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Ae Dil Hai Mushkil review: Watch for Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma's moving performances

Director Karan Johar attempts to make a mainstream love saga with a more mature approach than he did with his earlier films.

Suparna Thombare

Film: Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (U/A)
Rating: 3/5

Within the framework of a mainstream Hindi cinema love story, what hasn’t been done yet that one can do? And what can a dream merchant like Karan Johar weave within those confines while keeping his stamp? With Ae Dil Hai Mushkil Karan takes the middle path.

Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor), a rich kid who wants to be a singer, and Alizeh Khan (Anushka Sharma) bump into each other at a club. In their very first encounter, Alizeh realises that she is not attracted to Ayan (some sloppy kissing is to blame). Soon after their respective breakups, the two become good friends and fly off to Paris for a breakup holiday. 

Alizeh and Ayan are filmi kids and their banter is peppered with Hindi film dialogues, enough for audiences to live vicariously through them and feel nostalgic. But the references soon feel overdone. From dialogues like ‘dosti ka usool hai no sorry no thank you’ and ‘kuch kuch hota hai tum nahi samjhoge’ to the recreation of a Chandni sequence and the song ‘Jane ki zidd na karo’ playing in the background in an important scene — it's all there.

Ayan falls in love with Alizeh despite Alizeh making it very clear that she isn't attracted to him and loves him as a friend, and her romantic love belongs to Ali (Fawad Khan). Ayan doesn’t know how to deal with it and runs into the arms of Saba (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan).

While I was on board through most of the journey, I would have liked the film to end on a different note slightly earlier. The pre-climax twist takes the film into a different direction, one that has Johar written all over it. The pace slips in the second half with tonnes of tear-jerker moments.

The world of ADHM is cosmetic and the characters are super rich and glamorous (also, why are all of them creative people like singers, artistes, painters and DJs?), but the love and feeling of unrequited love is real. And it's still Johar's world — an NRI story with NRIs who love desi music, protagonists travelling to foreign cities, those quotable quotes, a token bimbo, mainstream movie references, etc, but the director has surely evolved and managed to keep up with the times by shifting the language of his filmmaking towards realism. So there are no ma and baujis, a typical airport scene gets a twist, songs are more inherent to the story than token numbers, performances are deeper, characters are flawed and so are relationships and violins have been replaced by middle fingers.

Part of the film’s success is the mature performances by its three main leads. Rai Bachchan is in her comfort zone, looking gorgeous and mouthing shayari. This is more her territory — the melodrama of Jazbaa (2015) and Sarabjit (2015) is not her forte. Her chemistry with Kapoor is fresh and a pleasure to watch. 

Kapoor is simply outstanding and owns every scene. The comic timing, the vulnerability, dancing, singing in front of the mic, the love scenes, the anguish, the tears — he gives you everything you want with complete earnestness. Ayan just doesn't get why Alizeh wouldn't love him. His anguish and conflict is portrayed beautifully by Johar and brilliantly acted out by Kapoor. Johar seems to have lived vicariously through this character.

After Rockstar (2011) and Tamasha (2015), Kapoor once again portrays the pain and anguish of love beautifully. And is equally charming in the comic and light-hearted moments. This will go up on Kapoor's best performances list for sure.

And hats off to Sharma for portraying Alizeh with such ease. Her character could easily be misunderstood by the audience which is rooting for Ayan, but Sharma gives her so much soul. In one of the scenes towards the end, Kapoor and Sharma have a showdown. The scene is so maturely shot and enacted.

If not for anything else, watch this for the brilliance of Kapoor and Sharma as they feed off each other as actors when they are in the same frame. Shah Rukh Khan, who appears in one scene, gets to do the dialogue-baazi he is known for in Johar films. "Ek tarfa pyar me bahut taqat hoti hai. Yeh do logon me nahi but-ti. Sirf mera haq hai is pe," he says, and this film is Ayan's journey into understanding the exact meaning of that dialogue! 

Johar retains his Yash Chopra influences, but also treads the anguished path of an Imtiaz Ali, which is what makes this interesting. A weak second half lets the film down, but Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is still the filmi love story that’s moving. 

Director: Karan Johar
Producers: Apoorva Mehta, Hiroo Yash Johar, Karan Johar
Writer: Karan Johar
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
Genre: Romantic drama
Runtime: 157 minutes