Once upon a time, many, many years ago, I assigned myself to Poo rehab. This watershed decision was taken shortly after a high school chemistry test, where I nearly answered a question on properties of silver as 'good looks, good looks and good looks'.
Wait, you don't know who Poo is?
Anyway, the greatest lesson of the bootcamp was this: Karan Johar's women characters keep their brains like you keep your naphthalene balls. Hidden under mountains of nice looking, expensive clothes.
And come on, that's hardly Bollywood's worst crime.
So when the trailer of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil surfaced, I blinked once, twice and a couple of more times. Because hey, that woman Anushka Sharma was playing seemed almost like a real human being. Okay, she did look like she was OD-ing a bit on Red Bull — what with all that dancing, singing, oh-I'm-having-fun shrieking etc — but some of us can pull that off after a few drinks as well, isn't it?
Karan Johar's women characters keep their brains like you keep your naphthalene balls. Hidden under mountains of nice looking, expensive clothes.
I was slightly worried about Aishwarya Rai being Umrao Jaan, the LBD version and going all 'adaab, janab' on a punk boyfriend. But I then thought, who doesn't need to be a little high to deal with a boyfriend on rebound? Especially if he is climbing skywalks and invading garages to sing Hindi songs in some European country?
When the film released, I wiped two tears of nostalgia, whispered, 'Mera Karan bada ho gaya', and headed for the first show I could lay my hands on.
The first scene has Alizeh (played by Anushka Sharma) dancing in a party. Now a girl who is on a Ganpati visarjan mode while the rest of the world seems to have succumbed to some strange EDM robot motion, is the coolest okay? 'Yay', I heard my head beginning to squeal but then suddenly, she started doing that move. That come hither move you guys... kind of like pulling and pulling imaginary toilet paper and not finding the tear point? That one.
She does that on spotting Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) looking at her for exactly half a minute with the tepid interest with which other humans look at Hajmola.
So off she goes at the boy, who turns out to be the single biggest threat facing the world after Donald Trump — a sloppy kisser! Now what would a smart human being do? Stop. Curse his/her luck. Tell yourself that God's never fair to you and head out. Right? But, good lord, Alizeh doesn't leave. Instead, she indulges in some chit chat and takes said lousy kisser out to spend the rest of the night partying. At this point, I am thinking, who knows, she wants the Nobel Peace Prize someday maybe.
Then, because you know we are cool man and bro, it's totally like chill and all, Alizeh and Ayan decide to go on a double date. Ayan's date is Lisa (Lisa Haydon), who of course is stupid and pretentious, because how else will the heroine look cool? Haydon, who I found to be smoking hot despite her otherworldly opinion on feminism, is also more adventurously dressed than Anushka. Who, by the way, is not amused at one-day-old friend's girlfriend. Now, she behaves exactly like conniving MILs do in Hindi television soaps, but since this is Anushka Sharma in ethereal kurtas, this must be cool.
With absolutely no provocation from Lisa, Alizeh quite unsubtly hints that the former is a gold digging prostitute who is out to snare rich men. Myaaaan, 'twas litrully sooo coool that my coffee, you know, froze and turned into a frappe that very moment! Soon, the women throw wine at each other because who said women who drink are civil and intelligent people who know better, naa? #SanskaarGayiWineLene
With absolutely no provocation from Lisa, Alizeh calls her a gold digging prostitute who is out to snare rich men.
The woman wearing less clothes, of course, is the loser in this scheme of things and goes home shrieking like she has woken up beside Abhijit's Twitter handle.
But Ayan and Alizeh's friendship doesn't ebb. You know why? Real bros bond over objectifying, sexualising and then saying nasty things about women they know. So, Alizeh, like a proper bro, calls Lisa, the 'nangi girlfriend'. Because short clothes = nangi = abominable, no?
Ayan, again, like a proper bro, continues to have sex with Lisa but doesn't bat an eyelid when Alizeh relentlessly insults that very woman. Because, you know, Ae Balls Hai Mushkil... Sorry, dil, that was, dil.
Now, it's not problematic that the film has these characters. It's problematic that it is obvious that the director's empathy is deeply invested in these characters, and as a result, in their shocking regressiveness.
However, the said mushkil-some balls and dil, have trouble bro-ing between Ayan and Alizeh, new BFFs in town. So Alizeh, who called Lisa a gold digger, hops on to BFF's private jet and flies off to Paris. That's stretching friendzone too far, you say? Nahin stupid! He is her best friend yaaaa!
Ayan, again, like a proper bro, continues to have sex with Lisa but doesn't bat an eyelid when Alizeh relentlessly insults that very woman.
The rest of the Alizeh track sees her vacillating from pay-for-my-drinks-naa phase to ooh-hot-ex-is-back phase to i'm-going-to-be-so-irritating-
She can't make decisions, she is like a creeper who needs some man continuously, even before she has met Lisa she declares the girl's eyeing Ayan's money and she doesn't ever see anything from another person's perspective, so is clearly un-empathetic. Goodness, she doesn't ever tie her hair once, talk about being impractical.
Now on to Saba, the shayara, or poetess. Ayan literally falls on Saba, while chewing grapes and trying to make small talk at the same time at an airport lounge. Saba, played by OMG-SO-HOT-IT'S-NOT-FUNNY Aishwarya, immediately detects a broken heart. You would suspect alcohol, crack or just lecherous hormones, but no, not our poetess. Maybe grape-eating is a hitherto unknown symptom of heartbreak which makes itself apparent to very rich and glamorous poets. Anyway, the flight ends with Saba leaving Ayan her number... erm, her book of poems. Publicity plus flirting, in one fell swoop. You go Sabs!
Soon the boy flies down and stations himself in the Louvre replica Saba lives in. While he sings and stuff all over Vienna, Saba's job is to appear from the mist in beautiful clothes, walk in slo-mo and stare at the camera like she is going to snog it right then. When she is not doing that, she talks in what she claims is 'shayari'.
For example, 'I need to pee', in Saba-ese, would translate to, 'this body is so whimsical. It wants water, then it wants to throw it out'. How such a fake Rumi quotes bot built such great fortune, one doesn't know. Anyway, Saba's character or personality is not allowed to grow or nourish itself into anything real because she is just a pretty distraction.
To top it all, like my friend pointed, there's no Reema Lagoo, Farida Jalal type character to tell you, "Beta, have laddoo no? We have a dance number coming up right away, which you will dance to the rest of your lives. Chalo, don't whine now."
I must conclude this piece and articulate my disappointment with these profound lines from a song from my favourite accompaniment to popcorn, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. It says: "Dil roya ki aankh bhar ayee, kisi se ab kya kehna?"
Sister gets me.