The title of Imtiaz Ali’s film is a tribute to the cult 1989 rom-com When Harry Met Sally. But the similarity ends there. In Jab Harry Met Sejal, Harry and Sejal should’ve never met. Theirs is really not the greatest love story. Not even mediocre.
There’s a Punjab-bred womaniser who goes by the name Harry. He is unprofessional and pretty much puts his job in jeopardy most of the time because he can’t keep it in his pants.
Enter Sejal, a Gujarati girl, who wants to know why she is not sexy enough for him. “Main laayak nahin hoon?” she asks, while working those legs and fixing her pout. Oh, she has also lost her engagement ring but that’s really not the story.
The story begins with Sejal harassing Harry into accompanying her to look for her engagement ring.
“What’s your rate? I will pay you,” she says when Harry refuses, and moves on to threaten him. It’s a cute little set-up for their soon-to-blossom love story. To the audience, it’s a dangerous territory, led by a deliberately complicated girl and a male chauvinist with repressed memories of home.
Threatened and paid, Harry and Sejal are off to all the exotic locations the film beautifully showcases. When the two aren’t talking, the camera focuses on the cobblestone pathways of Amsterdam, the colourful streets of Prague, and the buildings of Budapest that look straight out of a Georges Seurat painting. The countries they visit are beautiful, without a doubt. And possibly the only bits that salvage this film.
Jab Harry Met Sejal sets up a hoard of instances and happenstance of why these two unlikely characters must fall in love, even if it isn’t necessary. Sejal is confident of not falling for Harry’s roguish charms. Yet, she plays along even when he dictates her on what to wear, where to go, and whom to talk to. Even when he manipulates her into thinking that she isn’t desirable enough, prodding her to make it her mission to make herself sexually appealing to Harry. Their camaraderie and the story of falling in love would’ve been more believable had they bonded from the beginning of the trip. Even with the fiance around, a blossoming love story of two unlikely people would’ve added more to the story. With him out of the picture though, Ali deems it most convenient for Harry and Sejal.
Ali cannot get enough of manic pixie dream girls in his films, who, almost always, have little to no background story to offer, are up and excited for anything anytime (even if it’s serving hot tea to guests or posing for selfies), and someone who helps the hero find himself.
Her smile, her little quirks, her spouting random pop psychology lessons, and her inability to make her own decisions and turning to the hero with her doe eyes screaming, “Help me, I’m too cute for this…” – are all enough to make him fall irrevocably in love with her. Even when audience groan over that inauthentic accent. Or the fact that she’s actually quite crazy, whipping up intercourse-related indemnity bonds on hotel writing pads and what not.
And let’s not even get to the part where we know so little about Sejal. She’s done her LLB. She’s a diamond merchant’s daughter. And she is from Mumbai. That’s her story.
Sticking to everything from his perspective, Harry misses home, swears in Punjabi when provoked, and thinks it’s perfectly okay to break a couple’s wedding for love. It’s never happened to him, he thinks and justifies why it’s only necessary to intervene and break it off. Without ever thinking if Sejal is okay with it.
And Sejal thinks she’s selfish.
Add to that, he manipulates Sejal into believing that she isn’t desirable enough and insinuates that her life is insipid without him. Brings back memories of a terrifying character who indulged in similar activities. (Looking at you Remo.)
One really can’t blame the lead actors for starring in a fairly troubling depiction of a rom-com. Ali’s stories always focus on relationships and how they blossom. He began his career with something breezy like Socha Na Tha (2005) and moved on to a fun little story of two unlikely people who met in a train and fell in love (Jab We Met). He then decided to notch up the intensity with Rockstar.
Soon enough, it became a constant theme. If anything, Jab Harry Met Sejal is a mash-up of all his movies. Except this has Shah Rukh Khan looking good in every scene and yet, isn’t too far from Ali’s other heroes – seeking validation from the heroine and finally believing that he’s complete.
Perhaps, this will make Ali realise that there ought to be more to a story than fancy foreign locations and two good looking actors.
The Jab Harry Met Sejal review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.