Watching Ae Dil Hain Mushkil was a frustrating experience in all honesty. I had never been a fan of Karan Johar’s directorial efforts and this film seemed to be going down the same lines. This film was a tad better than most others because of the underlying heart in it but then again that does not make for an overall great experience. There were good moments followed by nonsense and great moments followed by an equally great level on nonsense. That was pretty much that. The one thing that stood head and shoulders above the mediocrity was Ranbir Kapoor’s performance as Ayan Sanger. I would like go off an a tangent and sing the praises of Ranbir Kapoor the actor but that’s an essay for another day. In this film and this role, he has one of the purest moments of emotion I had witnessed him be a part of.
So the film starts off by indulging in all the Karan Johar hallmarks. The outlandish sets and exotic locales and beautiful people and making fun of stereotypical bimbo and all that. I was more inclined to be a liberal douche than an audience member. I was busy tearing the film to shreds in my head. So Ranbir breaks up with the bimbo at the same time as Anushka breaks up with her supposed serious boyfriend. That’ll teach them for being judgmental. They go off on retro Bollywood line spouting and dancing to a “modern” sounding breakup song.
After this cliche ridden nonsense however Ranbir’s Ayan talks about a feeling of his heart being broken. Anushka swats that away telling him that he has not been in a real relationship to experience real heartbreak. She gives him an empty bowl type thing and asks him to drop it on his chest while lying down. He does that. She asks him how it felt. He says he felt like it was nothing. She then gives him a potted plant and asks him to drop it on his chest. A drop of that damn near takes the wind completely out of his lungs. Once this little things gets done, she goes off an her own little explanation about how that is how heartbreak feels and all that. I was just scoffing at the nonsense shown on screen and was thinking to myself, “What is this bullshit?”.
A bit more of the film passes by and it is revealed that Ayan was a loner at school and was bullied and has had no real connection with anyone in life including his parents. At this moment, he professes his love to Alizeh (Anushka’s character). She turns him down by saying he is more precious to her as a friend and can only like him as much. A confused Ayan accepts the fact and they share a moment of comfort with each other. A little ways down, Alizeh’s old ex comes up out of nowhere and takes her away with him. Alizeh goes off the radar for a while leaving Ayan alone. She calls him after all those days and the first question Ayan has for her after the basic not-so-pleasantries is if she had sex with her ex.
Something changed for me there. I started to understand the infancy he had in emotional development. He was a stunted man when he came to relationships. His lack of any real connection with any other person had left him crippled to the basic dynamics of a real interaction. His child-like inflections and the ridiculous questions he poses to Alizeh show a glimmer of who he is under the confident and handsome surface. Alizeh informs him that she is going to tie the knot with her ex played by Fawad (I’ll never understand his appeal) Khan.
Ayan ends up taking a trip to India and attending Alizeh’s wedding ceremony. A few more shades of his character come out with the subsequent scenes. I might be looking deeper than the movie intends to here but I felt like his rendition of Channa Mereya was a clear indication of his flawed understanding of how relationships work. I wanted to believe that as a character, he thinks he can go all Bollywood and win the girl by singing a song during her wedding. He is clearly mistaken.
Alizeh understands his intentions and drags him into a room. She reprimands his behavior and reiterates that fact that she has never thought of him as a boyfriend/husband. Ayan with no clue what to say or do resorts to the only way he knows how, to convey the depth of his feelings towards her. He drops down to the floor and grabs a potted plant. He stars to pick the plant up and drop it on his chest repeatedly. With heartbreak clearly visible on his face, he smashes the plant on his chest more and keeps telling Alizeh about how much his heart is breaking under the weight of the potted plant. It is a moment dripping with emotion which makes it hard to put it into words. It is something of a moment once can only experience to understand fully.
Ranbir’s performance was above the film it was in. The amount of heart he was putting into the scene was beyond belief. One might argue that this is a over simplification of a complex emotion but as discussed earlier Ayan is a feral child when it comes to experiencing complex emotions. This is only way he knows how to get himself across. He knows his attempts at explaining himself are failing. He knows this makes no difference. He knows his efforts are futile but this is all he knows. A person who experiences a complex emotion for the first time which he/she cannot express might find an action as the only way to get it across and I know I have been through a moment or two like that. It is equal parts heartbreaking, disheartening, draining and agonizing. I may have not dropped a potted plant on myself but I have done some things I consider stupid when I look back on them with hindsight.
This one particular scene captures all those emotions in one quick swoop. An actor who chose not to be revel in mediocrity might be one of the primary reasons for it. Ayan experiencing his heartbreak and subsequently flipping off of Alizeh for not accepting his proposal is a pitch perfect capture of an emotionally crippled person’s struggle. It is a rare sight in most great films but the fact that a mediocre one captured something so pure is sight to behold.
The scene is above the film. It deserves to be in a better film but being part of something average may be the reason it was elevated to such a high level in my mind.