When Geet met Aditya

How Imtiaz Ali's Jab We Met attained iconic status and defined an entire generation.

Sonal Pandya

Jab We Met, which was released on 26 October 2007, was a box-office success despite hitting the screens just two weeks before two Diwali juggernauts, Om Shanti Om and Saawariya. The film may have got overshadowed by the debuts of Deepika Padukone (Om Shanti Om) and Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor (Saawariya), but ask anyone today their favourite film from that year and more likely than not they would fondly recall Jab We Met. The film is regularly broadcast on television and in countless karaoke videos online where teenage girls dramatically recount Geet's highly quotable dialogues.

Shree Ashtavinayak Cine Vision Ltd

Kareena Kapoor counts her performance as Geet as one of her best. Her Geet Dhillon is a high-spirited, optimistic, supremely confident young Sikh woman. She proudly proclaims to Aditya, “I’m my own favourite!” Aditya Kashyap, played by Shahid Kapoor, is wealthy and successful, yet he loses all hope when his former girlfriend decides to marry another man.

These polar opposites fall for each other when their paths intersect on a train from Mumbai to Delhi.

Just like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), a young man and a woman from different walks of life meet on a train and go on to fall in love. But unlike DDLJ, Imtiaz Ali’s Jab We Met (2007) is decidedly Indian. Shahid Kapoor’s Aditya and Kareena Kapoor’s Geet were no Raj and Simran, but they shouldered their own personal heartbreaks and issues that they had to get over during the course of the film.

 Shree Ashtavinayak Cine Vision Ltd

Coming off Imtiaz Ali's equally refreshing debut Socha Na Tha (2005), Jab We Met carried that same inherent charm. The film has become his most well-known work and is likely to remain so for a while. Surprisingly, in an interview with journalist Rajeev Masand, Ali said that, looking back, he wants to change the whole film!

A still from Jab We Met

The film isn’t perfect by any means. In the second half, both lead characters undergo drastic role reversals. Geet becomes withdrawn and Aditya gains a newfound confidence in work and in life. The allure of the first half is dimmed significantly after the intermission. The film’s special effects are laughably atrocious. Aditya contemplates ending his life in front of a very obvious miniature train and when trying to catch up with the train, Aditya and Geet travel in what looks like a toy car.

Yet, the film's dialogues, characters and songs continue to resonate with viewers today. Writer-director Ali won the Filmfare and IIFA (International Indian Film Academy) awards for Best Dialogue. The songs composed by Pritam Chakraborty are still popular; Shreya Ghosal's rendition of 'Yeh Ishq Haye' won her the National award for Best Female Playback Singer. Legendary choreographer Saroj Khan was also honoured with the National award for Best Choreography for the same song which was shot in scenic Manali, Himachal Pradesh.

Similarly, both lead artistes were nominated for their performances, with Kareena winning both the Filmfare and IIFA awards for Best Actress. Jab We Met remains a highlight in the careers of both Kareena Kapoor and Shahid Kapoor, who were in the midst of a very public breakup when it released. Originally, Bobby Deol and Ayesha Takia were considered for the roles of Aditya and Geet.

One of Kareena Kapoor’s casual looks in the film, the T-shirt worn over a patiala salwar, became an fashion trend among young women after the film’s release. This informal style of dressing was far removed from costume designer Manish Malhotra’s usual stylish work in films like Rangeela (1995) and Dil To Pagal Hai (1997). This further cemented Geet’s girl-next-door appeal to audiences. Within the industry, Geet has become an iconic character for future actresses, and her lines were used to audition actresses like Parineeti Chopra and Alia Bhatt, the next generation after Kareena.

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Besides making its way on several different lists of most romantic Hindi films, Jab We Met started the quirky trend of Hinglish titles with films like U Me Aur Hum (2008), Break Ke Baad (2010) and Shaadi Ke Side Effects (2014) releasing afterwards. The catchy title was publicly voted upon in a poll for moviegoers – alternative options given were Punjab Mail and Ishq Via Bhatinda.

In recent times, no Hindi romantic comedy comes close to fitting the bill and sustaining a modicum of success. Nowadays, everything is too pre-packaged, too polished. Jab We Met was probably among the last of the now dying genre of the romantic comedy.