Katti Batti: A confused, mercurial romance

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Katti Batti: A confused, mercurial romance

If last week’s release Hero was director Nikhil Advani’s offering to the single screens of India, Katti Batti is the director flexing some multiplex muscle with a romantic film that puts the heroine firmly in control… or so we were led to believe.

Katti Batti begins promisingly with Payal (Kangana Ranaut) kinkily filming Madhav Kabra (Imran Khan) in the bedroom. The guy, here, is the shy one; he’s the one who’s pushing away the camera as she continues taping him during bedtime. Their pillow talk quickly veers into serious territory and Payal insists that if he wanted to marry her, then he must do it right then… at home with a burning waste-bin for the holy fire, a hand-painted mangal sutra and ketchup substituting as sindhoor. As she’s filming this entire dream-like sequence, she’s loudly mocking Indian wedding clichés.

The scene seems to mark the beginning of a truly modern love story with potential for some irreverential rom-com bashing too. Presented in a nonlinear narrative, the film jumps from Madhav trying to win back Payal after she abruptly leaves him, to older moments of their five-year-long relationship (remember 500 Days of Summer?) that begins during their college days. While the present-day Madhav is like Devdas mourning the loss of Paro, the older moments — especially the scenes in college — tell a lighter tale of his falling for a complex girl. We’re told Payal has over 1,000 Facebook friends, that she hails from a wealthy Delhi family and that she’s travelled around the world. For Payal, Madhav is her ‘discovery of India’ — a tryst with the Indian middle class for a ‘Page 3 ki aulad’. So when Madhav’s middle-class values make him seek eternal love from Payal, she can’t reciprocate. She can only offer something casual in return… some ‘timepass’ romance. But they do manage to get closer… so close that they decide to live together even when Payal continues to be a commitment-phobe.

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Director: Nikhil Advani
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Imran Khan
Storyline:Boy tries to win his lover back after she leaves him without reason

Slowly, the film evolves into something more than a yet-another–Imran-Khan-rom-com. There’s a scene in which the duo fight over not feeding their pet turtle (a metaphor for the film’s pacing?), Milkha. As the argument grows, Madhav interrupts a furious Payal, only to offer her a bag of sanitary napkins, assuming that she’s PMS-ing. It’s almost like the couple have figured each other out as they solve their problems with ease. But when the same scene is shown from Payal’s point of view, the incident takes on a shade of chauvinism — Madhav is just another man who fails to see his girlfriend’s concern as anything more than a hormonal problem.

But when the problems get bigger, they begin to show their true characters. Madhav has to deal with tragedies like the death of his mother, while Payal too is drawn into an inescapable situation that’s bigger than what she had signed up for. In a beautifully shot scene, we see his mother’s body being pushed into the electric crematorium, with both Madhav and Payal watching. Payal is now forced to cohabit the space in Madhav’s heart, earlier reserved for his mother alone. Moments later, a sobbing Madhav asks her for assurance that she will never leave him. You know now that their relationship can no longer be a ‘timepass’.

But these moments don’t last. The director, unfortunately, doesn’t seem interested in delving deeper into the complexities of this modern Indian live-in couple. Instead, he resorts to padding the film with with layers of Bollywood gloss, which includes a particularly unfunny scene involving a gold-plated toilet worth Rs. 5 lakh and a tacky rock band. It’s as though he suddenly realised that he might be alienating a section of the audience with this story and decided to take a U-turn and make the film a regular Bollywood fare. But even this sudden change in tone cannot prepare you for the film’s manipulative climax. It’s what separates a harmless film from a regressive one. After all, all’s bad that ends badly.

Imran Khan has clearly poured his heart out into yet another disappointing film — a film which, before release, seemed like it could get him back in the game, teaming up as he was with Kangana. As for Kangana, one wonders why she chose to work in a film which has so little for her to do… at this stage of her career. Oh Kangana… just when you were at arm’s length of superstardom.

credit : thehindu 

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