Ae Dil Hai Mushkil review: Ranbir, Anushka's chemistry shines in a typical Karan Johar film
At a recent panel discussion at the Mumbai Film Festival, the experts and audience rued that contemporary Hindi cinema has lost connection with its core, and that filmmakers are increasingly cloning western narratives and tropes.
I have to confess, while I don’t have any issue with the item number and heroine replacing the vamp, and I don’t miss villains with the distractingly large mole on his face, I do miss the good old colourful song-and-dance Bollywood movie. And that’s where the Khans, Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar score — or at least did.
So when you get a glossy love story like Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil with pretty faces, gorgeous locations and at least one ear worm (the title track), hopes are naturally high. London, Vienna, Paris and a dash of Lucknow are the settings in this film about platonic love, passionate love and unrequited love.
Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) and Alizeh (Anushka Sharma) are two misfits at a party who are drawn to each other but a messy effort at a one-night stand transforms into a deep friendship.
For the first 40 minutes they banter, babble and live life without a care – it’s the kind of carefree attitude that comes with a fat bank balance and the kind of rich that’s not “first class” but “private jet”.
They keep referencing Hindi films, spouting dialogues (many of which are from Johar’s films, of course), and these repeated references to Hindi films, while cute at first, only distance the audience from the characters.
Ayan wants to be a singer but Alizeh says his voice lacks the soul that comes only from experiencing heartbreak; not the kind caused by being dumped by your fortune-seeking bimbo girlfriend (Lisa Haydon, in a part that fits her as well as her character’s lacy corset).
While Alizeh treats Ayan as a spoilt younger brother to be indulged, his affection for her runs much deeper. Enter Alizeh’s former love, her weakness Ali (Fawad Khan, in a seemingly truncated role).
Background music swells, the slow walk away from a one-sided love, and an arrival into the arms of an elegant muse who speaks only in couplets. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan looks stunning and glides around in designer dresses with ease. She unabashedly embraces the role Saba, a poet who throws caution to the wind as she embarks on a steamy no-strings-attached relationship with the wounded Ayan.
Always a treat to watch, Kapoor brings all the facets of his work we love – the lover, the singer, the dancer, the flirt, the funny guy. His chemistry works well with both the leading ladies. The camaraderie between Kapoor and Sharma is endearing though she could have dialed it down a notch. In contrast, Rai Bachchan plays it controlled and cool.
Interestingly, Johar does not pepper his film with sundry supporting characters – no unnecessary comic best friend or overly protective parent. But he does stick to form by slipping in cameos by his besties and using music (by Pritam) to good effect.
Johar and co-writer Niranjan Iyengar share lessons in love, and lessons in unrequited love. It’s all warm and fuzzy and quite nice till we encounter a mash-up of Kal Ho Naa Ho and Rockstar.
An enjoyable ride derails in the finale, and you wonder when will we see a film where Ranbir Kapoor, for all his efforts, dammit, gets the girl. A lazy attempt at emotional manipulation apart, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil delivers on nearly all it promised.