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’s only one Hindi movie playing in the Chicago area the weekend beginning April 23, 2010. Paathshaala, starring Shahid Kapoor, is showing at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles.
I expect next weekend’s new release, Housefull — which stars Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Ritesh Deshmukh, Lara Dutta, Arjun Rampal and Jiah Khan — to open in a number of theaters across Chicagoland, hopefully bringing the spring Bollywood drought to an end.
This weekend, the Golf Glen 5 is also showing the English-language movie called Anything For You. It stars Sam Ghosh as an Indian-American doctor torn between commitment to his wife and his feelings for an American girl.
Other Indian movies playing around Chicago this weekend include Darling (Telugu), Pramani (Malayalam) and Prasthanam (Telugu) at the Golf Glen 5, which continues to broadcast IPL cricket matches on weekend mornings. Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove is showing the Telugu movies Leader and Kedi.
Chicago movie screens remain largely devoid of Bollywood films for yet another week. The only new Hindi movie opening in the area this weekend is the political satire Well Done Abba, which released internationally last week. Well Done Abba opens at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles on Friday, April 2. The Golf Glen 5 is also carrying over Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge.
Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area include Paiyaa (Tamil), Varudu (Telugu) and Yugapurushan (Malayalam) at the Golf Glen 5. Paiyaa is also showing at Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove.
And don’t forget, the Golf Glen 5 broadcasts IPL cricket matches weekend mornings at 9:30 throughout the month of April.
Think of your favorite fast food meal – the one that you default to when you’re running late on your way home from work or when you just don’t feel like cooking. Dil Bole Hadippa! (“My Heart Goes Hooray!”) is the movie equivalent of your go-to drive thru meal: easy and predictable, but enjoyable.
Rani Mukerji plays Veera, a Punjabi girl who works for her family’s traveling theater troupe but dreams of playing cricket professionally.
She gets her chance when the national team’s manager, played by Anupam Kher, guilts his son Rohan (Shahid Kapoor) into returning from England to lead India to victory over Pakistan.
Of course, the team won’t even consider letting Veera try out; it is a men’s team, after all. Using one of the theater troupe’s fake beards, she dresses up as a man and calls herself “Veer.” She easily makes the team.
As in any romantic comedy featuring cross-dressing disguises, Veera gets to know Rohan off the pitch and out of makeup and falls for him. It’s only a question of when and how she’ll inevitably have to reveal her double life to him.
This type of story is as old as time, or at least as old as Shakespeare. There’s not much that can be done to change the formula, so all that matters is how much fun the journey is.
Thanks to Rani Mukerji, it’s a lot of fun. There’s no other actor who portrays joy as well as her, and it’s hard not to get swept up in her happiness. Shahid Kapoor does a fine job playing off of Mukerji, complementing her while never stealing the spotlight.
Following the Hindi fast-food-film formula, Dil Bole Hadippa! hits all of the major narrative touchstones: India is the best nation in the world, Indian women are the most virtuous, and the country is always better than the city. The movie shows fertile fields, women in colorful saris, and a village festival with a Ferris wheel.
The only deviation from the stock formula is that, in Dil Bole Hadippa!, Veera and Rohan ride through wheat fields on a bike, instead of on a tractor.
The problem with this kind of fast food movie is that everyone already knows how it’s going to end – and how it’s going to reach that end. With that being the case, there’s no reason for Dil Bole Hadippa! to run as long as it does (around 2 hrs. 12 min.). The last half-hour drags. And, since the ending is predictable, it’s probably worth leaving early to avoid traffic leaving the movie theater parking lot.