Planet Bollywood
Aap Ki Khatir
Producer: Ratan Jain (Venus Film)
Director: Dharmesh Dharshan
Starring: Akshaye Khanna, Priyanka Chopra, Amisha Patel, Dino Morea, Suniel Shetty and Anupam Kher
Music: Himesh Reshammiya
Lyrics: Sameer
Genre: Romantic
Recommended Audience: General
Film Released on: 25 August 2006
Reviewed by: Lidia Ostepeev  - Rating: 5.0 / 10
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Public Rating Average: 5.12 / 10 (rated by 411 viewers)
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For those who fancy an unapologetic chic-flick, Dharmesh Dharshan’s "Aap Ki Khatir" might be quite entertaining. After all, it’s satisfying (in an immature sort of way) to think that you can win back your loved one by making him extremely jealous. Part of the pleasure of course lies in parading publicly with an even more attractive new partner. And what better venue than a wedding for that display?

Given Bollywood’s penchant for weddings and romance generally, this version of Clarke Kilner’s "The Wedding Date" (2005) may have initially held some promise. Unfortunately, the director’s attempt at a more real, character-driven type of cinema lacks the zest apparent in his earlier masala films and melodramas.

My first Bollywood viewing experience was Dharshan’s "Raja Hindustani". On an oppressively hot Australian afternoon in the late 90's, I switched on the TV and was glued to it for three hours or so, thinking “this is really bad but I like it!” My sense of Hollywood-constructed “realism” reacted against Dharshan’s overblown, shamelessly sentimental film, but I was hooked. "Mela" (2000) and "Bewafaa" (2005) were also entertaining because they were big and brash, but also disarmingly honest films. They didn’t pretend to be more than entertainers in the traditional sense.

Like many modern Bollywood films, "Aap Ki Khatir" is set abroad. Anu (Priyanka Chopra) is a modern Mumbaikar who hires an escort (Akshaye Khanna) so she can appear suitably desirable at her sister’s wedding in London; seductive enough to reclaim the fiancé that dumped her at the altar. Modern ideas are given some emphasis. For instance, Anu’s mother (Lillette Dubey) winks wickedly as she presents her daughter and date with connecting rooms, the girls get drunk at a club and Anu first hires the escort then initiates sexual relations with him. An overlay of traditional values however, prevents modern notions from dominating the film. The filmmakers are careful to point out that Anu doesn’t actually sleep with the escort; that she only makes her advances upon being drunk and despite the fact that she’s a very independent woman, her father has the final say about the direction of her life. In these respects the subtext reads a little like "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge". The similarity is only superficial because there is very little passion in this film; there’s no real commitment to values or concern for the growth of characters. It is an uncharacteristically bland offering from Dharshan who seems to have shed the traditional mantle without embracing the potential of a character-driven story. In "Aap Ki Khatir", “real” is synonymous with weakly articulated motives, inadequate differentiation between characters and a slightly pretentious tone that comes from a level of constraint which isn’t true to the director’s style.

When Dharshan borrowed from B.R. Chopra’s "Gumrah" to create "Bewafaa", he was true to the spirit and values embodied in the classic. In a documentary which features the director at work, Munni Kabhir shows Dharshan overcome with emotion while shooting a scene from Mela. There doesn’t seem to have been any such emotional investment in "Aap Ki Khatir". "The Wedding Date" has simply been tweaked to accommodate a Bollywood cast and an Indian audience but the transformation hasn’t seeped into the heart of the film. "In The Wedding Date" the central character is insecure and anxious as well as being deluded; there is chemistry between the leads, a sense of rivalry between the sisters and a comedic side to the angst-ridden supporting characters. It isn’t a wonderful film but it’s better than "Aap Ki Khatir" in which the characters appear flat; where the humour appears forced, and the euphoria one experiences watching many Bollywood wedding films, is sadly missing.

The trouble with the movie is that Anu is beautiful but boring, Aman – her escort is nice but uncharismatic, her sister (Amisha Patel) is just plain sweet and her husband-to-be (Suniel Shetty) hovers around the periphery introducing a host of odd Gujarati characters onto the supposedly Punjabi scene in a bid to recreate the humour of "Kal Ho Naa Ho". Although the character of Anu’s egocentric boyfriend (Dino Morea) throws some tension into the proceedings, it falls by the wayside because the leading characters have been so poorly defined.

The song and dance items are repetitive. They are catchy, energetic tunes but the picturization is dull. We are taken though the same loop too often; that of Anu fantasising about her ex-boyfriend when she is actually with the escort. High energy on the dance floor is set off by some romantic partner work between Priyanka Chopra and Dino Morea in about three of the film’s songs. There is some variation in the setting and costumes; for instance, "Tu Hi Mera" is set in a club and has a modern, western look while "Meethi Meethi Batan" is set in the home and looks traditional, but nothing more than the obvious is communicated. "Tu Hai Kamaal" provides a contrast in mood but nothing poignant is picturized largely because there isn’t sufficient depth in the characters themselves. They go through the motions of looking downcast but it’s all too superficial. Given the limitations of the screenplay, the performances are all adequate but it’s difficult for the actors to rise above the thin material.

The film looks pretty, modern and expensive but it is an insipid and unimaginative venture from a director whose strength lies in drawing out the excesses of sentiment in a narrative.

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