Saturday, May 01, 2010

House Full


Akshay Kumar didn't really have a good 2009 despite having some major projects lined up, with the box office response not living up to expectations. To some, that spells a loser, and the film takes an exaggerated response in having him play the unluckiest man on Earth, Arush, and he's so unlucky that Macau casinos employ him to walk their grounds to ensure winning streaks turn into losing ones. And House Full turns out to be one half of a familiar spin from contemporary Hollywood comedies before becoming its own film after the interval.

The first half spends considerable time developing the character of Arush, whom we see leaving his job to go back to stay with his best buddy Bob (Ritesh Deskmukh) and his wife Heetal (Lara Dutta), two casino employees in London. This segment turns out to be You, Me and Dupree as his unwelcome gatecrash turns the life of the couple upside down with his bad luck rubbing off into their home. Sometimes you can feel that the comedy here is just trying way too hard that it borders on the ridiculous and was flogging the dead unfunny horse, especially with the aftermath of Arush and Bob getting electrocuted.

Then it becomes a mix of a loose Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Heartbreak Kid, with Bob and Heetal matchmaking him with their boss's daughter Devika (Jiah Khan), and it seemed like the perfect match of the Traditional Indian Boy and Girl, only for a surprise to emerge when frolicking in an Italian resort for their honeymoon, and Arush meeting up with his One True Love with Sandy, played by the lovely Deepika Padukone. Comedy here came from Chunky Pandey who plays the hotel owner Akhri Pasta with a penchant of lying and construing them as jokes, and his over the top demeanour actually was remotely funny, even though you'd learn to take everything he says eventually with a pinch of salt, with one key lie being the cause for a running gag for Arush being hurried away from the scene by Bob and Heetal each time Devika enters it.

The story is about pretences, and how in the name of saving one's face and reputation, lies lead to bigger lies, stemming from wanting to impress family members. For Heetal, she has consistently told that she's married to a rich boy and living it up in a big mansion, doing so to impress her dad (Boman Irani) who has frowned upon her decision to stay in London with Bob. For Sandy, her lie involves something similar to her brother Major Krishna Rao (a stoic faced Arjun Rampal) whom she thinks will frown upon her relationship with the loser Arush, and hence both couples have set the tone for the second half after the interval, playing on the theme and rationale of being perfectly OK to lie if it's done for a noble cause, the definition of noble being quite narrow and for personal benefit.

But here's where the entire film lifts off into the comedic stratosphere, as the people they lie to begin to turn up, and lies leading to bigger ones, with the best parts being the case of mistaken identities which the couples have to continue playing it up, and by the midway mark of their gag, there's a convoluted web of relationships that one group has to play off the other in order to keep the truth from exploding. Somehow it also turned primarily into a guy's film, with the female leads in Dutta and Padukone being largely supporting roles, and the male leads getting into plenty of shenanigans filled with homophobic suspicions. With the arrival of Krishna though there's a tinge of Meet the Parents with Arjun Rampal taking on Robert De Niro's role as the military intelligence interrogator casting that wary eye (hand signals adopted as well) on Arush, whose propensity of being the worst jinx in the house getting conveniently forgotten.

If you're game for a madcap time where comedy stem from identities being swapped and the reliance of wits to get out of sticky situations, then this film is for you although you have to endure a lacklustre first half before the narrative picks up. It's almost like Akshay Kumar's De Dana Dan from last year with that spiderweb of fake relationship ties that will keep you engaged, with finely crafted musical sequences. We know AK can dance, and for all the flak Deepika Padukone got for being stiff, I thought she's slowly gaining her groove as seen by the numerous numbers here. My favourite song here will have to be Loser, but this film, thanks to its second half, had prevented it from tanking like one.

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