Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Patiala House: A single that could have been a boundary
One thing I will say for Nikhil Advani’s “Patiala House”. It touches upon a subject that a lot of Indians will identify with — parents who think they know what’s best for their children and children straining against the leash to break out.
Vikramaditya Motwane’s “Udaan” explored that theme beautifully, and director Advani tries to combine it with another thing Indians can identify with — cricket. Unfortunately, he populates the story with so many things that the main story is lost amid Punjabi wedding sequences, slapstick comedy and an insipid romance.
Akshay Kumar plays Pargat Singh Kahlon, a fast bowler living in Southall, London. Pargat’s father (Rishi Kapoor) nips his cricketing career in the bud because he doesn’t want his son playing cricket for England. Senior Kahlon has been so scarred by racist attacks on his community that he hates “goras” and doesn’t want anyone in his family to have anything to do with them — so much so that he threatens to kill himself if his son plays for England. That doesn’t stop him from leaving London though, something that isn’t quite explained in the film and comes across as a major weakness in the plot.
So Pargat spends his days looking morose, running a grocery shop and his night practising cricket. Also, he gets guilt trips from his entire extended family, who all have ambitions but cannot follow them because the eldest son hasn’t. When the entire England cricket team is sacked and a whole new team is to be built, Pargat’s neighbour, who also happens to be a national selector, convinces him to try out for the team, but he refuses. Enter Simran, an over-chirpy wannabe actress who convinces him and his whole family that they must rebel against the patriach and follow their own dreams.
“Patiala House” does have the germ of a compelling story in there somewhere, as well as some genuine moments, but these are few and far between. Advani couldn’t resist the temptation to make this a masala film and ends up diluting his main premise. The rest of the cast isn’t too impressive, and the plot has too many holes to hold true. You will have to suspend disbelief several times to actually believe what’s happening on the screen. How does a bowler who hasn’t played for any club get into the England cricket team? How, in this day and age, can Rishi Kapoor’s character not know that his son is playing for England in spite of live TV, the internet and phones? And why does cricketer Nasser Hussain (playing himself) attempt to speak Hindi?
Akshay Kumar, however, does redeem himself a bit — he is restrained and efficient as the protagonist, even if he doesn’t take the character to another level. It’s a huge change from the avatar we have seen him in in recent times.
The film though is strictly average fare. Watch it if you must.