A heartbreak is worth a few films; and who better than Karan Johar understands it.
The director’s latest attempt to address the theme of uncompromising love is refreshing in terms of style, but lags hugely in terms of originality and substance. The initial acts always force us to revisit Imtiaz Ali’s exceptional works – Love Aaj Kal, Tamasha, and Rockstar – while the the post-intermission portions appear to be recycled from Johar’s very own blockbusters from the late 90s and early 2000s.
As a result, what we get in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is a mix-bag of I-Have-Seen-It-Before-Tales. It is watchable but lacks originality.
An awkward hookup attempt between Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) and Alizeh (Anushka Sharma) leads to a narrow-lined friendship. The former is depressed about a routine fight with his girlfriend; the latter, meanwhile, appears to be full-of-life on surface, but hides deep agonies from her recent breakup.
They speak, they talk, and then they converse; and the more they converse, the better understanding they develop about each other – a premise that reminds us of Before Sunrise’s Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, albeit being fragmental. Just in this case, it is only the man who falls in love, while his counterpart consider their relationship as platonic.
Over the next 2 hours and 35 minutes runtime, we see Ayan and Alizeh protecting and attacking each other in the name of friendship and love. And the beauty with which Ranbir and Anushka play them help us believe the torments each is going through. Their performances help you invest in the journey, however cliched it may look from the outset.
There are many instances in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil that simply tugs off your heart. My personal favourite is when Ayan begs Alizeh to stay away from him; that “he can’t take it anymore”. Another one is when he admits his love for her on her wedding night.
And then there is Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s poetic Saba, who appears to be the distraction Ayan truly needs, but mostly ends up being a reminder of his true innermost desires for Alizeh. Aishwarya plays her part elegantly, especially during a confrontation scene with Ranbir – simply beautiful.
Johar interweaves the conflicts perfectly and is helped by music director Pritam to raise the bar. In fact, the music works almost in line with the storytelling; it is a beautiful soundtrack, something comparable to AR Rahman’s Rockstar, minus Sufi.
Despite the awkward emotional manipulation it tries to sell, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil comes out as a flossy amalgamation of Rockstar, Kal Ho Na Ho, and 500 Days of Summer. I’m going to give it three and a half for the performances and the music. Take your handkerchiefs with you!