We trust Karan Johar to understand Bollywood romance – his love stories are steeped in mush. Some of us like watching because they remind us of simpler times, of pyaar, dosti and the Utopian idea that every love story has a happy ending.
‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ is a take on the more complicated journey that love actually is in real life. Friendship and love don’t seamlessly merge anymore and that is a vast departure from the K.Jo-esque school of thought. While I enjoyed every bit of the rollercoaster ride and the turbulence of emotions that unrequited love can spring, I was completely let down by the escapist climax. That was just so simplistic!
This love story has two main leads – Alizeh (Anushka) and Ayan (Ranbir) and two supporting leads – Saba (Aishwarya) and Ali (Fawad) – and each of them approach love differently, yet with anguish and loss.
Karan Johar uses his favourite devices to tell this story of complicated hearts. Our lovers are global citizens – living in London, Paris, Vienna, wherever wanderlust takes them. There is also the obligatory Bollywood shaadi – the haldi, the mehendi, the dancing at your best friend’s wedding and all that schmaltz.
K.Jo’s usual tropes are served with a twist. How difficult is it to play the quintessential BFF when the person you love is getting married to someone else? You sing, dance and participate in all that jazz while a dull throbbing ache originates from the base of the heart and spreads, constricting the lungs, making it impossible to breathe. When you are supposed to farcically wish them happiness, all that you manage to do is show them your middle finger – the pain is palpable in that one vulgar gesture.
Yes, we have seen Ranbir Kapoor walk away unscathed many a time – in ‘Anjaana Anjaani’ (2010), in ‘Rockstar’ (2011), in ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’ (2013), in ‘Tamasha’ (2015) – and he still manages to convince you that this is for real.
For that matter, Ayan is very similar to the Jordan of Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Rockstar’ and it is to the actor’s credit that he manages to bring something new to this character despite the similarities.
Ayan does everything that a heartbroken lover should do – love on the rebound, move to a distant land, pursue his passion and yet, it is impossible for him to flush out the object of his affection from his system.
Alizeh is capable of losing herself in love – the feisty, independent fun girl can in the blink of an eye become coy and besotted. Just when you think of her as stubborn and unforgiving you discover she is capable too of being gullible and naïve.
Saba believes that for her love and desire can be two completely different things. Is it possible then to accept that the intense physical relationship that you share with someone in no way connects you to his soul?
Ali is capable of love, even commitment and yet, loyalty is something that isn’t his cup of tea. Does that then dilute his love?
None of these questions have easy answers. It ain’t simple and neither is love in real life. We have for too long dealt with only black and white in love, what about the other colours, what about the grey?
Some relationships rob us of the innocence we felt when we first loved – we lose the naïveté, the unrestrained expression, the ability to laugh and cry without the fear of judgment. We have that one person who unlocks our madness and recognizes the crazy in us and loves us for it. And when they go, they take that bit of us with them – we can never ever be what we were when we were with them.
The film works because Ranbir knows how to pitch his part perfectly. He might not have had too many hits in the recent past but he plays this part with unflinching conviction.
Fawad looks dishy but he is wasted in a part that doesn’t really require him to do much. His relationship with Anushka needed a little more meat, so that we could understand the nuance of why their relationship didn’t work.