Pati Patni Aur Woh is a 1978 film about a married man who has an affair with his secretary. When she first walks into his office, he stares at her breasts and imagines undressing her. He also says: Aap jawaan hain, khubsoorat hain, aapki figure acchi hain. In other words, this is the exact film that you don’t want to remake for our post Me Too times. And yet, writer-director Mudassar Aziz attempts to deliver a remake that is lively, funny and at least superficially, progressive – he doesn’t always succeed but there is fun to be had here.
The original film’s stance was that Ranjeet Chaddha has an affair because boys will be boys. Men just aren’t designed for monogamy. In one scene, Ranjeet tells his friend – Aurat ek waqt mein ek hi ko pyaar kar sakti hai aur aadmi naam ka janvar hai na? Uska dil itna bada hota hai ki woh ek waqt main kaayion ko baant sakta hai. But Mudassar, who wrote the film, and Jasmeet K. Reen, who is credited with adapting it from the 1978 film, want to do better than this. So they create circumstances that lead to PWD engineer Chintu Tyagi’s detour from his marriage. Chintu is a pliable, tame, middle-class boy whose father – whom he calls Hitler Tyagi – controls him. This is in sharp contrast to his wife Vedika. In their first meeting, she speaks frankly about her ex-boyfriend, sex life and declares: Bas thoda high maintenance hain hum emotionally. She’s a woman who charts her own path. In a cleverly done sequence, we get a sense of how their marriage is progressing through Chintu’s downgrading lunchboxes – from elaborate meals, it goes to sandwiches and biscuits because Vedika is busy with her job. Over three years, a humdrum domesticity sets in. Enter Tapasya who with her big-city style and wind-blown hair, embodies the excitement that Chintu’s life needs. Critically, she is not his secretary. She’s a designer from Delhi and as he says, out of his league. After a lifetime of being the dutiful son and husband, he decides to take some risks. He lies to Tapasya about Vedika having an affair and kicks off a comedy of errors.
The story shuttles between Lucknow, Kanpur and Delhi. We are in the same small-town territory that actors like Ayushmann Khurranna and Rajkummar Rao have successfully made into a genre. We get the local sights and sounds – bazaars, malls, homes with open courtyards and that specific Hindi – in one scene Vedika says: Humare pati charitraheen ho gaye hain. In between the laughs, Mudassar attempts to weave in insights on marriage and relationships. Towards the end, we even get some preaching about why men should be faithful to their wives. But the story is too lightweight and low IQ to carry complex ideas about men and women and what sustains or erodes a bond. For that, go to Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. Pati Patni Aur Woh works like a sitcom with sparkling dialogue and amusing characters. Aparshakti Khurana, who has cornered the market on the buddy role, is terrific as Chintu’s loyal friend. In one scene, he solemnly tells him – Yeh Agneepath hai bro. And watch out for Shubham Kumar as Vedika’s admirer Rakesh Yadav. I think the swaggering lovelorn Rakesh deserves at least his own short film.
But it’s Bhumi Pednekar’s spirited Vedika who lifts the material up a notch. Bhumi has an intelligence that rescues some of the silliest scenes in this film, especially in the climax. At one point, she forcefully says: Zamana kultaon ka hai. I fully agree.
Kartik Aaryan, in thick moustache and staid checked shirts, enthusiastically commits to being a personality-free pendu. Chintu is a bit of a dullard. The women are so much more dynamic, ambitious and mature that you have to wonder why they are so invested in him. Ananya Panday is asked to play a fantasy and she manages that efficiently. But it’s Bhumi Pednekar’s spirited Vedika who lifts the material up a notch. Bhumi has an intelligence that rescues some of the silliest scenes in this film, especially in the climax. At one point, she forcefully says: Zamana kultaon ka hai. I fully agree. Sunny Singh also makes the most of his brief role as the local bad boy named Doga.
In life, a woman like Vedika would probably have dumped Chintu for Doga. Now that’s a sequel worth considering.