Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is a 2016 romantic drama film written and directed by Karan Johar. The film stars Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Fawad Khan. The film tries to explore various universal themes such as love, lust, friendship, obsession etc.
The best part of the film is not its plotline or music or directing. The best part of the film is clearly Ranbir Kapoor. His performance stands head and shoulders above the rest of the cast who are themselves not bad. He elevates the film to a higher plane with his antics, raw emotional moments and also excels in the more nuanced subtle moments as well. As for the rest of the cast they are generally just serving a purpose. The purpose being to move the plot ahead. Anushka Sharma does deserve a bit of praise. The plot of the film is contrived even though it is trying very hard to be original. Some of the principal cast’s characters are paper thin in their actions and motivations.
The film however uses all its Karan Johar-ness to keep the audience engaged. There are multiple references to his previous works, special cameos, everyone is rich and beautiful, having a bimbo, Indian weddings, all that and all the other things one can think of are all here. They are as much a gift to his fans as much as they are a point of derision to his detractors.
Watching two beautiful people fall in love is always great and is a great form of escapism for most people but the two leads in question need a bit more than a meet cute to help the cause. The latter stages of the film bring out the big guns in terms of character depth and nuance but it seems a bit too little too late to create a genuine sense of offering the complete emotional package. The emotional wallops are present and accounted for, especially through Ranbir Kapoor’s tears and juvenile actions, but they do feel like a device to make the audience feel stuff rather than those emotions growing organically. These emotions haven’t been fully realised throughout the film and even when they have been it’s been from only one end.
The music is good in parts. Some of the songs in the film are rendered beautifully. The film, as many other Dharma Productions, is gorgeous to look at. Being shot in Vienna, London etc. help the visual aesthetic.
There is a common saying in Hollywood with one specific director, Quentin Tarantino, that if he were to reduce the excess in his films, a larger portion of the audience would come to appreciate them more. The same can be applied to Karan Johar, even though the two men mentioned above have extremely varying styles in filmmaking. The film needs restraint. It indulges itself in a lot of tomfoolery and it hurts the overall product. A tighter and more focused story could have been a much better offering this festive season. It is clearly obvious that the movie comes from a very emotional and deep place for Karan Johar, I for one think showing those deep-seated emotions at the level at which he felt them rather than glossing it out with his usual style of bubble-gum filmmaking would have been a very satisfying foray into some serious filmmaking for the man.
On a personal note I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy this film. God damn it Ranbir Kapoor, you are really good when it matters.