I re-watched Jab We Met recently discovered that, like a good wine, it still impresses and manages to hold it’s own despite the onslaught of new age-y love stories that have been churned out by Bollywood since then-almost as if on schedule.
I’ll admit I was quite blase about the film when I first watched it;it took a second time watch after gentle admonishing from a dear friend to really LISTEN to the dialogues that made me appreciate this story.
Which brings me to the writer/creator of Jab We Met -Imtiaz Ali.
In the years that have followed, he has been feted as the bard of Bollywood romance, for follow-ups such as Love Aaj Kal, Rockstar and Cocktail.
I feel however, that none of these movies comes even close to Jab We Met. All his works, since then suffer from 2 fatal flaws-without exception.
The first of this is his insistence to make his newer characters ‘modern’-in the Bollywood sense of the word. JWM worked because everyone knows someone like Geet and Aditya. They were distinctly relatable, and lived in India. Love Aaj Kal, Rockstar and Cocktail feature characters who are trying SO hard to be cool that you almost feel a twinge of sympathy for their furious efforts.
The only characters who are well etched out in these movies- old-timey Punjabi loverboy (LAK), pre-stardom Janardhan (Rockstar) and Meera (Cocktail)- are creatures of a middle class milieu and sensibility- and this comfort between the writer and his more ordinary creations, really stands out onscreen.
All said and done, there’s only a couple of writers who write swish and privileged characters well in Hindi films- namely Zoya and Farhan Akhtar- probably because they’re so swish and privileged themselves.
It’s not just the ‘cool’ characters that seem contrived in these 3 movies, but also the whole foreign-location rigmarole that seems to hark back to the YashRaj/Johar belief of yore that only Non Resident Indian’s are capable of romance- because obviously gambolling in Switzerland or (INSERT FILM SUBSIDY-GIVING COUNTRY HERE) is such an important part of True Love (TM).
The second fatal flaw of all post-JVM Imitiaz Ali films is the unfortunate recurrence of non-actors playing female parts. Deepika Padukone and Nargis Fakri have extremely vapid on-screen presences-not a patch on the effervescence of Kareena Kapoor who can go from OTT to normal with ease. Better casting is in order.
On my part, i think Imitiaz Ali should go back to writing people he (and we) can actually relate to and use actors who can project characters we can care about. Leave the OD-ing on existential angst to Bhansali, the overseas OTT-styling to Dharma/Yashraj and the effortless hipness to the Akhtar duo-and do what he knows best.