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When DDLJ Met Roman Holiday

Saturday, August 05, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

Jab Harry Met Sejal
Imtiaz Ali
Cast: Anushka Sharma, Shah Rukh Khan and others
Rating: * * 1/2

Movies seldom go beyond the happy reunion of the opposites who attract each other, for no other reason that they happen to be thrown together. But if the idea of romance is a whirlwind tour of pretty locations, and the happily-ever-after is dancing in the fields of Punjab, then it is definitely outdated.

Princesses and commoners have been circling each other since Roman Holiday (maybe earlier and certainly after) and every film that has a road trip as a love trap has been recycling that film or its Indianised version Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Over two decades later, Shah Rukh Khan playing a Raj named Harinder ‘Harry’ has to escort a young woman around, and even now, he believes white women are use-and-throw, while Indian women are to be treated like “delicate porcelain vases.” Even if the “vase” in this film, Sejal (Anushka Sharma) is a spoilt rich girl with a law degree she has little use for; she is engaged to be married to  rich Rupen, and anticipates the boredom in her married life, so wants to have a look-but-don’t-touch “honeymoon” with the tour guide. She is not, as Harry (she calls him Hairy with a Gujarati accent), says, a “cheap ghatiya woman who would run away with the tour guide.” What’s unsaid is that if she were to be that kind of woman, he would be disappointed.

Apart from the confused signals, Jab Harry Met Sejal is several years outdated, and also built on an unconvincing premise. Sejal loses her engagement ring, and while the family returns to India, they leave her behind with Harry to hunt all over Europe for the ring, as if a diamond ring would be under restaurant tables or pavement cracks days after she lost it. Harry does not want to get entangled with the bossy Sejal, and tries to put her off by saying he is a womanizer. That doesn’t faze her and they are off on the journey, always impeccably dressed and ready to dance after a night out on the tiles (literally).

Sejal claims to be offended that Harry doesn’t find her desirable (“layak” is the word she uses), but she also knows that despite all her provocation, he is “safe.” Because in the Imtiaz Ali universe, the sheets don’t get mussed.

Of course, it’s a given that romance happens because the man is lean-mean Shah Rukh Khan, not his overweight buddy and she a glamorous young woman, not a mousy “sister type.” That he can do this cheesy love story a million times and still not looked bored, is to his credit. Anushka Sharma gives more pluck to Sejal than she deserves.

The music, camerawork, costumes are all fine, but the plot was lost long ago.

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