Aitraaz is poised to be Veer Zaraa┬┤s biggest challenger this Diwali Season. Abbas- Mustan, who have put out countless thrillers since Khiladi, are back once again on familiar turf here. However the product is not as satisfying as some of their best work. Forget Baazigar or Khiladi, Aitraaz doesn┬┤t even come close to packing the punch of Humraaz. For a directing duo who have focused their energies on thrillers their whole careers, Aitraaz lacks the edge of your seat thrills that we┬┤re used to. Aitraaz is a novel concept (for Bollywood), it┬┤s a desi version of Disclosure starring Michael Douglas and Demi Moore. Although not a great film, Aitraaz is good time pass.
The film focuses on Raj Malhotra (Akshay Kumar) who is married to Priya (Kareena Kapoor). Everything is going well for Raj, his wife is pregnant, he has just bought a beautiful new house and he is about to get a promotion at work. But it all comes crashing down once Sonia Roy (Priyanka Chopra) enters the picture. Sonia is the wife of Raj┬┤s boss, Ranjit Roy (Amrish Puri), and she┬┤s the type of lady who will do anything to get what she wants. What she wants is Raj, but Raj is not interested. You see Raj and Sonia have a past together, a relationship that ended on a bitter note. Now Sonia is back for Raj, but he┬┤s moved on in life. If Sonia can┬┤t have Raj then she will ruin him, and she tries by falsely accusing him of sexual molestation. When he is asked to resign from work, Raj decides to turn the tables and take Sonia to court on charges of sexual harassment. For Raj this is an uphill battle; society won┬┤t take the accusation of a woman molesting a man seriously, and everyone around Raj thinks he molested her. Will Raj be proven innocent, or will Sonia succeed in ruining him?
Abbas Mustan┬┤s direction is good, as usual, without offering anything new. But a few scenes do stand out (mainly in the second half), chief amongst them are the courtroom portions. The case unfolds well on screen, and the directors have done a great job of keeping some suspense alive. Actually the whole second half is better than the first. Where they do mess up is as usual the songs. First off, they pop up at the wrong time, and secondly they are horribly picturised. The script, by Shyam Goel and Shiraz Ahmed, leaves a lot to be desired. The film┬┤s first half is a bit of a bore, a few sequences grab your attention (Raj┬┤s flashback, and Sonia trying to seduce Raj) but on the whole it┬┤s mostly light stuff till the interval. Things pick up just pre-interval when Sonia decides to seduce Raj, and post interval it get┬┤s better once the court proceedings begin. The culmination of the film is also gripping. If you can make it to the interval without falling asleep then you should be ok. The story lacks the punch of Abbas Mustan┬┤s signature thrillers, it doesn┬┤t provide the excitement of Ajnabee or Humraaz, but it┬┤s still a different theme and should be commended for breaking some rules.
Technically the film is all over the place. Camera angles and cinematography (Ravi Yadav) are good, the film mostly takes place indoors and the interiors are stylish. Lighting is here and there, some scenes are very poorly lit, and others are uneven. Choreography is horrible, Gela Gela and the title song are horribly executed, the dance moves are really cheesy. Editing needs work in the first half. The Upasna Singh angle could┬┤ve been removed, all the light, frivolous stuff should have been toned down. That way the film would move on a single track and would get to the point faster. The second half, however is a major improvement. Background score is effective thanks to Salim Suleman. Himesh Reshammiya is a rising music director and the movie┬┤s soundtrack is great. Woh Tassavur, Aakhen Bandh Karke and Tala Tum are all charming, but their picturisations are weak on screen.
Performance wise this isn┬┤t a film that calls great performances, everyone fits the bill. Priyanka has been waiting to prove that she┬┤s more than just a pretty face. As usual the villain in an Abbas Mustan films gets the best role, so Priyanka lucked out! She┬┤s perfectly evil in this film and succeeds in convincing the audience. Before this film she has shown confidence, screen presence and tons of charisma but never got the role to prove she has some talent. Her final scenes in the film, including the confrontation with Kareena after the title song and especially the climax in the courtroom are very well handled. Akshay Kumar gives a subtle and restrained performance as Raj. Akshay is so comfortable on screen that he┬┤s a pleasure to watch. He conveys Raj┬┤s quandary with the right amount of emotion and sincerity. Kareena Kapoor is slowly becoming more used to the camera and it┬┤s showing. Although Priya┬┤s role isn┬┤t difficult, Kareena does an okay job. The climax is a little demanding and she makes good use of her screen time in the last portions of the film. Of the supporting cast, Paresh Rawal is great as Sonia┬┤s lawyer. His limited role is a high point for the film. Annu Kapoor is also good as Akshay┬┤s lawyer, his scenes with Paresh will find favour amongst the audience. Amrish Puri, Vivek Shauqe and Upasna Singh are both wasted in small roles.
Aitraaz is definitely a different film for the Bollywood audience, geared towards a more adult crowd. For Abbas Mustan it┬┤s a step down from their usual thrillers, this one is a bit more slow paced. Make it through the first half and you┬┤ll be fine, this film is mostly watchable for it┬┤s post interval portions and also for Priyanka Chopra. With a good star cast, great music and tremendous hype, Aitraaz partially succeeds in fulfilling expectations. This film is decent commercial fare, and a good contrast from the love stories releasing this Diwali.