The Pati Patni Aur Woh  director hits out at hypocrites who laugh when a man talks about sex, but condemn a woman for the same
By Mayur Lookhar
Think of eloquent filmmakers and Karan Johar, Mahesh Bhatt are two names that immediately spring to mind. Very few filmmakers speak as passionately about their films as Bhatt and Johar do.
Though not as celebrated as the seasoned pros, Mudassar Aziz is a guy who can leave you spellbound by his knowledge, beliefs but more importantly his humility. Throw stones at him but he is unmoved. For every stone you throw, he’d still try winning you over through his humble and just beliefs. He uses interesting analogies to explain his point of view. If one is meeting him for the first time, then perhaps you can be forgiven for mistaking him as a good professor.
Best known for Happy Bhag Jayegi  and Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi , Aziz now digs into complex human relationships through the love triangle Pati Patni Aur Woh  that is set to be released on 6 December. It stars Kartik Aaryan, Bhumi Pednekar and Ananya Panday in leading roles.
Aziz makes it clear that this is not a remake, why his characters don’t ape those from B.R. Chopra’s original. He gently corrects a journalist for wrongly perceiving his film as an adult comedy. In fact, he has no qualms in reminding people of Sanjeev Kumar’s regressive antics in the original. And he asks the patriarchal minds what’s the harm in a woman saying I love sex?
Excerpts from the group interaction.
You are one whose often spoken highly of classic comedies, so I guess Pati Patni Aur Woh  was a story that had to be told again in a different style.
True. Firstly, there is a classic definition of a remake. This film is anything but that. When [producer] Juno Chopra came to me, I was excited because this happens to be one of my late father’s personal favourite films. So, I almost jumped on it. Then suddenly I realised, I’ve said yes, but this is a 1978 film in which a man quite clearly sways towards adultery, and then finished the film by saying one sorry to her [wife] and one sorry to her [other woman] and that’s about it.
In 2019, I am going to get slapped if I do that. That’s not going to work. I called Juno, and we met for a coffee. I said let me go somewhere with this. We can’t remake this film. We have to see the relationship of a husband and wife and the other woman in a completely new sphere otherwise people are not going to find anything engaging about it. On the contrary, they may find it regressive.
When we talk about infidelity in Indian cinema, especially Hindi cinema, when it comes to a man, it has been largely told through a comedy. Is the society more accepting of an extra-marital affair of a man than a woman?
I think it is a very large statement that requires a certain .. [pause] I mean you have to step outside the sphere of film-making and then answer that question. But I am glad you brought up that question because my attempt with Pati Patni Aur Woh  is to shut that once and for all.
This question that keeps propping up in people’s head is why is it so ok to come up with a light hearted film when a man does it, and nobody seems to make a light-hearted film about a woman doing it, Pati Patni Aur Woh  is my attempt to put a full stop to that question. Once you watch this film, you’ll realise that this chapter has well and fully been shut.
The ‘patni’ [wife] here is vastly different to what Vidya Sinha played in the original.
Again, very relevant point. This was done for a specific reason. Pati Patni Aur Woh  film was about a man going through mid-life crisis. That occurs when you are in your forties. Hence there was child in that film. That is the time when a man is questioning his life. Can he better than this? I didn’t want to make a film about mid life crisis. I wanted to make a film about mundaneness in marriage and non-communication. Hence, I picked an under confident young man.
With Bhumi Pednekar, with my eyes shut, I knew she could pull it off. The challenge for me was, what different can I get her to do? I turned the patni’s character on its head. I told Bhumi, you have to trust me because I am now taking you into a territory which you haven’t been in before. I told her the patni is hawwt. As hot as she can be. She has a mind of her own. I want you to play glam to a level where people turn around and say, ‘his wife is so hot, then why is he still looking for a ‘woh’? So clearly, it is not a physical aspect then what is the problem? For me mundaneness in a marriage has got nothing to do with how hot your partner is. Mundaneness is a result of non-communication. You are this woman who is leading her life. Sometimes in leading a life you create distance.
The patni’s role was offered to Taapsee Pannu first but she wasn’t picked. Why?
Taapsee and I are friends from a long time. We talk about each other’s scripts. I was keen on the idea [of having Taapsee]. A director’s greed is to make an actor do something they have not done before. Taapsee hasn’t done Uttar Pradesh [characters]. To be fair, she has not done a truly glamorous role either.
I thought she would make a great choice. That is why I spoke to her about the film. Then it worked out in a way where the overall casting of the film needed to be correctly balanced. These are calls [pauses] which are always in the betterment of the film or at least so we want it to be. Because of which she missed out on that film.
Life has its strange ways. Manmarziyaan  was a Bhumi Pednekar film, but Bhumi missed out and Taapsee did it.
But was the call yours or was it taken by the producers?
No , I would say it was as much a joint call as any taken in the film. I don’t want to mention the name of the actor, but at that point of time, we were thinking should we go and narrate it to an X actor also, while we were narrating it to Taapsee. Casting has their dynamics. You can’t have a thumb rule while casting.
Were you surprised though by Taapsee’s reaction on missing out on the film?
Not at all. I love Taapsee to bits. I know how she is. She has always been a girl who speaks her mind. Taapsee is a raw girl. One of the primary reasons why I love her for it. Even now we crack jokes about it. Bhumi and Taapsee crack jokes about it. After shooting Pati Patni Aur Woh, they were shooting Saand Ki Aankh together.
Ananya Panday was offered this film when her first film Student of the Year 2  had not even come out. What prompted you to take her?
Juno Chopra had seen her at a trial. He said that I should meet her. When you speak to her, you will realise the kind of energy the kind of enthusiasm Ananya has to become a leading mainstream heroine is almost palpable. She is always asking five questions, she doesn’t even leave you with options. The first time I met her, I I was like I will have to handhold her through those parts of those nuances but other than which she will nail Tapasya. That was a chance casting that just worked.
In your films, you tend to have a strong female protagonist. Is that a conscious effort?
One of my most favourite lines is that the future is female. I truly believe it. I think the directors that are best remembered are those who have strong female characters. The director who don’t have strong female characters are defined by the box office collection of their preceding film. The ones who have strong female characters, their work is revered much more.
For decades, we have been living in a patriarchal society. However, by heart we are matriarchal. I’ll tell you why because we are so dependent upon our mother. None of us would have shared stuff with our fathers that we have shared with our mothers. Whenever there is a problem, we go to our mothers. This is ingrained into us. We are not ready to accept it. We carry our father’s surname. We are a patriarchal society but internally, we are matriarchal.
When we see strong female characters in our cinema, that resounding feeling that is created in us is because internally, we are matriarchal. That’s why Mother India  will always be this country’s biggest film.
Based on the trailer, there appears to some adult humour incorporated into the film. Some have liked it, but some have not. What was the intention behind adding such humour?
In the original film, Sanjeev Kumar steps out of his house. He gets into his car. Shortly, he offers a lift to a woman at the bus stop. He doesn’t even know her. He looks into the direction of her blouse. During the conversation, once he knows that the woman is married, he leaves her in the middle of the road.
When Ranjeeta comes to his office, he is imaging whether he can unzip her. When she leaves, he is gazing at her backside. This is the original. There is no such thing in my film.
In the trailer, Bhumi says the dialogue of how she loves sex. Plus, there is also a dialogue of Kartik Aaryan mentioning marital rape.
Why is it offending to you when a woman says, ‘ I love sex’. What is your problem with that? Why is that adult humour? If a man says it, then you are amused but when a woman says it, everyone questions her. Why should a woman not like sex. What does that make her in your definition? Does that make her a person of less character? No, sex is as pleasurable an act for a man as it is for a woman. Now she [Bhumi Pednekar] is joking with an under confident man who has come to seek her hand. She wants to shock the wits out of him. How is that adult humour? Where have I tried to insinuate anybody’s body parts. The definition of adult is very important to understand. If I come up with double meaning dialogues, that is adult humour. If am taking shots of somebody’s body parts, that is adult humour. Calling something what it is not, is unfair my friend.
But the marital rape reference by Kartik Aaryan received a backlash on social media.
You should try and look up that how many men actually believe that if they coax their wife into having sex it is consent. It is not. Consent is willingness that comes from two sexes equally. Two people wanting to get into the act of sex is consent. A husband coming home after work who feels like having sex, with his wife [already] sleeping. He could be waking her up even with foreplay. That’s persuasion not consent. 99 % of the male population of this country does not even know it. If you don’t voice a problem then how will one understand it.
So did the backlash force you to rethink over it?
No, there is term in the English language which got coined when guns came out. It is called ‘trigger happy’. I think we belong to a generation today which is ‘finger happy’. This finger happy generation is not waiting to understand what is happening. What is the context of it? What is it that makes this man think of martial rape? What has happened with him in this film? Shouldn’t one first watch the film and then pass a comment. No, I am finger happy. I have a phone. I will go for it. And it is free.
Coming to the removal part of it, we have to find slightly more collaborative system to understand (pauses). One on hand you say you want to create awareness, but a filmmaker is not going to be able to say rape in a film. You are talking about rape awareness, how are you going to do it? If you don’t define it then how will it happen.
On the other hand, in one speech, [perhaps hinting to Omi Vaidya’s speech in 3 Idiots (2009)], some one repeats the word balatkar [rape] 25 times, and all of you are laughing out loudly. If we want to make a difference, make awareness to future generation, then we need to talk about it. I think today, even a 12-year-old should know what rape is. Before touching another boy or girl, one should know what consent is. If you are not going to talk about it, well then stay in the caves for as long as you want. You are not going to find a solution.