Special Feature: Revisiting 'Aitraaz' Ten Years On
I won't beat around the bush. I think with Aitraaz, Priyanka Chopra arrived as an actress. It's been ten years today since the film released (where does time fly?), and I still remember being fixated with PC's Sonia Roy, a gold digging man eater, who stole the show from right under Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor's noses.
The film released on the same day as Yash Chopra's Veer-Zaara (check out our special feature on that film here) and surprisingly, still managed to make an impression at the box office, thanks to its bold concept and corny yet memorable (and in some instances incredibly cutting and razor sharp) dialogue.
Aitraaz was directed by Abbas-Mustaan who are renown for making edge-of-the-seat thrillers and at the time, had some interesting films to their credit like Baazigar, Khiladi, Humraaz and Ajnabee to name a few. The film was bold for its time despite being having a plot that was heavily 'borrowed' from Barry Levinson's Michael Douglas-Demi Moore starrer Disclosure.
In Aitraaz, Raj Malhotra (Akshay Kumar), who is an executive working in a 9-5 job for a mobile phone company, falls in love with Priya (Kareena Kapoor) and they get married. Subsequently, she falls pregnant and life is smooth sailing until Sonia (PC) is appointed as his MD, and and post a 'business meeting' that goes horribly awry, she accuses him of rape after he spurns her advances, and the case ends up in court.
It then comes to light that Sonia is actually Raj's ex girlfriend, whom he dumped after she aborted their first child a few years ago. How the case is resolved and how Raj is cleared forms the crux of the story.
For all it's cheesiness, I loved Aitraaz. I still watch it time and again and giggle every time PC forces a wry smile and utters some completely un-PC (see what I did there) lines. Sample this:
"Kya Longe? Kuch thanda... ya something hot?" She asks, when a clueless yet totes horned up Raj shows up at her home... Sure, Raj didn't see that coming... (what's an article without a pun eh?!)
"Mujhe umeed hai ke jaise tum iss company ko satisfy karte aaye ho vaise mujhe bhi satisfy karonge... " She says with a poker face. Really?! LMAO.
A decade ago, the film was pretty slickly presented, although the music by Himesh Reshammiya, who was riding a crest of popularity back then, wasn't really up to much. Having said that, a few of the numbers like 'Gela Gela', 'Hey You' and 'Talatum' were undeniably catchy.
Despite having scenes which undoubtedly will make you cringe now (they didn't back then I assure you), Abbas-Mustaan did a decent enough job in 'Indianising' the whole concept of harassment and ensured that the film never really succumbed to becoming a sleaze-fest, which it easily could have become given its outlandish theme.
Some of the sequences especially in the courtroom, despite some really silly dialogue (where Akshay's referred to as a watermelon (!!!)) were deftly handled and were quite convincing, thanks mainly to the straight faced performances by Paresh Rawal and Annu Kapoor.
Aitraaz raised quite a few pertinent questions back in the day which is why I found myself rooting for it. It successfully abolished a few age old clichés which were till then, common place in our films.
Why must the man always be held responsible for forceful clandestine relationships which are consensual in the first place anyway? Can't a man be an object of sexual harassment even in a society like ours? Very valid questions so props to Subhash Ghai (the film's producer) and Abbas Mustaan in thinking a little out of the box, however plagiarised the topic was.
Of the cast, Akshay was restrained and sportingly played a passive role, leaving the film's leading ladies do the heavy lifting. Kareena, who was annoyingly bland in the film's earlier portions, eventually comes into her own in the film's climax when she confronts Priyanka's character, and grills the latter about her shady past. In fact their confrontational scenes proved to be the highlight of this film.
"Mrs Sonia, bitch woh hoti hai, jisko yeh maloom nahi, ke uske pet me kiska bachcha pal raha hai..." Kareena snidely retorts.
Ultimately though, Aitraaz was Priyanka's film. As the deliciously wicked, gold digging, scheming bitch she virtually chewed up every scene she was in with her magnetic screen presence. That aside, her chemistry with Akshay was smoking hot, and it's just a shame that shortly after the film released, the duo stopped signing films together.
Ten years on, Aitraaz still remains a milestone in Hindi cinema because it successfully delved into a topic that until then, hadn't really been explored in our films. It was also a huge turning point in Priyanka's career, and even now, still ranks as one of her finest performances, and unsurprisingly, won her unanimous praise.
What are your memories of Aitraaz? Your favourite scenes? Do let us know in the section comments below!