Ae Dil Hai Mushkil review: Old formula with a comic twist
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is another mushy tale of unrequited love with all the formulaic frills and some spoofing on Bollywood.
Director Karan Johar had sort of enraged his family audiences with Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna that tread on extra-marital relationships.
The man who made Hindi film lovers fall in love, the master of Mills&Boon style saccharine relationships, the Danielle Steel of Bollywood, however, opts for the comfort of formula, with two significant shifts in his much-awaited Diwali release Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.
The first is that he takes out the so-called sacrosanctity that was given to passion. If in earlier Bollywood films, heroes romance to live happily ever after including discovering their lust, here, he is more progressive. The hero gets to hit the bed straight up as one-night stands or out of sheer passion. No baggage there.
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The second is the twist that Johar gives to 'love' itself. This time he pits the battle between love and friendship with some profound philosophy that passion leads to jealousy and pain, while friendship only gives peace. So it is that 'I love you' in India might soon be replaced by girls and boys telling each other 'I friend you.'
Yes, the pretentious shallowness and superficiality of relationships, no matter how hard Johar wants to convey them as complex and studied, remains in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. The director just cannot get into another plane. His characters get to romance and do whatever they do onscreen because they are all stand-alone (no family drama as is customary in Johar movies here). Everyone is rich, everyone is a loner and everyone has lost in love.
So it is that in this tale of unrequited love, Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) - a much-mellowed down version of his Rockstar but more on the lines of the loafer he plays with abandon - learning the pangs of love and separation through two women who comes into his life.
The film is narrated through the words of Ayan, offering an interview now that he is a successful singer. The first woman is Alizeh (Anushka Sharma), effervescent, bubbly, instantly loveable and utterly dignified and sure about what she wants from life. She loves Bollywood stuff, wants to live the filmy dream albeit in spoof. But she too is hurt in love. DJ Ali (Fawad Khan), to whom she gave her heart, had thrown it away.
Ayan's frivolousness amuses her and sitting cosy by a fireside wrapped in a blanket they agree to be friends. Or so they think because very soon Ayan realises that the 'inevitable third party' entering relationships are like the hard smacks that makes one realise about love.
Ayan is heartbroken - but lucky fellow - he hooks up with Saba (Aishwarya Rai) on a flight. She is 'walking talking Ghalib' as Ayan says, who leads him into the world of poetry. After all, Saba is also hurt in love, so is her ex-husband - yes Shah Rukh Khan in a cameo - who too is hurt in love.
With so much of hurt love, where is the catharsis? Well, Johar doesn't get into that, but adds to our own pain with the vintage Bollywood formula we have seen from Anand to Kal Ho Na Ho. The only good side is that he doesn't make into a melodramatic excess; he tries to keep it jovial - that is perhaps the redeeming factor about Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Johar seeks comic relief with spoofing - and it sort of works.
All actors are spot on delivering what Johar wants; the show-stealer is Anushka, thanks to her role. Aishwarya is effortless dignity, and Ranbir plays the loser and carefree young man with gleeful dexterity.
So here is the thing: If you like mushy romance, and going by the sniffs and sobs and claps from the cinema hall, you might enjoy the film. It is plain old Bollywood, full of colour, and Dr. Love kind of inspiration.
But if you are looking to see if Johar has evolved as a director, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil makes you realise that he is stuck in that comfortable milieu that he can only shake very occasionally. He is happy peddling formula and also laughing at it. This man knows the audience - so he plays to the gallery.
At a point Alizeh tells Ayan, boys are like movies - you have superhits and time-passes; and interest in time-passes fails rapidly and they flop. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is time-pass - its appeal walks the thin line on how star-crossed and how mushy you are.
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil
Directed by Karan Johar
Starring: Ranbir Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Anushka Sharma
Now playing at theatres in the UAE