Remember the exuberant genie in Aladdin who fulfills our deepest desire and show us magic we didn’t know exist? Ultimately, he just wants to be set free. That’s when he’ll be his happiest.
Love is a lot like that.
It thrills, it inspires, it heals, it hurts and it’s always dramatic. To love is to experience a constant state of flux. It’s not possible to calculate or contain this sentiment, but an inherent need to control everything we feel compels us to define it constantly. Uphill as it is, there’s something soothing about the exercise given how ill equipped and fragile we become under it grip, reciprocated or otherwise.
As evident by his body of work, filmmaker Karan Johar has a sweet spot for this attribute — the rapture and anguish it prompts around individuals, how it dictates their impulses. But he accomplishes it maturely and memorably in a passionate ode to matters of the heart, as he knows it, in the splendidly romantic and richly satisfying Ae Dil Hai Mushkil .
In his dazzling world, often so easy to inhabit on silver screen, love is, truly, a many splendored thing.
Love is beauty
Opulence comes naturally to Karan Johar.
In Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, his characters are well heeled and look ramp-ready walking in and out of fancy pubs, plush homes and chic studio apartments styled in designer clothes and trendy accessories. A wedding in Lucknow is nothing short of a royal affair where the bride and her best friend sashay in glittering Sabyasachi.
There’s no place for bad hair days or acne against the throbbing nightlife of London or majestic architecture of Vienna. Even unhappiness wears a shade of glamour.
Johar may view the world from rose-tinted Tom Ford glasses but his impressions aren’t far removed from reality. The passion wrapped under all that gorgeous fashion is tangible and heartfelt. It’s the skin-deep that benefits from his characters’ vulnerability and humour, not the other way round.
Love is chemistry
Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) and Alizeh (Anushka Sharma) first meet on a dance floor in London and instantly hit it off in a manner that’s more Imtiaz Ali than KJo.
Soon it becomes evident, he’s the needy, clingy one of the two prone to crying fits (the one where he compares his broken heart to a buzzing mosquito is uproarious) while she’s cheeky, direct and more than happy to smack a stone on his chest to explain him the difference between hurt and pain.
Even though they’ve only just met and bond over Bollywood and beer, their friendship conveys a lived-in, feel-good vibe. The rhythm and synergy, even when they overdo the sass, has infectious appeal. They are meant to be inseparable. But are they destined to?
It’s a difficult space for actors to work on; where one’s intense attraction and another’s deep affection struggle to find a balance.
But Ranbir and Anushka fill the frames in warmth that’ as beaming DoP Anil Mehta’s beautiful compositions.
Love is Ishq-Wala
When Bollywood is so internalised in one’s system, its influences are bound to reflect in one’s creations. Hindi cinema’s pop culture certainly colours Ranbir-Anushka’s equation in the most vibrant hues.
Whether it’s recalling the best known moments of Johar’s movies, responding to his mother abandoning him as a child, ‘Mother toh India hoti hai tumhari toh Milkha nikli’ or him testing her filmi know-how in an 1980s special Jeetendra quiz, or them recreating Yash Chopra’s Chandni moments in freezing weather, Bollywood is what ties them together.
Love is kissing half a dozen frogs
Johar loves to have fun around bad dates; they lead to much-needed realisation.
Lisa Haydon (smartly avoiding the beauty without brains parody approach) is burn-the-screen-on-fire-in-seconds sexy in her few but droll scenes as Ranbir’s hot squeeze while Imran Abbas is nondescript as Anushka’s pale-faced arm candy.
Just when you think this one treads on predictable space, he turns a typical catfight into a triumph of spunky humour. Let’s spill, er, drink some wine to that!
Love is poetry
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan plays a poet named Saba, not a very respected one in her own words, but her entry marks Ae Dil Hai Mushkil‘s mood shift from energetic to elegant.
‘Dard dard ko dhoond leta hai,’ she confides in Ayan and they embark on a relationship that is both comforting and convenient. And a whole lot physical.
Johar understands the importance of plays to an actor’s strengths and allowing space to those who can mould it as per will. In Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, he’s shrewdly written parts tailored to do exactly that.
Icy but sensual, gentle yet mysterious, Aishwarya looks divine and makes a conscious effort not to muddle her lines. She does well in the scene where dining with Ayan and Alizeh. Jealousy, insecurity, bitterness, all packed in this lovely, understated scene that is quite Yash Chopra in the tension it evokes.
Love is complicated
It may be illustrated as an imagery of two, but love is mostly a singular process.
‘Raita hoon, phail rahi hoon,’ is how Alizeh describes herself. She won’t compromise on her feelings for anything yet devotes herself to a relationship that may not be what hoped for.
There’s a good chance what you see is not the complete picture. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil plays on the possibilities in an exquisite fashion. She’s a mess, a fascinating mess.
Anushka is, hands down, the dil in the title. The most complicated of emotions express effortlessly under her care. She cries, you cry with her. She laughs, you chuckle along. She’s the storm, she’s the sea and she’s always in command, superlative stuff.
Meanwhile, Ayan’s petulance alternates between possessiveness and desperation. You feel sorry for him, but you also understand the place he’s coming from. Ranbir Kapoor has played love-struck before. Amazing how renders it fresh every single time. In ADHM, he graduates from the unmistakably frail, foolish, man-child into a man who has made his peace on his own terms.
Love is philosophy
‘Pyaar junoon, dosti sukoon.’
‘Pyaar hero, dosti heroine.’
Boyfriends categorised as ‘time pass, blockbuster, flop.’
Main kisi ki zaroorat nahi, khwahish banna chahti hoon.
My favourite one comes from the King of Romance, ‘Darre hue log aksar alfazon ke peeche chupte hain.’
As much as its protagonists look for perfect words to articulate their findings on love, friendship, a space in between and beyond, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil simply reiterates the nature of its unpredictability through a twist I didn’t foresee or like.
Except that’s what makes this feeling so darn precious and difficult to part with.