A Hindu boy can flirt with a Muslim girl or even have sex with her, but they cannot marry. This seems to be the focus of a ‘liberal’ Karan Johar when it comes to presenting Hindu-Muslim relations. Ayan Sanger (Ranbir Kapoor) is bowled over by sizzling Saba Taliyar Khan (Aishwarya Rai), a poet who is a divorcee. After their second meeting for a party, he takes her to bed — the very boy who was curiously hesitant when he had met Alizeh Khan (Anushka Sharma) and she wanted to have fun with him has grown within a short time!
Strange that he can have a good time with both in various ways but cannot marry either. Is it the director’s own bias that he does not allow them to? Suddenly, the situation changes and Ayan comes to know that Alizeh has left the man she claimed to have actually loved, Ali (Fawad Khan). When Ayan meets her again, Alizeh wants to satisfy her platonic need once more and not the carnal ones.
Johar is wary of propounding the anti-thesis of love-jihad. So, the other area he explores is the relationship that should exist between a man and a woman. Sex is bad! Johar’s girl and boy should only be friends, good friends for life. The theory is curious and not explored fully.
At times it appears that Johar is trying to explore the man-woman relationship from a feminine perspective, the kind written about in glossies rather than practised in real life. However, his imagination has been restrained because he has chosen the wrong character, Alizeh, to experiment with. She had had a consistent doctor boyfriend, Faisal Khan (Imran Abbas), in London after being ‘ditched’ by Ali when they were together in college. She was ready for sex with Ayan during the party in this duration where she had identified Ayan from a large group of party hoppers to have sex with, but she lost her interest after concluding that he was a boy yet to grow up into a man. The way she reacts to his partner Lisa D’Souza (Lisa Haydon) soon after, it appears she is jealous. After Faisal and Lisa are caught in a sexual act inside a men’s bathroom, Alizeh and Ayan dump their respective partners — the former in a state of fury and the latter in pain.
They move together in parties, go pub crawling, visit Paris and stay in one room. Still, they do not have sex. Who will believe in this strange presentation in the culture where an invitation to dinner means an invitation to having sex? Ayan frolics with her but does not show any interest in sex. Who will believe in this unnatural relationship unless one considers sex a dirty act — exploring sex in the West with the psyche of a split Indian personality! Ayan is UK-born and hence, it is expected, he would be guided by the morality of the West.
The reason behind this curious presentation unfolds when Ali, who is a DJ, appears just when the curtain between Ayan and Alizeh in Paris might have fallen for better or worse. Alizeh had to be kept a virgin, which the director wants us to believe despite her having a steady boyfriend until he was caught cheating, to prepare a plot for this emergence of her old flame. She has butterflies in her stomach after seeing him, forgives him for his adulterous ways, joins him and dumps Ayan. The flamboyant Muslim girl has some moral virtues of having not slept with someone else even after the split! Faced with competition, Ayan realizes he is in love with Alizeh. But once she is lost, she can be regained only as a friend.
Curious twists and turns and the girl who married Ali realizes that he had not changed and that she could not limit herself to being the wife of someone as a badge. She must find her own destiny even if it meant leaving Ali. Even without getting a triple talaq, she simply walks out and goes underground.
When Ayan discovers her, she is suffering from cancer. He still wants to go physical with her, but she merely wants a platonic relationship. Now her disease gives must garner audience sympathy; she now has an alibi for this friendship.
In the movies of the 1980s, which are often referred to in the course of the film by the chief protagonists, the hero would marry the suffering heroine because she should not die unmarried. This used to be the ultimate culmination of love. Here they don’t marry. Imagine what would have happened if Ayan and Alizeh had married in the end. Mullahs and conservative sections in Muslim society would have been up in arms. How can there be marriage without divorce? And how dare a Hindu boy marry without getting converted into the faith of his bride!
Despite this desperate show of sensitivity towards the community, the movie would not be acceptable to the conservative Pakistani audience. In all probability, it be slammed for showing a Muslim girl acting as party pick-up girl, interested in pub crawling on the streets of London with a young Hindu boy who is learning to acquire manhood.
The first half of the movie is monotonous. It gains momentum with the appearance of Aishwarya Rai. Even in her forties she has a killing look and royal elegance that can attract anyone. There is no artificially in her acting and the scenes look so natural. Ayan gets physical with her and is always keen to impress her. When he still shows affection for Alizeh, his acting is unnatural and so is the sudden urge and longing for his fist love. Saba loves him but cannot accept any second position, which is an insult to her. Saba rightly dumps him.
Since the movie had shot into a controversy over Fawad Khan — a Pakistani actor’s introduction — one would wonder why he was taken at all. He did not speak much or do anything substantial in the movie other than smile. He did not get much time to act. Removing him would not have made much of a difference, but for the fortunes of the director who wanted to cater to the Pakistani audience and also the audience overseas.
If you want to rate the movie by the money it makes, it is already a hit by entering the Rs 200 club. But if you wish to explore a movie by its theme and treatment, it is less than ordinary. Johar has tried various tricks to make the movie a hit such as the clichéd masalas of overseas locations and a good time for the movie’s release. He also cast a Pakistani actor for doing nothing. Making money often gels with a low intellectual quotient.
Ranbir and Anushka must grow as actors. They are playing almost similar roles in many movies. A happy-go-lucky type who turns serious in the second half! Unless they rediscover themselves like Kareena Kapoor, who also began like them, they would soon become stereotypes. The Wake Up Sid boy must grow up; to begin with, he must work on his expressionless face, where his effort to bring in emotions shows badly.