A 50-year-old man romancing a woman half his age. Check. A horrendous script with caricature-ish characters that is full of clichés and hangs on the flimsiest of plot devices. Check. A megastar recycling the same mannerisms, walk, and expressions he has for the last two decades. Check. A hapless heroine being assaulted so that the hero can save her. Check. More blatant sexism, with the woman only serving as a thing that can fill the void in a man's life. Check. Cultural stereotyping of a South Asian linguistic minority. A random homophobic joke. Check, check.
Besides being a film that sums up almost everything that is wrong with Bollywood today, Jab Harry Met Sejal marks Imtiaz Ali's return to the lazy mediocrity he peddled in the wake of Jab We Met, his best film until that point. It is no surprise that JHMS, eerily similar to the mish-mash that was Love Aaj Kal (the film that followed Jab We Met), comes immediately after Ali's magnum opus, Tamasha.
It reflects a lack of accountability by a filmmaker who does not give two hoots about professional critics calling him out for recycling the same female character in every single film...
This painful déjà vu doesn't end with this. Jab Harry Met Sejal is a khichdi of Imtiaz Ali's and Shah Rukh Khan's best-known films. A man tortured by the sadness of his life meets a childish manic pixie dream girl (this time, with a cartoonish Gujarati accent despite being from Mumbai) with no clue of how the big bad world works. She makes him help her out of the jam she's in using, well, almost nothing except a plot device with no setup.
This, obviously, is just an excuse for them to frolic around Europe and fall in love with each other over a few forced songs. Also in 90s' Bollywood style, Sejal has to be assaulted by creeps at a club in Prague while onlookers do absolutely nothing, giving Harry the opportunity to save her izzat. To show more heroism and create more opportunities for true-vaala-love to happen, these goons seem to have nothing better to do than chase them around the city (which seems to have no law enforcement) the whole night, making us wonder how much money could've been saved if they'd just set it in Delhi.
Harry's repeated warnings to Sejal—that he is not a good man, that he cheats and lies—obviously falls on deaf ears, because men who cheat and lie and have many sexual partners are just lonely souls with sexy and charming exteriors, while women who roam around Europe with tour guides are "cheap." Sejal also wants to be more "layak" of men hitting on her, finding her sexy instead of sweet and "sisterly," so much so that she even jokes that men who abduct her on the street in the middle of the night would at least make her feel that way. Yes, this is 2017, and this film was produced by a megastar who gives top billing to actresses in his films as a step towards gender equality.
JHMS reflects the utter lack of accountability of a megastar who... continues to take his audience for granted film after film, year after year...
The film, which basically recycles clichés, is a symbol for the industry it is a product of. In the wake of the nepotism debate, there is no better time to talk about Bollywood's accountability than the release of a megastar's film which is written and directed by a filmmaker with a cult following. Jab Harry Met Sejal reflects the utter lack of accountability of a megastar who claims to have 50 expressions and a dream of making some of the best films in the world, but continues to take his audience for granted film after film, year after year, by expecting them to lap up anything he's in.
It reflects a lack of accountability by a filmmaker who does not give two hoots about professional critics calling him out for recycling the same female character in every single film, and making her a mere tool in a man's quest for happiness. Despite his reputation of being miles ahead of the Bollywood average, he seems to believe that collaborating with a megastar excuses mediocrity.
It is this lack of accountability that creates a frenzied hype around a lazy mash-up of DDLJ and Jab We Met, giving us the best of neither and the worst of both, and expects us to feel entertained because we heard a few songs and saw pretty European cities for the price of ₹300.