New Delhi: 'I'm going to kiss you now, and I do not think you would slap me," superstar Shah Rukh Khan says to Katrina Kaif at London's Charing Cross station waiting to catch a train home. Well, ouch. Would you believe that in a magical career spanning over two decades, the man has never kissed a lead actress in any of his films?
He chose to do it in a film that could well be the best role he has ever played but unfortunately with an actress who is 20 years younger than him and the awkwardness showed.
In the first half of the film, played out mostly in flashback, Khan makes his living doing odd jobs in London. He shares a flat with a young Pakistani man and plays the guitar by the roadside for lunch money.
Then he meets Katrina, who plays rich NRI girl Meera in the film, while shovelling snow outside a church and he is instantly smitten. The eternal love story that spans a decade after that is a study in inspired moments quilted with the downright absurd. Shah Rukh has given his career's best performance. His is the shoulder the film rests on, not Katrina's or Anushka's. And he carries the burden well. But he could have had a little help from Katrina, who does nothing to bridge the gap between the awkward and the sublime.
Yash Chopra, the director of Jab Tak Hai Jaan, was bordering on 80 when he started the film. He is the master of old world romances that were full of intrigue, moments of conflict and heady charm. But perhaps he failed gauge the depth of love in the 21st century and in the process trivialized and generalized it to a cringe-worthy 'make-out-break-up' model.
Shah Rukh, who's restrained and mature as he goes through two complex roles, goes to pieces when he's paired with Katrina, one of the loveliest faces in cinema at the moment. He is 47 years old and it shows in the first half as he tries to woo her.
It's commendable that Chopra, despite his age, tries to remodel his traditional heroines from the underplayed sensuous to the modern day 'cool'. Katrina smokes a cigarette outside her own engagement party and the other is a tomboyish, over-excited little thing.
But a series of awkward kisses captured mostly in long shots and covered up with locks of hair falling over the face of the two actors are the only moments of intimacy between Shah Rukh and Katrina.
Chopra belongs to a different era, we understand that. Perceptions about reality have shifted within filmmaking over the years. But 'Jab Tak Hai Jaan' has a soul of the 1960s trapped in a body from 2012. Shah Rukh, who keeps both actresses grounded in the film with a remarkable performance, unfortunately comes across as staid and out-of-place in his romance with Katrina.
The rubbing of toes signifying a heavy make-out session leading to sex, does not work in the day and age of gritty, realistic films. You can argue that Yash Chopra's romances are from a different era and that's why they are special.
It could have been more believable had Shah Rukh been paired with someone close to his age, such as Kajol.
But in the end, what you see on screen is about as real as it's going to get. And the tentative kisses and willing acceptance of a fate thrust upon him by Katrina in a juvenile promise to god, just does not make it.