Friday, February 11, 2011

Patiala House

This House has its charms

Director: Nikhil Advani
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Rishi Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Dimple Kapadia
Stars: **1/2

Patiala House is Akshay Kumar's best film in recent times, but that's not saying much, given that his movies have lately touched new lows. Director Nikhil Advani, who already has two failures behind him — Salaam-e-Ishq and Chandni Chowk To China — has been itching to prove himself, and doesn't do too badly with Patiala House. The 'goings on' are kept interesting, with fairly engaging scenes, even if the basic premise remains a silly, stretched out one.

The film combines a dramatic father-son story, with the thrills of a cricket match, so you have some key plot points to look forward to. Not all of this comes together very well and the central conflict starts thinning out quite soon. Gurtej Kahlon (Rishi Kapoor) turns a stuanch hater of the English following a few racial attacks in Southall against the residing Sikhs. He takes it as a mission to turn the whole town into a self-sufficient mini-Punjab with schools and hospitals. Soon, he has his entire extended family staying here, toeing his line. Gurtej is respected in the community for his rebellous spirit, but the writers (Advani and Anvita Dutt) leave no doubt that he’s a vain, difficult and over-bearing man. And Rishi Kapoor being the fab actor that he is, absolutely nails the character. Most stunning is the actor's body language for this arrogant man, who seems to be pursuing the cause more for egoistical reasons than anything else. So while his quivering paunch in Do Dooni Chaar was endearing, denoting middle-class humbleness, in Patiala House, the same paunch gives him the appearance of an unpleasant, intolerant man.

Obviously, his wife (Dimple Kapadia) and elder son, Parghat Singh Kahlon aka Gattu (Akshay Kumar) are at the receiving end of Gurtej's bullying ways.
As a collegian, Gattu is a talented cricketer, but his father commands him not to play for England. Forlorn and disillusioned, Gattu gives up his dream and runs a shop instead. He's 34 now, and viewed as a loser by his younger cousins. They hold him responsible for setting the wrong precedent in the house, by following the patriarch's diktats blindly. So far so good. But from here, the film moves ahead in ways that are never quite convincing. For example, Akshay goes about listlessly for the first 90 minutes of the movie. One understand he's supposed to be inhabited and slightly depressed, but it comes out looking one-note and unidimensional. His character should have had more layers for the audience to feel a stronger empathy and connect. Again, the angle with Anushka, as the girl-next-door who prods Akshay to pursue his dreams is never effective. Anushka's exaggerated facial expressions and loud pitch do nothing to complement Akshay's character. The actress doesn’t seems to get that reacting is the better part of acting — the result is that she gives the same expressions and speaks in an affected manner. Her acting never gels with the overall tone of a scene. There's no doubt Anushka needs a good director to reign her in, and Advani isn't very successful here. This section partly affects the film's appeal. A more mature/ capable actress would have perhaps brought something more to this romance. There's a nice scene where the usually timid Akshay exchanges a few heated words with Anushka and immediately regrets it. This is a pivotal scene. It is his fondness for the woman in his life that really spurs him on. But given that this relationship is not very well-executed, the effect goes missing.

The film has many loopholes. If Rishi Kapoor's character hated England so much, why didn't he think of moving back to India? It's also a bit tough to believe that all the cousins consider Gattu the reason for their stifled existence. One doesn't see why they can't move out of the house and do their own thing if they really want to. Again, the father-son relationship has not been explored to its full potential. All these problems don't completely derail the film at any point, but your emotional involvement as an audience does get minimised.
The direction is competent, and there are a few scenes that evoke a genuine smile. Like the one with the bride and her obsession for a grand, filmy marriage. There's touch of class to the cricket matches shot in the final half and hour, but the emotional content is just not strong enough for us to be moved like one did in Lagaan and Chak De! India. Yet, not a bad effort and certainly, one of Akshay's better films in recently times. Go for it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Why didn't he go back?'

I've seen Indians use this reasoning all over the websites where there's a PH review

Would you tell an African American who has encountered racism over a period of time to go back to Africa?

February 11, 2011 at 11:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

for next 2 years - all akki films have "DISASTER" written all over them - he needs to take a sabbatical for 2 years and take on selected movies

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