Movie: Katti Batti
Director: Nikhil Advani
Cast: Kangana Ranaut and Imran Khan
Nikhil Advani’s Katti Batti reminded me of one of his earlier films, Salaam-e-Ishq which had moments of real resonance interspersed with what can be only described as visual white noise. Like that strange scene in a foreign location (London?) where Salman Khan appears with a make-believe baraat to woo Priyanka Chopra. What was that, really? You feel the same sense of disbelief when a supposedly South-Indian tune begins to play every time the chief of an architectural firm jumps up and down and exults over his ‘’Rama and Laxmana’’ and the two anmol ratans in question chase each other down the corridors and use the ‘gay’ word like it was the biggest insult you could ladle upon someone. Or this band which sings songs of heartbreak in Delhi and helps a total stranger to gatecrash a wedding? Or that painful scene where Paro and Devdas are being channelled? So when a script is being written and read out aloud, does no one see bits like these and say, “Nope..this is not working.”
And why do people fall in love in Advani’s films? Why does Maddy (Imran Khan) fall for Kangna Ranaut’s Paayal? It is not that love cannot strike suddenly but when it is just a meet cute moment and not a palpable emotion, a rom com’s basic premise fails. And that is why instead of sensing a connection between the protagonists, we end up wondering how does Paayal in this day and age of dress codes in colleges, walk around in the shortest of shorts? She has the token styling of a wild child. She has a thunderbolt tattooed on her ankle and she carries a condom on her way to a new life with a boyfriend but she never becomes real except in moments where she is in pain and Kangana, being the actor she is, can never go wrong when she has to draw something raw and anguished out of her gut. In the final scenes of the film, she gets where we know she can if given enough time and space to inhabit a character. But in this film, she is just an occasional visitor in the narrative. The trailers of Katti Batti crackled because they showed us a young couple bickering over toilet manners and Kangana looked like she was playing a woman who cannot be ignored when she wants to say her piece. As it turns out, this film is not about her. Or maybe it is but only when she is playing a memory rather than a real person animating the proceedings. The problem with the film is that there is too little of Paayal and too much of the stream of consciousness babble that Imran's Maddy is drifting in and out of. And for a man in love, he is somehow not at all attractive as he is infantile at times, forcing his way into places he is not welcome in, pinching a baby to distract his mother, locking a rival in a loo, vacillating between extreme co-dependence and cruel rudeness in his relationship and basically making a royal nuisance of himself everywhere he goes.Imraan is earnest but maybe it is the writing that never lets us grow fond of him or feel for him when he is running around trying to find his lost love.Yes, there are obvious Hollywood references that we can all google but the film has cold air where there should have been a heart for most parts except towards the end where Paayal is finally a woman with gravitas and Maddy is someone tuned to someone other than himself. But by that time, despite the tear or two one sheds, the film has become more or less like that scene in the beginning where Maddy pretends to be a cool biker with his girl behind him and the bike refuses to sputter to life. Our point exactly.