Hania Amir, Kubra Khan, Iqra Aziz at Parde Mein Rehne Do premiere

Patiala House
Director by: Nikhil Advani
Producer by: Bhushan Kumar, Mukesh Talreja
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Anushka Sharma, Rishi Kapoor
Music Dir: Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani

A while ago, I posed a question on Twitter and Facebook, asking people what their expectations were from Patiala House. The reaction ranged from encouraging and affirmative to unenthusiastic and unexciting. A wide number of caustic and scathing comments were a consequence of Akshay Kumar's last year's releases, namely Khatta Meetha, Action Replayy and Tees Maar Khan. Also, a few called it similar to De Dhana Dhan Goal, while some even compared it with Namastey London.

In fact, a lot many factors go against Patiala House. Director Nikihil Advani and Akshay's last outing together, the infamous Chandni Chowk To China, remains a favorite punching bag to this day. Besides, Patiala House comes at a time when people have had an overdose of Akshay starrers. I reiterate, there ought to be at least six months' gap between two films of a major star, while this is Akshay's fourth release in six months (Khatta Meetha - 23 July, Action Replayy - 5 November and Tees Maar Khan - 24 December). Moreover, the film opens exactly one week before the keenly anticipated World Cup cricket matches and coupled with that, it will have no breathing space as the very next week witnesses the release of another much-awaited film 7 Khoon Maaf. Expecting Patiala House to overcome these hurdles is tough, mainly when the chips are down!

The chips are down also because people assume Patiala House to be something which it is not. Let me clarify that Patiala House is not an 'extension' of Akshay's previous films. Sure, Patiala House has its share of humorous moments, but the humor is of the subtle kind here. Nor can one compare it to Namastey London, since that film was more of a love story between a British-born Indian and a desi Indian, while Patiala House is more of an inspirational film. It's about chasing your dreams as and when you get another opportunity, if you don't succeed the first time.

Essentially, Patiala House is a somber film, with the focal point being drama and histrionics rather than the slapstick wit or in-your-face comedy that one anticipates from an Akshay starrer. It's more about familial bonding, with a sport [cricket] interwoven in the screenplay. This one doesn't tickle your funny bone; instead it moistens your eyes thanks to the poignant moments in the narrative, especially the penultimate moments of the film. Those exhausted of watching Akshay getting typecast in similar genre films will drop the charges while watching this one. This is, without a shred of doubt, amongst Akshay's finest performances.

On the flip side, the screenplay of Patiala House is erratic - vacillating between engaging to run of the mill to flaccid moments. In fact, a chunk involving the game plan - the family trying various gimmicks and ploys to conceal the truth from Rishi Kapoor - is lame and bizarre. Ditto for the romance between Akshay and Anushka; it comes across as half-baked and looks tame. Even the members of the family, most of them, have ill-defined characters. Fortunately, these deficiencies get camouflaged as the father and son get set for an emotional showdown in the pre-climax. From this point onwards, right till the euphoric victory, the film reaches its pinnacle.

At Patiala House lives the Kahlon family ruled by Bauji [Rishi Kapoor]. They follow his diktats as he tries to hold onto his 'Indian values' in the land of the goras. The younger generation at Patiala House wants to assert themselves and follow their dreams, but is held back by their respect and love for Bauji and the shining example of Bauji's eldest son, Parghat Singh Kahlon aka Gattu [Akshay Kumar].

Gattu's decision to turn cricketer and play for England is unacceptable to Bauji, who tears his dream apart right in front of his eyes. A dejected Gattu decides to live the life that his father forces upon him. Gattu genuinely cares and respects his father's opinion, so much that he is prepared to let his own dream be sacrificed in the process. Will Bauji loosen his hold and let the youngsters find their own dreams, instead of following his? Will Gattu get a second chance to live his life?

There's no denying that the story of Patiala House reminds you of Gurinder Chadha's Bend It Like Beckham, wherein Parminder Nagra, as the second-generation Sikh girl, defied her parents' wishes to play football. However, Patiala House is a film about attachments, affiliations and familial bonding, about respect and trying to adjust to contradictory values that generally crop up when one relocates to another country. More importantly, it's about dreams and aspirations and how fate offers you a second chance in life. Patiala House is not one of those atypical mass entertainers that focuses only on providing entertainment, while the story takes a complete backseat. This one, thankfully, has a story to tell. And an interesting one, frankly. Also, as much as this film focuses on the relationship between the father and son, it also weaves the popular sport well in the narrative and that makes for an interesting viewing. However, the cricket factor is subsidiary; the focal point remains the father-son conflict. Nikhil Advani ensures that beneath the familial bonding and curbed aspirations, there's an underlined message as well: Chase you dreams, don't give up, you live only once!

The film has some striking moments and I would like to single out the ones when writers Nikhil Advani and Anvita Dutt Guptan take you back in time to a younger Rishi Kapoor and Akshay's childhood. The racist attacks and how it impacts the family is straight out of life. Besides, the vital sequence in the film - Rishi commands the young Akshay [enacted by Usman Qureshi] to abandon his plans of playing for England - is utmost convincing. The climax, of course, is powerful and the hallmark of this enterprise. It evokes emotions on dual levels - when the father decides to watch his son play cricket and also when Akshay wins the match for England. Ideally, the film should've concluded on this euphoric note, but the song thereafter lessens the impact of the exhilarated climax.

Director Nikhil Advani regains his position as a compelling storyteller, which he had lost post Salaam-e-Ishq and Chandni Chowk To China. He illustrates his proficiency in the dramatic portions, handling the father-son sequences with dexterity. The soundtrack [music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy] is melodic, with 'Kyun Main Jaagoon' being the best track of the enterprise. The song conveys the spirit of the film well. The placement of 'Laungda Lashkara' may be debatable, but the song is tuneful nonetheless. The background score [also by S-E-L] is classy. Santosh Thundiyil's cinematography is stunning.

Gattu is a character anyone can relate to or empathize with and to portray that convincingly is indeed difficult, but Akshay plays this part with rare maturity. It's a complex role to portray since he has to conceal the emotional turmoil he is experiencing within, yet wear a cheery expression against all adversities. The viewer is sure to connect directly and indirectly with this character, even if he/she may have not have experienced what he does in this film. Also, Akshay ensures that his bowling skills look absolutely realistic on screen and he does justice to the sport.

Rishi Kapoor, cast as the patriarch of a family settled in U.K., gets it right yet again. Note his dialect and body language in particular. As Bauji, the veteran actor delivers a sparkling performance, which would rank amongst his superlative work when you look back at his illustrious career. Dimple Kapadia doesn't really get much opportunity initially, but is wonderful in the penultimate sequence when she confronts Rishi Kapoor.

Anushka is an integral part of the story. She is Akshay's shoulder, an unconditional support for him and she fits perfectly into her character. Amongst the plethora of actors, Armaan Kirmani [as Akshay's brother] is excellent, Jeneva Talwar [as Armaan's pregnant wife, Akshay's sis-in-law] is top notch and Usman Qureshi [essaying Akshay's earlier years] is natural. Tinnu Anand is competent, as always. Prem Chopra is okay. Soni Razdan does a fair job. The kid who plays Anushka's brother is smart.

On the whole, Patiala House is a film about attachments, affiliations and familial bonding. It's a compelling watch, more for its drama and histrionics than anything else. It's a film that explores the father-son relationship and not just those in India, but around the world should be able to relate to the predicament depicted in this film. The hallmark of the film is the merging of its engaging drama with cricket and that's what makes this product stand out from the earlier Akshay starrers. Especially its penultimate 30 minutes, which is the brightest spot of this enterprise. If the movie succeeds in pulling the heartstrings of the moviegoer, it would propel Akshay back in the same position he once was after the victory of Namastey London and Singh Is Kinng.

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