I have started learning Hindi recently. One of my great joys is to watch Bollywood films. I’m in luck: the local cinema located 3 blocks from my house shows the latest movies from India. Here is my chance to review last night’s flick: Jab Tak Hai Jaan, meaning “Till My Last Breath”. Amazingly, it was in the top ten films in Canada and the US last weekend. In India, it is a smash hit, that goes without saying. Here is my humble review, as a non-Indian but a Wannabe . . .
THE POSITIVE POINTS
On the whole, famous director Yash Chopra’s last directing effort was a winner, and I believe that audiences are fully satisfied. Last Sunday night, the audience I was with, including myself, laughed, cried, wowed, and yawned (jes’ kiddin’!) throughout. I’m tempted to see it again!
The camera work is phenomenal. The scenes were breath-taking: from green hills in the countryside of England, to the crystal blue lakes of Kashmir, and the humourous street life of London. From long shots to close-ups to sweeping rolls that kept the audience almost in a dizzied state, the skill of the camera artists kept the audiences feeling like we were all on a moving bus of life.
Yash Chopra did a great job in pulling out the best acting effort from all parties. I’m very biased, but I thought the girls, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma, were “hot” (don’t tell my wife!) and Shah Rukh Khan was in a league unto himself, as Mr. Macho himself.
The Emphasis on Finding True Love:
One of the main themes of Jab Tak Hai Jaan is true love. The point is: true love is hard to cultivate in the very beginning, but when it is fixed and stable, you must cultivate it with all of your might.
Shah Rukh Khan’s Character:
I really admired Samar Anand in the movie. He was portrayed as a very pure guy. When he loved, he loved “fiercely” and never, ever gave up. No matter what happened, he not only stayed faithful to his true love, but he actually loved everyone around him. Interesting, but this is exactly the philosophy I am studying through the ancient Chinese sage called Mozi, pronounced “mo” rhyming with “saw”, and “dze”. His ideology has been labelled “Mohism” by some. Now I’m sure that apart from Gandhi, there have been many Indian sages who promoted a similar “universal love”. I will discover them soon.
For now, let us say, for argument’s sake, that Samar fulfilled Mozi’s ideal of “Jian Ai”, pronounced “jee-en eye”, meaning “universal love” or “impartial care:
Suppose everybody in the world loves universally, loving others as one’s self. . . When everyone regards his younger brother, son, and minister as himself, whereto can he direct any disaffection? Therefore there will not be any unfilial feeling or disaffection. Will there then be any thieves and robbers? When every one regards other families as his own family, who will steal? When every one regards other persons as his own person, who will rob? Therefore there will not be any thieves or robbers. . . When every one regards the houses of others as one’s own, who will be disturbing? When every one regards the states of others as one’s own, who will invade?
In the movie, Samar had the hugest of hearts. His only weakness was that he allowed his love interest Meera, played by Katrina Kaif, to push him into a dangerous lifestyle. After losing Meera, he joined the Indian Army Bomb Squad for 10 years. Still helping people. But this time, it was because his heart had been trampled on. In the end, however, Samar’s love triumphed, because it was undying.
THE NEGATIVE POINTS
India Is Losing Its Culture:
Of course, being screwed over by the British imperialists for a couple hundred years, as they pillage your land for its resources, puts you at a cultural disadvantage. Gandhi and friends took care of this at the end of World War II, and achieved independence for South Asia. Unfortunately for Gandhi, the British purposely executed a Divide and Conquer strategy: make sure people of different religions, regions and ethnicities were divided. Which right-minded Westerner would want a Super-Country nipping at their heals in their former colonies? Thus originated the Great (Stupid) Partition. I’m sorry to have 12.5% British blood flowing through my veins. It’s not the blood that’s the issue, it’s the imperialist mentality. Do you think it’s over?
No way: Where the Westerners failed in colonising the land, now they succeed in colonising the mind. India and many other countries now are at this sorry stage. From “Jab Tak Hai Jaan” and other films, from my studies on India, and from meeting Indian people here in the West, I can only draw one conclusion: INDIA IS EXPERIENCING CULTURE LOSS.
Ironically, as India rises on the world stage, its own precious culture is being diluted and marginalised by the Love of Money. Consumerism and “Coolism” are taking over. It is a worldwide phenomenon. For example, I lived in China for several years and witnessed first-hand the rapid culture loss that came in the name of “modernisation” and “keeping up with the West”. Local citizens, especially the youngsters, fall head over heels in love with the Western lifestyle and all it entails: coffee culture, “cool” talk, hip hop music, tight-fitting chic clothing, fast cars, motorbikes and scooters, . . .
India, be warned! You are who you are. As my friend once said, “Eat the meat and spit out the bones”. If you’re vegetarian, eat the veggies and spit out the stems. Don’t wholesale buy into Western culture. We are on our way down, so don’t collapse with us!
Hinting That Adultery Is OK:
Frankly, this shocked me. Knowing that Indian culture, as well as most non-Western cultures around the world, highlight family values and the importance of strong marriages, I had to rub my eyes part-way through the flick. The characters insinuated that if you marry the “wrong person”, you can simply leave them, and the children you produce with them, in order to latch on to the “right person”. What utter nonsense!
What I have really respected from Indian and a few other non-Western cultures is the fact that even if your parents arrange the marriage, a husband and wife can learn to love each other. Love is not some wishy-washy feeling that comes and goes like the ebb and flow of the ocean waves. It is foremost a commitment from the heart. You can choose to love someone.
In “Jab Tak Hai Jann”, Meera’s father was a very decent fellow, from all I could see, even much better than the drunken beau that replaced him. I realise that Director Yash Chopra was juxtaposing the countryside life with its closeness to the earth (the vineyards) and its simple, enjoyable, lifestyle, with the calculating, bureaucratic urban lifestyle, with its over-emphasis on money-making. But Meera the daughter was damaged for life by this betrayal, and so was her father. Adultery may seem “fun” for a season, but ultimately it reveals one’s own selfish heart more than anything. And it is like a time bomb, ready to go off at any time and hurt people with a slow and agonising death.
Hinting That Casual Sex Is OK:
Akira mentioned this more than once: the desire to get laid by all kinds of interesting men from different cultures. In the Old World, she would be called a slut. In the New World, where women can be as equally permiscuous as men, she is an adventurous heroine, enjoying life to the fullest. I have no problem with the adventure and “joie de vivre”. This is one of Yash Chopra’s wonderful themes in the movie. But this joy of living does not come through offering your bodies to all takers. Go and see what happens to people who have sex with every Tom, Dick and Harry, or Mary, Josephine and Nance. They become calloused, unable to love. Why? Because the Creator of the universe designed you for true love, and this true love involves offering your body only to the one with whom your soul is united.
Sex is spiritual, emotional, physical, financial and political. It affects all of life. It reveals who we are in our deepest heart of hearts. It is the expression of the tightest bonding of souls. To throw it around casually is to become, you guessed it, a selfish, Me-Me-Me Westerner. We in the West have had a few more decades of casual sex, and look at what it has done. We are unable to have loving relationships. Consumer culture has invaded the bedrooms. We treat each other as commodities.
Young people of India, please don’t make our mistake! We in the West have reaped the results of sorrow, pain and family break-up due to casual sex. Treat your body, your soul, your family and neighbours with respect!
A Weird View of Religion:
As a follower of Yeshua the Messiah but a rejector of all Christian churches, including Catholics, Orthodox, Protestant, Evangelical & the myriad sects, I had to laugh when I saw Meera talking to the statue of a dead guy hanging on the wall. This is NOT Jesus; this is idolatry. Yeshua hung on a cross for a few hours. Sure, it pays for our sins in the Biblical view, but it had a time limit. Focusing on His murder only is like us forgetting all Gandhi said and did and concentrating only on the gunshot in the garden. A man is not the sum of his death. And according to the Sacred Scriptures, Yeshua returned to life on the third day, and eventually ascended to the heavens. He’s not some ugly, bloody icon stuck to the wall!
Also, Meera’s relationship with the Almighty was absolutely bizarre! Bargaining with the one Samar called “Sir Jesus” all the time? The Creator of the universe is all for promoting joy, not sorrow! He would like us to experience true, committed, lifelong love, not a brief fling that damages us our entire lives. I really hope the people of India don’t believe that Meera represented a true believer. She was true all right: truly weird! Honestly, Samar was more like Yeshua the Messiah than anyone else. His universal love for neighbour was contagious!
On the whole, watching “Jab Tak Hai Jaan” was a very positive movie experience. Honestly, I think Shah Rukh Khan best shows us the true Indian, and the true human.
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Goodbye, old friend! Director Yash Chopra (Sept 27, 1932 – Oct 21, 2012)