By: Samar Khan
It’s been quite a while since I could comfortably say that I enjoyed a Karan Johar film.
Regardless of whether your holiday of choice happens to be Diwali (Happy Diwali), Halloween (Happy Halloween) or Samar’s birthday (I do accept gifts), this film is for you. Yes, this Karan Johar film is riddled with clichès. Yes, the dialogue is nowhere near realistic and is exactly something you would expect to see in a… Karan Johar film. What’s that, I hear you ask? Why yes, this is a Karan Johar film and because it’s his film, the over-the-top melodramatic dialogue just works and plays with your emotions throughout.
It’s also been quite a few years (4, in fact) since Ranbir Kapoor shone as bright in a role as he did in this film. Since the brilliant efforts delivered in Rockstar and Barfi! respectively, Kapoor has taken to acting in more crowd-pleasing films that require less finesse on the dramatic acting front and take more of a focus on the “looking good” front. The less we say about Roy and Besharam, the better. Suffice it to say, he was marvellous. I’ll allow my good friend, Bollywood superstar and Mr Perfectionist Aamir Khan, sum up his thoughts on the film and Kapoor:
I personally wouldn’t call Kapoor the “best actor” bar none in Bollywood but there is no denying that when he is on his game, there are very few that are better. He was but one part of a film that was jussstttt short of earning itself the title of “Karan Johar Classic.” Ladies and gentlemen, this is our review of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.
—MINOR SPOILERS BELOW—
As far as plots go, this one is easy to sum up as follows: If you have seen one Karan Johar film, you have seen them all. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil quite literally takes from the classics the legendary Bollywood auteur has written and directed and uses said classics as both inspirations and legitimate plot devices to advance certain segments of the story. While some would decry the lack of originality, it wasn’t as outrageous as it looks to be on the surface as Johar has a knack for incorporating pieces from his old films into his newest ones and doing so WELL.
The tale is simple. Ayan, a rich bachelor living with a gold-digger, becomes fast friends with a free spirit in Anushka Sharma‘s Alizeh. They bond, travel to exotic locations around the world and inevitably, one of the leads falls for the other. While Kapoor’s Ayan is lovestruck, Sharma’s Alizeh harbours deep feelings for her ex, Ali (in a brief but wonderful special appearance by Fawad Khan), and that forms the crux of the plot for the second half of the film. Give credit where credit is due, Johar doesn’t use the tried-and-true tactic of making his leads fall in love with each other right away (par for the course in his filmography) but makes this a tale of unrequited love and its impact on different people.
The dialogue was just breathtaking at times with its beauty. Seriously, with lines such as:
“Mohabbat karna hamare bas mein nahi hai … us mohabbat se door chale jaana … woh hamare bas mein hai”
“Ek tarfa pyar ki taqat hi kuch aur hoti hai … auron ke rishton ki tarah yeh do logon mein nahi bat’ti … sirf mera haq hai ispe.”
UFFFFF. How good is that? Unrealistic beyond belief in that no one actually ever says something like that (right?) but just so wonderful to listen to.
I don’t think I could articulate just how well Ranbir Kapoor acted in this film quite as well as Aamir Khan did up above but I shall try to do just that. Kapoor’s greatest attribute has always been that, despite his entry in Bollywood being solely due to being the son of one of the most iconic stars of the Indian film industry, he has managed to hang on for so long by pulling off dramatic roles with an intensity that his father could never match. That is on full display in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, as he is able to transition from being a carefree traveller, to a lovelorn wreck to a vengeful lover and finally to someone that realizes the impact of heartbreak all in the span of 2 and a half hours. The range on display here is simply incredible and will see Kapoor garner some serious buzz come awards season. Here’s to hoping he sticks to dramatic roles in the future as well, and doesn’t simply coast and deliver to us more Besharams.
Anushka Sharma is the female lead of the film and, as she has continued to do for the last few years, she continues to dazzle and deliver emotionally poignant and appropriately balanced performances. Her Alizeh jumps from being the fun character audiences may remember from Jab Tak Hai Jaan to the emotionally devastated type seen in her performance in the phenomenal PK. She was great, is essentially what I am saying here.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan rounds out the three leads of the film, essentially serving as a second-half foil for Kapoor’s lustful and heartbroken Ayan. Despite the age difference between the two actors going in, the story does a wonderful job allowing Rai to shine as a divorced poet that wants nothing more in a relationship than passion and accounts for that age difference easily. It’s ridiculous how beautiful she continues to look after all these years, easily taking the title of “Best Looking” in a film that is full of beautiful people. She wasn’t called upon to do much besides playing the sultry arm candy of Kapoor but for what she was tasked with delivering, she delivered with aplomb.
Fawad Khan is the final member of the hyped quartet, and receives the least amount of screen-time. Despite the time constraints however, his intensity is on full display as the DJ that makes the life of Sharma’s Alizeh all topsy-turvy.
The soundtrack. Hoo, the soundtrack. When you ask most people what the bread and butter of Karan Johar’s films has been (outside of the performances of Shah Rukh Khan, of course), 99.9% will respond with the amazing soundtracks his films tend to incorporate. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil never quite reaches the high of any of his prior films but puts forth a very good effort in the musical department.
Outside of a decidedly mediocre “Cutiepie” song and a decent “Breakup” song, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil delivers to us three songs I highly recommend all add to their playlist. First up is the mesmerizing “Bulleya,” sang by the underrated Amit Mishra and delivered with a passion that will make you want to rock your head all day. On top of that, the already-legendary Arijit Singh delivers not one but TWO gems in this film, with “Channa Mereya” being the soothing wedding-period song and the “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” title song forcing you to really feel all those emotional thoughts you assumed that you had repressed.
The rest of the score was very solid, with the use of Mohammad Rafi classic tunes and samples from Johar’s filmography (Kal Ho Naa Ho, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge) peppering the remainder of the proceedings.
There is one cameo about 3/4 of the way through the film that had the audience around me – and myself, admittedly – absolutely mesmerized. I won’t spoil the cameo at all but suffice it to say, the dialogue on romance delivered by this gentleman will elevate the film for you on the spot.
The film could have been “very good bordering on great” instead of “just good” if Johar hadn’t used a completely unforeseen and cheap plot twist to pad the last act of the film and shoehorn in some way for some last-minute character development. I won’t spoil the twist (obviously) but it definitely detracted from a lot of the goodwill the film had accrued up until that point.
So, to summarize: a clichè-filled film with a fairly unoriginal story that is saved by its quality, excellent acting all around particularly by our two leads, a very good soundtrack all topped off with an unneeded twist. I had been craving a good love story from Johar for well over half a decade now and despite some missteps, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil delivered and is something I heartily recommend to our audience.
We here at The Film Lawyers grace Ae Dil Hai Mushkil with a grade of B (7.6 / 10).