THE REEL McCOY
Shahid and Kareena may have split up for real, but they do a smashing imitation of being in love in a beautifully written â if uneven â romance.
OCT 28, 2007 – I WAS SO GOBSMACKED when I saw Imtiaz Aliâs Socha Na Tha â the directorâs first feature â that I lost no time doing pro bono word-of-mouth service for the film. But almost everyone I spoke to came back saying that it was nice and all (that is, in an okayish way), but wondered what I was making such a fuss about. And in hindsight, I realise I may have oversold that modest romance.
What I should have said is: See, the director is new and the leads are new, so, yes, the staging is a bit off and the performances arenât quite there â but notice the writing. Have you seen, in recent times, moments as real-life raw as the ones where the hero finally discovers that heâs in love with the heroine, and that happiness is undercut almost immediately by his awkward breaking of this news to the other girl he thought he was in love with that far?
Iâm going to use that same qualifier when people ask me about Aliâs second film, Jab We Met â except that, this time around, it isnât the performances or the staging that cause the reservations. (How ironic that Shahid Kapur and Kareena Kapoor â as Aditya and Geet â register their finest romantic moments with each other within days after the news that theyâve broken up in real life. And itâs impossible not to draw these off-screen parallels, especially with their characters compounding this irony by claiming to be â at one point â a one-woman man and a one-man woman. Tch, tch!)
Jab We Met suffers â particularly in the post-interval portions â from a storyline that becomes increasingly tedious, especially with the will-they-get-together aspect never being in any kind of doubt. (Itâs what Roger Ebert likes to call the Idiot Plot, where all one had to do to fix things is speak up and clear the confusion.) But Aliâs writing, otherwise, is so wonderful, I doubt youâll care.
His screwball-road-romance is about opposites â Geet, who talks nonstop, and Aditya, who doesnât have a line of dialogue for several minutes into the film, despite being the focus of every frame till then. They meet on a train â sheâs running away from her hostel to her home in Bhatinda; heâs escaping a painful past â and when her confessional chattering becomes really annoying, he yells that he doesnât care if sheâs from Bhatinda or Banaras, whether sheâs fleeing from a hostel or a brothel, so could she please clam up. This outburst â his first spoken words â stuns her, and just as you think sheâs going to up her decibel levels in retaliation, she rebukes him softly: âBrothel wali baat theek nahin thi.â? Heâs ashamed, naturally, and sheâs too cheerfully thick-skinned to let things linger, so they begin a conversation that builds into the rest of the film.
Itâs moments like this that make Jab We Met â because when Ali writes scenes and dialogues, heâs in no hurry to get to the point (which, I guess, may explain my affinity to his work). Where thereâs a possible shortcut, he always chooses the scenic route, veering off on tangents about karate and call-girls and sugarcane and rape and safe-deposit boxes, and these detours add so much flavour and fun to whatâs going on that I didnât have the heart to nitpick about how, for instance, a few of the songs are major speedbreakers. How can a writer this good be so completely clueless about how to write such terrific songs (mostly by Pritam, with one contribution from Sandesh Shandilya) into his screenplay?
As with Socha Na Tha, you care for Jab We Met because you care for the people in it. Geet and Aditya arenât some generic boy-girl constructs, existing solely so that they can be wrung through the machinations of a screenplay. As clichÃ©d as this sounds, they are flesh-and-blood folk â at least to the extent that you could hope to find in a crowd-pleasing romance. Aditya blames his mother for falling out of love with his father. (The scene where they reconcile is an understated beauty.) And Geet has her own display of (what appears to be) borderline-selfishness (when it comes to her mother), when she pretends to have run away from home and doesnât seem to care that her mother is in tears, worried sick.
But Ali makes us see that this isnât a failing as such; itâs just her. My favourite moment in Jab We Met â and possibly the best romantic moment of this year so far â is when Aditya finally gets Geet for what she is (and this is when he begins falling for her). His face lights up in a smile as he observes, âTum apne aap ko bahut pasand karti ho,â? that she likes herself a great deal. And when she nods, agreeing wholeheartedly that sheâs her own favourite individual (perhaps to the point of self-absorption), it all falls into place. So sheâs not perfect, sheâs just a person â and thank heavens for that.
Copyright Â©2007 The New Sunday Express