He who bowls for the family
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- Published 12.02.11
When your back is stapled to the wall. When everyone looks at you with question marks pinned to their eyes. When you start asking yourself whether you actually have it in you. That’s when you go out there and outdo yourself.
No, we are not talking about Akshay Kumar. But Nikhil Advani. The man whose last film was kung fu-ed, from Chandni Chowk to China. The man whose second film Salaam-e-Ishq is often referred to as a celluloid antidote to insomnia. The man whose directorial debut Kal Ho Naa Ho is unanimously credited to its writer-producer Koffee Johar.
For Nikhil Advani to have gone back to the drawing board and come up with a Patiala House, he sure deserves a Patiala peg on the house. Because his fourth film maybe formulaic but it sure is feel-good, full-on masala... and freshly fried.
Being fundamentally a sports film, Patiala House is an underdog story. Quite literally. Because our hero here is a “vafadaar kutta”, who gave up cricket at the age of 17 because his father didn’t want him to play for England. In a rousing back story, Advani establishes that Bauji (Rishi Kapoor) almost single-handedly set up the Southall community in London fighting racism with blood and a pressure cooker. Many years have passed but the man still hates the goras and swears suicide if his son Gattu (Akshay Kumar) turns out in England colours.
This plot alone could have been enough material for many a director but Advani shows he isn’t afraid to dream a little bigger. So we have Patiala House, Bauji’s mammoth mansion jahaan har kamra kuch kehta hai. You have the rap singer who is forced to sing bhajans, the chef joh jalebiyan tal raha hai, the aspiring filmmaker who is reduced to driving taxis and the girl who wants to marry a British guy! Sab ke dil mein sapne hain par munh mein zabaan nahin. Buoyed by the neighbourhood girl Simran (Anushka Sharma), all their dreams are pinned on Gattu, for him to roll his arm over and revolt.
Despite the presence of Nasser Hussain, Graham Gooch and David Gower — yes, and in not just blink-and-you-miss roles — 34-year-old Gattu’s selection in the England cricket team is a bit of a joke, very much like the laughable treasure hunt in Blue. Before you can shout howzzat, Gattu aka Pargat Singh Kahlon becomes Kaali the Punjab Express, the secret weapon of the England T20 side!
But Bauji can’t know, baba. So we have The Truman Show play out in the second half where everybody barring Bauji is in on the secret. His newspapers are changed, cable TV lines snapped and cell phone battered. He has no idea that with every passing match his “asli desi put” is becoming the English national hero. When he does get to know, though, everyone around has found their voice!
Patiala House’s biggest triumph is to set up the fact that Gattu plays for his family and not for his team. That’s what sets it apart from a Lagaan or an Iqbal. On the downside, though, such a plot premise takes away all the suspense from the actual cricket match. Listen how the sappy background score guides you to the inevitable. There’s Andrew Symonds in full swing but you don’t wait for the fat lady to sing.
Akshay has played this character before, not of late though. The abhimaani achha beta act will remind you of Ek Rishta and Waqt. Still, this is one of his better performances in a long, long time. The nonchalance levels are low and the facial muscles aren’t overworked. Watch the scene where he is not allowed to enter his father’s hospital room and his mother (Dimple Kapadia) shuts the door on him. A truly welcome touch of earnestness.
Anushka’s Simran will remind you of her Shruti Kakkar in Band Baaja Baaraat. She is a motormouth here too but her rambling is so zesty and fun that you hear her out with a smile. In @realpreityzinta’s tweet-twang, Anushka makes you go ting! And that’s something few of the young actresses can lay claim to.
The rest of the ensemble cast fit their roles to the tee. Rishi Kapoor is expectedly solid as the Rock of Southall. Wish there was more of Dimple, though.
Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s soundtrack is a mixed bag. The powerpuff Laungda lashkara brings the curtains down with elan but the theme song of the film Kyun main jaagoon seems to have slipped out of the My Name is Khan album.
Robert Miller, who was the sports choreographer for Chak De! India, does a great job here too with the cricket scenes and Santosh Thundiyil doesn’t disappoint with his lenswork.
The good ol’ masala melodrama has almost become a lost art in Bollywood. But as Advani shows with Patiala House, when done right, it can still draw out a tear and bring a smile to your face.
Pratim D. Gupta
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