Movie Review: 'Ae Dil Hai Mushkil'
Opened: 28 October 2016
Cast: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Lisa Haydon, Fawad Khan, Shah Rukh Khan
Director: Karan Johar
Producers: Hiroo Yash Johar, Karan Johar
"Ek tarfa pyaar ki taqat hi kuch aur hoti hai ...Auron ke rishton ki tarah yeh do logon mein nahi batt ti ... Sirf mera haq hai ispe."
One sided love. It's a bitch ain't it? A theme that's been explored in countless films and one that's been recycled to death, but when it's a film by Karan Johar, the stakes are perhaps just a tad higher. More so in this case especially for leading man Ranbir Kapoor, who's in search for that elusive hit after a series of unmitigated disasters.
In hindsight, if one backtracks slightly, it's a common thread in almost all of Johar's films. Think about it. In Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Anjali yearned for Rahul for a whopping eight years. In Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (albeit not as prominent), Rani Mukerji's Naina loves Rahul but to her dismay he falls for the village imbecile Anjali. In Kal Ho Naa Ho Saif's metrosexual Rohit pines away for Preity Zinta's Naina, only to practically lose her to Shah Rukh Khan's Aman. In Dostana both John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan jostle for Priyanka Chopra's affections, (admittedly those films weren't directed by Johar but they came from the same place). While Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna went that extra step further with its Silsila-esque spin, but its core theme was still that of an unobtainable/forbidden love. Ditto with Student Of The Year. Perhaps the only exception to the rule was a stray My Name Is Khan, where the message was more political and the film itself had no space for a third angle. Anyway. We digress.
Johar's latest film, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil arrives amidst a lot of fanfare and controversy (all of which inevitably raised the curiosity levels for what essentially looked like a humdrum love triangle), but here, Johar pushes the envelope again by casting an ethereal Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (exquisitely styled and presented, but naturally) opposite Kapoor, almost a decade her junior in a love story where it's never quite obvious who will ultimately end up with whom.
In the film, Kapoor's Ayan, a private jet, people pleasing type dotes on the sprightly Alizeh (Anushka Sharma, well on her way to becoming the Czarina of filmdom, after her contemporaries jumped ship to seek fame Stateside – hardly surprising given that apart from Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor, she's the only one that can actually act). He an MBA seeking wannabe rockstar and she nursing the remnants of a broken heart after a failed romance with DJ Ali (Fawad Khan, looking dishy AF, in a blink and you'll miss him cameo).
Complications arise when Ayan mistakes their platonic friendship for something more and rebounds with Saba (Rai) an enigmatic writer, causing conundrums aplenty which all culminate in typical heady Johar fashion, leading to the requisite sacrifices, but disappointingly climaxing in a somewhat lacklustre finale, which will ultimately leave audiences on the fence – unable to decide how much of it they connected with – if at all.
For all its gimmicks, discrepancies and disjointedness, I definitely was one of those people. There are parts of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil that wow right from Pritam's scorching soundtrack and Anil Mehta's luminous camerawork to Kapoor-Sharma's playful camaraderie and Rai's eye watering good looks, but there are also instances which will leave you underwhelmed – the climax for one which despite its noble intent fails to really stir any real emotion or connect with your psyche despite the dramatic and sombre twist it takes.
Regardless, like most of Johar's previous efforts he gets the best out of his cast who keep the momentum going even if Johar himself seems unsure of where to take his screenplay. A tongue in cheek cameo by Lisa Haydon brings the house down as do a few couple of stray superstar cameos which liven things up, when the narrative begins to drag. Kapoor again is in fine form, effortlessly charming and natural without ever going over the top, even though his character has the potential to becoming a whiney mess. Sharma too is at her gregarious best nailing not just the light hearted moments, but handling a few of the dramatic scenes with aplomb. Her's is not an easy character – she goes through a gamut of emotions through the course of the film and handles them like a seasoned pro. But it is Rai, as the self deprecating femme fatale, who's unapologetic about her life choices, that proves to be the real scene stealer here, speaking volumes with her luminous eyes and grace, particularly in a scene where she conveys a plethora of emotions with just a few lines. It's obvious that that's what Johar intended all along – to position her as a mercurial diva and the USP of the film, however you can't help but feel the film and us deserved more of her than was meted out here.
For all the brouhaha that surrounded it, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is by no means Johar's best but its not unwatchable either. For Rai's return to form, a knockout first half, a few stellar scenes and Kapoor and Sharma's animated, delectable camaraderie, I'm going with three stars out of five. Keep your expectations in check and you're unlikely to be disappointed.