Just How Sentimental Is ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’?

Ae Dil Hai MushkilDirector: Karan Johar
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Fawad Khan
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Karan Johar has forged a career making precisely one kind of film – love stories involving very rich people. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is the latest iteration of his abiding theme. Like his previous movies, ADHM overflows with sentimentality. The only levees keeping this swollen river of schmaltz in check are the humorous repartee between Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma in the first half and liberal use of Urdu throughout. Without these mitigating factors, the story would lull you into a stupor.

The film could just as well be called ‘She’s Just Not That Into You’
Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) and Alizeh (Anushka Sharma) meet in London where they spend their days having a good time, that is, drinking and dancing their way through London and Paris and trading frothy banter. He’s studying while she’s attempting to mend a broken heart. Of the two, he’s girlishly soft-hearted, quick to cry and prone to singing in public. She’s impulsive, brutally honest and partial to cacti. This is the only spot of silly fun before ADHM descends into full-blown melodrama. The movie is a triangular story of unrequited love. Ayan falls for Alizeh, who can’t view him as anything other than her “bestest friend”. She’s still in love with Ali (Fawad Khan), her college sweetheart, who she later marries. Ayan starts seeing Saba Taliyar Khan (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), a beautiful older woman. Unfortunately for her, she falls for him but he’s incapable of reciprocating as Alizeh is still on his mind. Over the years, he repeatedly begs Alizeh to love him. Each time, he gets ‘friendzoned’, as members of the audience called out during the show.

It could also have been titled ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Not Famous’
Now Johar rarely makes films that address real life concerns. Perhaps his movies seem familiar only to those who occupy the ether of the affluent. But it’s impossible for the rest of us plebs to avoid thinking of mundane issues. For example, Alizeh is disowned by her family for marrying Ali. Yet she continues to live lavishly despite having no job. Maybe she’s supported by her DJ husband, who’s obviously earning more than the average turntablist. Saba is a poet living in Vienna. We’re not told how she affords a fancy apartment or a life that involves wearing great clothes and going to parties. When Ayan and Alizeh are getting to know each other, she jokingly asks what kind of rich person he is: the first class type or the private jet type? (It turns out he can summon his family’s jet any time he likes.) It makes you wonder whether the unimaginably rich actually banter in such fashion.

KJo is a better dialogue writer than a screenplay writer
The most pleasurable bits of the film are the Urdu-flecked dialogues, written by Johar and his frequent collaborator Niranjan Iyengar. Alizeh is a terrific speaker as she’s from Lucknow. Poet Saba’s language, somewhat comically, is idiomatic. She casually utters things like, “Rishton ke geele zameen par log aksar phisal jaate hai” (People often fall on the slippery surface of relationships), “Apni dhun pe logon ko nachana har insaan ka khwab hai” (To make people dance to your tune is every person’s desire) and “Mein kisiki zaroorat nahi, khwaish banna chahti hoon” (I don’t want to be someone’s need, I want to be his desire). Ayan becomes a YouTube singing sensation by setting her poetry to music. The ending is disappointingly cliched and the movie wraps up in the most convenient way possible. It’s as if KJo couldn’t think of any other way to resolve the conflict. But this is hardly surprising as he has never shown much ingenuity.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was released in cinemas on Friday, October 28.

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