***Lots of SPOILERS here***
I'm not quite sure how to respond to Hamara Dil Aapke Paas Hai; it was a hard film to pinpoint. I'm a devoted fan of Aishwarya Rai and will always check out everything she chooses to be in. But films like this one and Dil Ka Rishta are unsettling to watch. I'm not of Indian persuasion, so I can't really comment on how true to life the shabby treatment was, which Aishwarya Rai's character received from her parents (her character's dad is a callous punk!) and from her quick-to-judge neighbors. I doubt very much that this is true to form in India, but, in this instance, Priti, a rape victim, is treated as used goods by the father, who unequivocally believes that the girl has brought dishonor to the family by being raped. She is, more or less, cast aside by family and shunned and castigated by society. Aish's character Priti also is portrayed as meek and unempowered for the entire length of the film, leaving it to Anil Kapoor's decisive Avinash to take her in hand and set things right. The women's lib would have a cow over this film.
The movie starts out innocently enough as we see opening scenes of Priti (Aishwarya Rai) and Avinash (Anil Kapoor) engaged in domestic contentment. These scenes further encompass Avinash and (we assume) Priti's two kids as they frolic in an amusement park and a bowling alley. The plot thickens when, with Avinash having driven the kids away, the police arrive at their home and shockingly arrests Priti on the charge of "prostituting without a license," an accusation apparently made by Avinash's father. Upon her release, we are then taken to a lengthy sequence of flashbacks as Priti narrates past events to a friend.
The flashbacks commence with Priti witnessing a brutal street crime and testifying against the assailant, who is held for trial. Seeking revenge, the assailant's brother rapes Priti. Her rape causes Priti to be ostracized by everyone, but especially by her father. Avinash (Anil Kapoor), a wealthy businessman, is the only one who reaches out and offers her solace and a place to stay. Priti meets and gets along so well with Avinash's two children that they soon are calling her "mother."
Priti gains employment in Avinash's milk company and she soon ascends to the level of General Manager, causing her erstwhile scornful neighbors to toady up to her for jobs. It's also not long before Priti and Avinash begin to have feelings for each other. But Priti's low sense of self-esteem threatens to spoil the happy ending. A subplot surfaces when Avinash's beautiful, childhood friend, Khushi (Sonali Bendre), comes a-calling, now desiring a more romantic relationship with Avinash. It all comes to a head when Priti and Avinash attend the wedding of Priti's friend and who should the groom turn out to be but Priti's rapist?
As I've said, this was a tricky film. I watched this one with a female friend and she hated it. She deplored the director's lack of sensitivity (and I concur). The seriousness of the premise was also undermined greatly by the director's infusion of broad comedy (which, to add further insult, wasn't at all funny). I didn't give one freakin' fig for Avinash and Priti's two-faced neighbors and their dubiously funny antics. Too, I wish that Priti's cold-hearted father would've gotten some kind of comeuppance. Just, shame on him.
By the way, this is not to put down Aish and Kapoor's performances as they did the best they could with the script and the character outlines they were given. The fact that Aish was able to still charm me despite her wishy washy role is a testament to her emoting skills. Anil Kapoor, I thought, was also pretty good as an ethical man with a strong code of honor, with a secret of his own. As usual, he played his role with fiery conviction and a virile intensity, though he wasn't as good here as he was in Taal. And, boy, can he throw down in a fisticuff! I actually chuckled quite a bit at his propensity to brawl with reckless abandon. He reminded me a lot of the Energizer bunny; he just kept on going. And his character actually had the balls to slap down a policeman! This unintentional bit of levity was 20 times more humorous than the deliberate, insipidly placed humor. Sonali Bendre - it's worth mentioning - turns in a nice, upbeat performance as the other girl who competes for Avinash's attention.
Sorry to say but the songs weren't memorable, either, although I kinda liked the peppy "It's My Family" number and the pensive "Gham Hain Kyon." If nothing else, the songs were worth enduring for the pleasure of marvelling at Aish's intoxicating dancing, which is not to be confused with Anil Kapoor's seemingly intoxicated dancing. Fred Astaire, he ain't. Bonus features in this Eros International-released dvd contain a songs menu, a chapters index, a 20-minute long "making of" featurette (although the subtitle function was disabled, so I found it hard to understand what the cast was saying), and a theatrical trailer.
So, it's a mixed review from me. If this film's aim was to showcase a woman's truimph over adversity, then, at some important levels, it missed the boat. Priti's re-validation and "redemption" mostly seem to come from the actions of Avinash, a man, which, to me, nullifies the whole point of the film. If the director's message is that a woman's ultimate salvation is achieved not thru her own deeds, but thru a man's, I really beg to differ. Not that I'm an enlightened dude, but, c'mon, that's too much chauvinism, even for my taste. Oh, I still recommend Hamara Dil Aapke Paas Hai to hardcore Aishwarya Rai fans, but, to others, especially women of independent demeanors - well, this film will drive 'em batty. Two and a half stars, the low rating mostly because of Director Satish Kaushik's ultimately failed vision of a portrayal of a rape victim. Don't blame the actors for this one.