Friday, February 11, 2011

Patiala House 

No Balle Balle!

In today’s global age, an old-style patriarch, ruling over an extended family in Southall, like he were in a village in Punjab,  and hating the ‘goras,’ seems dated. Why, you’d like to ask, if he loves his country and its culture so much, does he continue to be a shopkeeper in London? And Nikhil Advani’s Patiala House has no answer.

Bauji (Rishi Kapoor) has suffered racist attacks in his youth, and, according to his wife (Dimple Kapadia), fought to get respect and equality for his countrymen in England.  But in his own large, joint family, living in a Southall mansion, the youngsters are seething with frustration – why not one of them has a spine is not explained either.  The docile Gattu (Akshay Kumar) is held up as an example of a good son, because he gave up his chance to play cricket for England, because his father forbade it.

Now he goes about morosely from his shop to his tiny room; he is 34 and inexplicably unmarried, while there is a great deal of wedding drama going on around the house.  Meanwhile  the English cricket team is having a rough time, and they are looking for better players.  Amazingly,  they can’t find anyone, but a 34-year-old Gattu, who hasn’t played in 17 years.  He gets a second chance, but what to do about Bauji?

A chirpy young woman Simran (Anushka Sharma) and her precocious ward Zeeshan (cute kid) manage to convince the family of wimps that they should help Gattu to lead the rebellion against the control freak Bauji.  They all find ways to ensure that he doesn’t discover Gattu playing for England—and playing so well that he becomes a national hero.  You never see him playing against India, so the issue of ethnic loyalties never comes up.

There was a germ of an idea here— how to define identity, belonging and nationality in a fast-changing, amorphous world; you just wish Advani had not chosen such a far-fetched and excessively melodramatic way of telling his story.  Not one character looks real, every crisis is fake and every resolution spurious.

Akshay Kumar manages to keep his face suitably neutral to portray a loser; Anuskha Sharma rattles her lines and eats her words, which suited her Delhi character in Band Baaja Baraat, but not a London-bred girl. Come to think of it, none of the young characters even has a London accent or mixed vocabulary.

And finally, you can’t but remember the spirited rebels of Bobby (Rishi-Dimple), who are now boringly conservative, grey-haired, bauji-bebe, and rue the fact that in our films, the world seems to be regressing. 


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