For Americans interested in learning about Bollywood, sports movies are a good way to start. The formula is largely the same the world over, with a few country- or culture-specific differences. As such, Patiala House feels familiar and offers a good introduction to Bollywood for newcomers.
Part of the reason for Patiala House‘s familiarity is that the plot shares much in common with 2002’s The Rookie, starring Dennis Quaid. In both movies, an ordinary guy gets his first shot in the big leagues at an age when most athletes are considering retirement. In The Rookie, the game is baseball. In Patiala House, it’s cricket.
Akshay Kumar plays Gattu, the dutiful eldest son of a prominent Indian immigrant leader in the London suburb of Southall. In the 1970s, Gattu’s father, Gurtej (Rishi Kapoor), responds to violent attacks on Indians by organizing the immigrants and shunning white British culture. He turns their cul-de-sac into a Punjabi enclave within Southall.
Gurtej’s hatred of white Britishers is so intense that he forced Gattu to turn down an invitation to join the English national cricket team when the boy was 17. Now, at the age of 34, a dejected Gattu manages his father’s corner store, only playing cricket when he practices pitching by himself at a local park late at night.
An English national team scout notices Gattu’s solo practice sessions and asks him to try out for the team. Gattu doesn’t wish to anger his father again, but he’s pressured to try out by Simran (Anushka Sharma), a lovely girl with a tarnished reputation. Gattu’s younger siblings also beg him to join the team, reasoning that if loyal Gattu can stand up to their domineering father, it may give them a chance to follow their own dreams as well.
The movie offers some insight into the insidious nature of racism as it pertains to immigrants. In an effort to protect his family, Gurtej cuts himself off from the dominant culture so completely that he doesn’t notice that things have changed. The fact that he lives in a different world than that of his children takes a toll on the family.
Gurtej makes Amy Chua’s “Tiger Mother” seem like a kitten. He’s so convinced that he knows what’s best for his family — and all the Indians in Southall, really — that he’s impossible to argue with. When his children threaten to engage in any activity that seems remotely British, he threatens suicide. It’s no wonder Gattu’s siblings see him as their only hope for a future they choose for themselves.
The siblings don’t get enough airtime to become fully formed characters. In fact, I’m not 100% certain that they are all biologically related to Gattu; they just live in the same house. Screentime is dominated by Gurtej, Gattu and Simran.
Kumar gives a restrained performance as Gattu, a man so bound by duty that he sacrifices his own happiness. It’s a much stronger showing for Kumar than some of his other recent dramatic roles, as in Blue and 8×10 Tasveer.
Sharma is emerging as one of Bollywood’s brightest stars. She’s beautiful, charming and effortless. Sharma has a wonderful, subtle comic sensibility, and she handles most of the jokes in Patiala House. Her face is so expressive, and she’s able to pull off a pratfall without overdoing it.
The fact that Patiala House is somewhat predictable is actually a selling point. Sports fables should be predictable. We go to them to feel uplifted and hopeful. Patiala House does a fine job being exactly what it’s supposed to be.
There are a number of factors I considered when selecting candidates for Worst Bollywood Movie of 2009. Movies featuring racist jokes, such as Kambakkht Ishq and All the Best, obviously made the list. Incoherent plots brought Wanted and De Dana Dan to my attention, whereas Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna ignored traditional story structure and skipped the climax all together.
Ek — The Power of One deserves mention for its ridiculous title, which translates in English to “One — The Power of One”.
What’s Your Raashee? was easily the biggest disappointment of the year, coming from Ashutosh Gowariker, the filmmaker responsible for great flicks like Lagaan, Swades and Jodhaa Akbar.
2009 was a particularly bad year for Akshay Kumar. In addition to Kambakkht Ishq and De Dana Dan, he also starred in the bland supernatural thriller 8×10 Tasveer. His two other releases during the calendar year, Blue and Chandni Chowk to China, were fine but forgettable.
Because of their spectacular misunderstanding of human emotions and dubious moral messages, I thought about giving the award to either Kal Kissne Dekhaor London Dreams. Kal Kissne Dekha suggested that one’s value is dependent upon one’s ability to save lives via superhuman powers, while London Dreams excused abhorrent behavior so long as it was committed in pursuit of a selfish goal.
But the ultimate winner had to be the most annoying, most cliché-riddled movie of the year, the worst of the worst. And the winner of Worst Bollywood Movie of 2009 is: Do Knot Disturb.
Do Knot Disturb, which deserves the honor based on its stupid title alone, contains all of the bad clichés that dominate Hindi comedies at the moment. The plot is based on a series of misunderstandings which could be clarified if the characters actually had conversations with one another. The jokes are written based on volume instead of quality, under the mistaken belief that what was funny the first time is even funnier the sixth, seventh and eighth time.
Case in point, the high-pitched screaming match between characters played by Govinda and Ritesh Deshmukh. The characters get spooked by something and start shrieking in girlish voices. The gag isn’t original, but it’s not inherently annoying. But in Do Knot Disturb, the characters scream dialogue at each other in those high-pitched voices for the next ten minutes of the movie.
After one minute, the gag had already stopped being funny. After ten minutes, it was unbearable. I actually walked out of the theater and only convinced myself to return out of a sense of journalistic duty. By virtue of having watched all but one minute of the movie, I can say that Do Knot Disturb is the worst Hindi film of 2009.
American production house Warner Bros has warned an unnamed Bollywood producer against remaking The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in Hindi. Vipul Shah’s upcoming Akshay Kumar movie, Action Replay, is supposedly a remake of the Oscar nominee. Warner Bros issued the warning in the form of a newspaper ad that didn’t name Shah directly.
The April 3 release of 8×10 Tasveer may be the last Hindi film to open in American cinemas for a while. On Saturday, April 4, Bollywood producers ceased releasing new films until they can work out a profit-sharing agreement with the owners of Indian multiplexes. The cinema owners say that they are only willing to turn over a higher share of their profits for movies that prove to be hits.
I’ve wanted to see Akshay Kumar in something other than a slapstick comedy for a while now. But, after watching 8×10 Tasveer, I’m ready for him to go back to slipping on banana peels.
In 8×10 Tasveer, Kumar plays Jai, a Canadian forest ranger with psychic abilities. Specifically, Jai can look at a picture and mentally envision the events that transpired in the moments after the picture was taken. If there are multiple people featured in a photo, he can see the events from each of their perspectives.
Early in the movie, Jai’s father dies in what appears to be an accident. But when a quirky detective (note to filmmakers: enough with the quirky detectives!) suggests that his father was murdered, Jai uses his psychic abilities to determine what really happened.
The movie is slow but occasionally entertaining, as Jai delves into the mystery. But the truth behind Jai’s dad’s death is so cliched and soap operatic, I had to fight to keep from laughing during the protracted denouement.
If you’re looking for a good supernatural thriller, skip 8×10 Tasveer and seek out Aa Dekhen Zara, instead.
There’s one new Hindi film opening in the Chicago area this week. 8×10 Tasveer is a thriller starring Akshay Kumar as a man with a supernatural ability to see into the past. The film will open at the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington.
Carrying over for a second week at the South Barrington 30 is supernatural thriller Aa Dekhen Zara. I thought it was pretty good, though its biggest selling point is its short runtime of just under two hours.
Here’s a video of the title song from 8×10 Tasveer: