Ae Dil Hai Mushkil
As with any Karan Johar Movie, watching Ae dil Hai Mushkil requires us to surrender all the inconveniences of religion, family and tradition at the ticket booth. We know what to expect: a lot of good looking, with the same generic values, enjoying a privileged life style without ever getting a job, yet somehow we can see ourselves in their hopes and dreams . That connection is what makes Karan Johar’s films so successful.
Ranbir Kapoor is Ayaan an NRI, floating through an MBA when he really wants to be a singer, oh, and he has a private jet in the garage. He has a gold digger for a girlfriend, something he only picks up on when he meets Anoushka Sharma’s Alizey. Alizey and Ayaan become fast friends and that is the heart of this film, what makes us love someone and what makes fall in love with someone? “Mohabbat main junoon hai dosti main sakoon hai” says Alizey. There are no boundaries (except actual sex) in this ultra-cool couple’s “dosti”, where sharing a spoon ,a hug, a room and even a bed are all on the same level and not supposed to arouse any feelings, except of course that they do
The first half of the film moves at a snappy pace, holding the audience’s interest in anticipation of deeper things to come. However, the second half doesn’t bring the expected pay off, spinning into a long , winding exploration of Ayaan’s feelings that give it a surprisingly drama like feel. The leap to epic romance doesn’t work because the other end of the equation between Alizey and her first love Ali (Fawad Khan,) is left completely unexplored. Why does she love him? Why did she leave him? How is he tabahi for her? To make it clear, it is obvious that this story is very much about Ayaan and his relationship with Alizey but the story needed a few scenes of Alizey and Ali as a counterpoint to raise it above the superficial; guy cannot get over being friend-zoned narrative
It’s no huge surprise that Fawad Khan looks fabulous on screen and his scenes bring much needed freshness and life to this cliché ridden story. Some of the best scenes were Alizey and Ali’s wedding brought wonderfully to life in the song Cutie Pie. In fact the only scenes which actually hit the high notes of pathos the makers aimed for are of Ranbir as he walks out of the party unable to face Alizey’s loss. Fawad reappears towards the end and the again the audience is left wanting more. As to the other half of the much talked about Pakistani contingent, Imran Abbas looks great on screen as Dr Faisal and provides an amusing catalyst to Alizey and Ayaan’s friendship. According to Abbas’s Facebook a few of his scenes were cut and it’s anyone’s guess as to whether appeasement or necessity was the reason.
As this is a Karan Johar Movie s Lucknow, Vienna and Paris are all a hop, skip and a jump away just like the relationships. Ayaan seeks solace with Saba, a divorced poet played by Aishwarya Rai who despite the sheer intimate nature of her scenes seems untouchable and remote till her meeting with Alizey. The dinner party in Vienna is one of this film’s strongest moments; where all three participants learn that the veneer of sophistication cannot protect them from the pain of their emotions. In the end they are just like the rest of us in search of that elusive feeling of being the “only one “for someone. This is one of the points where the script actually succeeds, holding a mirror up to Ayaan but what should be a point of revelation ends up lost in the mish mash of his emotions.
Shah Rukh Khan’ brief appearance as Aishwarya ex-husband Tahir is another example of the way the characters in this film are always yearning for someone but unable to make enough of a commitment to hold on to that someone. Tahir goes on to give Ayaan some spectacularly useless advice about unrequited life, because speaking poetic Urdu means never having to move on. The strangest thing about Tahir and Ali too is their complete lack of jealousy , they seem immune to the raw emotions Ayaan is struggling with, and can easily philosophize their broken love lives’ away, so it’s not surprising that audience isn’t moved either.
Ranbir gives a fine performance and shines in some of the most emotional scenes but after a while the unrelieved concentration on his character’s feelings becomes wearing. He is so good at playing the sweet, nice guy who has something to learn, but it is nothing new for him. Anoushka Sharma looks beautiful and gives a simply fabulous performance as a woman who is present but always somewhere else in spirit. Her love of old Bollywood songs, the references to old movie dialogues that she and Ayaan bond over; all point to her disappointment that reality could not match the fierce intensity of celluloid. Ranbir and Anoushka look great together but it despite their closeness its always platonic compared to her scenes with Fawad .
Lisa Hayden as the ditzy “gold digger” steals the show with her complete lack of self-awareness and you get the feeling she maybe the only person on screen who actually knows what she wants. The scenes of her much practiced “Salamalaikum” and “what, no Namaste for us?” were a sharp and funny reminder of the at times willful misunderstandings that have scarred this film’s release.
In the original story Ali, Alizey, Faisal and Saba characters were supposedly Pakistani, but had to be changed to Indian Muslims from Lucknow because of the threatening rhetoric coming from Indian nationalists. It really seems a fuss about nothing when , there was nothing particularly “Pakistani” about any of these roles but to be fair apart from a bhajan on his IPhone there was little to mark Ayaan as an Indian either. Representations of Muslims in Bollywood sadly veer from caricatures saying Subhanallah, with shawl glued to their shoulders as in the recent Dilwale to the generic girl with a Muslim name we see in Alizey.
In the end I wonder if the Hindu nationalists demanding a ban on ADHM actually did the makers a favour by stirring up so much controversy that people are watching it to see what the fuss was about? On the flipside, if it was a better product that was killed on the editing floor it is a shame that what could have been an iconic movie, connecting people across borders, has been reduced to a “time pass”. It would be easy enough to criticize Karan Johar for not standing up to the bullies but at least he made the effort to reach out and be inclusive. Hopefully this film should be shown in Pakistan, if for no other reason than that it includes the hard work of Pakistani actors and singers. The better reason would be that we cannot let empty political rhetoric drown out the voices of peace and understanding.
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil lacks the emotional power of Karan Johar’s previous films like Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Ghum, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai or My Name Is Khan but is good enough to watch once for the good music and the great performances put in by the entire cast.
Sadaf Haider … Who is still waiting for that one Iconic movie … That big one that knocks her outcompletely ,just like they used to .
Thanks to Sadaf Siddiqui for the metaphoric hand holding and calming of frayed nerves . and Big thanks to all the lovely ladies who pitched in with their take … Reshma , Anjum , Robica and Saira 🙂 .Cannot resist saying Mona you weren’t there but you were 🙂 when SRK appeared I screamed for both of us .. when Fawad Khan apeared I swooned for both of us