“Pati Patni Aur Woh”… This remake needed to be funnier, but it does interesting things with its women

Posted on December 11, 2019


The other woman isn’t a humble secretary, like in the earlier movie. She’s more powerful — this inversion of power is one of the things that makes this remake interesting.

Spoilers ahead…

Can a moustache make a difference? In Kartik Aaryan’s case, it does. It transforms his rakish-playboy face into an uncle-face. Okay, a youngish uncle-face — the human equivalent of a sheepish grin after an elevator fart. The actor has one of his trademark monologues where he rants about being a middle-class male — but perhaps for the first time, with that moustache, he looks like a middle-class male. The cockiness is gone. A vague kind of cluelessness has taken its place. There may be other factors at play, like a bit of weight gain, but I’m betting it’s mainly that moustache. On some faces, it gives off a stud vibe. On this face, it says, “Oops!”

Like its BR Chopra-directed predecessor from 1978, Mudassar Aziz’s Pati Patni Aur Woh is about a middle-class man who digs himself into an “Oops!” situation. The older film opened with an animated stretch about Adam, Eve and the forbidden apple — eventually represented by the characters played by Sanjeev Kumar, Vidya Sinha and Ranjeeta Kaur. Here, Eve is Vedika (Bhumi Pednekar), and Ananya Panday is the apple, named Tapasya. You could argue that Ananya needed to ripen some more in order to tempt Abhinav (the Sanjeev Kumar character, played by Kartik). She looks like a cutie-pie doll that’s just been picked off the shelf. (With her wide-eyed line readings, she acts like one, too). Bhumi, meanwhile, looks like a woman who knows what it’s like to be a woman. Even her smiles are… knowing.

Maybe the director wanted to hint that Abhinav is attracted to someone who looks much younger than Vedika. (The actresses in the earlier film looked equally “mature”; it’s just that the wife was “homely” and the other woman wore skirts.) Or maybe Bollywood has decided that Ananya is the next It Girl, and has to be in everything. Why am I going on about this actress? Because the part she plays could have been so much more. Tapasya isn’t a humble secretary, like in the earlier movie. She’s more powerful — she’s a gung-ho entrepreneur. With an older actor, some of these power equations may have registered more convincingly. 

Still, this inversion of power — in the 1978 film, Sanjeev Kumar was the boss — is one of the things that makes this remake interesting. The other is Vedika. In the older film, it was a love marriage. Here, it’s not. When Abhinav goes to meet Vedika, he looks at a parrot in a cage. But it’s not that he’s a major player, who fears the ball and chain of marriage. She, actually, has played around more. She’s had a boyfriend. She’s had sex. (I had a big laugh imagining Vidya Sinha playing this version of the wife.) She’s given rebellion a shot. Now, she says, she’s ready for a little repression.

The early excitement of marriage — the film is set in Kanpur — soon sours into routine, and when Tapasya comes (by train!) looking for a plot of land, Abhinav is only too ready to try out a new toy. The great conceit of Pati Patni Aur Woh is that the man isn’t actually looking for sex. He’s too middle-class for that. You know how in airports, we look at, say, shiny-new office bags — which are way beyond our pay grade — because the bag that hangs from our shoulder is a bit frayed around the edges? That’s what it’s like for Abhinav. It’s not that he hates his office bag. It’s just that he can’t help longing for a better model (though I couldn’t see why Tapasya would be drawn to this man).

Yes, there’s a (cleverly placed) nod to Thande thande paani, and the broad arc of the narrative is the same — but Mudassar Aziz tweaks the story at all the right points. I liked it that three years after marriage, Vedika hasn’t had a child. She has dreams of moving to Delhi. These small touches add colour to the character. Bhumi is good. Her “small-town” accent keeps slipping (as does Kartik’s), but she does so much for Vedika that, by the end, you wish she’d dump Abhinav and find a man who truly deserves her. I loved the way — after finding out about Tapasya — she tosses off the line: Zamana kultaon ka hai. You’re unsure if she’s calling Tapasya a slut, or if she’s saying she wants to be one after obeying the “rules of wifedom” for so long. The film doesn’t judge her one bit.

I wished for more laughs, though. As Abhinav’s best friend, Fahim, Aparshakti Khurana steals every scene he’s in. There’s a running gag about this girl, Neha, whom Abhinav was in love with. The point where Fahim, at the end of his tether, compares Neha to a naagin, I lost it. It’s probably the loudest I’ve laughed in the theatres this year. But the student (Shubham Kumar) who falls for Vedika isn’t written very well, and the second-half shenanigans could have used a lot more inspiration, especially after Abhinav’s moustache comes off and the character loses his uncle-ness. The film can’t decide whether to go after farce (like the similarly themed Micki and Maude, and its Tamil remake, Rettai Vaal Kuruvi) or drama, with small lectures and a wimpy ending. It settles for a middle-zone. It settles for not-bad. It settles for being the movie equivalent of Kartik Aaryan, who’s pleasant and watchable but lacks that thing that makes you go wow!

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Posted in: Cinema: Hindi