Ae Dil Hai Mushkil – A Review

Image result for ae dil hai mushkilKaran Johar directs Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. The story of unrequited love is said to be almost autobiographical with Ranbir playing the dramatized version of Karan Johar.

 

Ranbir Kapoor plays Ayan Sanger – rich brat pursuing MBA in London while nursing a dream of being a singer. Ayan is also the narrator of the story and the entire movie is told in a flashback while Ayan is being interviewed following his success as a singer. When asked why his songs sound of unrequited love Ayan takes us back to where it all began.

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The chance meeting with Alizeh Khan played by Anushka Sharma, the blossoming friendship, the homage to many milestone movies of Bollywood including Ranbir’s tribute to his own father’s iconic Chandani. Delving any further into the story would be a disservice to the nuance that Johar has crafted into the complex relationship dynamics between Ayan and Alizeh. The first half starts off stutteringly where the intensity of Ranbir and the levity of Anushka seem to be a little bit like oil and water. Despite their best effort it isn’t easy to identify nor feel for the characters. Only once the unnecessary shenanigans of Ranbir’s girlfriend and Anushka’s fiancé are done with does the movie really pick up. The scene leading up to the intermission is gut-wrenching in its rawness. This is the Ranbir we know and love. He can play the heartbroken hero a hundred times over but he manages to imbue a sense of novelty, be it his driven Janardhan aka Jordan in Rockstar or the vagabond Bunny in Yeh Jawani hai Deewani, and be it him as the bottled up millennial Ved in Tamasha or coming of age Sid in Wake up Sid. You laugh with his antics and you feel the pain in the pit of your stomach as you see him repeatedly bang a flowerpot on his chest. It is a shame that an actor’s worth today is equated with the box office collection – ADHM may not do the hundreds of crores in business but make no mistake – Ranbir has no peers.

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Anushka Sharma is fantastic as Alizeh, a complex character who even in her hysterical scenes seems so genuine. Anushka does a lot of the heavy lifting as the central figure of the story. It would have been better had the writer and the director given a little more thought to her story graph. The back story is dispensed with rather quickly. The reconciliation and the breakup of her relationship with Fawad is done in such a haste that it leaves you a little bewildered.

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Thankfully no such complaints with the role crafted for Aishwarya Rai as poetess Saba Naqavi who nurses Ranbir’s broken heart with a tempestuous relationship. Saba has a purpose to the story; a perfect introduction, a fantastic middle and a visceral end. Much has been said about Aishwarya’s beauty and all of it is true but here she has taken her beauty to lethal levels. As the seductive and shayarana Saba she catches you mid-breath and makes you gasp. Even an actor of the calibre of Ranbir diminishes to the background when Aishwarya is on screen. Giving Aishwarya lines which Ranbir describes as “chalti firti Ghalib” is rife with potential for disaster as she often tends to overdo the breathy sensuality but her she is wonderfully restraint and lets those gorgeous blue green eyes do all the work.

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Alia Bhatt is Johar’s new lucky mascot and makes a blink and you’ll miss it appearance. Fawad Khan is pleasing to the eye but not much more. Lisa Haydon plays the bimbo to perfection and is genuinely funny. Shah Rukh Khan is a pale shadow of his former romantic self and is difficult to look at and even more difficult to listen to.

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The absolute stand out for me has been its music. The title track has all the seriousness that you would expect from a movie about such a combustive relationships. The breakup song and Cutiepie the hallmark Johar dance numbers that are immensely hummable. Bulleya has all the intensity of unrequited love. But the absolute tearjerker is Channa mereya – the lyrics, the expression the context are phenomenal. Anil Mehta’s camera work is gorgeous, but I am sure it must not have been difficult to shoot such a beautiful cast in such spectacular locations. I honestly wish a little more time was spent grounding Alizeh and Ayan’s characters with a little bit of their history and a gradual build up to their friendship. I could easily have done away with the bit with Lisa Haydon entirely regardless of how hilarious she actually was. The dialogues in comparison to the lyrics of the song seem very second rate and do nothing to amp up the emotions. The pre-climax Friends throwback “did she get off the plane” is sublime.

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I had a more complex plot going on in my head and in comparison the story is pretty straightforward and conventional. One-night stands and friends with benefits aren’t ground breaking territories anymore and Karan Johar really needs to continue to push the boundaries even more.

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Minor complaints aside this is a fantastic movie for so many reasons. Ranbir is transcendental. Anushka relatable and Aishwarya ethereal. Karan Johar surely knows how to tell a love story and I’d rather watch him direct aspirational escapist love story than the ones he ends up producing. Watch it for Ranbir. I’ll re-watch for Aishwarya!

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Before Sunrise (1994) – A Review

 Richard Linklater directed Ethan Hawke and July Delpy in the 1994 Before Sunrise. Ethan Hawke plays Jesse an American returning from Madrid after breaking up with his long-distance girlfriend and Delpy plays Celine returning from Budapest after visiting her grandmother. Total strangers these two end up sitting next to each other when another couple starts arguing loudly in the train. What ensues from there is a romance like no other.

There are no grand gestures or drama, just two young people in their 20s walking about in Vienna talking about everything under the sun. You are with them as they talk about their respective childhood and then about growing up and what their idea of growing up would be like. What they want to do with their lives and their dreams.

They have only 1 night in Vienna and they both agree that they are not going to exchange numbers and addresses to make it a long drawn out thing. Instead they want to live in the moment and take everything in. you can see a definite bond developing between the two as they each open up about things one does not generally discuss with someone they are trying to charm or impress. These are just two lost souls on an adventure.

Ethan Hawke is the very American Jesse and July Delpy the very French Celine, the conversation between the two is the idealized version of romance without the ribbons and roses , it is simply a wonderful conversation between these two , their views on Mortality, Morality, religion, love, family and many more.

My favorite moment from the movie is the one in the restaurant where they each pretend to have a phone conversation with their respective friends. It’s warm, tender and genuine at the same time it is funny.

It is very hard to explain the sense of contentment I felt watching these two characters just talk it was like someone was having a conversation I wanted to have with no holds barred no topic taboo no embarrassment and no judgment. Just a sense of belonging with a stranger who grows more familiar as the time passes.

What Linklater did here is incredible, just 2 people in one of the most beautiful cities in the world but it is not about the city and its sprawling palaces and architecture and rivers and canals as it is about these two people experiencing it, how each place sparks a conversation, which in insolation means very little other than random thoughts but when pulled together it forms this wonderful tapestry of lives that they have lived and hope to live in the future.

I kept hearing about these two movies for the longest time but never got around to seeing them. And now that I am going through a phase in my life ( that’s a story for another blog) where I meet these strangers and all I can care about is their ability to have a conversation and having seen this movie I wanna take that train from Madrid to Paris and meet my Céline and spent a day in Vienna! I think this movie has quickly climbed the top spot of best romantic movie of all time for me.

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The movie ends with Jesse and Celine promising to meet again in Vienna, leaving you with questions about will they meet?  What if they don’t meet? Or if we really want them to meet? Because this one day was so unpredictable and so unconventional that all that can happen if they meet and become lovers is that they will grow apart slowly and that is not the romance I want for these two amazing individuals.