The film tells the story of a man accused of sexual harassment by his female superior. It was released on 12 November 2004 to positive reviews, Chopra receiving widespread critical acclaim for her performance as Sonia Roy. Aitraaz was a commercial success, grossing over ₹260 million at the box office against a budget of ₹110 million. It has been noted for its bold subject of sexual harassment.
Raj Malhotra (Akshay Kumar) is a product engineer for a telecommunications company, Air Voice. Priya Saxena (Kareena Kapoor), a junior lawyer goes to Raj's house for an interview, mistaking him for barrister Ram Chautrani (Annu Kapoor), a neighbour and Raj's friend. They fall in love, marry and are soon expecting a child. Raj expects to be promoted to CEO when the company's chairman (Amrish Puri) arrives with his new wife, Sonia Roy (Priyanka Chopra) to announce the promotions. Sonia Roy is named the company's new Chairperson; and after a discussion with her husband, she announces the promotions. The CEO position instead goes to Raj's friend Rakesh (Vivek Shauq), while Raj is placed on the Board of Directors. At a party, Raj, accompanied by Priya, learns about his new boss, Sonia Roy. Priya is surprised that Sonia is the wife of the much older Mr Roy. Raj and his colleagues talk about Sonia being very attractive and the age difference between her and her husband, and Raj jokes that his magnetic personality was responsible for his massive promotion. It is implied that Raj may have encountered Sonia previously.
A flashback explores Raj's previous relationship with Sonia. Five years earlier, Raj and Sonia (then a model) meet at a beach in Cape Town. They fall in love and move in together; Sonia becomes pregnant with Raj's child, which makes him happy, but Sonia refuses Raj's marriage proposal and says she is going to terminate the pregnancy as her child would stand in the way of wealth, fame, power and status and their relationship ends.
The next day, Rakesh tells Raj about a defect in the company's new mobile handset: a call goes to two people simultaneously—the intended recipient and another random person on the phone's contact list. Raj needs Sonia's permission to stop production, and she invites him to her house to discuss the matter. Sonia makes provocative and sexually explicit statements to Raj, who ignores her. She then aggressively tries to pursue Raj, who resists. Although he repeatedly rejects her advances, Sonia continues trying to seduce him. As he leaves, Sonia threatens to punish him for spurning her. The next day, he learns that Sonia has told her husband that he sexually harassed her. Since he has admitted finding Sonia attractive, his claim of innocence is not believed, and the company pressures him into resignation.
Raj asks Chauthrani to take his case; Chauthrani tells him not to resign, and to keep going to work. This case goes to court; Sonia and Roy engage a lawyer (Paresh Rawal). Initially, the bulk of the evidence is against Raj and the case gains widespread media attention. Raj's bank manager returns from Bangkok and gives him a tape that recorded Raj's encounter at Sonia's house. After the tape is proven genuine, Chauthrani is struck by a car driven by a goon hired by Sonia and the tape is destroyed. When Priya asks Raj why he called their bank manager from Sonia's house, he replies that he had called Rakesh, and the call went through to the bank manager as well due to the defect in the company handset. Priya continues the case after Chauthrani's injury. She exposes Sonia's earlier relationship with Raj in Cape Town and finally plays Rakesh's voice mail to the court - revealing what really occurred between Raj and Sonia. It is revealed that Sonia married Roy for money, power and status, but when he could not satisfy her sexually, she tried to resume her relationship with Raj. Priya wins the case and Roy leaves Sonia. Guilt-stricken and humiliated, Sonia commits suicide by jumping from a building. The end credit scene shows Raj and Priya walking their child.
The cast is listed below:Akshay Kumar as Raj Malhotra
Kareena Kapoor as Priya Saxena Malhotra
Priyanka Chopra as Sonia Roy
Amrish Puri as Ranjit Roy
Anu Kapoor as Barrister Ram Chauthrani
Paresh Rawal as Advocate Patel
Vivek Shauq as Rakesh Sharma
Preeti Puri as Jenny (Raj's secretary)
Upasna Singh as Kanchan
Dinesh Lamba as Chauthrani's assistant
Anil Nagrath as Judge
The director duo Abbas–Mustan took inspiration from National Basketball Association player Kobe Bryant, who was accused of rape by a fan; they began developing the film when they read about his sexual-assault case in the newspapers. About the film's unusual title, they said the word "aitraaz" was colloquial and suited the subject. Shyam Goel and Shiraz Ahmed wrote the screenplay. Hussain A. Burmawala and R. Verman were responsible for film editing and art direction, respectively.
The film was announced in October 2003 by producer Subhash Ghai, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his production company Mukta Arts. The media reported that Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra were cast in lead roles, making it the third film collaboration between Kumar and Chopra after the highly successful Andaaz (2003) and Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (2004). Kumar was cast as Raj, a working man accused of rape at his workplace; Kapoor portrayed his supportive wife, who goes to extremes to defend him. According to the directors, Kumar was cast against type; he generally played action heros, and they wanted him to underplay his character. Abbas–Mustan, known for stylish thrillers and intriguing antagonists, cast Chopra in her first negative role. She plays a woman, married to a business magnate more than twice her age (played by Amrish Puri), who falsely accuses her ex-lover (Kumar) of raping her to seek revenge. Chopra was initially apprehensive about such a bold character, due to the controversial theme of sexual harassment, but Abbas–Mastan and Subhash Ghai convinced her to accept the role. The director duo had previously offered her the lead role in their 2002 thriller Humraaz, which she could not do.
Kumar described his character as "realistic" and a "new-age metrosexual" man. The actor revealed that he enjoyed the strengths and weaknesses of his character, adding "[he] is not afraid to show his feelings and does not feel emasculated by his situation." Kumar further stated: "There's a quiet dignity and heroism associated with my character. He doesn't fight for applause. He fights for his convictions." In an interview with Tribune India, Kapoor remarked that Indian women would identify with her character. She said her character "stand[s] by [Raj] in his moment of distress and helplessness, like every Indian woman would." Chopra described her character Sonia as "charming and focused", commenting that her "philosophy is that she has to achieve her goals at any cost. She knows one thing: that nothing can come in between her desires and herself." Owing to her conservative upbringing, Chopra found it difficult to identify with her "man-eater role". Playing an "extremely negative character" proved a challenge, and she had to mentally prepare herself for an hour before each scene.
Manish Malhotra and Vikram Phadnis designed the costumes and the cinematography was handled by Ravi Yadav. The film was mainly shot in Cape Town, Goa, Pune and Mumbai. Chopra, who was simultaneously filming four other productions, revealed that because of her busy schedule the producers of her other films had to move their sets to the Filmistan Studio, where Aitraaz was being made. She wept during filming of the sexual-harassment scene; it took the directors several hours to remind her she was only playing a character, and further filming was postponed. The music video of the title track "Aitraaz – I Want to Make Love to You" with Kumar and Chopra was shot in one take with a Steadicam. Salim–Sulaiman composed the background score for the film.
Aitraaz's soundtrack was composed by Himesh Reshammiya, with lyrics by Sameer. The album contains fifteen songs: seven original, and eight remixes. The vocals were performed by Udit Narayan, Alka Yagnik, Sunidhi Chauhan, Adnan Sami, K.K., and Alisha Chinai. It was released on 24 September 2004 by Sony Music.
The soundtrack was generally well received by music critics, who praised its lyrics and vocals. Planet Bollywood gave a rating of 7 out of 10, calling it a "good album". Joginder Tuteja of Bollywood Hungama rated the album 3 out of 5, praising "I Want To Make Love To You" (all three versions): "Sunidhi Chauhan is excellent in this wonderfully-composed track that shocks everyone with the intensity of the lyrics and the music". He concluded, "Except for two or three average songs here and there, the majority of songs in Aitraaz do keep you engaged".
The music topped charts on a number of platforms in India. The soundtrack was one of the best-selling Bollywood soundtracks of the year, with 1.5 million units sold according to Box Office India.
The first-look poster of the film, with the tagline "In the world of women, you either play by their rules or else ...", was received positively by critics; the film's trailers were also well received. In October 2004, exclusive footage from the film was screened to the trade experts and critics, creating a positive buzz. The film's trailers and the film's music aided its marketing.
Made on a budget of ₹110 million, Aitraaz was released on 375 screens on 12 November 2004 during the festive Diwali weekend. It clashed with three other major releases: Veer-Zaara, the coloured version of Mughal-e-Azam, and Naach. The film opened to excellent occupancy in metros and decent at other places. It was the second best playing release of the week after Yash Chopra's Veer-Zaara. According to Box Office India, the film grossed approximately ₹45 million on its opening weekend and ₹76 million in its first week at the domestic box office. After its run, Aitraaz grossed over ₹260 million at the box office, becoming the eleventh-highest-grossing Bollywood film of the year. The film was deemed a commercial success.
The DVD of the film was released on 6 December 2004 across all regions in a PAL-format single disc. Distributed by Shemaroo Entertainment, it included a making-of-the-film segment and a photo gallery. The VCD version was released at the same time, and Zee Network bought the exclusive broadcast rights. Aitraaz made its Indian television premiere on 30 October 2005 on Zee Cinema. The film was remade in Kannada as Shrimathi, starring Upendra, Priyanka Trivedi and Celina Jaitley.
Aitraaz received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised its direction, music and performances, particularly Chopra's. It was noted for its bold subject of sexual harassment. Several critics observed that the premise was similar to the American film Disclosure (1994). Writing for the BBC, critic Jay Mamtora praised the film's theme, music and performances, and remarked that "Abbas-Mustaan have done a good job in 'Indianising' the whole concept". He went on to describe it as "a gripping edge of the seat drama that keeps viewers glued to their seats". Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama rated the film 3.5 out of 5, calling it "a well-crafted thriller" and complimenting the directors' opting for "a theme that has been untouched on the Indian screen so far" and the film's "dramatic moments".
Like Mamtora, Adarsh believed that the film belonged entirely to Priyanka Chopra, and was impressed with her understanding of the character, writing that "She sneaks her way through the role like an expert, drawing audience hatred the way a magnet collects iron filings." He also complimented the performances by Kapoor and Kumar. Patcy N of Rediff.com noted the film's appeal to the general public, finding its subject matter "something different from the standard fare on offer". She also praised the music and choreography. India Today film critic Anupama Chopra lauded Chopra's "impressive" performance, and deemed the film "good timepass".
Sudhish Kamath of The Hindu commented that "though the first half of the movie is well-paced, the second half sags with the songs and twists forced into the plot to buy time", but stated that it was "passable with its slick production, a few funny lines, glam quotient and star appeal." Subhash K. Jha criticised the film's "dishy digressions" and "peripheral sub-plots", rating it 2 out of 5 overall, but was impressed with the court scene, which he considered "splendid". He also found Chopra's performance to be a triumph, remarking: "A star is born! As the predatory social-climbing seductress who can go to any length to satiate her lust for life, Priyanka Chopra rocks the scene like never before." Jha believed that Kareena was miscast and seemed a little awkward in a non-glamorous role, but "comes into her own in the climactic courtroom sequence", a sentiment echoed by Jitesh Pillai in his review for The Times of India. Pillai gave a rating of 3 out of 5 and noted that "it isn't drama that directors were striving for, yet the film works."