Confession: It’s my guilty pleasure. I’m a sucker for emotionally swirling dramas which unaccountably extract catharctic tears in the dark of the auditorium. I’m almost in a delirium, and writer-director-sentimentalist Karan Johar has often (not always) done this to me. Can share the pain he dredges up for his gallery of protagonists whose heartbeats drum up a graph of kabhi love, kabhi obsessive compulsive disorders.
Truth be told I was alternately moved – here’s the downside – and alternately boggled on watching Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. The first-half of this 158-minuter kept me enthralled by its tongue-in-chic candour, the sophisticated update on the funky youthful spirit, and the vulnerable aspects of Ayaan (Ranbir Kapoor) and Alizeh (Anushka Sharma). She has already split from the love of her life Deejay Ali (Fawad Khan) and he’s in the midst of a sort of , far from serious live-in relationship.
Meeting up at one of those uber cool parties, somewhere out there in London, Alizeh hauls him into a kissing session. “You’re a lousy kisser,” is her verdict. Ouchee. Ayaan is clean bowled, this girl’s different, daft and daring. Commences a playful friendship, a hopover to Paris (in the private jetplane owned by Ayaan’s dad, no less), where proverbially the bees, the birds and all tend to fall in love. Oui oui tres romantique so far. But hell’s bells, the girl says no sex please, suggesting a Platonic liasion. Merde!
Ulp, Ayaan a budding musican who considers himself to be a potential Mohammed Rafi, gulps but grins and bears it. Cut to a nightclub reunion with that aforecited Deejay, and the plot screeches to a halt as a speeding car would on a busy highway. Alizeh and Deejay go through a nikhaah in Lucknow, right before the eyes of the Platonic buddy. Weeps he, sings a song he, and threatens he to crush his heart with a handy flower pot in the bride’s chamber.
Although this sounds far-out implausible, this section of Ae Dil Hai Muskhkil compels you to share Ayaan’s despair and anguish. Your eyes moist, Alizeh please don’t do this to a young man who adores you to tiny pieces. Are you blind? Are you heartless?, you want to ask her. So much fabulous frisson and fierce friction going on. Intermission.
Wow, Karan Johar has grabbed the audience – or at least me – by the collar, I beamed. Post-intermission, though, my smiles and tears diminished. Enter Saba (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, far too put-on for comfort), a femme fatale who writes Urdu poetry and reads her verses out loud before an expressionless gathering in Vienna. Really.
Femme Fatale, you see, has separated formally from her artist husband (yaaay, Shah Rukh Khan, elocuting profound dialogue of the metaphorical kind), Blink, he’s gone. Thank you.
So the bedroom trysts between Ayaan with the older woman continue till huh, Alizeh fetches up for a threesome, dinner that is. The dinner is super-tense. No one eats the bread offered. Upset, poetess poetically gives our Ayaan the marching orders. Meanie beanie. An inadvertent touch of misogyny is apparent. Come on ladies, give love and the Richie Rich-cum- perfectly adorable Ayaan a chance, won’t you? Not fair.
Soon enough, poetess vanishes too. So now what to do? A malignant villain (not a human being is all I can hint) pops up, and you know where the rest of the toothpick-thin plot is heading. I’m no longer beaming.
The dialogue by Johar-Niranjan Iyengar is pretty punchy and lined with humour, except for lines such as, “Dard ko dard dhoondh leta hai” (Pain has the knack of finding pain). Sorry, can’t quite get that. The allusions – call them tributes if you like – to vintage Bollywood movies as well as those from the Dharma Productions vaults – are fun.
Note especially the vignettes from Guide, Chandni, a mention of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and the remix of the title song of Evening in Paris. Fine, terrific zap and zing. But when this references continue like an elongated monsoon – down pours an R D Burman medley – it becomes too much of a good thing.
Incidentally, a thought kept nagging me – aren’t the bare bones of the story – forget the femme fatale -- quite evocative of Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar? Also pray, where have all the parents of the lead characters gone? They’re turned invisible. En passant it is suggested there have been issues with the elders, but that’s it.
On the upside, Pritam’s inspired music score and Anil Mehta’s eye-caressing photography (fast becoming extinct in the Bollywood mainstream) are super-positive assets.
Also, there can be absolutely no argument about Karan Johar’s distinct specialty of extracting bravura performances from his crew of actors.
Lisa Haydon, as a hoity-toity Londoner, is screamingly funny with her flair for comic timing.
Anushka Sharma, assigned a role of complexity, is unwaveringly excellent. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil belongs to her, yes, but above all to Ranbir Kapoor who glides smoothly through the entire vocabulary of emotionally-powerful acting: from anxiety to bliss and from vulnerability to resilience. He makes you care.
Bottomline: Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is surely worth the price of a ticket even if the path towards love is strewn with speedbreakers in the second-half.
Thumbnail Image Source: youtube/foxstarhindi