We live in a world where Kartik Aaryan has his own Instagram filter. Let that sink in.
Now, let’s dwell on the myth of Kartik Aaryan for a moment or two. Ever since he broadbrushed all of womenkind in generous categories of — a) gold diggers, and b) bitches — in the first of his many Punchnama films, he’s earned the distinction of being a walking-talking status update for exasperated, clueless and (if we may add) ‘misunderstood’ Indian men. They can’t understand why they are not being hailed as feminists for not beating up or cheating on their partners, for not dousing them with acid and not demanding dowry. They can’t understand why getting sex when they want is such a major issue. They are caught between their mothers and wives, etc. You get the gist.
That, my dear friends, is the Kartik Aaryan filter for you. Some are born with it, some of us have to wear it to understand the machinations of a film like Pati, Patni Aur Woh. But the idea is simple: make the average Indian man live his fantasies, vent his frustrations vicariously.
This is a world where the leading man and his crony (always Aparshakti Khurana) constantly chide each other for not being ‘man enough’, and bond over their mutual awkwardness around women. They share side-eyes, that suggest holding conversation with the opposite sex is an endurance test. They just want to get to ‘the real thing’. Like smell their hair creepily, or let their hand brush ‘accidentally’ against her. Cute, no? He is tired of doing the right thing. He expresses himself a monologue that’s meant to be the money shot for most Indian men. He speaks for every Indian middleclass man when he says he is tired of topping examinations, he is tired of his boring government job, he is tied of being shunted around by his wife and mother, he is tired of not ‘getting’ sex.
Somehow, we’re still not told what triggers this meltdown.
So far, we have been told that his wife is a sexually assertive woman (Bhumi can’t-stop-playing-the-same-girl Pednekar) who also dutifully serves tea while listening to her mother-in-law’s passive aggressive taunts about not having kids. She won’t have babies until they move to a bigger city, she asserts.
‘This’ has the poor man tearing his hair apart. AAAARGH! A wife with ambitions and dreams, what can be more emasculating than that, right? So, he seeks a little ‘harmless fun’ in form of a friendship with a newbie in the city, Ananya look-at-me-I-don’t-blink-I-am-an-actor Pandey. As the big city girl, Pandey is gregarious, English-speaking, and as we are reminded over and over again, wonderfully scented. She is also oblivious to the obvious creepiness of the man she’s trying to befriend.
As he tries to juggle the two women in his life, we are subjected to patent Tik Tok situations. Man and girlfriend laugh and joke in a mall, while wife walks past in slow motion. Girlfriend and wife cross each other in the staircase without realising they’re breathing the same air as their soutans. All we needed was a 1990s song in the background to complete the TikTok experience.
Then there are the hero and the best friend gags, where Khurana plays an updated Shakti Kapoor, minus the chaddi and the naara. Since he is playing a Muslim character, the cop who chases his friend for breaking rules, issues a cryptic warning to him. “Be careful or you will be encountered”. WOW. A reality check in between all this tomfoolery. Just what the doctor ordered.
But the funniest thing is that the film actually thinks that it is saying something progressive in its visible-from-Chandrayaan 2 climactic twist. Trust me, I laughed the hardest when we were told a man is happiest with his devoted wife. Sure. That’s exactly what the audience will take home.