Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I have to write this down before the feeling passes as feelings are wont to do. I just finished seeing Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. I had lost complete faith in Karan Johar’s writing since Bombay Talkies and in his direction since Student of the Year. But this film resurrected quite a bit of the appeal he held for me in the late 90’s.

The story connected with me on different levels. I have a best friend who is of the opposite gender. I have had heartbreaks. I have known strong, liberal women (thank the stars, for where would I be without them?) Someone I love has been akin to a disease that is life-threatening. I have shaved my head off too, for someone I love had shaved off hers – and that love wasn’t sexual at all.

The tagline on IMDb states that it is a tale of unrequited love. That’s just one small facet of this movie that touches the friendship between two individuals, feminism, sexual liberation, the woman’s prerogative to say no, infidelity (on more than one level) and, most of all, a different kind of love – which frankly, I never expected a commercial, Bollywood movie to showcase centre stage.

Ranbir Kapoor (Ayan) is always phenomenal. I have also maintained that he feels like the brother I never had – in short, nothing very sexual about him (personally speaking that is, I am sure there are people who do think otherwise). And right from the start Anushka Sharma (Alizeh) comments on this, when – shocker! – he can’t kiss well and she doesn’t find him sexually engaging. She does try, initially. So the relationship builds into a friendship, and as a friend pointed out, it has a wonderful intricacy. The sari-clad scenes in the mountains were wonderfully funny.

Anushka is Anushka. As Ash is Ash. They have their roles and they move through the movie fluidly, not jarringly. I like the uninhibitedness shown by Ash in the role of Sabah. She is mature. She knows what she wants, and also what she doesn’t want. Or rather, what she can handle and what she cannot. One of the reasons for her letting go of her marriage. The role is nuanced and has layers of strength and dignity, quite appealing in this case. The dialogues of the movie can be trite at places and lyrical in some others, and though her Urdu seems stilted, I loved some of the interchanges, Ash’s character has. Especially with her ex-husband. The intensity of that scene is almost overpowering. I love the way the maturity of relationships evolves, even those that were dealt with in the past.

Fawad Khan’s role – was it chopped? You could blink and miss him. Pity, he is an excellent actor. Just as good as Ranbir. And Imran Abbas was there too! But I must say I loved Lisa Haydon as Lisa, the gold-digger.

I liked the movie very much. Few movies make me go quiet in the end. This one did. I was absorbing what I had just seen. I understood why Alizeh couldn’t love Ayan the way Ayan wanted her to. I understood her clinging onto a latent fear that friendship is destroyed when sex comes into the picture, I also understood that it could be the fear that because she didn’t sexually appreciate Ayan, she could lose the man she had come to love. When people say their spouse is their best friend – I can never understand that. My best friend is my best friend. My lover is my lover. The twain can never be the same. For me. So I get what Alizeh is on about. I mean, totally.

On the other hand, there is Saba who didn’t want to fall in love with Ayan, and he welcomed the fact and so went into a sexual relationship with her. She herself had realized what happened when people fell in love, as she surely was with her ex-husband, and so she chose to avoid it, despite the fact that it helped her write. Ironically, what happens is that she does fall for him and in doing so realizes it will always be unrequited and does to Ayan what he never has the courage to do with Alizeh.

It’s so complicated to explain, so it’s kudos to the writer, director and the actors who tried to bring this out onto a screen, before people who wouldn’t want to see the breaking of a set median, where there is no middle-ground, no structure, just a personal abstraction. It is love. It’s bound to be abstract, right? So it is a love story, just not like the ones we are used to.

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