Rating: 2/12 stars:
There are two ways of watching Pati Patni Aur Woh, either ignore the sexism, and enjoy the one liners that fly thick and fast– because everybody speaks like they were doing stand-up comedy and waiting for laughs—or gnash your teeth at the way men treat women. Apart from the title and the basic plot, this film has nothing in common with the 1978 BR Chopra original, which is a good thing, considering that one was a horror of misogyny.
When Mudassar Aziz’s film first sees the ‘patni’ – Vedika Tripathi (Bhumi Pednekar)—she is being viewed as a prospective wife for Abhinav ‘Chintu’ Tyagi (Kartik Aaryan). She is not the eyes-lowered, blushing, tea-serving Kanpur girl; when he asks her that classic dumb question, “What are your hobbies?” she replies, “I like sex.” She tells him about her ex-boyfriend, and that she has agreed to an arranged marriage to see if restriction would suit her better than rebellion.
Chintu does whatever he is ordered to by his parents and marries Vedika, who puts on a docile act only when they are at his parent’s house and being harangued about producing children. She is an MSc in Physics, and teaches in a college, where Rakesh Yadav (Shubham Kumar) gazes at her in adoration, tells her she looks like Kareena Kapoor and writes romantic poems to her.
Chintu and his best buddy Fahim (Aparshakti Khurrana) work at the local PWD office, and don’t even know they are bored till Tapasya Singh (Ananya Panday) turns up from Delhi looking for a factory plot in Kanpur. Fahim is struck dumb at the sight of her, but Chintu is smitten. When she seems to lose interest in him at the discovery of his married status, Chintu tells her he is unhappy because his wife is having an affair. Delhi girl Tapasya cannot understand why the man puts up with it, but is more inclined to accept his friendship.
Surprisingly, for a film set in 2019, their relationship is platonic, and certain traditional lines are not altered. Looking after the home is still Vedika’s job, and she has to give up her dream of moving to Delhi, because her husband is happy in the small pond of Kanpur. Which is why she is doubly hurt when she finds Chintu has been lying to her to spend time with Tapasya, because he is bored with his life. She does not wait to whine and weep, and leaves after threatening to send divorce papers.
Giving out any more of the plot would be unfair, suffice it to say, that the attitude towards a man’s straying has not changed. The end has the same twist that the 1978 film did—for those who have seen and remember it. Bollywood still does not have the courage to make a Patni, Pati Aur Woh. The posters of this film show the man straining at bars of a cage, not the woman. Chintu Tyagi is hardly at the top of the male pecking order, still he has the privilege to be bored, not the educated, ambitious and sexy wife.
The three leads are adequate, but have their thunder stolen by the perfect comic timing of Khurrana, Shubham Kumar and Neeraj Sood as Vedika’s gluttonous uncle. The film is funny because Aziz’s lines are hilarious and delivered by the actors with panache. The matter of gender politics remains in a grey, politically incorrect zone.