Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, which had a grand Diwali weekend opening yesterday, had to surmount the suddenly controversial appearance of Pakistani actor Fawad Khan, due to last month’s temporary ban by the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (IMPPA) of Pakistani actors following a deadly attack, also last month, near the town of Uri in the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir, responsibility claimed for by a Pakistan-based terrorist group.
Adding to the controversy, Jaya Bachchan, legendary actress and wife of superstar Amitabh Bachchan, in speaking out against the “open display of affection” that has of late become the norm in Bollywood movies, was understood to have been referring in particular to the scenes in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil between her daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, a former Miss World, and Ranbir Kapoor. Then again, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (This Heart is Complicated) is a romantic drama, heavy on sex and accompanying heartbreak.
The first half of the 157 minutes hold interest due to Johar’s script, fine songs (music by Pritam, lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya), and especially Anushka Sharma’s buoyant performance as Alizeh, a free-spirited gal-about-London whom Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) falls hopelessly yet understandably in love with. But his happiness forever after is not to be: He’s stuck with another stunner—though she conveniently sunders their affair by getting caught hooking up at a disco with Alizeh’s current guy—which is fine with Alizeh, who’s still carrying a torch for the DJ boyfriend (Khan) who cheated on her.
Rich kid Ayan flies Alizeh around to exotic locales, one of which—another disco, no less—brings her into contact--small world--with her ex, with whom she leaves, of course, and eventually marries. Enter Bachchan, a gorgeous poet, of all things, divorced from a successful painter, played by none other than Shah Rukh Khan, perfect in his cameo--except that it’s the second half of the film and it’s increasingly hard to care about an immature Ayan, now in should-be bliss in Vienna with a Miss World lookalike, who somehow still can’t get over now-married Alizeh, who wasn’t attracted to him in the first place.
No, we cant’ all just be friends, becomes the lesson of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil—except we can’t all just be lovers and spouses, either—especially when life-threatening illness rears its ugly head in the midst of such beautiful people. That, and money can’t buy us love.