Saturday, February 12, 2011

Review: Patiala House

February 11, 2011

Patiala House is the best work director Nikhil Advani and Akshay Kumar have done recently. It is an old-fashioned Hindi movie with big drama, solid dialogue-baazi and moments that are genuinely moving and rousing.

Akshay as Gattu, a forlorn man who has watched his dreams die, is effectively restrained and refreshingly sincere. But all of this is servicing a story that is so silly and strained that it's hard to get swept up in the histrionics.

The central conflict in the film is between Gattu and his father, Bauji, played by Rishi Kapoor. Bauji seems like a long-lost sibling of Chaudhary Baldev Singh, the stern patriarch from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jeyenge.

Bauji also lives in London's Southall area and has never assimilated into his adopted country. He suffered racial attacks, was jailed for violence against 'goras' and now hates them with such a passion that he prefers that his son, who is a cricket prodigy waste his life running a convenience store than play for the English team.

Honestly, I couldn't make sense of this. If Bauji dislikes everything English, why doesn't he move back to the motherland? And if he persists in such borderline-psychotic behavior, why doesn't the gigantic joint family of Patiala House, which includes his wife, played by Dimple Kapadia, various aunts, nephews and nieces, stop him.

Instead everybody in the family follows Gattu's dreary example and throttles their desires.

Each one has ambitions to be something suitably different – chef, filmmaker, rapper – but each one stays quiet until the fiery Simran, played by a hyper Anushka Sharma, prods Gattu and eventually the family into rebellion.

Advani who co-wrote the screenplay with Anvita Dutt, works hard to invest plausibility and emotional heft into the tale. But the plot just gets more and more far-fetched.

At one point, Gattu is the cricket team's most valuable player – a man celebrated by the entire country but Bauji or the Sarpanch of Southall, as Gattu calls him, doesn't have a clue. These gigantic loopholes hobble Patiala House.

As does the lazy writing – none of the other family members make an impression and Bauji is such an exasperating character that even Rishi Kapoor can't humanise him.

As a result of which, Patiala House never soars but it is a notch better than the mediocre fare that we see every week. If you have patience and not much else going on, check it out.

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