It’s really too bad that the premiere of Patiala House was held in Patiala because the story it told is really that of the immigrant experience and how the pressures of racism can damage a family. While Patiala House the film is deeply rooted in the Sikh community in Southall, some of the issues that it raises around racism are universal. I could almost see a similar story being told in the African-American community where I’m from in Washington, DC. In Patiala House, we see how the pressures of racism have twisted Gurtej Singh Kahlon (Rishi Kapoor) and, in turn, how he has twisted his family, especially his eldest son Gattu (Akshay Kumar).
The film opens with two smashed windows. Skinheads break a kitchen window in the Kahlon home in a flashback and we see how Gurtej Singh Kahlon took his anger at the situation and uses it to fuel political changes at the expense of his family. In the present day, some young South Asian boys break a window in Gattu’s shop with a cricket ball and we see the emptiness in his life in his response. Patiala House follows Gattu and we see how his friendship with community outsider Simran (Anushka Sharma) helps him to earn the respect of his family and, most importantly, himself through his forbidden cricket career.
Director Nikhil Advani is back to his Kal Ho Na Ho form. Like that film, Patiala House is a pleasing mix of melodrama, family comedy, meta-comedy, and song done in the Bollywood style. (By which, I mean that the camera angles, sound effects, and acting styles used are from the popular Indian film tradition – the film is not going for a Hollywood look.) However, unlike the manic Shahrukh in Kal Ho Na Ho, Akshay gives a beautifully subtle performance as the beaten-down Gattu. We don’t seem him smile through the whole first half of the film. His body language, his eyes, his whole form just radiates a sad existence. It’s not until the second act when he sees that he carries the dreams of his younger siblings and cousins in his cricket career that we see a smile finally crack that solemn face.
Akshay pairs very well with Anushka Sharma, who does a variation on her practical Delhi girl from Band Baaja Baarat. With Akshay so solemn, it really gives Anushka room to shine. The real love story in the film is between Rishi Kapoor and Akshay and Rishi Kapoor fans will not be disappointed at the depth of the role of Gurtej. One of the best things about the script were those flashbacks toward the beginning that give the audience a sense of the very real racism and danger that the young Gurtej faced and how they turned him into a rock of man – so hard that no slur can hurt him and no feeling of compassions can reach him. Gurtej changes the world around him for the better but like an old warrior who sees everything in terms of the old war, he cannot see what that better world has given his children. They don’t see the white people as enemies but as fellow citizens. Rishi Kapoor embodies all of this perfectly and with such a good energy. And contrasted to Akshay’s empty vessel, Rishi’s buoyancy in the first half is just heartbreaking.
The rest of the Patiala House family was also a lot of fun to watch – every small character was brought to life with special mention going to dutiful Jassi (Armaan Kirmani) and his scenestealing wife Preity (Jeneva Talwar). But I would have liked to see more of all the family and cousins – Hard Kaur only got a couple of lines as did the adorable floppy haired Ankush Khanna.
Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy do a nice job with the soundtrack and Nikhil Advani incorporates the songs seamlessly into the film. Akshay’s haunting theme, “Kyun Main Jagoon” is woven throughout the film and, true to the story, the only lipsynced songs are picturized on the whole family. The picturizations for “Rola Pe Gaya” is done in an extremely clever fashion – mixing the traditional and the modern in a very visually unique way.
Overall, while the film does get a little bit lengthy with cricket sequences in the second half, it’s definitely worth a watch for anyone who enjoys family sagas. Akshay and Rishi do amazing work with their characters; Anushka sparkles; and every smaller character puts heart and soul into the film. By the time you leave the cinema, the gang from Patiala House will feel like your family, too.
Note from Filmi Girl:
I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.
If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.
xoxo Filmi Girl