“It was a lapse in judgment,” Kartik Aaryan on the marital rape dialogue

The popular gen-next actor admits that Pati Patni Aur Woh [2019] makers inadvertently made a mistake but it was never their intention to hurt people’s sentiments

By Mayur Lookhar

Pati Patni Aur Woh [2019]

He looks a bit jaded, has a slight sore throat but Kartik Aaryan is ever ready to fulfill his media commitments.  The actor will soon be seen in director Mudassar Aziz’s love triangle Pati Patni Aur Woh [2019]. Not a remake per se, but the core plot is inspired by the late B.R. Chopra’s classic comedy of the same title.   

Much like the 1978 film, Pati Patni Aur Woh sees Chintu Tyagi [Aaryan] having an extra-marital affair with Tapasya [Ananya Panday].  A veteran journalist cheekily says, “hope this film will inspire all 50-plus husbands”.  The gentleman even had the gumption to say that hopefully Aaryan will inspire men like him to find the ‘woh’ [other woman] in their life.   Aaryan and all other scribes burst into laughter.

“Sir, you are beginning your tale. I’m sure you will find some inspiration. Actually, at the moment, I am getting inspired from you for a probable sequel,” Aaryan says amusingly.

He’s enjoyed success with his early films, but they’ve also evoked the misogyny debate. Pati Patni Aur Woh, too, has seen its little share of controversy.

Controversy apart, the biggest challenge for Aaryan was to get into the skin of Chintu Tyagi. That saw him gain 7-8 kilos, sport a grainy moustache, don simple clothing and work on the Uttar Pradeshi [Kanpuriye] dialect.  He sums up his character through a meme. “Saturday, Sunday [looking like] Kartik Aaryan. Monday to Friday he is Chintu Tyagi.  This look helped the character gain a different identity,” says Aryan.

In this group conversation, Aaryan humbly answers few critical queries, shares his reason for picking Pati Patni Aur Woh, and is excited about his future films, especially Imtiaz Ali’s romantic film tentatively titled Aaj Kal.

Excerpts.

In your earlier [Luv Ranjan] films, you played this righteous guy who ensured that his best friend married the right woman, but here [Pati Patni Aur Woh], aap khud hi fisal gaye.

[laughs]. Yes, khud hi fisal gaye. But that’s how the story is. He slips more than once here.  It feels like life’s come a full circle. In Punchnama (franchise), Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety [2018], I was looking to save a friend.  But in Luka Chuppi [2019], I am in a live-in relationship. And now, I’ve married in Pati Patni Aur Woh.  So, perhaps, I might become a parent in the next film. [laughs].

What was your reaction when you were offered this script?

[creative producer] Juno Chopra had first narrated the story to me. I met [director] Mudassar Aziz later.  I felt excited as this was an interesting subject.  The title is compelling enough for you to explore the film. Love triangle tales have been celebrated in our films.  It often leads to comical situations which play out well on the screen. The modern take on the relationships is very different.  In a way, I felt this is also a progressive film.  It has well etched out characters, dialogues are Kanpur-centric, and it had a strong commercial sense. 

Luka Chuppi was a small-town film too. I did think whether it is wise to do another small-town film, but the script was so good that I jumped onto it.       

Was there a need to see the original film?

No, I haven’t seen it.  Sanjeev Kumar sir was a legendary actor. But this is a modern film.  That film came in 1978. It’s been more than 40 years. We’ve taken it into a new direction.  I deliberately didn’t see the original. That perhaps would have tinkered with my thought process. 

From Pyaar Ka Punchnama franchise to Pati Patni Aur Woh then there is Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2.  So, you think people are now looking beyond that Punchnama guy and you are being offered different scripts, characters?

I think I’m in a great phase right now.  I hope to continue this phase. Earlier, I didn’t have too many choices.  I just cracked an audition, did that film and followed it up with the next that I got on the back of the earlier success.  It was Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety that brought a certain box office value to me. Producers started believing in me.  But I still didn’t have that many options. It is Luka Chuppi that changed filmmakers’ perspective about me.  Luka Chuppi was a commercial success.  Today, I have the option to choose different scripts.  There’s Imtiaz Ali’s romantic intense drama. Then there will be Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, an out an out mass entertainer.  You will see me playing different characters, but there will always be a relatability factor to all of them.

With your early films, especially the Luv Ranjan directorials, they worked, full credit for that, but when it came to constructive criticism [not trolls] the word misogyny often cropped up.  What has been your take to this constructive criticism?

I am really proud of my films. Look, these films are called cult films for a reason. Pyaar Ka Punchnama [franchise], Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety are all cult films.  I also did Akaash Vani [2013] with Luv Ranjan, but that didn’t work.   While making these films, we never felt they could be perceived as against someone.  We just felt the content was strong.  Look there are pros and cons to everything.  We made our films with the sole purpose of entertaining. 

I’m sure your intentions were noble, but it’s just the way those films play out on the screen, it triggered a different reaction.

But they were dearly loved by a large section of the audience.  Look whatever I am today, It is because of these films.  I have been to many girls’ colleges. I have a huge female fan following. Our audience is smart. They know in which context such content is being played out.  You have to take it with a pinch of salt.  It’s been played out in masti [fun].  It’s simply a situation those characters have faced. And you are laughing at the characters. Sometimes, people do take a light-hearted scene seriously. Also, some deliberately try to make it sound like a serious [issue]. If I concentrate over there, then I ought to be careful with each thing. In that case, I might even fear water. I am happy with whatever films I have got.  I do acknowledge constructive criticism and work on my short comings.

Certain words in the Pati Patni Aur Woh trailer, especially the reference to marital rape drew sharp criticism.

It was a lapse in judgment.  We didn’t judge the scene like that. It is a story of some character, [pauses]. Once you see the film, you will realise that there is no such agenda here.  We didn’t want to hurt anybody’s sentiments. The trailer has been received well.  And I’m sure so will the film.  Even before the criticism came, we took the decision to rectify it somehow.   Without being diverted too much about the controversy, I would like the focus to shift more on the film. I can assure you the moment you come out of the theatre, you will realise that we didn’t expect this from the film. [hints at a positive, progressive message].

You briefly mentioned about Imtiaz Ali’s film being an intense drama. That goes against the quirky image you’ve built with the romantic comedies.

Imtiaz Ali is one of my favourite directors.  He’s completely changed me as an actor. I really thank him for that.  My thought process to look at a character has been completely changed. I am really looking forward to this film.  Then there is Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2. I feel that it will be my biggest mass entertainer.  Then there is Dostana 2, a film that will push the envelope.  You wouldn’t have expected me to do a Dostana.  It is unconventional and yet something which I really feel is the need of the hour.

All these upcoming films had a preceding film which set a template. Are you worried about the expectation because the comparisons will be inevitable?

I am not because each film will offer a different experience.  Look I didn’t plan this. These films just have part 2 or happen to be a sequel.  I didn’t choose that way.  I am proud of these films. There’s a connect with just a basic idea from the first film. 

When you shoot a film, an Imtiaz Ali film. We get to read stories of your close friendship with your co-star [Sara Ali Khan].  Once the shoot is wrapped and then later, we read stories of a break-up.  Would you like to react to it?

No sir.  [laughter all around].

Pati Patni Aur Woh is set to be released on 6 December.

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