By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News ServiceFilm: “Aap Ki Khatir”; Starring Akshaye Khanna, Priyanka Chopra, Dino Morea, Ameesha Patel, Suniel Shetty, Anupam Kher, Lilette Dubey; Director: Dharmesh Darshan; Rating: *
Jane Austen comes to Lokhandwala in this strange, sporadically interesting take on the quirky ways of the heart.
The trouble is that old-fashioned raconteur Dharmesh Darshan doesn’t know which way to take his giddy plot – Austen’s austerely satirical territory or the brassy full-on hardcore drama that cyclically emanates from north Mumbai.
“Aap Ki Khatir” is like the joke that you want to smile at because your favourite aunt tells it with a lot of enthusiasm.
The film does fake the vivacity with much gusto. But at the end of one wedding, half a dozen songs and no funeral, you are left wondering…whose laugh is it anyway?
Everyone talks loudly, as though they just saw the unedited version of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” …or is it a soul-less version of “Monsoon Wedding”? Darshan’s makeover attempt is distinctly derivative.
Countryside London (well photographed by W.B Rao at times) is populated by boisterous Punjabi and Gujarati characters who either speak too loudly or crack jokes.
At times Darshan overdoes his ambitions. He uses Brechtian direct-into-camera monologues by the characters, as though the masala needed to be garnished with moments of cerebrality.
To his credit, Akshaye Khanna says Sunil Munshi’s words with a lot of heartfelt emotions. He imbues his character of the charlatan from Lokhandawala who agrees to pose as Priyanka’s lover-boy in London, with plenty of perky humour. Alas, the script and direction don’t support Akshaye’s attempts to rise above the chronic silliness that colonises the inner world of the constantly festive characters.
You aren’t even sure whether these dancing-singing-eating-laughing characters have an inner life!
Suffering from ingrained shallowness, the characters from the parents played Anupam and Lilette to sisters Ameesha and Priyanka (with a strange cousin played by newcomer Bhoomika Singh to complete the Austenian ambience) seem very wooden when it comes to expressing themselves.
The ‘punjabiyat’ (Punjabi culture) that the narration stresses begins to get on your nerves in the second half. But yes, you do enjoy Raju Khan and Bosco-Caesar’s party-all-night swaying hips and other dance moves.
But the pointless prattle grows unbearable in the second-half when the celebrations stop short for bouts of Bergmanesque heart-to-hearts between sisters Ameesha and Priyanka.
Ameesha hams. Priyanka, careening between effervescence and wistfulness tries hard to look like she’s having fun.