Ae Dil Hai Mushkil – Movie Review


(Spoilers ahead!)


Disclaimer: After ages I have had the opportunity to watch a movie on the release date, hence a review after a long hiatus. As a sportsman is rusty after a long break, I fear I shall suffer from the same predicament. Pray be mild in your disagreements 🙂

On first observations, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM) has stark differences from the rest of the movies Karan Johar (writer-director-producer here) has made and yet if one delves deeper, the possibility of being inspired from his earlier works does emerge.

Consider the genres he has covered so far, college romance was done (with mint fresh flair) in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (KKHH) and dusted (with a stinking mop) in Student of the Year. The check box of the blockbuster family drama was ticked with Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and the attempt at portraying complex relationships/infidelity was done through Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. Lastly, in his head, Karan worked on a socially relevant subject with My Name is Khan; though the part of the world with basic level of intelligence is still figuring out where to bracket that movie.

While writing the script of ADHM in New York City (source: Mumbai Mirror) within nine days (source: heard from theatre seat-neighbour girl with the most gorgeous eyes ever, more on her later), Karan must have been trying to find ways to challenge and evolve himself as a film maker. And to do that he has made a conscious effort to move away from the core ideas he himself established in Bollywood. Hence, ADHM portrays two best friends not falling in love, the exact opposite of the idea preached in KKHH. Further, there are no supporting characters of extended family members or friends, just the four main characters with no one to talk to but each other. A 180 degree turn from the Farida Jalals, Himani Shivpuris and Alok Naths that have populated his earlier films. Some things remain constant though. ADHM is set abroad (London), characters are super rich (private jet et al), the sets are stunning, the music is fabulous (Pritam) and there are guest appearances by his favourite superstars (plural, yes).

Now, post the elaborate, indulgent context setting, let me begin describing the movie that can be roughly divided into three parts.

The first one establishes the friendship between the lead characters, Ayan – wannabe singer but actually a MBA student in London (Ranbir Kapoor) and mega sorted Alizeh (Anushka Sharma) – don’t know what she did for a living but she claimed to be a multi-tasker unparalleled (yoga/dance etc). In this section, director is at his indulgent best with several odes to Bollywood classics, majorly his own. It is amusing for the first couple of minutes but the novelty of seeing the two characters recreate sequences and converse using dialogues of past hit films (Dharma’s and YRF’s) wears off pretty quickly. After a bit, it just appears forced and contrived.

Love blooms eventually but the twist that makes us move to part two of the story comes in the form of Ali (Fawad Khan). “He is so hot!” exclaimed the gorgeous eyes wali neighbour to her friend. Hearing those words was the only time in my life I have had the same opinion as the MNS on anything. And I am sure Ranbir’s Ayan thinks on similar lines based on the consequences that Ali’s introduction has on his chances with Alizeh. Mercifully for him, he finds a poet Saba (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, defines hotness. Period) at Lucknow airport. From then on he proceeds with Aishwarya to live the fantasy of every child who grew up in the 90s, while also singing songs and becoming an internet sensation. His heartbreak fueling his singing prowess, deja ‘Rockstar’ vu anyone?

This part is by far the best phase of the movie though. A lot of heavy duty urdu dialogues are used and some of it really clicks well. The exchanges between Ayan, Alizeh and Saba are truly gripping with SRK doing a delightful cameo. (This is not a spoiler, it has been three days since the release and if you still did not know he was part of the movie; there is a serious issue in your social feed). If there is any reason to ever watch the movie again, apart from Ash ofcourse, it is these scenes in which Karan regales his audience with the depth of his knowledge on love.

“You appreciate the emotions so much more if you have experienced them”, quipped the pretty and now insightful neighbour to her friend. Very true indeed and thus makes one wonder how Karan manages to evoke such complex emotions about love while rumours about his own love (not sex) life have rarely surfaced.

The movie is now setup well to go into the final third phase. If Karan gets this right, then despite its many shortcomings, this will make for a decent watch. But sadly, he gets it horribly wrong.

While writing this part of the script, Karan should roughly be around the seventh day of his nine days of solitude in NYC and am assuming for inspiration he ended up watching a recent movie directed by his old pal, Nikhil Advani. Disastrous idea it turned out to be, as the last twist meant to tug your heart and make it weep actually makes one scowl and howl in despair. Getting into any further details about this section would be a true spoiler, go experience the stupidity yourself.

Coming to the performances, Anushka and Aishwarya manage their parts well, with the latter really capable of adding weight to her dialogues or ‘dard ko shabdon ka sahara’ as her character Saba would have put it. Ranbir’s work here is a lot more complex to explain, will attempt it via an example from work.

A splendidly cheap-witty friend at work once described the persona built by another super intelligent colleague. She said he has ensured everyone knows he is mega intelligent and now even when he makes a mistake, people will first doubt whether they are thinking about it in the right way before pointing out his flaws.

Exactly the dilemma I face while describing Ranbir’s performance. He is a very fine actor, arguably the best of the post-Khan generation. Also, unlike sport you cannot have an off day in acting. If you know how to act, you will do so in all your movies (assumption). But in significant portions of this movie, the lack of realism on screen was aided by Ranbir. He pulls off the brooding lover well but for large parts he seems to be trying too hard and thus appears not convincing.

“What a creep!” described the pretty-eyed neighbour after his final outburst with Anushka and it summed up his character perfectly. One does not feel anything for creeps except indifference. And that translates to no connection with the lead characters of a movie that relies heavily on you crying with them.

In a Karan Johar film, to look for realism is like searching for a needle in a haystack but such thanda passion and emotion on screen makes for dull viewing. It is the big Diwali release, do go watch it but the fireworks will only be outside the theatre.

Rating: 2 on 5, disappointed as I do look forward to Karan Johar directed movies.

Dessert Note (as desserts are served at the end of the meal, a dessert note is served at the end of a movie review):

Watching Ranbir and Anushka have so much fun while recreating scenes from old hits inspired me to try one myself. Always wanted to attempt the ‘palat’ scene from DDLJ. Could not think of a better setting than post watching a KJo romantic movie and the subject had to be the multiple times mentioned pretty eyes beauty seated next to me. The outcome you ask? Well, picture abhi baaki hai mere dost.