When a Macguffin turns into a constant irritant even before the movie reaches the half way mark, you just know something is amiss with what is being served on the big screen. Since we are on the topic of Macguffins, let’s quickly recall a few classic ones over the years. ‘The Heart of the Ocean’ necklace in the Titanic, ‘the suitcase’ in Pulp Fiction and ‘Unobtanium’ in Avatar are classic examples where these elements drive the story forward and trigger apposite actions from the characters. However Bollywood doesn’t seem to use the concept of a Macguffin all too well. The inherent problem being the dumbing down of every plot, element and even motifs in Bollywood movies. The really few I can recall are ‘242’ in Agent Vinod and ‘Chicken Khurana’ in Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana. A Macguffin in any movie has a generally traversed arc, where it’s significance is notable in the first half but as the character journeys become more and more intricate, the device itself takes a back seat and exists more as an allegory. But in no manner does it become a hindrance to the story unfolding in front of us. ‘Rosebud’ in the movie Citizen Kane is a classic example where the Macguffin appears in the last few seconds of the movie and the audience lets out a collective sigh! (Watch the movie to know why).
In Jab Harry met Sejal, the wedding ring is the plot driver and a really bad one at that. In fact, every time director Imtiaz Ali tries to indulge in the brewing closeness between Shah Rukh Khan’s Harry and Anushka Sharma’s Sejal, he inexplicably goes back to the ‘finding a lost ring’ storyline and breaks the connection with the audience instantly. When you have the King of Romance trying to serenade a girl in some of the most serene locations in the world, you just let him take over! You don’t make it a Euro Trip just because you have budgets. Which brings me to the other sad part of the movie.
Jab Harry Met Sejal almost killed my fancy for a Euro Trip. I say ‘almost’ because the songs are beautifully shot and it’s only the conversational sequences which seem to happen in dark alleys, illicit bars and hotel rooms or hallways. Which is surprising, as we know Imtiaz Ali to be a master in capturing locales and blending them into the story. Corsica must have received a sudden spike in Indian tourist visits after his movie Tamasha released in 2015. Even Jab We Met showed Shimla in all its grandeur. In this one, the Euro Trip is so forced that after a point you are left counting how many hop, skip and jump multi-country trips will it take before the director realizes that the audience today is not at all fooled by scale but is only invested in a good story where they can root for the leads to come together eventually.
For the first time in many years I was disappointed with Shah Rukh Khan’s forlorn-romantic act. Here, Imtiaz Ali is more at fault than the superstar himself as we do not get an adequate backstory to care much for our hero’s internal woes. When he cries silently with flashbacks of his foster home in India, we are confused rather than touched. When the meet-cutes become just a pre-song ritual, we call foul. And the fact that Anushka plays a cutely-silly Gujrati girl with as much charm as a rock in a desert, makes it all the more superficial to see our lead fall for her ‘sweet immaturity”.
Imtiaz Ali is in disastrous form from the start of this movie. His credentials as a story teller are well established in Bollywood. And the story of misfits meeting and falling in love over a journey is a familiar territory for him. Therefore it becomes all the more astounding at the lack of soul in this movie. A character like Harry who is stuck in a job which he wasn’t meant to be doing and Sejal, who explores freedom in foreign lands with a stranger with a good heart should have sent sparks flying all around. But alas, we assume the multiple shoots in exotic countries took up more time than developing a lucid story.
Jab Harry met Sejal got everything wrong, right from the God forsaken title to the unimaginative Euro trip to the chemistry between the leads. Imtiaz Ali and Shah Rukh Khan coming together was seen as a recipe for a superhit. The only hit that is coming out of this movie are the youtube hits on the music videos of this film. They are well shot and Pritam is in great form with the songs.
gobblpoint— Shah Rukh Khan fails in a role of a romantic lead. Process that!