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Jab We Met

Reviewed By Abhishek Bandekar
Posted 10/30/07 18:14:57

"Reel love, Real chemistry"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

I should’ve guessed it earlier but it’s taken me three films to realize that Imtiaz Ali and Cameron Crowe are kindred spirits. Crowe is known for carving characters who speak unconventionally natural lines in otherwise clichéd situations. He makes you feel for his characters in a way that reaffirms your faith in the romantic genre, as you watch his characters mouth those beautifully unique and original lines. Remember, “You had me at hello!” from Jerry Maguire? Imtiaz Ali gave us the refreshingly fresh take on puppy love in Socha Na Tha and followed it up with the heartbreaking earnestness of Ahista Ahista(which he only wrote, not direct). Ali managed to make us care for the leads in both films, an impossible task in the beaten-to-death romantic genre. And like Crowe, he did this by simply letting his characters breathe, speak and act naturally. In Jab(When) We Met, Ali’s sophomore directorial effort, he gives his characters the same personal space to be themselves. And boy, does it work!

The parallel with Crowe is enabled by Ali himself in the very first reel of Jab We Met as we meet Shahid Kapur’s Aditya contemplating suicide having undergone crises in his personal, financial and romantic life. He is rescued, more like chased into submission, by the loud, bubbly and chatty Geet(Kareena Kapoor). These developments at once bring to mind Crowe’s underrated Elizabethtown where a similarly suicidal Orlando Bloom finds and connects with his true self with a little help from a chatty Kirsten Dunst. This is not to suggest that Jab We Met is a copy of Elizabethtown. Yes, Jab We Met does suffer from a problem of familiarity(the Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge hangover is obvious, besides a post-interval portion that evokes Ahista Ahista), but Ali’s writing makes the film his own.

It wouldn’t be unfair to say that the writing of Jab We Met saves it from turning into just another trite romance. As Aditya and Geet get to know each other over their road-trip from Mumbai to Bhatinda, Ali pens conversations that are the freshest you will have heard in a long time. Ali lets his characters talk at their will- the pointlessly blabbering Geet gives him all the more freedom. But it’s this pointless chatter that is the charm of Ali’s writing. Like Crowe(and in a twisted extension David Mamet), Ali’s characters never really talk on the point, yet end up making one almost always. How else do you explain a spontaneous elopement resulting in a rooftop conversation on how to live life(seriously planned or unplanned without regrets)! Or when out of nowhere, Geet makes an emphatic feminist statement when she justifies Aditya’s mother’s extra-marital affair with a casual “Everything is fair in love”.

Every time you sense you can predict a scene that is moving conventionally, Ali throws a curveball at you by making his characters speak the most unexpected of dialogues. This knack is almost becoming Ali’s signature. Another of his signature is ending his films with a song. He did it in Socha Na Tha, he does it here too. If there is one weakness Ali has, it’s the placement of songs. The Manali-shot Yeh Ishq Haaye(Oh, This Love), though, and I might be going overboard here, has a nice Ratnam-esque feel to it with its right mix of youthful abandon and rooted sincerity. And is it just me or does Ali’s use of the train here(physically, symbolically and aurally) reminiscent of Mani Ratnam’s fetishistic penchant for the said mode of transport?

Ali’s strength, apart from making you care for his characters, is in making his actors bring those to life impeccably. Shahid’s never acted this well before. Minus the wacky lines that Kareena has, Shahid speaks a lot with his silence(in the first half) and body language(in the second half). Kareena gets the showier role and does she chew everything around her or wot! This is undoubtedly her career best performance, and though she is a bit loud and screechy to begin, she reins it in slowly and thereafter hits all the perfect notes. Looking gorgeous than ever, Kareena makes you fall in love with Geet.

There is something very affecting about watching Shahid and Kareena share the screen. Their chemistry has never been as palpably evident as it is here. Everyone knows that they were in love when the movie was being shot, and one can see it. What this film does then, now that Shahid and Kareena have broken up in real life, is put the audience in an unenviable position of playing God, where you see the chemistry but already know that it’s not going to last. I don’t know about others, but there were touchingly ironic moments in the film that made misty-eyed.

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