Was Karan Johar right to compromise so much in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil?

Last year, when ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ went on floors, a couple of reports suggested that Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Anushka Sharma and Fawad Khan will be playing characters that have their origins in Pakistan. Amidst all the tension surrounding the film in the wake of the terror attacks in Uri, there were a few articles that claimed that these characters will no longer be shown as Pakistanis in the film.

Everyone’s fears turned out to be true. This is Bollywood.

There is a shot of Anushka Sharma (Alizeh) in the film in which she tells Ranbir (Ayan) (on the other end of the phone, in London) “Main Lucknow mein hoon”. Notice that there is something wrong about the way she mouths the dialogue – the shot has been tempered with. While we hear her uttering ‘Lucknow’, her lips tell a different story. Also, the way she is styled and speaks makes one wonder whether her character was originally written as someone who is from Pakistan.

There is also that sequence in which Anushka and Ranbir are sitting on the top of a terrace and Anushka says, “college mein thi Lucknow mein jab Ali se mili” (“I was in a college in Lucknow when I met Ali”). The camera zooms in on the two characters’ back when she is uttering this line.

This makes one wonder whether Johar decided to retain this shot (and not a frontal shot) in the final edit, so that the audience would not notice the difference between Anushka’s lip movement and the word she utters.

Kaushal Kapoor, the actor who played Anushka’s father in the film, had stated in a Deccan Chronicle interview that there is a scene in which he had to slap Ranbir Kapoor. Those who have seen the film would know that the scene did not make it to the final cut. In fact, you get to see Kaushal Kapoor only in a family portrait! After pondering on it for a while, you realize that Karan had rushed through Alizeh and Ali’s marriage sequence in Lucknow/Karachi. The fact that there are only a handful of shots between the two song “Cutiepie” and “Channa Mereya” reaffirms one’s belief in the fact that some scenes that Karan had planned to place before the wedding sequence were chopped off as they would have given away the fact that the wedding is going to place in Karachi and not Lucknow. Interesting!

A while back, costume designer Manish Malhotra, in an interview to Filmfare had stated that Aishwarya and Anushka play Pakistani women in the film. Now, in a recent interview given to Elle earlier this year, he conveniently contradicted himself by saying Anushka Sharma’s character hails from Lucknow, India. Why? Now, this serves as a glaring testimony to the fact that Karan Johar, indeed, changed the nationalities of, at least, the two leading actresses. He might have changed the identities of Ali (Fawad Khan) and Faisal (Imran Abbas), who came from the same place as Alizeh.

One can totally understand the pressure that Karan, Fox Star Studios and the other important people associated with the film must have had to bear post the various threats that the film went through amidst the acclivitous tension between India and Pakistan. From agreeing to pay INR 50 million to the Army Welfare Fund to putting an additional disclaimer in the beginning of the film, the filmmaker had to bow down to the whims and fancies of political outfits with ulterior motives. But is it too far?

However, changing the nationality of some of the characters in the film and turning a city (Lahore or was it Karachi?) in Pakistan to Lucknow was something Karan seemed to have done because of some fear that crept into his mind after all the trouble he had to go through. Did he think that the Indian audiences are so narrow-minded that they would get offended by the fact the character that the leading lady portrays happens to come from Pakistan? Maybe, his partners or the distributors who had their money riding on the film echoed similar reservations. There are endless possibilities and a clearer picture would emerge as and when Karan decides to talk about it.

There could not have been a better and a more appropriate time to come out with a film which showed the bond shared between an Indian man and a Pakistani woman. While people from India, rarely make visits to Pakistan and it is very rare to come across a Pakistani citizen on the streets of India, a large number of people from both the countries reside in foreign countries and mingle with each other. Their religion and nationality does not come in the way of their becoming friends, acquaintances or lovers.

By changing the nationality of some of the important characters in the film, Karan Johar has done something which sends across a very dangerous message. Is he trying to imply that the civilians residing in Pakistan are anti-India? The Government of Pakistan and its policies are detrimental to India but why should we blame the citizens of the country for that? Every country in this world has its share of good and bad people. Judging or drawing conclusions about the citizens of a country based on what the Government does is a silly thing to do. Actually, a really silly thing!

In these times of distress, a film like ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ could have sent across a message of love but what it has done is exactly the opposite. Karan Johar may not have any malicious intent in his heart when he decided to take the call but his decision has stripped the film of its soul. When the soul is missing, what remains cannot be enjoyed in the same manner.

One wonders what would have happened if ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ had released now and Kabir Khan was coerced into taking a similar course of action? What if ‘Happy Bhag Jayegi’, a film in which its central protagonist, a runaway bride, lands up in Pakistan had released two months after it hit the theatres?

There is something that Karan Johar is answerable for. Will he ever speak up now considering the movie is a hit or do we have to wait for someone to ask him this question in public?

Disclaimer: The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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