Synopsis – A romantic comedy that follows Maddy and Payal’s live-in relationship until a sudden turn of events creates a distance between them.
My Take – Honestly, I don’t think their is much left to do with the Bollywood ‘rom com’ genre, in the sense nothing innovative can be poured into it! Yet, some films tend to work out, mainly if the love story, characters & the sentiments around them are believable or at least like able. This film tries to adapt one such story and on the way goes on to define absurdity. In this film, Nikhil Advani probably the most confused director of are times, who also had an absurd release last week (Hero), has Kangana Ranaut, the current reigning queen of Bollywood who played a huge role in making small films like Queen & Tanu Wed Manu Returns into box office successes. Ranaut makes news with her performances as well as her honest interviews, both of which have helped her popularity swell with every release. In contrast, Advani has also chocolate boy Imran Khan, who from the time of his charming debut film, has been struggling and hasn’t had a big hit since 2011’s Delhi Belly & Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (his 2012 release Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu was a semi hit). In his infinite wisdom, Advani decided to place the weight of this film on Khan’s shoulders, leaving Ranaut to look just pretty and remain mostly silent. The film is an original story made up of a cocktail of films such as 500 Days of Summer, Love and Other Drugs and generous drops of classic Bollywood cliches. Director Nikhil Advani debuted in Bollywood under maestro Karan Johar with Kal Ho Na Ho back in 2003 (& we all know how that turned out). After getting a couple of average to horrid films (2007s Salaam-E-Ishq, 2009s Chandni Chowk to China & 2011s Patiala House) under his belt, Advani seemed to have bounced back with a national award (2013s Delhi Safari for best animation) & the gritty thriller D-Day (2013). With his second release of the month (including last week’s disappointing Hero), Nikhil Advani seems to have reached new levels of mediocrity. He should congratulate the marketing team for making sure the promos are juiced up with all the good stuff, mainly as the rest of the film remains tasteless and baseless. Love is fine, relationships are fine, even breakups are fine, but you don’t want to shell out money to watch grown ups behave like kids, now do you? Unless you are talking about films from Aneez Bazmee, Priyadarshan etc.
One should blame the dodgy story for its construction and unbelievable factor for all we see is a mopey boyfriend and a courageous girlfriend who does not like being called a girlfriend. The biggest crime a ‘rom com’ can do is be boring, & this film commits with crime all over its 135 minutes of sloppy pacing & a drag screenplay. The story follows Madhav or Maddy (Imran Khan) and Payel (Kangana Ranaut). Just two days after meeting her in college, Maddy decides he wants to the marry self-styled free spirit Payal. Even though, she warns him that she would be only interested in a casual relationship. After some dithering, Maddy and Payel start living together. Five years into the relationship, after a heated argument, Payel leaves Maddy. He’s heartbroken, but also convinced that Payel still loves him. And so we embark upon a journey made up of flashbacks while Maddy tries to claw his way back to his lady love, with the help of (among other things) a turtle, the cliched Bollywood ‘dost log’, a pet shop owner named Roger and a guitar-brandishing sardar. Another important factor of a ‘rom com’ to work are like able/ relate able characters! But here, it’s hard to feel too sorry for Madhav. His love for Payal is so absolute that he swallows a bottle of cleaning liquid after they are through. He mopes around, rewinds to their happy shared moments and refuses to accept the inevitable: she has moved on. Payal is stubborn and skittish, the kind of girlfriend that men are warned against. An early indicator of how much effort the relationship is going to take is given in the early hours of the courtship. Madhav’s motorcycle is refusing to start, but instead of walking alongside him to their destination, Payal makes him drag the bike with her sitting on it. Somewhere in the middle of the first half, it might seem as though Advani has a loftier motive than telling a love story. Considering how erratically Payel and Maddy behave, it may seem as though Even the minor characters aren’t normal here. One of Maddy’s colleagues is a woman who, in an effort to communicate she’s attracted to him, picks up his hand and plonks it on her breast. Maddy’s boss is a man who appears to think he’s in a sit com. There are critical moments of the film in which toilet bowls appear for absolutely no reason. For instance, when Maddy meets Payel’s ex-boyfriend, it’s in a toilet. They could have chatted by the wash basins, but no. We see the ex-boyfriend pee in one cubicle while Maddy sits on the toilet, in the neighboring cubicle, comforting his turtle.
Yes, Maddy and Payel have a pet turtle named Milkha, which might be the only joke in the film that works. Nikhil Advani’s mish-mash of several Hollywood rom-coms, saves its final insights into modern romance for the last act, which introduces a twist and replaces the shaky humor with a sentimentality aimed at making us finally feel for the characters when its too late. The deeply overstretched and addled screenplay clocks a seemingly long 135 minutes. The leads too look ill-matched and ill-suited for their roles. Despite what the trailers show, Imran Khan and Kangana Ranaut look mismatched and have absolutely no chemistry. Imran Khan with his age-defying, boyish good looks is convincing as the college-going Maddy. Khan’s inability to alter his facial expression to suit the moment has dogged him throughout his career, and except for Shakun Batra’s Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, all his befuddled lover boys are the same person. Despite the absurdity of the script, this is one of Khan’s better performances even though he lacks the charisma to distract the audience from it. Despite Kangana Ranaut being on a career high, while raising the bar in Bollywood for strong female roles, Advani prefers to use her as a pretty face, who has almost half the screen time as her male counterpart. Kangana seems totally miscast as a sophisticated woman who knows the ways of men and the world. Her flair for naturalistic acting and comedic timing is absent from all but a handful of scenes. Ranaut has a couple of scenes where she gets to act, but all Advani really needs her to do as Payal is wear outlandish clothes and sport hair that looks unnatural on her head. The script provides ample scope for a strong supporting cast, and most people, including the music band in the second half, do a good job. You can’t really fault the Airtel 4G model Sasha Chhetri and her band-mates as they are swept into the climax, which is part slapstick and part morbid cliches. A positive in the first half is the way two of the songs – Sarfira and Lip to Lip – have been pictured. With five songs, the film is thankfully not plagued by redundant songs and the ones that are there, help in the story-telling somehow. On the whole, ‘Katti Batti’, is a miscalculated rom com with a heart wrenching twist and a lesson in letting go, the film fails on three counts – the romance, the comedy and the twist (the mother of all cliches). Midway through the movie, one realizes that the director has let go of his sensibility as well. Just when we thought that Bollywood is getting its groove back in 2015 with movies like Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Baby, Drishyam, Piku and Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Nikhil Advani’s Katti Batti reminds us we have a long way to go. Being one of the most awaited films of the year, this Kangana Ranaut and Imran Khan-starer disappoints big time.
Director – Nikhil Advani
Rated – U
Run Time – 135 minutes