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Pati Patni Aur Woh, Review: Eternal try angle

Same title, same production house, same concept, yet Pati Patni Aur Woh is nothing like its 1978 original. Crucial elements like the ‘woh’ (she) being the protagonist’s secretary and the lead couple having a son are missing in this 2019 ‘remake’. Yet, the film works quite well, and if such a brazenly adult theme can avoid becoming a bedroom farce, while delineating the plot on a tight-rope walk, there must be something worthwhile on offer.

‘Husband, Wife and She’ is the literal translation of the title, the ‘she’ being a reference to the other woman, a woman with whom the husband is having an affair, and as all filmy love triangles go, this one too is incongruous and will not work. (Don’t expect equilateral triangles in Hindi romantic comedies). In a strange co-incidence, three of the four films writer-director Mudassar Aziz has made so far have been ‘remakes’. Happy Bhag Jayegi (2016) led to Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi (2018) and now we have PPAW. And all have been romantic comedies, with weddings and marriage as their centre-pieces.

A topper at every examination as well as at the recruitment exam for the Public Works Department (PWD) of the Government of Uttar Pradesh, Abhinav ‘Chintu’ Tyagi is immediately recruited by the PWD, as is his bosom pal, Fahim Abdul Rizvi, who scored lower. His father, Arvind Tyagi, soon finds a match for him and the family meets the prospective bride’s family, the Tripathis. Vedika Tripathi is their daughter, a firebrand who now wants to settle down. When asked what her hobbies are, she tells Abhinav, “I love sex”. She even reveals that she is not a virgin and had a boy-friend for three years. Yet, somehow, Abhinav is bowled over, and the marriage is soon solemnised.

While Arvind and his wife Kusum are keen to see the couple have children, Vedika is not keen on the idea. They live in Kanpur, and Vedika is from Lucknow, the state capital of Uttar Pradesh, but her eyes are set on making it big in New Delhi, the national capital. One day, into his office and into his life, walks in Tapasya Singh, an entrepreneur who wants to shift her designer garments factory from Delhi to Kanpur. She is looking for a government plot to build the factory on, and the plot thickens, for the man in charge of plots is Abhinav. He is totally smitten and goes out of his way to spend time with her and to entertain her. She too begins to like him, gradually, as they inspect plot after plot. But when she learns that he is married, she cools off a bit. Sensing that his marriage is coming in the way of his ‘affair’, he tells her that his wife, a coaching class teacher, is unfaithful. This hits bull’s eye, and the affair blossoms. It could have even got physical, but Vedika catches them with …a smoking gun…knife with dripping blood…well, his pants down, sort of. The plot thickens, but you can clearly see the eternal triangle. The drawing is on the wall.

Beginning as a writer 15 years ago, Mudassar Aziz seems to possess the uncanny knack of knowing what will work in which situation. There are many scenes that could have gone any other way, yet he leads them to unfold in just the right direction. This, of course, is realised only after we have seen the scenes. Take the window ledge scene, for example. His sense of comedy is sharp too, using puns and double entendre in many cases and coming-up with a genuine confusion confounded comic scene, when the two families are trying to make sense of the going on. He could have gone easy in always having his characters answer with the wrong reply to a question that lends itself to double interpretation. At least ten of these repartees need to go under the scissors, pruning the film from the 126/122-minute run to a round figure of 120. The tea and fan joke, repeated in the film, is right out of theatre.

On the other hand, to his credit, and that of -co-writer Jasmeet K. Reen, that they did not stuff dialogue with sexual innuendo and vulgarities all the way, and did not resort to skin show, though there was plenty of scope to do so. We barely catch glimpses of cleavages, shoulders and long, bare legs. Moreover, there are no villains or fights in the film, and very rightly so. It takes some talent to make a film about marital (almost) infidelity and yet maintain a straight face. There is no real justifying straying in a marriage, yet there is no denying that many men do stray, and if they do not get into real, fully geometrical triangles, they at least ‘try angle’.

Being a BR (read ‘old school’) film, the film stops short of physical intimacy and ends up moralising. BR made two films on the subject, including the 1963 Gumrah, and this is their third. If the 1978 foray was an updated Gumrah, PPAW 2019 is an updated 1978 version. Aziz would have had only that much lee-way, and he has used it to good effect. Of course, more liberal audiences will wonder why the film held back and did not go the whole hog, instead of stopping where it does.

Interestingly, Abhinav refers to his wife by her surname, Tripathi, while she calls him Tyagi. It takes Abhinav a while to start calling Tapasyajee just Tapasya. The film provides no information about Tapasya’s family, unless one Mukhtar Singh was her father, and I lost him in a blink. Fahim Abdul Rizvi is a strange, uncommon name, mainly the ‘Abdul’ in it. It is most likely inspired by the Abdul in PPAW 1978. Tall and square bodied Abhinav’s nick-name is Chintu, which means ‘tiny’. Again, the two families having only one child each, which appears to be a convenient construction. Fahim appears to live alone, with no family at all, another convenient construct. A major faux pas is the attempt of the writer-director to mislead the audience with the scene outside the Canadian High Commission. And all said and done, it is too much to hear Vedika say that “now is the time of the kulta” (loose character woman, prostitute). Which Indian small-town woman would call herself a kulta since it is a euphemism for whore?

Casting is largely in order, with the four lead players looking their parts in terms of character, but their ages are unclear. If anything, three of them look a bit older than what they are supposed to be, except for Tapasya, who looks a bit younger. Abhinav’s beard and moustache have varying lengths, for no apparent reason. Only Rajesh Sharma is wasted. Without giving out any spoilers, it must be said that for the sake of achieving organic unity, the writer resorts to contrivance. Rounding off a film of this nature is not an easy task, but then you have to pick your brain to come-up with something original, instead of repeating the 1978 ending. A play upon a political slogan about ‘good days’ is cleverly built-in, while the attempts to poke fun at the surname Yadav (a caste) and the minority status of Fahim (a Muslim, religious minority in India) are not in good taste.

Kartik ‘Aaryan’ Tiwari (29 year-old; engineering student, now in his tenth year in movies) as Abhinav ‘Chintu’ Tyagi has a non-committal face that conceals more than reveals, most suitable for this part. Bhumi Pednekar (30) as Vedika Tyagi (née Tripathi) shows her over-confidence once too often, and needs to be better photographed in close-ups. Not the ideal choice for a woman at the receiving end of anything, she does rise to the occasion and exhibit some vulnerability. Ananya Panday (just 21) as Tapasya Singh is super-comfortable and bubbly as the modern ‘moll’ and her subsequent transformation comes across smoothly.  Aparshakti Khurana (32) as Fahim Rizvi lacks his brother Ayushmann’s sharp features and sports a scraggly beard. However, when it comes to motor-mouth dialogue delivery, he is not far from his sibling. He does the best-friend gig fairly well, only there is nothing distinguishing about him being a Fahim Abdul Rizvi.

Rajesh Sharma as Prem Tripathi gets only one long scene to perform, and he is his competent self. K. K. Raina as Arvind Tyagi fills the bill, while Navni Parihar as Kusum Tyagi is in her element too. Neeraj Sood is fun as Brijesh Pandey. Geeta Agarwal Sharma as Hemlata Tripathi has a minor role, and does fairly well. Shubham Kumar as Rakesh Yadav elicits a few whistles, as does Sunny Singh as Durgesh ‘Doga’ (in special appearance). Kriti Sanon is fleetingly seen as Neha Khanna (also in special appearance). The makers have thanked Jimmy Sheirgill, though he is not on screen. His contribution is in the voice-over, which is used to execute another pun: The word Uttar in the name of the northern Indian State of Uttar Pradesh stands for North, but it also means reply, in the Hindi language. In State of the art punning, it is implied here that Uttar Pradesh is a State that has replies to all questions.

Cinematography Chirantan Das is above par, as is editing, by Ninad Khanolkar. A 2002 hit song, from the film Dulhe Raja, ‘Ankhiyon se goli mare’, is remixed and well-picturised.

Rating: ***