Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016) #SherylPuthur

ae-dil-hai-mushkilDirected By: Karan Johar

Written By: Karan Johar

Cast:

Ranbir Kapoor – Ayan Sangar

Anushka Sharma – Alizeh Khan

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan – Saba Taliyar Khan

Fawad Khan – DJ Ali

Lisa Haydon – Lisa D’souza

Imran Abbas – Dr. Faisal

Shahrukh Khan – Tahir Taliyah Khan

Alia Bhatt – DJ Alia

Language: Hindi; Urdu                                                    Genre: Drama; Romance

 

Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is a story about relationships and heartbreak. The film opens with an interview of Ayan Sangar (Ranbir Kapoor), a London-based singer who has gone from being a YouTube sensation to a popular singer whose music intrigues his audience for its poetry and pathos.

Ayan opens up about the relationships that made him and probably broke him. Alizeh Khan (Anushka Sharma) is a girl he meets at a bar. After a failed hook-up, they become good friends. It is a friendship characterised by straight talking and witty one-liners. They also bond on their shared love for Bollywood which is something that connects them to the subcontinent. They are two people who have learnt to deal with loneliness and distant parents in their own ‘carpe diem’ fashion. Their friendly chemistry leads Ayan to assume that there is more to their relationship. He falls in love with her and she loves him too, but platonically.

Alizeh is wary of relationships because of her previous turbulent relationship with the popular DJ Ali (Fawad Khan), whom she met at Lucknow while she was a student. She is not over him and his return into her life cause cracks to appear in her friendship with Ayan because he cannot take the rejection.

Ayan, in his desperation to forget or deal with his heartbreak becomes involved with an intelligent, sensual older woman Saba Taliyar Khan (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan). She is a shayara (poet) and she is as intrigued by him as he is by her. Ayan has a pattern to his relationships which are largely about sexual satisfaction. If his earlier relationship with Lisa (Lisa Haydon) was marked by shallow physical needs on his side and gold-digging on hers, his relationship with Saba is on a more equal footing.

Conceptually, the film is great. It is about being ‘friendzoned’ by a lover. Literally every character in the film is friendzoned at some point or other. The film explores the complexity of modern relationships and points out the flaws in relationships that don’t have very solid grounding. It speaks about falling out of love with someone and growing steadily intolerant about certain aspects of your partner’s personality. And how, conversely, to protect a valued connection, one would turn the proverbially Nelson’s eye to the true dynamics of the alliance.

But, the treatment of the narrative is poorly handled. It abounds in clichés which get a tad bit irritating. Even the fact that the movie is narrated through an interview is implausible. That is an overlong interview and if it was reality, one could empathise with the plight of the interviewer.

That the screenwriting is lazy is obvious in the manner in which the denouement was reached. Another film that pretty much handled the same theme but in a far more mature fashion was Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu. Ironically, it is a Dharma Production.

Even the lead actors, who have obviously performed brilliantly, have taken recourse in roles they have essayed before. There is then nothing to look forward in their interpretation. Kapoor has reprised the pathos and confusion of his movies Rockstar and Tamasha (in fact, even the narrative borrows heavily from these two features). Anushka Sharma is mature in how she plays Alizeh but it’s still nothing new. However, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has truly pushed herself out of a performative comfort zone. Even Lisa Haydon is hilarious.

Now the elephant in the room is the political controversy that this motion picture got embroiled in because it cast a Pakistani actor. Fawad Khan is barely there in the movie and it might make an audience member feel ‘oh a storm in a teapot’ but it is my assumption that the film may have been re-edited post controversy and would have chopped out much of his role. It is rather sad that he leaves Indian cinema not with a bang but a fizzle.

Also, I suspect all the characters, except for Ayan, were Pakistani in origin. Even the scenes that were later dubbed as Lucknow may have originally been Lahore. This is more plausible because the punjabiness of the wedding preparation and music would be out of place in a Lucknowi wedding. This may have then implied that the narrative was heading towards the idea that we are so much more similar than we give credit for. It also did not seem a narrative that harped on the India-Pakistan past but side-stepped it and moved into a ‘this is how South Asians are’. It would have challenged the viewpoint that Indians in India have about Pakistanis when contrasted with that of Indians abroad. This very fact would have made this a mature take on the tense kinship we share.

Even the fact that Sangars are supposed to Brahmin, Ayan however, plays a very un-Brahmin role. If the above was how Karan Johar intended it, it is truly unfortunate that he had to pare down and remove all those subtle nuances that may have made the clichés more bearable.

So he has broken or tried to break community and nation stereotypes. But he hasn’t stepped out of the traditional Bollywood ending of tragic catharsis or truly reconciled himself to ambiguous or incomplete endings. The ending, therefore, is unexpected, incredulous and unintentionally funny.

On a side note, the cinematography and art design were aesthetic. The music of the film is brilliant. Moving, poetic and catchy – a double thumbs up.

Tamasha (2015) #SherylPuthur

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Directed By: Imtiaz Ali

Written By: Imtiaz Ali

Cast:

Ranbir Kapoor – Ved Vardhan Sahni

Deepika Padukone – Tara Maheshwari

Javed Sheikh – Ved’s father

Vivek Mushran – Ved’s Boss

Language: Hindi                                                            Genre: Romance; Drama

Tamasha (Spectacle) refers to the local folk performances of popular oral narratives either from the epics, religious texts or popular ballads. This is a tradition by no means unique to India as every country possesses a tradition of local theatrical performances. These performances work on the fore knowledge of the audience and frequently include artistic deviations.

Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha has these local performances strewn through the film (both Indian and foreign, such as in Corsica there is a local procession). Performance and spectacle is central to the film, interestingly, even in human relationships. What is appropriate behaviour and how should you project yourself in a socially accepted manner.

The film follows Ved (Ranbir Kapoor) who grows up with an understanding that there are two lives to live – one the socially accepted life and the secret pulsating life of dreams. As a child Ved, visits the local storyteller to be transported into a world of fantasy.

So when he meets Tara (Deepika Padukone) for the first time at Corsica, he tries to live his ‘once upon a time’ moment – an escapist fantasy, by projecting his imagined idea of himself. So they decide not to tell each other the truth of their identity, he introduces himself as Don and she is Mona Darling. They spend a few days in Corsica and decide never to meet again. Tara however, cannot get over him and eventually searches him out. But now he turns out to be the anti-thesis of everything Don was. She rejects him and everything spirals out of control.

Like Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar, this too is a ‘finding yourself’ narrative and as in both the focus is on the male character. The female character is exuberant and holds a commanding presence on the screen but ultimately is just the muse or the catalyst that sends them on a journey which has destructive consequences but is eventually creative in expression.

The storytelling is riveting and replete with popular culture references. Such as Catch-22 – this is significant, because a catch-22 situation is what underlies Ved’s dilemma.

The performances are compelling much like the narrative with both actors giving mature performances. A special mention – Ranbir Kapoor presents with frightening intensity the cracking up of an invisible character (in fact, a very Fightclub moment does exist in the film). If he in the future chose the role of a psychopath/sociopath – it would be chilling. However, in comparison to earlier films, there is a drop in the exuberant energy that had become almost synonymous with his performance. Deepika on the other hand, has scaled heights as an actor. Coming so close on the heels of Piku, her performance has a riveting fluidity to it.

Certain sequences in the film were too contrived. The segment in Corsica for instance, was at its worst – unfunny, and the scene between Ved and his father (Javed Sheikh) – unbelievable. The song Agar Tum Saath Ho was moving, with Deepika’s performance leaving you with a tightening sensation in your chest. Strangely though, others in that space do not react to their rather vocal argument which wasn’t very logical but I would like to assume Ali crafted the scene to emphasise the alienation in society.

While absorbing, the storytelling does lose out in the editing, making the screenplay haphazard. Something I found even in Rockstar which makes the story a little scattered.

Do stay to watch the credits to the end because Imtiaz Ali gives a beautiful tribute to the various performers by having the cast list begin with the names of the dancers, musicians etc who are so central to the narrative. To me, that was outstanding.

 

Yeh Jawaani Hai Diwaani (2013) #SherylPuthur

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Directed By: Ayan Mukerji

Written By: Ayan Mukerji

Cast:

Ranbir Kapoor – Kabir “Bunny” Thapar

Deepika Padukone – Naina Talwar

Aditya Roy Kapur – Avinash “Avi” Arora

Kalki Koechlin – Aditi Mehra

Kunaal Roy Kapur – Taran Saxena

Language: Hindi                      Genre: Coming-of-age; Romantic-Comedy

Ayan Mukerji’s next directorial venture Yeh Jawaani Hai Diwaani was announced under Dharma Productions and I was excited – a) it was Ayan Mukerji’s next after Wake Up Sid which I loved b) it had one-time couple Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor as the lead pair. Not that I thought they had a stunning chemistry in Bachna Ae Haseeno that I was dying to see them together rather that I wanted to see how they would deliver their onscreen romance after their rather public parting.

Then the media blitzkrieg started and the promotions (of which I saw a trailer and the song sequence Badtameez Dil) convinced me that the film was going to be a commercial potboiler not out of place in the Karan Johar repertoire and it didn’t disappoint. The film is Wake Up Sid meets Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham minus the excessive melodrama.

The film is very interior like Wake Up Sid and has some brilliant shots. The screenplay is well written and the cinematography is lovely. The film is peppered with songs and Pritam’s music is catchy and soulful – in one word, brilliant. The songs though well shot is like in any other Hindi film a music break. It adds to the story but should Ayan Mukerji have sought to remove it and put a scene, the song sequence wouldn’t have been missed.

The film is commercial and I thought it wouldn’t be able to recreate the magic of Wake Up Sid which did cater for a more niche audience but was nevertheless a mature film. However I enjoyed Yeh Jawaani Hai Diwaani because Ayan Mukerji manages to use clichés and spin something entirely different with it, giving viewers something new through the end.

The characters are well sketched out, resulting in some interesting performances by all involved including secondary characters. Though Dolly Ahluwalia who is in a blink and miss role could have been given more screen time and maybe more time on subplots would have made the film more memorable. All in all, a well cast film with the lead pair displaying wonderful chemistry though performance wise for me Deepika Padukone stood out.

Certain dialogues and scenes in the film just stood out for me, making them very memorable for me – Aditi’s private thoughts communicated to Kabir, Kabir’s conversation with his stepmom, Naina’s talk with Kabir where she changes the wording of his previously defensive statement making the meaning all the more poignant. So go catch the film, it is a light-hearted romance that is both fun and relatable, giving moments of hilarity and soul-searching.

I’ve stayed mum about this but for me the highlight of the film, when it started was seeing Madhuri Dixit….Dancing!