A Ride Through Europe on Flat Tyres - Jab Harry Met Sejal

SCENE 1

Boy meets girl. Girl looking for lost engagement ring from – another boy. Ring lost on a tourist vacay in Europe. The rest of the movie a search for the lost ring, through the map of Europe. Girl ropes in the tour guide (the boy) and bamboozles him to escort her to the same places, where the ring presumably is lying in patient wait to be ‘found’ again. During this mad caper, romance blooms between the two and the ring is probably better off not being found. But found it is ... And thereby hangs a tale. A bumbling, meandering, sloppy tale told with singular lack of conviction.

SCENE 2

Nothing rings true. Not the mopey angst or lost-boy look of a 51-year-old Sharukh Khan, nor the half-baked, neither here nor there Gujarati-accented persona of Anushka Sharma. The characters are not rounded off to create real credible people and they hang in a nebulous no man’s land between here and there. Thus, we are never sure how much of a Gujarati behn Sejal is nor how much of a macho womanizer Harry is. Both these images appear to have been foisted on the characters, with negligible success. Is Sejal a traditional homespun Gujarati girl or the spunky independent type? Just when it seems to be crystallizing that Sejal is the former and gullible to boot, (she blithely invites the rakish tour guide into her room at night, and even asks for the door of the hotel room to be shut – naivety??), she switches gears, dresses to the nines and stalks Harry to the pub, to let her hair down, and then punch a man at the bar. Harry is a self-confessed ‘cheap’ guy, a loafer, whose intentions toward women are never honorable, and yet, the description just does not stick, never mind the gusty tattoo on the muscular chest and the charade of a scene about the European girlfriend he has unceremoniously dumped.

SCENE 3

The relationship between Harry and Sejal quickly and quirkily evolves to become of a uniquely fluid kind. Sejal tells Harry he looks ‘lonely’- she says this in a Gujarati accent, meant to provoke laughter, which it doesn’t, not then, not ever in the film - and to assuage his loneliness, she offers to be his ‘pretend’ girlfriend while they’re looking for the ring. In this pretense, there is a seamless back and forth between Sejal the fiancée, and Sejal the ‘girlfriend’. Not an entirely unoriginal idea, but for some reason, it fails to muster steam. As for Harry, he is truly lost. To himself and to the plot. His over-exertions sporadically to emote some sense into his role fall flat, because emotion seems like a misfit in a loose senseless caper of a film like this.

SCENE 4

The denouement is the ring being found in an unlikely place (but not so unlikely - if you know women!) and the balefulness all around at Mission Successful. And then some predictable footage about teary eyed departures and unspoken love, before the impassioned realization in the hero, and the dash to India to make reunion possible with the heroine ...

CONSOLATION

The saving grace is a ride through Europe, albeit on flat tyres, and a flash or two of the Imtiaz Ali touch. The one scene in the movie which packs a punch is when Sejal asks Harry to come down a flight of stairs in a European courtyard pretending to be her fiancé. This is done with panache by Harry and Sejal, and the ensuing moments of tender unspoken epiphany, are the best moments of the film.

CONCLUSION

The takeaway lesson from the film is this: Characters in a movie, must jump out at you as real. If they don’t, then whatever else is on offer, by way of exotic locales, style, songs, masala, star cast, will invariably sputter and fall by the wayside.

Overall, the movie is a classic tale of a well-intentioned rom-com gone woefully wrong.

No matter, Imtiaz Ali.

In journeys, some rough patches are inevitable, even for the seasoned. Better luck next time.

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