Aishwarya-Ranbir pairing in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil: A rarity in Hindi cinema

The two stars come together for the first time in Karan Johar’s upcoming Diwali release.

Sonal Pandya

The teaser of Karan Johar’s long awaited Ae Dil Hai Mushkil presents the first-time pairing of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Ranbir Kapoor. The instant takeaway from the sneak peek is the great chemistry between the two, which is very evident from the few intimate scenes. It’s not every day that a mainstream film showcases a believable relationship between an older woman and a younger man.

The film and its gorgeous title track hints largely at unrequited love, a rare concept in today’s Hindi films.

Yash Chopra’s Lamhe (1991) was an early example of unrequited love with an older woman. Anil Kapoor’s character Viren visits India and falls for Pallavi (Sridevi). When he finds out she loves another man, he even helps her get married to him. Farhan Akhtar’s debut film Dil Chahta Hai (2001) sensitively portrayed the complicated relationship between Tara (Dimple Kapadia), an older woman, and Sid (Akshaye Khanna), who bond over their mutual love for art. Both films set the standard for one-sided romance; Viren and Sid's love remained unanswered.

In recent years, films like Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (2012) and Ki & Ka (2016), both starring Kareena Kapoor, have shown her paired opposite a younger actor. But not much is made of their age difference in the films.

The leads of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Aishwarya and Ranbir, have also done similar roles in the past where there were significant age differences. For Ayan Mukerji’s Wake Up Sid (2009), Ranbir played the hapless title character who matures after meeting Ayesha (Konkona Sen Sharma), a writer. Meanwhile in Shabd (2003), Aishwarya plays Antara, a teacher married to a famous writer, Shaukat (Sanjay Dutt). Antara discovers she has an admirer in her much-younger colleague, Yash (Zayed Khan). Wake Up Sid ends on a happier note than Shabd, where Antara has to get her husband committed after he begins to blur fiction with reality.

The Ae Dil Hai Mushkil teaser ends with the line, “Ek tarfa pyar ki taqat hi kuch aur hoti hain. Auro ke rishtey ki tarah yeh do logon mein nahin bat ti, sirf mera haque hai iss pe.” [The power of one-sided love is something else. Unlike other relationships which are divided amongst two people, only I have a right to it.] While the story of the film is not yet confirmed, the film will most likely explore the good-looking pairing of Ranbir and Aishwarya. Both Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as Saba and Anushka Sharma as Alizeh seem to have fallen for Ranbir’s Ayan, but it’s very clear that he only has feelings for one woman.

Karan Johar’s first film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai examined the concept that ‘pyar dosti hai’, or love is friendship. Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (2006), starring Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukerji as Dev and Maya, had its leads falling in love after they were already married. At the time, Johar faced a lot of flak for portraying adultery onscreen. Nearly two decades later, he will be exploring the complexities of relationships and friendship, but this time with more perspective we guess.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil will release this Diwali on 28 October.