What a good movie! It takes the question “why would a man consider cheating?” and treats it seriously. I encourage you all to watch it if you possibly can, and then come here and discuss it. If you absolutely cannot see it in theaters, and still want to see how they managed to make this plot acceptable, you can read on.
Whole plot in two paragraphs:
Karthik is a young man just graduated college with a brand new degree and his parents take him to look at brides. Bhumi knocks him over immediately, she is confident and aggressive, and he is sweet and appreciates her, they get married. 3 years later, they have settled into a real relationship, with a long simmering battle between them because she wants him to find a new job and move them from nowhere Kanpur to Delhi, and he wants them to have children. In the middle of this, beautiful Ananya Panday arrives at Karthik’s office. She is a young rich girl from Delhi, considering opening a fashion factor in Kanpur. Karthik as a city planner is delegated to assist her. He enjoys having this young woman listen to his stories, and like his laugh, and make him feel good about himself, especially since he has always felt insecure sexually. And then she learns he is married and pulls away. In an attempt to keep this pleasant interaction going, Karthik lies to her that his marriage is unhappy, his wife is cheating on him. Ananya is immediately sympathetic and their friendship continues closer than ever. Karthik takes her out to lunch, buys her presents, and continues to be happy and flirty and jokey as always back home with Bhumi. And then Bhumi calls him on the phone and overhears background noise that reveals he is lying. She follows him, and sees him with Ananya. She doesn’t react at first, just tells him she is leaving a few days early for a family wedding. Karthik, thinking he is free, lets Ananya take him to Delhi. She takes him to a club, and the back to her apartment. Meanwhile, Bhumi has run into her old boyfriend Sunny Singh at the family wedding and is coming on to him. Fade to black.
The next morning, Karthik is back in Kanpur and arrives home to find Bhumi with her bags packed, she tells him she knows the truth, and leaves him. Before he can go after her, Ananya shows up at the house and tells him that she understands why he couldn’t do anything in Delhi, he is trying to save his marriage, but Ananya is here to free him. Karthik rejects her, then rushes to Kanpur. Where his in-laws apologize to him and hand him a note from Bhumi explaining that she has run off with Sunny Singh. Karthik tries to find them, and is arrested. And then gets an urgent message to come to his parents. Where he finds Ananya, who has explained to them that Bhumi is having an affair and she wants to “rescue” Karthik. Karthik keeps trying to find Bhumi, while Ananya is going around telling everyone in his life about how he suffers with his wife’s affair. He confronts her angrily for saying such horrible hateful things about the woman he loves, Ananya doesn’t understand since she is just repeating what he told her. Karthik descends into total heartbroken madness, complete with a drunken attack on Sunny’s business which leads to another arrest. At the last minute, Karthik gets word that Bhumi is about to fly out of the country. He flees the police and rushes to the airport, to find her waiting for him….with Ananya!!!! Bhumi talked with Sunny at the wedding as an old friend, and he told her to think about what she could do next. She went back to Kanpur and went straight to Ananya and told her that Karthik had wronged her as well, even if he never laid a hand on her, just by his behavior. Everything that happened was their effort to punish him. The film ends with Bhumi agreeing to go back home with Karthik.
There’s so much to dig into here. The first thing that occurs to me is that the film makes it clear to us that sex is at the root of things, ever needing to say it directly beyond one moment. In their first meeting, Bhumi brings up sex immediately, she wants him to know she is not a virgin and wants him to be okay with that. Karthik is okay with it, does not judge her or care, his reaction is surprise and interest in this different forthright woman, and that’s why she agrees to marry him. But at their wedding, Karthik confesses to Aparshakti that he is “nervous” and keeps thinking about his one and only girlfriend who broke up with him after a month and a half. We don’t need him to explain in more detail, but we know it’s not that he judges Bhumi for being sexually experienced, he cares about her and is worried he will be a disappointment, worried that he has no sexual skill and failed to satisfy the only other woman he had been with. And the longer they are married, every time they have a little disagreement, every time she is distracted from a moment of intimacy, those doubts nag at him, that somehow he isn’t good enough for her, isn’t giving her everything she needs.
And then there’s Ananya. We can see what Karthik gets from this interaction, confirmation for the first time in his life that he is an attractive desirable man, that it is possible he is satisfying his wife as he wishes he could. But what about Ananya? Late late in the film, on their trip to Delhi, she finally reveals her backstory. She was with her boyfriend for 4 years, he and her family pressured her into an engagement she wasn’t ready for, and then she broke it off at the last minute which (it is implied) lead to her considering starting fresh in Kanpur. Karthik gets confirmation that he can attract a gorgeous young woman, and Ananya gets the reassurance of a relationship that has no possibilities and no pressure. Basically, Ananya needed a break from sex, from the intimacy and emotion it brings up.
And finally Bhumi. She is the one who, at the start, had the fewest sexual hang ups. She had a long full relationship with Sunny, and she knew she wanted more than that. She had the confidence to initiate a wonderful satisfying sexual relationship with Karthik. Now, three years later, she is perfectly aware of her attractiveness and that her husband is the only man she wants to be with. Until she learns that he wants another woman and suddenly she is forced to question every thing, ready to fall back into the reassurance of a purely sexual relationship, until Sunny reminds her she wanted more than that. And again, the actual words “sex” are never said. We just see it in how she and Sunny interact, how she and Karthik interact, how Bhumi just walks into a room like she knows she is desirable, until suddenly that drops away and she just looks old and tired as she faces the reality that her husband wants more.
The other thing that occurs to me is that this particular film does exactly what we were just talking about related to how to artistically express the frustration of the middle class Indian man in a healthy way. Karthik has a long monologue early on, and it makes sense. He feels trapped in a life that is supposed to make him happy, and doesn’t. He feels like everything was decided for him. He wants just one small part of his life to be something he earned for himself. When Ananya laughs at his stories, this beautiful wealthy perfect young woman, it is because she must find him sincerely funny. So yes, maybe he is breaking the rules a bit, but he has been suffering his whole life. And I am with him in that moment. As an audience member, I can understand what he is feeling because the film built it up for us. He has this amazing woman who is married to him, and deep inside he thinks she settled for him. He has this good job, but it drains him. Life seems empty, and this small relationship with Ananya, just a few weeks of memories, could make him better for ever.
The film also establishes that Karthik has legitimate reasons for thinking of this relationship as harmless. In the original film, Ananya’s character was a secretary working for the hero. But in this film, she is far far above him. She is clearly rich, this fashion factory she is trying to open is a rich girl hobby kind of job. Karthik is originally helping her because his boss is an old friend of hers. Karthik doesn’t imagine that Ananya could ever really feel anything for him but friendship, or that he could hurt her emotionally in any way, that he is anything in her life besides the sort of cute sort of funny small town man she spent a few weeks with. And Karthik would never ever consider so much as laying a finger on Ananya. All he wants is to spend some time with a woman who will never feel anything for him, who he will never touch, so what’s the harm?
But then, after carefully building up from Karthik’s perspective the lack of control in his life and how Ananya is a harmless fantasy, Aparshakti learns what he is doing and the fantasy shatters. Because Aparshakti (unlike how the trailer built him up), does not react with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge, good-for-you, kind of response. He reacts with actual pain on behalf of Bhumi. He doesn’t say “how can you cheat on your marriage vows”, he says “how can I face Bhumi knowing what you are doing to her?”
That is the moral of the film. We don’t cheat because that hurts the people we love. It’s not a social barrier to cheekily get around, and it’s not some abstract concept of morality, it’s about love. And that is the bigger message of the film. Sex is important, but love is far far more important. Who cares if Karthik has lingering doubts about his sex life with Bhumi, their marriage is about far more than just that one thing. And who cares if Karthik never actually kissed Ananya, turned away when she offered, she made him care for her, made her believe they had something. And he made Bhumi believe he felt something for another woman. That is wrong, to both of them.
All of this happens because Karthik loves Bhumi. We come to them when their marriage has hit a dull part. She doesn’t make him elaborate lunches any more, they both rush off to their jobs in the morning and then putter around the bedroom at night, and Karthik goes off to smoke and chat with Aparshakti. But Karthik, when they are alone, calls Bhumi by her maiden, a little secret code that calls back to their first meeting. She shows him a new sari she bought for her cousin’s wedding, and he jokes that they will have to call the fire brigade because she will be on fire and she smiles. When she is in her comfortable unglamorous sleep clothes in the bedroom, brushing her hair or putting on moisterizer, her flirts with her and gazes at her. If Karthik didn’t love her, if their marriage was just a marriage, he would be happy. His wife is beautiful and faithful and so on. She even has sex with him most of the time. He is unhappy because he loves his wife and suspects he isn’t man enough to make her happy.
It’s said explicitly late in the film. Karthik has walked out of work, threatened Ananya for besmirching Bhumi, gotten drunk, and then vandalized Sunny’s office. The police immediately arrested him (seriously, this film makes me respect the Lucknow police force!). Aparshakti bails him out and tries to get them to forget it, because it is “husband-wife problems”. And the police officer says he is sorry, he can’t do that, because Karthik isn’t a husband any more, he is a lover, and there is no predicting what a lover will do. That is what has driven Karthik crazy start to finish, not that he is a trapped boring husband, but that he is a tortured lover. This is ultimately a love story.