If you are looking for a candy floss Karan Johar romance, look elsewhere.
Though it has plenty of wealth and gloss to spare, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is really more a parade of complicated relationships masquerading as a romance. You see, Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) and Alizeh (Anushka Sharma) meet cute in a bar, almost have sex despite both being in other relationships and end up talking all night instead. Alizeh isn’t looking for anything serious — definitely not “love” — and Ayan is basically twiddling his thumbs in his rich dad’s company while wishing to be a singer and dating brain dead but hoooooot Lisa (Lisa Haydon).
But Ayan and Alizeh have chemistry and are destined to stick together like glue. Some of the cutest moments between Ayan and Alizeh are when they both share a love of classic Bollywood songs, dialogues and scenes, including dozens of great references (poorly translated in subtitles). My favorite moment has Alizeh donning a chiffon sari — with some help from YouTube and Ayan — and dancing on a snowy mountaintop just because she wants to be a little Bollywood. Ayan falls over from the cold, to which she replies, “Really? Have you even seen what I’m wearing?”
What looks like the start of a bit cliché one-of-them-doesn’t-want-to-love Gen Y romance quickly gets a whole lot more complicated and less relatable, albeit set to an excellent soundtrack.
You see, Ayan falls head over heels in love while jet-setting around Europe in a private jet with Alizeh, who really loves DJ Ali (Fawad Khan), leading Ayan to hook up with also-reluctant-to-love poet Saba (Aishwarya Rai). In ways, it says important things about consent — Alizeh will not consent to be romantic with Ayan, only in love as a “friend,” and though it takes a lot of drama, he gives her space — and the power of friendship in love and vice versa. But mostly it feels drawn out and strange, especially after they are reunited in the end and the movie goes on for a whole other plot chunk that feels totally unnecessary.
It also doesn’t help that Ayan is really something of a man-baby who cries and occasionally goes into hysterics when he doesn’t get what he wants. (Note to Ayan: Learn from another Ranbir man-baby character in Wake Up Sid.) He eventually achieves success as a singer, but I’m still not sure he ever really grows up.
It’s also frustrating that both female characters start off seeming self-sufficient but really are not at all what they say. Both women are introduced saying they want independence and do not give a fig about love (though sex is another matter), but both really in the end want love from other people but don’t want to admit it. They seem to wield all the power to break up relationships — and Alizeh gives a short, poignant speech about not letting a significant other determine her own self-worth — but none of it feels authentic or honest.
That, perhaps, is also the best way to describe the movie as a whole: It has its moments, but overall it feels a bit like it’s lying to itself about what it really wants.