Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (U/A) 158 min
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Anushka Sharma, Fawad Khan
Director: Karan Johar
Rating: **1/2
Suparna Sharma
Oct 29, 2016

SO SOON, so quickly have we hurtled down to such a low point that today, just buying tickets to a hard-core commercial film has become an act of active politics. Some deem watching Ae Dil Hai Mushkil an act of sedition.

So perverse and pervasive is the sanctimonious chorus and barbaric dance around the trumped-up notions of nation and patriotism that there’s no hiding anymore. It’s time to let your politics hang out for all to see and swear at.
And so I bought the ticket.
And on my way to the theatre to watch ADHM, I felt like stopping to buy a sober bouquet. It felt like I was going to visit a battered, bruised, recovering victim of a heinous crime. Someone whom I didn’t know, but whose suffering, torture and ridicule in full public view had touched me.
And the fact that the movie was playing in theatres felt like an act of bravery till the “We salute and dedicate this film to our jawans…” came on the screen. Someone behind me let out an ironic snigger and I felt happy that I hadn’t bought that bouquet.
Sadly, while our film-going experience has undergone a drastic change, our films haven’t, at all. Especially the ones from the House of KJo.
Of course, the principle at stake was important, but had it been on the merits of the film, ADHM is so not worth any fight. Not even an idly-piddly one.
Because what’s stunning is the staggering, deeply-calculated cynicism that’s now employed brazenly by Karan Johar and all his cohorts who have, over some successes, come to define how the game of love is to be conducted and played on screen.
Yashji’s lovers conducted love over long, silent walks in hilly climes, conjuring up feelings and intimacy.
His offspring and the fawners have reduced this further to a song-and-dance shtick.
Their love plays out in foreign locales, away from family and mundane stuff, and involves getting drunk and dancing with recurring regularity. Of course there are subtle variations. Sometimes it’s tequila shots, other times it’s beer. Sometimes it’s silly dancing, other times all steps are in sync with the extras. There’s always a wedding to go to.

ADHM is the story of Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor), Saba Taliyar Khan (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), Alize (Anushka Sharma) and one Pakistani pariah whose role has been reduced to a joke.
It begins with Ayan, a famous singer, settling down to give an interview about his singing, music, lyrics and how it draws its power from adhura ishq, i.e. love that’s one-sided, and the dard it leaves behind.
His lyrics, he says, are by Saba Taliyar Khan, and then goes on to narrate the stories of two adhura ishqs.
The first story is about a girl he met and tried to make out with in a nightclub in London, leading to much humiliation and jokes, but a deep bond.
Alizeh was still trying to get over DJ Ali (Fawad Khan) while getting ready to marry Dr Faisal, and Ayan was dating Lisa (Lisa Haydon in a role that was really written for her. She’s bloody good as a gold-digger bimbette).
Alizeh is all hi-jinks and hyper and chatty, i.e. full of life. But Ms Anushka Sharma has a hard, serious streak and tries too hard to be light and frothy. Fun and faltu doesn’t come naturally to her, hence the overacting.
Worse, Alizeh keeps saying annoying philosophical things to Ayan about pyaar being junoon, dosti being sukoon, while jumping up and down at “silent disco”. So, in essence, she’s the perfect package: deep and real, but also silly and mental.
The first half of the film is one long frolic through the party zone of London and Paris involving pretty, rich kids with seemingly no jobs but well-kept apartments and a private jet at their disposal. They chug booze, look good, dance and have special cuddling moments.
Of course, quietly, someone is falling in love while the other is unaware.
And then comes the moment when the one in love realises this love will forever be adhura.
As Ayan is running away from devastation of the heart, in the airport lounge, while chomping on red grapes, he spots a lady reading a book and tries to strike up a conversation.
She’s Saba the shayar and she only talks in nonsensical, bad Urdu shayari. Her sentences don’t rhyme but include the following words: zakhm, dard, karz, ishq
She too is very rich and lives in another European city in a house that looks like it was built by a family of scented candles.
There’s so much sher-o-shayari when she’s around that I didn’t even care for the surprise high-point of this part of the film. All that nazm and bazm really made my mind numb and I sort of lost the plot till I spotted that someone was splitting with someone and someone was going to die.

THE FIRST part of ADHM works well, that is till the film is in the zone that Karan Johar has honed with regular practice — of love being born between two kindered souls. It’s standard operating procedure, from Dostana to Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani
But as soon as he’s out of that zone, his film goes all flatulent, letting out tiny, tiny verbal farts about zakhm and dard and ishq… More than bored, I was feeling pukey.
But even the first part that worked relies so much on Bollywood of the past to generate connect and goodwill, that it almost felt like Farah Khan and her brother had something to do with the script.
The incestuousness of this lot of Bollywood inbreds is insane. The constant references to old Bollywood scream of not just a retarded worldview, but also creative lethargy.
As Ayan says in the film, all films from the house of Chopras, Johars and Khans can do “same pinch” to each other.
They need to get over themselves and their privileged status, like, already, and gear up for the good fight.

THOUGH ADHM doesn’t have much of a story, its plot bears a strange resemblance to One Day (2011 film starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess).
The film is, of course, pretty. And it has pretty people. Aishwarya looks glam and gorgeous and the film pauses to praise her beauty while she looks poised and smug. Thankfully, she throws a hint that real-life may dwell inside her and that she may have some vulnerability by biting her lower lip oh-so-sexily often.
Fawad Khan hardly has a role. He is probably on screen for all of three minutes. But man, he really does light up the screen — he is drop-dead gorgeous and I hope the next time Mr Modi goes visiting Mr Sharif, a red carpet will be rolled out for Fawad.
Anushka and Ranbir have nice, boisterous chemistry, but that’s courtesy mostly him.
She’s good, of course. But he is an actor who can make your eyes well up in seconds.
Ranbir carries the pain of one-sided love in his eyes, and it’s powerful.