chopra lives on in Jab Tak Hain Jaan, a poignant ode to love.