The masters of thrillers - Abbas-Mustan - are back with a bang with AITRAAZ.
The Indian moviegoer has often witnessed man-sexually-molesting-woman situations on the big screen. Now get ready for exactly the opposite: A woman accusing man of molesting her. AITRAAZ tackles the issue of sexual harassment, with the unique spin of placing the man in the position of victim and the woman as aggressor.
Also, the Indian cinegoer is treated not to death, explosions and car chases, but to that good old-fashioned device to woo moviegoers: A rousing story.
Although Abbas-Mustan tread a dangerous path this time around - the theme is extremely provocative - the writing [screenplay] and execution [direction] is what makes the difference. Had it not been for mature handling by the immensely talented director duo, there would've been a strong possibility of the outcome becoming one sleazy, downmarket exercise. But, thankfully, it's not!
Yes, AITRAAZ has an adult theme - that of an adulterous, deceitful and treacherous woman - but you can still watch this challenging theme with your mother, wife, sister and daughter, without squirming in your seat. For an audience looking for a change, AITRAAZ works big time!
In the accused box of the courtroom, stands a man, startled and shocked that destiny could lead him there. He is accused of the most heinous crime - molesting his lady-boss.
Raj Malhotra [Akshay Kumar], who works for a cell phone company, is popular amongst his circle of friends and work colleagues. But his world comes crashing down when he meets Sonia [Priyanka Chopra] again.
Sonia is an ambitious model with great aspirations. She knows what she wants in life. She is prepared to achieve her goals, whatever the price. Her fundas in life are crystal clear: Nothing shall come in between her wants and desires.
Raj is well aware that Sonia knew only one way to live and that was her way. And one fateful evening, things did not go her way. Sonia brings Raj's world to a screeching halt.
Raj's wife Priya [Kareena Kapoor], once a lawyer herself, is prepared to do anything to protect her husband's honour and dignity.
The devious shadow that threatens to put Raj's honour at stake, finds an adamant Priya at the opposing end. And from a content housewife, Priya becomes a woman with a mission that she must accomplish. She is now Raj's partner in more ways than one.
Thrown into this web of deceit is Raj's boss, Ranjit Roy [Amrish Puri], who happens to be Sonia's husband. He is a mere pawn in her hands.
The drama has just begun. The court is far from adjourned?
Inspired by Barry Levinson's Hollywood flick DISCLOSURE [1994; Michael Douglas, Demi Moore, Caroline Goodall], AITRAAZ has a plot that Indian cinegoers haven't witnessed on the screen yet. And that is its USP.
AITRAAZ actually starts off as one of those routine love stories. The initial portions between Akshay and Kareena are plain ordinary. But you do sit up once Priyanka Chopra enters the frame? and Akshay's life.
What makes the narrative interesting is that it's the woman who eyes the man, not vice-versa. And the interval point - the sexual altercation, with a furious Priyanka breathing fire - is the twist in the tale.
The post-interval portions focus on the two warring sides locking horns in the courtroom. Although the narrative does drop once in a while, it takes off yet again the moment Kareena confronts Priyanka in the latter's office [Priyanka's advice to Kareena: Tell your husband to be my 'keep' for a lifetime and complete the 'unfulfilled job' - is a brilliantly executed scene and a sign of changing cinema] and the courtroom drama that ensues, with Kareena blowing away Priyanka's reputation to smithereens.
Director duo Abbas-Mustan score on several levels.
One, the duo need to be complimented for opting for a bold theme - a theme that has been untouched on the Indian screen so far.
Two, the dramatic moments - so vital in a film like this - are the mainstay of the enterprise. The confrontations, on several occasions, stay in your memory even after the show has concluded.
Three, they deserve full marks for reposing absolute faith in an actress who hasn't really proved herself as a classic performer - Priyanka Chopra - for the most vital role in the film.
The screenplay [Shyam Goel, Shiraz Ahmed] is almost foolproof. Of course, there are predictable situations in the initial portions that one watches in every second Hindi film. But these are minor blemishes in an otherwise winning script. Dialogues are excellent, especially the ones in the courtroom.
Himesh Reshammiya's music sounds pleasant to the ears. Cinematography [Ravi Yadav] is first-rate.
AITRAAZ belongs to Priyanka Chopra completely. No two opinions on that! Be it her first appearance [in the story] or the sequence when she openly asks Akshay for sexual favours or the sequence with Kareena, Priyanka gets an opportunity to bear her claws and she does it with complete understanding of the character. She sneaks her way through the role like an expert, drawing audience hatred the way a magnet collects iron filings.
Kareena has a sugar-and-sweet character till the pre-climax and she does it well. And when she does get the opportunity to display histrionics [climax], she doesn't let the opportunity pass by.
Akshay Kumar underplays his character ably. Amrish Puri is alright. Paresh Rawal is excellent in the courtroom sequences. Ditto for Annu Kapoor, who matches Rawal at every step. Vivek Shauq leaves a mark. Upasna Singh and Feroze Irani are adequate.
On the whole, AITRAAZ is a well-crafted thriller that meets the expectations. At the box-office, the film faces tough opposition from VEER-ZAARA without doubt, but yes, it's the kind of film you'd want to spend your hard-earned money on and not regret later for doing so. The Diwali and Idd holidays should benefit the film tremendously. Go for it!