Cinegoers and people who consume entertainment formats over TV and other digital sources are, to their own credit, becoming increasingly aware about portrayal of sex, age, caste, class, race and gender in popular Bollywood films. It now seems like days when a macho-looking actor made snide commentary or a bold move on the actress on-screen, under the pretext of a romantic relationship, can be finally outnumbered as responsible storytelling and sensible layering of humourous ideas take deeper roots in the film industry.
Recently, Taapsee Pannu and Bhumi Pednekar came under strict scrutiny over playing 'shooter dadis' Prakashi and Chandro Tomar, who were octogenarians, in Saand Ki Aankh. There was developing debate around the casting of young actors in the characters double their age.
Before that, Akshay Kumar and other artists in Mission Mangal were questioned how the male star's face appeared the biggest on film posters when the film was about women scientists leading India's mission to Mars.
These discussions and numerous others have indeed reinstated faith of the cinema-loving audiences as filmmakers continue to find the right balance between 'toxic' and 'in jest'.
This week, Kartik Aaryan, Bhumi Pednekar and Ananya Panday's Pati, Patni Aur Woh is set to hit the screens. The makers of the comedy-drama that centers around Kartik's character Chintu Tyagi having an extra-marital affair, also saw guns of criticism trained at them over a dialogue in the trailer which fans pointed out was insensitive.
Many remarked how Kartik has been playing woman-bashing characters in films like Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety and Pyaar Ka Punchnama.
Despite being talked about in a rather unwanted light, Kartik continues to be a hit. This year Luka Chuppi earned big at the box office and a slew of projects, featuring Kartik were also announced. While he shot with Sara Ali Khan for Imtiaz Ali's upcoming rom-com, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 and Dostana 2 were greenlit and the 'Kartik flavour' is expected to run loose in 2020 too.
Looking back at Kartik's filmography, it wouldn't be too difficult to decode his films' success mantra in today's time, when contemporaries like Sidharth Malhotra, Arjun Kapoor, Aditya Roy Kapoor and others struggle for similar queues outside the ticket window.
Be it Guest Iin London or Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, these films have a common thread. They talk about relationships between man and woman in a new light. Guest Inn London explored a couple pretending to be married for the sake of fooling visiting relatives, also while they get permanent residency in the country. Even though the film was led by Kartik, there was ample space for the subjects like commitment-phobia and cultural anxiety to crop up.
Same was the case with Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety and Luka Chuppi. In the former, Kartik exposes the charade of a controlling and manipulative woman (Sweety played by Nushrat Bharucha) as he rescues his friend Titu (Sunny Singh) from falling into the trap of a bad marriage.
In his 2018 release Luka Chuppi, the actor explores the pros and cons of a taxing love life in a small town. Luka Chuppi was also an attempt at normalising live-in relationships without sounding serious.
Kartik's characters in these three films were also very common and relatable and from the skin of the character, to its name and clothes, he nailed the boy-next-door image on-screen, all while keeping his caustic humour alive. When that failed, Kartik stepped up and sang and danced for audience entertainment, delivering an all-round performance and cinema-going experience.
In Pati, Patni Aur Woh, which is remake of a 1978 film of the same name, Kartik once again gives the subject of relationship between man and woman a spin, a new angle. However, it remains to be seen how much of a box office haul it creates.
About his upcoming features, Dostana 2 is again expected to explore relationships and its nuances in a new light. As for Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, which also has Kiara Advani, we can be sure that the duo will add quirk to the horror-comedy genre together.
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