There are actually three major reasons why this film must be seen. Kareena Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor. Having gotten beyond her effervescent walk-on-sunshine in this moon-soaked ode to that hoary feeling called love, there are, to our utter delight, several other factors piloting this mellow and amiable flight into never-never land .
In a tailor-made salwar-kameez clad role, Kareena playing a boisterous Sikh girl on her way to tell her parents about her boyfriend meets up with a brooding suicidal jilted entrepreneur.
The sparks fly instantaneously ….or should that be, infinitely…..since the sparks tend to fall in volumes of ignited light all across the film's incandescent horizon creating a briskly moving screenplay that looks straight into the heart. A chance encounter between two people on a train is not the most novel of cinematic ideas. We last saw sparks fly between Abhay Deol and Neha Dhupia in Ek Chaalis Ki Last Local as they jumped railway tracks. But there are sparks. And there are sparks. And the ones between Kareena and Shahid are so unselfconsciously genuine that you end up looking at the characters rather than the two actors going through a series of brilliantly conceived and energized incidents which bring them together in a dizzying dance of interactive energy.
The surprise element in Jab We Met is that there is no surprise. Director Imtiaz Ali, displaying a deft and lucid command over his material and actors, lets the boy-meets-girl story take its own course without pushing for effect. The vignettes on the trains and off them look so lived-in you could reach your hand and touch Aditya and Geet's glowing relationship in the small towns of Punjab and North India.
The dialogues flow in a steady stream of vocalized thoughts. No one here is trying to be clever. Not a single shot in Jab We Met strives for effect. There's an element of inevitability in the flow of satiny emotions.
In the first-half Kareena talks. Shahid listens. His is the tougher less ostentatious performance characterized by pain and anguish as opposed to the impetuous exuberance of his better-half who seems to float on 'ear'.
Kareena's insouciant warmth just bathes the screen in voluble splendour. She proves once again that when she puts her heart to it, she's quite simply the best. In the second-half she depicts the external ruins of a broken heart with eyes that seem to have shed their light while we were not watching.
The director invests a whole lot of quiet moments between the couple. These are handled with a mellow maturity that defies the overall lightness of the romantic-comedy genre.
The songs (composed by Pritam) come on with pleasurable precocity. In 'Yeh ishq haye' Kareena's unconditional surrender to joie de vivre reminded me of Waheeda Rehman in the song 'Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai' in the film Guide.
For all practical purposes, Kareena is a gamine and an enigma with a dozen or so expressions flitting across her restless face at any given time. The directors harnesses Kareena's fiesta of expressions that take the romance to the level of poetic liberation.
Shahid is right up there, furnishing a raga of restrain to his role of a man just waiting to come out of his shell. There're many reasons apart from Kareena and Shahid why Jab We Met is a special film. The narrative moves with serene swiftness through several cities towns and locales giving the lead couple a chance to get to know each other and their mutually-shared environment of some hostility and immense cordiality.
Cinematographer S. Natarajan Subramaniam's camera caresses the snow-capped mountains in Himachal with as much affection as the embers in Kareena's eyes. Yes the never-ending Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge festivities in the heroine's Sikh bustling household get oppressive beyond a point. And the imminent yes to the romantic mess is unnecessarily delayed, with Tarun Arora's duffer-fiance's act making you wince and fidget in your seat.
But by the time Shahid and Kareena get into a clasp for a farewell kiss we are cheering the couple as though Valentine's Day had been invented for this occasion. Heartwarming in its sincerity and utterly wedded to the feeling of romantic integrity, Jab We Met is the kind of cinematic experience that is hard to come by in this day and age of smoky cynicism and borrowed rage.