Karan Johar is one of the few filmmakers in India who has managed to build a brand for themselves. The average audience associate certain elements to inevitably form a part of Karan Johar’s cinema. It is, perhaps, because apart from making films, the man who dons several hats, has been a prominent part of several television shows, which have brought his lighter side to the fore. Also, the first two films (‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ (1998) and ‘Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Gham’ (2001)) directed by him have dominated his filmography as far popularity and reach is concerned. To be fair to him, apart from putting his weight behind several important films over the past several years, Karan has shown a great deal of consistency (in terms of quality and success) and a fair amount of versatility when it comes to films he has directed. Each of the five films directed by him had a different story to tell and all of them assumed an individualistic tone and colour while doing so. ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’, according to Karan, is a very personal story which he has tried to put across as intimately as possible.
Ayan Sanger (Ranbir Kapoor) and Alizeh Khan (Anushka Sharma) come from wealthy families and are based in London. They meet in a bar and strike a bond of friendship. Notwithstanding the fact that each of them is in a relationship (Ayan with Lisa (Lisa Haydon) and Alizeh with Faisal (Imran Abbas)), they do not get attracted to each other in a romantic way but share a very intimate relationship as friends. Ayan is a very vulnerable person who, in Alizeh, finds a person whom he can pour his heart to. After realizing that their respective partners have got involved with one another, Ayan and Alizeh severe ties with them and head to Paris for a vacation. Ayan confesses to Alizeh that he is ‘mildly’ attracted to her. Alizeh says she has no such feelings for him and shrugs it off as something unimportant. One night, while they are in a club, Alizeh comes across Ali (Fawad Khan), her ex-lover who had left her heartbroken. Ali implores Alizeh to talk to him and give him a chance to explain himself. A few days later, Ayan gets a call from Alizeh who informs him that she is about to get married to Ali. Ayan is heartbroken as he finally realizes that he is head over heels in love with Alizeh. After some time, Ayan meets Saba (Aishwarya Rai), a poetess, who seems to have a cure for Ayan’s broken heart.
It is okay to fill a script with clichés as long as it evokes some emotion in you when it is translated onto the screen by the filmmaker. The first twenty minutes of the film make you cringe endlessly and you finally look forward to things improving as the film focusses on the bond shared by Ayan and Alizeh. Anushka and Ranbir show some genuine chemistry and that helps you in connecting with the characters and the bond shared by them. You feel for Ayan as he breaks down in front of Alizeh and asks her to call off her marriage with Ali as he is madly in love with her. Unfortunately, Karan Johar commits that one sin which one which owing to Imtiaz Ali’s recent films, one has come to associate with him – indulgence. The film suffers from a vast number of scenes where the emotions are underlined with cheesy dialogues and physical movements that make the emotions the characters are trying to come across as superficial. The film pays less and less attention to the characters as the narrative moves forward and by the time, the film culminates into a shamelessly manipulative finale, you have lost all your patience.
Ranbir Kapoor is a fantastic actor, no doubt but one is getting a little tired of seeing him in slightly altered versions of the same character which he has been playing for several years now. One believes he can now sleepwalk through films which require him to play a lost and confused man-child seeking love. Anushka Sharma breathes life into a half-baked character and lights up the screen whenever she appears with her infectious smile. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan plays a supporting role; her character seems intentionally underwritten which works well within the context of the film. Fawad Khan, with his charm and a controlled performance, makes a mundane character somewhat memorable. Shah Rukh Khan is terrific in a scene. The sequence which involves having a conversation with Ranbir and Aishwarya is one of the best in the film. Lisa Haydon is hilarious as Ayan’s cranky girlfriend. Imran Abbas, on the other hand, is wooden.
Karan Johar explores the kind of complex-relationship space he dug into with ‘Kabhi Alvidaa Na Kehna’ (2006). But, unlike that film, in which the characters were sketched out well enough for the audience to understand and empathize with them, here, despite them going through heartbreaks and other hardships, one does not really care for them. The dull screenplay (Karan Johar) puts side any scope for him to derive genuine emotions out of the scenes. The dialogues (Niranjan Iyengar and Karan Johar) are effective only in a few places. The cinematography by veteran Anil Mehta leaves a lot to be desired with a couple of shots being out of focus. Pritam’s music is like the soul of the film. Each and every song is extremely tuneful and has been picturised well. The background score (Pritam) too is impressive.
Karan Johar’s last directorial effort ‘Student Of The Year’ (2011) was superfluous but consistently engaging and super fun at the same time. ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ has a far more intense and mature tone to it but it fails to engage half as much. The film has its heart in the right place but with a little less indulgence and some more thoughts, this could have been a much more fulfilling experience than it turns out to be.