Review Reviews

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil: Sluggish narrative overtakes a fresh film

So what’s new? Haven’t Karan Johar and Aditya Chopra forever been making films on “ Ek tarfa pyaar ki taaqat” (the strength of one-sided love) and on the crucial difference between falling in love and falling in friendship? Before you go yawn comes Ae Dil Hai Mushkil ( ADHM),with which Karan Johar manages to breathe some freshness and energy into the hoary Bollywood routine (with its roots in the late ’90s films, of course) of saying “I friend you”, instead of the usual “Ilu Ilu.” However, that’s all in the first half; after the interval the film begins to unravel, turns sluggish and the end doesn’t quite hold.

ADHM is the latest in the brand of cinema that isn’t so much as plot driven as it is focused on characters, relationships and interactions. But all this is executed in a squarely Bollywood way. It’s all about two individuals — Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) and Alizeh (Anushka Sharma) — thrown unexpectedly together and their journey through friendship/love.

Even the immediate family doesn’t intrude in their little universe. Johar writes the two parts with all his love, detail and attention and Kapoor and Sharma chew into them with relish. Ayan, the boy who cries. Alizeh, who teases him for being a bad kisser. You see love in his eyes, you see affection in hers for her jigra (best friend). You can see the chemistry between them as friends, perhaps not as lovers. You can sense it in their banter and teasing, in the constant 80s Bollywood referencing, in their filmi comebacks and dramebaazi. A nice sense of fun underlines the sharp writing — smart one-liners and jokes pile up inexorably; the last Johar used them (as a writer) with such unabashed glee was in Nikhil Advani’s Kal Ho Naa Ho.

You can’t help not feel indulgent and affectionate towards the two — Ayan dancing to ‘ Baby doll main sone di’, tying Alizeh’s sari. Alizeh confessing that she finds strength in friendship and feels vulnerable and weak in love. Both the young actors are effortlessly charming, individually and together, but Sharma threatens to run away with the film. She turns the spunky, spirited girl cliché into someone, who can get the better of even a card-carrying cynic like yours truly.

So much so that post-interval, you begin to miss her unaffected vivacity and spontaneity even as the femme fatale Saba (Aishwarya Rai) comes centre stage. Along with her enters some poetry, the legendary singer Noorjehan and her famous rendition of “Mujhse pehli si mohabbat mere mehboob na maang”. Johar does manage to slip in a few good jokes through Ayan about the affectations of language. He calls Saba “a walking talking Ghalib” and wonders if she memorises the heavy duty lines she spews out as informal chit chat. But by then, the narrative turns irretrievably sluggish.

The convenient twist in the tale in the end irritates. Couldn’t there have been a better way to work out a closure? Is a clean resolution necessary at all? Don’t we live on with our disappointments in love? Can't life just carry on in cinema just as it does for real?

P.S. As with all the films with friendly neighbourhood talent this one too comes with the “punishment” disclaimer (over and above the Rs 5 crore fine) celebrating the Indian soldiers. Wonder if even the Army would be happy about bullying someone into showing such enforced respect.

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 9:42:49 PM |

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