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Ae Dil Hai Mushkil v/s Shivaay: Which one would you spend your Diwali on?

This festival of light will see a big bang at the box-office with a highly-anticipated clash between two big productions, Karan Johar's Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Ajay Devgn's Shivaay. If you are looking for reasons to watch either one, you are at the right place. 

Shriram Iyengar

With the political masters now willing, Karan Johar's Ae Dil Hai Mushkil finally has permission to release on its scheduled date. The only roadblock it faces to box-office success lies in the form of Ajay Devgn's Himalayan adventure, Shivaay. The second directorial venture by Devgn, Shivaay has already received a positive response for its action-packed trailers and is expected to give quite the competition to Johar's emotional drama. So how are the two films different or similar. Here's how. 

1. Ranbir-Anushka-Aishwarya v/s Ajay Devgn
The advantage of being Karan Johar is that casting coups can be quite easy to pull off. With Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, the director has combined the charm of Ranbir Kapoor with the talent of Anushka Sharma and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. The casting of the older Rai Bachchan and her chemistry with Kapoor has already set temperatures soaring across social media. If that was not enough, there is the (Pakistani) chocolate looks of Fawad Khan thrown in for good measure. If nothing, this casting certainly makes for a very promising viewing on screen. 

However, if there was one man who could compete against the entire box-office power of Johar's cast, it is Ajay Devgn. An actor blessed with a natural world-weariness on his face, Devgn has made a career carrying off intense character roles that have earned him great appreciation. From Zakhm to Omkara, Devgn has grown into a reliable, efficient actor quite capable of evoking an emotional response from his audience. After a brief hiatus with comic roles in the Golmaal series and Himmatwala, the actor has returned to the action-drama genre which he is most comfortable in. It is a nice and very promising change to witness the return of Devgn, the actor. 

2. Emotional drama v/s Action adventure 
There is little doubt that Johar is one of the leading storytellers of the romantic condition in this generation. Since making his debut with the iconic Kuch Kucch Hota Hai in 1998, the director has progressed slowly, sometimes unsuccessfully, into bolder and more complex stories about human relationships. While Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006) didn't work at the box-office, it certainly made the critics sit up and take notice of the depth of Johar's introspective stories. With Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, the director has delved into his own personal life to create a story about love, loss, and friendship. A film he says comes from a 'very personal space', ADHM will certainly see the director in a familiar, although expanding, a territory of emotion and drama. 

For all of Johar's emotional quotient, it lacks the ability to cater to a universal audience. Devgn's Shivaay, on the other hand, promises a balance of both emotion and action. A Himalayan adventure, it carries within an undertone of a sensitive father-daughter relationship between the mountaineer, played by Devgn, and the child, Abigail Eames. To be fair, Devgn has had spectacular success with his previous action ventures like Singham (2011) and Singham Returns (2014). He has already delivered a hit with the thriller genre in Drishyam (2015). The film also allows the actor to play to two of his strengths: an intense, flawed character and action sequences. It might be a difficult choice for the audience in this respect. 

3. The Pakistani connection 
The narrative to Ae Dil Hai Mushkil's promotion has been hijacked by its infamous Pakistani connection. From the social media to politicians and anti-social elements, everyone seems to have taken up arms against Johar for offering employment to a Pakistani actor, Khan. Johar had to approach the Maharashtra government, and make a peace offering of Rs5 crore for the Army fund before the opposing parties relented. Even now, the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India (COEAI) have not sanctioned the screenings of Johar's film in the limited multiplexes and single screens owned by the association. Although any publicity is good publicity, these events have lost Johar brownie points among some of his audience. 

On the other hand, Ajay Devgn's patriotic stand has worked in his favour. Immediately after the call for a ban on Pakistani actors erupted, Devgn openly opposed the hiring of Pakistani actors as long as the tensions between the countries were high. His patriotic stand, underlined by the absence of any Pakistani actors in his film, has only strengthened his image as an action star. If nothing else, it spells good fortune for Shivaay. 

4. Music
No Karan Johar film is ever complete without spectacular music. The director has certainly gone all out for Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, and the album is already topping the charts. Arijit Singh's rendition of 'Channa mereya' and the title track of 'Ae Dil Hai Mushkil' have become earworms on social networks. In addition, the very hip 'Breakup song' and 'Cutiepie' have also started to make a rapid rise on the charts. With Johar's colourful visual composition, the music might just be a USP of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. 

Though it lacks the musical panache of Johar's film, Shivaay has its own strength. Expectedly, the music of the film is low, subtle, but definitely not missable. The soulful beauty of 'Darkhaast' is the perfect example of a mellow romantic track on a slow burner. 'Bolo har har' has already got, quite literally, rave reviews for its style and tempo, along with the presence of Baadshah and Sukhwinder Singh. However, the cream is definitely the beautiful voice of Jasleen Royal in 'Raatein'. The soundtrack is very different to the usual compositions by Mithoon, and might not match up to the high of ADHM. But then, music was never supposed to take over a film that has action as its main plot. 

5. Diwali curse 
The date itself is often a matter of concern for many stars and filmmakers in Hindi cinema. From Salman Khan's Eid releases to Aamir Khan's Christmas specials, festival dates often carry huge significance in the Hindi film industry. Incidentally, this would be Karan Johar's third film to release in and around Diwali. He can take solace from the performance of Kuch Kucch Hota Hai (1998) and Student of the Year (2012) which released around the second week of October, just before Diwali. However, this would be the first film to release exactly on the weekend before Diwali, making it a momentous film for Johar's production. 

While Johar might feel a little nervy, Devgn can pin his hopes on the Gods during the festival season. Traditionally, his films have performed well when released in and around the Diwali date. He only has to look at the success of his Golmaal series with Rohit Shetty which released around the Diwali dates of 2006, 2008, and 2010. All three of them proved superhits, and launched Devgn's career as a comedy actor. However, this is an action flick, directed by Devgn himself. 

With two big releases on a big festival, there is only one guarantee: heavy box-office returns. The long holiday will ensure that film lovers will have time to watch one film or the other. It is now a question of which one is quickest of the blocks. So, which one are you rooting for?