Mild Spoilers –
AE DIL HAI MUSHKIL [ADHM] is one of the worst, wannabe movies coming out of the Johar stable; and that’s not because the film in totality is bad per se, but because of the disastrous attempts at surrogate-wedding of depth with glamor. All his ‘K’ films and the faux-attempt at capturing xenophobia through MNIK can be considered classics – in terms of cinematic grammar only, by the way – when compared to ADHM.
Johar tries to show his ‘maturity’ in this film but ends up showing his immaturity even more. What Johar is actually attempting here is to be Imtiaz-esqe, but falls flat at that because he is churned between Imtiaz’s high emotional-quotient and his own penchant for designer glamor and an alternative club-hopping world: The resultant is a mess of a movie that just doesn’t know where to stop and what it’s trying to convey. Remember that scene in TALAASH where Aamir questions Nawaz and Nawaz replies, and I paraphrase, ‘साब, दो दिन से खाना नहीं खाया, पानी भी नही पिया|’ And then the cell-phone in his pocket starts ringing prompting a suspicious look from Aamir who’s just trying to understand the contrast between extreme poverty and a fully-charged cell-phone having a high balance. And that’s what I was staring at in ADHM. The gap between the glaring glamor and attempted depth is so huge that one gets lost in that oblivion never to resurface again. Everyone is talking of ‘unrequited’ love. Yes, that’s the theme; and quite a rich one at that in-text but poorly handled here. Johar has been dealing with this ‘can a boy and a girl be just friends like a boy and a boy can be buddies but not gay’ theme since his KKHH days and has yet to come to terms with it: He tried the Archie comics approach way back in the millennium and now he tries to be ‘adult’ about the same theme here. Ranbir’s Ayan loves Anushka’s Alizeh, Alizeh in turn has a weakness for Fawad’s DJing Ali, and Ranbir circumvents these two after Anushka is not willing to graduate to ‘love’ from ‘friend-ship’ with Ayan and moves on to another. He, miraculously after metaphorically doing a ‘Kanyadaan’ meets a शायरा in Aishwarya’s Saba who, at first sight, hands him her book of नzम along with her phone number. The problem is, the co-incidences, even if one considers them metaphors, don’t quite gel with the atmospherics of this movie [as Lisa Haydon’s hilarious character would have put it, the ‘vatavaran’ is quite deceptive]. It all sounds so un-real; not surreal. In the scene when Ayan meets Saba for the first time, he plays a ‘same-pinch’ scenario with her. Forget somebody Aishwarya-like, I haven’t even had a chance to pinch an over-blown TSA agent at airports! [My luck has been restricted to being ‘padded’, and unfortunately, by men!].
The initial scenes between Ayan and Alizeh just go on and on and one gets irritated. Ayan is a left-over from K3G. He is carrying forward the financial legacy of flying in helicopters and private jets. They can wear shades at night, sleep, and without brushing their teeth after waking up in the morning, can shove raw bread crumbs into toasters and pour milk into their cereal bowl. [Karan, actually, doesn’t waste time here in the sense that he doesn’t dwell on the fact that these are folks that can use Euros or dollars or whatever to wipe their asses; he doesn’t spend time on showing the wealth of Ayan’s parents – Ayan just blasts his credit cards! If that’s maturity for a film-maker, so be it: Just like Trump considers revealing his tax-returns a waste of time, so does Karan believe it’s a waste of time establishing the ‘rich’ history of Ayan’s parents]. The point is established: They can go to Vienna, Paris, or wherever the hell from London in Europe to wherever else just like we try to go from Pune to Amravati.
Karan’s idea of poverty, as I alluded to somewhere, is a kid working extra hours and sweating to pay for his Ducati while his idea of wealthy is the same kid graduating to driving a Lamborghini after completing his MBA as SOTY: Be that as it may, I am not too concerned with it: [Just as one can accuse Ramu or Kashyap of excelling ONLY in dark corridors of the heart and mind.] And it’s on full display here. The trouble is when he tries to tread on Imtiaz’s territory and tries to find depth, and he struggles, and how! The ‘दिल का दर्द; दिल टूटा नहीं’ idea is a direct lift from Ali’s [not DJ’s] ‘Rockstar.’ Ayan sings pathetically and butchers Burman’s ‘गाता रहे मेरा दिल’ from GUIDE and Alizeh retorts saying he sings so badly since he has hardly experienced heart-break; a direct throw-back to Kumud Mishra’s advice to Ranbir in Rockstar
about becoming a great musician only when one’s heart is torn to shreds. ‘Urdu’ and Faiz Ahmed Faiz are used here just as mere instruments of exoticism. Ayan invites Alizeh to the woman’s house he is sleeping with who, of course, happens to be the poetess Aishwarya’s Saba just to make her ‘jealous’ that he has landed a prize ‘better’ than Alizeh! Noor Jehan’s rendition of Faiz’s ‘मुझ से पहली सी मुहब्बत मेरे महबूब ना माँग
मैने समझा था के तू है तो दरख़शां है हयात’ is playing in the background: And we are supposed to be convinced that Saba is a ‘deep’ person, who literally dances like a stripper in a club in one of the previous scenes –and no, this isn’t a sexist comment but a marker to the confusion in Karan’s mind— when she meets Ranbir after her first encounter with him. I am NOT trying to be judgmental here by expecting a शायरा to be someone clothed from head to foot in a burkha. It’s just that KJo’s attempt at wedding modernity with traditions and ‘depth’ is so exasperatingly vacuous here that it boggles the mind. [Just imagine Amitabh after reciting मैं पल दो पल का शायर हूँ jumping onto a dance-floor gyrating sexually to a Sex Pistol’s number, and you get the drift]. This is not DEDH ISHQIYA where the entire movie was soaked with Lucknowi तहज़ीब: Here, exoticism is used merely as a tool and the artificiality seeps through to the audience. So afraid Karan is of alienating the ‘it’ crowd that he doesn’t even use the originals of the many Hindi oldies but resorts to using the remixed versions!
Of the cast, Ranbir shines in some scenes but he seems clearly uncomfortable acting as the man-child. He is fantastic in the scene where Aliyah calls him from Lucknow and he asks, almost child-like and with his heart in his mouth, whether she agreed to marry Ali. Anushka is fine but is running the risk of repeating herself with her bubbly acts. But this is surely one of her finer performances. Aishwarya is the world’s most beautiful woman and she plays it THAT way; and NOT as a poetess. [Catch her ‘walking’ with her posterior swaying in the scene when she and Alizeh dismiss off as sexist Ayan’s talk of women being together as dangerous and you can catch her limitations as an actress WITHOUT a micro-scope; I missed Madhuri here, but I am not the casting director]. Fawad continues to the over-rated actor that he is but a devastatingly blessed good-looker.
Except for BULLEYA and the title song, none of the songs merit any attention. The BULLEYA song is shot poorly trying to give it a SADDA HAQ look but falls flat. How I wish the title song focused more on Ranbir’s expressions rather than his rise to fame.
Finally, the trick of using death as a unifier is such an over-used, ironically, done-to-death attempt at welling up the tear-glands that it looks like a mockery here. Even chemo-therapy is painted glamorous in Karan’s films. [In SILSILA, Yash used a plane-crash as a unifier, but that was 1982, and SILSILA was too bold a film for its time! In 2016, if you still want to use death as a unifying tool, then that talks a lot about your story-telling abilities.] Cancer, here, pardon me, sounds like a joke. The last 30 minutes are a hoot. Never ever have I seen in a seemingly ‘mature’ Hindi film a terminal disease being looked at so flippantly.
If you really want to see, in modern-times, why is it that Alizeh cannot come to love Ayan, in spite of his being the PRINCE CHARMING as suggested by Saba, go back to 2006 and watch Rani and Abhishek’s scenes in Johar’s own KANK: They sound more real and far, far better than what’s at display here. And if you want to watch folks struggling with confusions in love, just watch TAMASHA on rewind..
ADHM, then, remains an uneasy cock-tail of Imtiaz’s finer-attempts, KJO’s own cinematic references, and a vague reference to THE FAULT IN OUR STARS..