Patiala House: Well Bowled, Akshay!
By MovieTalkies.com, 11 February 2011
Partly a coming of age drama, partly a film about the expat Indian community in Britain, with some cricket thrown in here and there, 'Patiala House' is a well crafted story supported by some superb performances. Is it extraordinary? Well, no. But it certainly is an eminently enjoyable film.
Nikhil Advani's latest release centres around the titular 'Patiala House' in UK's famous Southall district, and its residents, the boisterous Kahlon family. The film opens up with a prologue in flashbacks that explains the racist violence that the family and the community have to deal with. At the head of these tribulations is the family's patriarch, Gurtej Singh Kahlon, who turns into a crusader for Sikh rights in the town, against 'goras' and becomes the unofficial 'sarpanch' of Southall, as the script puts it.
In the process, Gurtej also becomes an unwitting tyrant of a 'bauji' to his family, putting his passion before theirs, stifling all free will in the house and ending his eldest son, Gattu's promising cricket career prematurely, asserting that "his son will never play for England."
Cue flash forward, and we come out seventeen years later, with Gattu now a sober, quiet shopkeeper, slave to his father's will, though he still secretly nurses his sporting dreams. Gattu has also become the object of his entire family's taunts, the entire extended assortment in 'Patiala House', 'chachas', 'chachis' and cousins unwilling to speak out for their dreams against 'bauji'. His only pillar of strength is his mother, herself a mute spectator to her husband's dictatorship.
The rest of the film revolves around the unexpected second chance that Gattu, now Parghat Singh Kahlon, gets in the most unexpected of ways and how the rest of the family choose to rebel against Gurtej, vicariously through him.
The strength of the film rests squarely on Akshay's and Rishi's stellar performances. While Rishi is superbly convincing as the acid tongued, tyrannically passionate 'bauji', Akshay turns in what could possibly be his career's best performance as Parghat, aka Gattu. Funny as it may sound, the power in his underplayed portrayal of Gattu cannot be overstated. Akshay conveys the suffering of his character here as much through silence as he does through words. Superb stuff, this.
Though Anushka plays it up to her effervescent best, her role of Simran, as Gattu's love interest, is a bit of a misstep by the makers here. While the idea of a catalyst for Parghat's actions is good, the back story she's given is quite unnecessary and goes nowhere as the story wraps up. Dimple Kapadia is also quite underutilised in her role as Mrs. Kahlon, coming into her own only in the final few scenes of the film; otherwise limited to quite glances throughout.
The remaining characters in the story are too many to name. Soni Razdan, Hard Kaur, Jeneva Talwar, Armaan Kirmani, Tinnu Anand and others, all turn in a good showing, although they get just a few scenes here and there to show off their histrionics. A special mention goes to the numerous cricketing cameos by the likes of ex England captain Naser Hussain, Andrew Symonds, David Gower, Nikhil Chopra and Sanjay Manjrekar, though none of them, save the Hindi speaking Hussain, have any acting they need to do.
Shankar Ehsaan Loy, as always, turn in their best work for director Nikhil Advani, who uses their music to maximum effect. Shafqat Amanat Ali's 'kyun main jaagoon' comes in at more than a few points in the narrative, alternately tearjerking and inspiring at other times. Tracks like 'tumba tumba' and 'rola pa gaya' also add their bit of energy to the film.
'Patiala House' is a great return to form for Nikhil Advani after his missteps in 'Salaam E Ishq' and 'Chandni Chowk To China'. His partner Anvita Dutt Guptan and he construct their screenplay with an inspired touch here, never letting any element overpower another. So, while it may have been marketed as a film about cricket, 'Patiala House' turns out to be as much a drama about rebelling against a tyrant, as much a study of the mindsets in expat communities and just a much a story about a character's coming of age.
Sure, the storyline could have been tauter, without stretching the love angle between Gattu and Simran, nor trying to bring in the unnecessary comedic bits in the second half with the family's attempts to keep Gattu's cricketing career from 'bauji'. But the fact that Advani and Guptan still manage to hold the audiences' rapt attention is to their credit.
'Patiala House' belongs completely to Rishi Kapoor's 'bauji' and Akshay Kumar's Gattu. For Akki, this is especially important as it shows off his superb acting range at a time when he is increasingly getting typecast as an actor known for rather mediocre comic fare. Finally, after the bouncers that his previous two films turned out to be, Nikhil Advani finally snags the wicket with this one. 'Patiala House' is a great delivery from the director.