AE DIL HAI MUSHKIL
Direction: Karan Johar
Actors: Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Fawad Khan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
Rating: 2 / 5
In ’90s Bollywood, the boys chased the ‘good’ girls till they fell in love. In the 2000s, the stalking died down. But the women continued to live with families, while the men were the driving forces who impressed the girl and her family.
Now, the family is out of the picture. The Bollywood heroine is independent, sexually liberated: From Deepika Padukone in Cocktail and Tamasha, to Anushka Sharma in Dil Dhadakne Do.
Naturally, Alizeh (Anushka Sharma) lives in London, drinks and parties with a boy she’s just met (Ayan, played by Ranbir Kapoor), but doesn’t want a romantic love story.
We’re in the 2010s, the age of urban feminism, where the no-mance is the new Bollywood romance.
Karan Johar reverses gender roles, so it’s the boy who sulks and cries, and the girl who consoles. But this debunking of formulaic Bollywood — the sort Johar himself helped propagate — is the new formula. And once you stop getting impressed by the new-age, liberated millennial shtick, you see it for what it is: just another make-believe Johar-verse, where rich, good-looking people party every night, live in fancy apartments, and don’t bother with mundane things such as having jobs. Johar, making shiny romantic stories for NRI audiences since 1998, now makes shiny romantic stories for their kids.
He takes a whole hour to establish the coolth of his lead pair: bar-hopping in London; weekend trips to Paris (with the Alps squeezed in, somehow); dumping of arranged, parent-approved matches. They still, incredibly, dance coordinated steps in discos, and grab the mic at a jazz bar to sing Hindi numbers.
The story progresses only when an ex jumps into the picture (Ali, a professional DJ; played by Fawad Khan), and our new-age heroine traipses off to have a big, Indian wedding (note: Johar edits the chapter set in Lahore, and calls it Lucknow). There is no background to Ali, so he’s a character you can’t really invest in.
But, at least so far, Johar was in his usual territory. When he brings in Saba (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), he flirts with the idea of the older woman-younger man fling, a more complex equation that requires the scope of an entire movie. Unfortunately, this is little more than an extended cameo. The poet, Saba, is just another cliché — the successful divorcee, a woman in control — who spews more poetry than conversational Hindi. And the relationship lacks motivation.
The film has its moments, as Johar’s films always do. The self-proclaimed Bollywood fans try out the chiffon sari-in-the-snow routine. There’s even self-aware humour, when Ranbir Kapoor dances to his father’s song from Chandni and then says, “Yeh Bollywood waale pagal hote hai”.
But you know what? Rohit Shetty’s done this before. And that’s precisely the problem with Ae Dil Hai Mushkil: everyone’s “done this before”.
Kapoor plays a character that’s rather familiar: a mash-up of roles, from the youth coming of age in Wake up Sid to the deviants in Rockstar and Tamasha. Sharma carries on in the same vein as her character from Dil Dhadakne Do.
And by the time Johar throws in his final twist, he’s turned his no-mance into a soppy story and is just squeezing for the last drop of melodrama.
Watch the trailer for Ae Dil Hai Mushkil