Pati Patni Aur Woh Review: Can Kartik Aaryan Do Something Other than Pretend that Men are Victims?

Bollywood

Pati Patni Aur Woh Review: Can Kartik Aaryan Do Something Other than Pretend that Men are Victims?

Illustration: Aishwarya Nayak

In three of the most successful films of his career, Kartik Aaryan has earned a reputation as the poster boy for middle-class commitment phobia. He is the perennial break-up dude, the one who goes around town sniffing out men in need of rescuing from the clutches of manipulative women. After breaking up a marriage in Sonu Ki Titu Ki Sweety, the actor ironically succumbs to the institution, essaying a married man in Mudassar Aziz’s Pati Patni Aur Woh, an entirely avoidable remake of the eponymous 1978 film. Yet it’s not a transition drastic enough for Aaryan to forget his roots: In this film too, he’s busy protesting about men being victimised, even when they concort elaborately daft lies, aid their best friends in lying to their wives, or have extramarital affairs.

Set in a Filmcity version of Kanpur, Pati Patni Aur Woh sticks to the template that its source material laid down. Bored of his marriage, a bumbling middle-class husband embarks on an extramarital affair. Aziz (credited for the screenplay and dialogue) merely updates the conflict with modern conundrums: The married couple are childless, and if the lie in the original film was about the wife being terminally sick, here sympathy is mined by making her the cheating spouse. >

In the film, Abhinav “Chintu” Tyagi (Aaryan), a PWD engineer, is married to the plucky Vedika (Bhumi Pednekar), a physics teacher who brandishes her sexual liberation and emotional high-maintenance as accessories. Even though their coupling is a product of an arranged marriage, both Abhinav and Vedika seem taken by each other and develop an endearing chemistry (they address each other by their respective surnames). Later though, Aziz hints that Abhinav might have married against his wishes, an accusation that is as wafer-thin as the film’s plot.

Three years in, Abhinav’s biggest problem with his marriage is that there is nothing wrong with it. It’s the monotony of stability that threatens his sanity. Surely, the Indian male is built for greater things than just being a husband who has to fulfill a set of responsibilities, like picking up groceries. So Aaryan, armed with an atrocious middle-parting, sulks and frowns his way through several tantrums until he meets the Delhi-bred Tapasya (Ananya Pandey), whose introduction shot has the camera focus on her butt, just in case you happened to forget the real reason why women are cast in Hindi films.

It gets even more ridiculous: For some reason, she falls for him too. That Aaryan’s Abhinav somehow manages to get two women to simultaneously be in love with him is undeniably Pati Patni Aur Woh’s biggest mystery, especially because there is nothing particularly attractive about him. Abhinav is emotionally stunted, romantically awkward, and needlessly complains about an ex-girlfriend leaving him, the same way Arnab Goswami is convinced that the nation wants to know about the extent of his vocal range. 

Set in a Filmcity version of Kanpur, Pati Patni Aur Woh sticks to the template that its source material laid down.

The film’s most glaring defect however, remains the fact that it doesn’t deem its male lead’s transgressions serious enough for him to face any consequences. Abhinav is instead made out to be just a victim of his circumstances. Early on, he tells his colleague Fahim (Aparshakti Khurrana being relegated to playing the proverbial best friend to the kind of middle-class heroes his brother, Ayushmann Khurrana has made a career of essaying) that his courtship with Tapasya is essentially him trying to find the “happiness” he deserves. This would make sense if Pati Patni Aur Woh detailed the source of this unhappiness (Vedika and him are more compatible than Tapasya and him) or even offered some insights into his personality. When Vedika confronts him about the affair, he regards his infidelity as a minor inconvenience, giving it as little thought as the plot of every Kartik Aaryan film. Infidelity, just like marital rape, is merely a device for comedy in Pati, Patni Aur Woh.

On the other hand, the women are afforded no such lenient treatment. Aziz builds up Vedika as a nagging wife (Pednekar is in fine form during a sequence in which she compares Abhinav to a “mendak”) who always rejects the sexual advances of her husband. In its second half, it turns the tables on Tapasya by looking down on her as the clingy mistress. In one scene, Abhinav yells at her for thinking that something is going on between them, after spending the entirety of the first half begging for something to go on between them. 

Aziz isn’t a particularly aware filmmaker and Pati Patni Aur Woh’s dated sense of humour (Muslims regularly become punchlines, and Abhinav’s change of heart occurs only when he finds out that Vedika could be having an affair) is proof that Happy Bhag Jayegi might just have been an exception to the rule. The film’s dull, repetitive theatrics are derived only from the director playing up stereotypes: The mistress is young, urban, and dressed entirely in western outfits while the wife’s wardrobe doesn’t go beyond sarees and suits. It’ feels almost redundant to take offence to the unabashed display of sexism and ignorance of social dynamics when the film itself revels in its stupidity. Giving it tough competition is Aaryan, who even after five films, does nothing beyond being whiny onscreen and Pandey, whose “acting” involves all the rejected shots from Student of the Year 2. Pednekar, a gifted actor, is the only bright spark, but thankfully, even she loses interest in the proceedings midway. 

In a way, the biggest takeaway of Pati Patni Aur Woh  is that Aziz has a even worse understanding of interpersonal relationships between men and women than Luv Ranjan. It’s not entirely a coincidence that by the end of two hours, Pati Patni Aur Woh starts resembling an elaborate excuse for Aziz to doff his hat to Ranjan’s universe. In one scene, Pednekar wears a red outfit similar to the one Nusrat Bharucha wears in Sonu Ki Titu Ki Sweety while the actor playing her ex-boyfriend is Sunny Singh Nijjar, a regular fixture in Luv Ranjan outings. It goes to show — you can run, you can hide, but you can’t escape a Kartik Aaryan monologue stretched as a film which details the burdens of Indian men who want to be in an exciting, fulfilling relationship with attractive women without having to put in any work.

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