You know what you’re going to get with a Karan Johar film and his latest film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil doesn’t contain any surprises. As usual the film is all about unbelievably wealthy characters who look fabulous, live in amazing houses and agonise over simple human relationships the way only the truly idle rich can afford to do. It’s fluff, but beautifully filmed fluff that makes for a reasonable time-pass if you can ignore the few serious flaws that prevent the film from being a total success.
The film follows the antics of Ayan Sanger (Ranbir Kapoor) as he wastes his father’s money while studying an MBA in London and secretly dreaming of becoming a singer. One night he meets Alizeh Khan (Anushka Sharma) another rich kid who doesn’t even get a back story to explain her family wealth or her presence in London. Despite already having a girlfriend (Lisa Haydon), Ayan falls head over heels in love with Alizeh but unfortunately for Ayan, Alizeh is also already in a relationship (although unlike him she has no qualms about a quick one-night stand) and has no interest in anything other than friendship. Alizeh still has feeling for her ex – a DJ with a roving eye (Fawad Khan) and there is no room in her heart for anyone else.
It’s a wafer thin story and the theme of unrequited love is one that’s been told many times before, but that’s not the problem with the film. The biggest flaw here is Ranbir’s character Ayan who seems to be the worst possible reprise of almost every role Ranbir has played to date. Ayan is an overly emotional man-child with anger management issues who depends on his partner’s maturity and tolerance to solve all his problems for him. Like JJ in Rockstar, Ayan blames the object of his unrequited love for his issues and totally fails to see that only he can take responsibility for his own emotions. It’s hard to feel any empathy for such a self-centred character, particularly when he behaves like a five-year-old, bawling his eyes out when his girlfriend leaves him and pushing Alizeh around when she doesn’t fall into line. At least Alizeh pushes back, but this kind of violence without repercussions is just not acceptable and has no place in any film that purports to be a ‘romance’. Ranbir puts in a good performance, possibly no-one can pull off bratty man-child as well as he can, but his character here is too obnoxious for me and I seriously questioned Alizeh’s judgement when she decided that Ayan was her BFF.
My other big issue is the dreadful cliché used to resolve Ayan’s emotional immaturity at the end of the film. It’s such a let-down and a weak finale, especially when Ayan’s behaviour becomes even more appallingly self-centred and he is quite brutal in his treatment of Alizeh. It’s disappointing as there are plenty of good points to the film too, but with the end such a let-down the overall feeling on leaving the cinema is one of dissatisfaction.
It’s not all bad though and the first half in particular has plenty to enjoy. Thankfully, apart from her poor friend choice, Anushka Sharma’s Alizeh is a more sympathetic character and appears charming and likeable, even in her loyalty to her philandering boyfriend. Her decision to marry DJ Ali despite her awareness of his indiscretions rings true to real life relationships, and the mistaken but frequent belief in marriage as a cure for infidelity. As if! Alas, Alizeh’s love for Ali seems much greater than Ali’s love for Alizeh and both Anushka Sharma and Fawad Khan are excellent in their portrayals of this mismatched couple in a seemingly doomed relationship.
What also works well is the friendship between Ayan and Alizeh, which sparkles off the screen in the first half. I love that they have a shared love of old cheesy Bollywood songs (after all, who doesn’t!) and that they re-enact them on the snowy slopes of Europe. As someone who has run around Golkonda in Hyderabad trailing a scarf and singing the songs from Magadheera, I have immediate rapport with anyone attempting the same thing, especially when they take the time to dress appropriately for the occasion! There are a few glimpses as flashbacks in the song below but this scene is definitely worth catching in the cinema and for me was totally worth the price of admission alone.
Anushka Sharma is the best thing about the film and her portrayal of Alizeh’s down to earth pragmatism and sheer common sense ensure she is the most relatable character on-screen. She looks great and gives Alizeh plenty of pep and personality to counteract frequently Ranbir’s snivelling Ayan. It’s not that Ranbir doesn’t put in a good performance – he does – but his character is nothing he hasn’t done before and in this instance his immaturity is particularly annoying when compared to the other characters in the film.
Also excellent is Aishwarya Rai Bachchan who appears in the second half as a divorced poet Saba Khan. Saba begins a love affair with Ayan just as his heart is broken by Alizeh’s marriage and the two have an interesting relationship. Ayan is as callous and immature as ever, but hs a genuine affection for Saba, while she is mature enough to revel in a love affair that has no expectations. Aishwarya is stunningly beautiful and gracefully elegant as she swans around her amazing apartment in Vienna, again with no indication of how a supposedly struggling poet could afford to live somewhere quite so spectacular and expensively furnished. Of course there is her ex-husband (Shah Rukh Khan in a brief cameo) who is supposedly a successful artist, and is still in love with his ex-wife so perhaps he is happy to fund her wealthy lifestyle. The relationship between Ayan and Saba is much better realised than that of Ayan and Alizeh, and here the contrast between Saba’s maturity and Ayan’s self-centred youth makes for a more plausible relationship. Even the way it ends is well written and perfectly acted by Ranbir and Aishwarya, something that makes the final scenes even more disappointing in comparison. After all if K-Jo could write this part of the story so well, why not have such a satisfying conclusion to the main relationship too?
I wanted to like As Dil Hai Mushkil more as there are some very funny moments and clever situations in the first half that work really well. The songs are good, the sets spectacular and all the actors perform well. But no matter how much I enjoyed the friendship between Ayan and Alizeh, or the relationship between Ayan and Saba, it’s all overshadowed by the clichéd ending and the general unpleasantness of Ayan’s character. Worth watching for Aishwarya and Anushka and the wonderful re-enactment in the snow but be prepared for the banality of the ending and seen-it-all-before sameness of Ranbir’s character.
Haven’t seen the movie yet but loved the review. RK’s character sounds terrible but so was SRK’s in KANK ( which I hated at first and then grew to be okay with)
Have seen a few negative reviews about Anushka’s charcterization as well (esp comments about Haydon in movie). But hey, since when does a heroine have to be good and nice always , ei ? Looks like KJo almost got the pair of rich, good looking sweet yet obnoxious kids he wanted ?
Also first positive review I have read about Ash, yaaay
And trailing a scarf on Golconda ..LOVE IT 😊
Thanks ideallaedi 🙂
I really liked Ash in this – it was great to see her in a more mature role where she was seen as the sexy older woman and also didn’t have any negative overtones. She wasn’t a hussy or a bad woman because she was in a relationship with a younger man and that was great to see. I also liked Anushka and while I thought Lisa’s role was a bit lazy (she plays a really stupid gold-digger which K-Jo uses for cheap laughs etc), I have seen people who really are like that! It was a strong role for Anushka and I thought she did a great job.
Re Golconda – best of all there was a guy from Bangalore who had a hat exactly like Charan’s in the movie, so we were able to do a duet 😉
Temple, I see everyone carping about Saba’s wealth. 🙂 Can’t she just have come from old money herself? There’s nothing that says that rich women can’t write poetry.
Two, the ‘violence’ bit: Haven’t you been so angry with someone that you have pushed them away?I know I have, and I have been pushed back as well. Different from the in-the-moment frustration and anger, and an abusive relationship. (Which I should know about!) It’s coupled with Alizeh slapping him in another scene when he refuses to take her nth ‘no’ for an answer. As a friend remarked, if Ayan had pulled the wedding-day stunt at *her* wedding (assuming Ayan was friend) he would have had ‘face ka dard’ along with his ‘dil ka dard’.
Agree about Ranbir reprising man-child roles. Come to think of it, Ranbir always reminds me of a man-child even in real life.
How cool was Ash’s role in this film? I loved her to bits here, especially in the break-up scene. What I liked ADHM for, was for giving me two heroines who directed the course of their relationships, chose the role they wanted to play *and* walked out when they decided it wasn’t working for them. Just for that, Johar has my vote.
I’m not sure if Temple has seen ADHM.This one was my review. 🙂
Some of the points you made are interesting – the issue I had with Saba’s money is that she specifically says that she is a ‘struggling poet’. Now that could be a subtitle issue but the way it was phrased implies that she isn’t making much money – otherwise why not say it a different way? She could have said that there was not much interest in her work or that she didn’t have publication deal ect, but the dialogue (as subtitled) suggests more of a monetary issue.
Re the violence – I’m shocked! No – I most emphatically have never pushed anyone or even worse slapped them – regardless of whether I’m angry or just joking around. It’s just not done! My mother would have killed me herself if I’d ever raised my hand to anyone – and my parents, family members and none of my friends, school colleagues etc have ever done anything like that either. Of course I’m aware that there are abusive relationships where this does happen, and I’ve seen it too – but slapping someone or pushing them around would count as abuse as far as I am concerned. I’d even stop little kids as I think it’s the first step on a slippery slope. It’s just never acceptable and I believe should never be acceptable either.
Perhaps this is a generational thing? I grew up in Northern Ireland the 60’s and 70’s where there was a lot of violence in the streets (shootings and bombings etc) so there was a real anti-violence push elsewhere.
However I will totally agree with you re Ash – loved her in this and did like that both women were in control of their relationships. So mostly I think we’re on the same page 🙂
I haven’t watched many interviews with Ranbir, so I’m not sure if this is what he is like in real life. Interesting thought. I used to think that Kareena Kapoor was best when she was just playing herself (e.g. Jab We Met) but after a friend worked with her we learned that she really isn’t anything like those ditzy characters that in real life at all and actually she’s a much better actor than I ever thought!
Oops, sorry, Heather. 🙂
Saba: she’s struggling as a poet because people don’t take her seriously in literary circles. (When Ayan tells her that her poetry is good.) Two, she says she’s happily divorced and she had a good lawyer. (That was quite a zinger, actually. It was quite unapologetic, that statement.)
That sort of violence: Where Ayan pushes Saba away when she tries to explain. I didn’t even see it as violence, really. It could also be a Western/Eastern thing – we are a more physical culture, really. Where else would you see two men casually drape their arms around each other while smoking a cigarette, and not have them be gay? Or women who hold hands while walking through a market? Or random people who will hug you? I’m thinking in Western cultures, Italy comes closest to who we are. That physicality is also there in our relationships – amongst friends, for instance, when they will shove each other away. Whether it’s playful or in anger or hurt depends on context. I can see one-off scenes and not think ‘abuse’. 🙂
Kareena is certainly not a ditz. But she is not that great an actress either unless she has a director who can rein her in. 🙂
No worries Anu 🙂
It’s probably a subtitle issue with Saba by the sounds of it. They changed quite a few phrases to more Western sayings and perhaps this was one that’s gotten a bit lost in translation.
I was going to say that Mediterranean Europe has a similar physical culture, but I still don’t think there is much slapping people and pushing them around. Not from what I remember in my visits or from their films, but I have to confess it’s been a while since I did either of those things. There are plenty of random huggers in Ireland though!
Like I said, this may be more generational too – pushing people or slapping them was simply not done when I was growing up. Society has definitely changed and given the overall rise in violence seemingly everywhere, perhaps this is part of that change. Thanks for the discussion – I’m paying a lot more attention to this now 🙂