While I deem Akshay Kumar as one of the most hardworking of the Bollywood stars in recent years, he didn't have much luck with most of his feature releases from last year, with heavy expectations in Action Replayy and Tees Maar Khan, the latter which I enjoyed, that didn't fare too well at the box office. While he's adept at playing comical roles or as the action hero, he throws all that away in Patiala House, playing a meek character who's under the thumb of an overbearing dad, the patriarch of an Indian family living in the Southall district in London, England.
The film deals with the issue of racism, or being prejudiced against, and I suppose the Indian community would likely feel the effects of this, as racism has always reared its ugly head around the world, the most recent I can recall against the community was in Australia. In this film we go back in time to establish the circumstances of how Akshay Kumar's Parghat Singh Kahlon aka Gattu became the man he is, whose father Gurtej Kahlon (Rishi Kapoor) and his generation had suffered from racism in their community, and take it upon themselves to strike back in all manners. Gurtej becomes a successful activist in championing their rights, and in doing so grew in stature and influence, but unfortunately as society progressed, he got stuck in the same old mindset, and failed to keep up.
Worse, he imposes his iron will on his children, dictating the types of jobs they could do, and the people they can interact with. For Gattu, it seemed that he got the shortest end of the stick, where his world class cricket skills got clipped just because his father is dead set against his joining the English national team, and thus condemning his son from exploiting his full potential. Gattu becomes the ordinary provision shopkeeper, rather than the luminous sportsperson he was destined to be.
On one hand the film tackles how battles are fought against inequality, and on the other take it into a micro environment with the dealing and living with an overbearing father, the patriarch of his extended family where no one dare cross him, though it doesn't mean that rebellious streaks fail to exist as undertones in the family members, especially Gattu's generation. Akshay Kumar ditches his comedic roles, and opts for a very serious, dramatic persona in his portrayal of Gattu, who now has the chance to realize his past dream when he an unexpected door of opportunity opens.
This of course also opens the film up a little to deal with the many comedic moments from the respective family members, pinning their hopes on Gattu to become that beacon of rebellion and to serve his country, crossing the line that their father has set. Thus is the weight on Gattu's shoulders, that he has to prove his worth to the rest of the world, and perhaps so their father will finally listen and realize that his children have more to contribute rather than being held back through prejudiced thoughts and views. Their cooking up of various, sometimes stretched, methods to prevent their father from learning of Gattu's joining the national cricket team brings forth plenty of laughs, as we know how difficult it is to control information in this connected age, and more so when you have hundreds of family, relatives and friends all on the cusp of revealing their sense of pride.
There's also Anuska Sharma in her first role outside her three picture deal with Yash Raj Films, and while her scenes are limited to being the mastermind and requisite girlfriend who inspires the hero, she inevitably brings about some sunshine in what I thought was her first comedic role. Check out her opening scene if you have doubts about that proclamation, but I suppose in a film with plenty of female co-stars as opposed to being THE item girl in a Hindi film, she does enough and not go overboard with her character's antics.
For cricket fans, there are ample scenes here that will appeal to you, though for the cricket idiot like myself, I can only take each bat, throw, catch at face value, try as I may in comprehending the rules of the game. But this is not just a cricket film, but has a powerful drama I'm sure many caught up in similar situations of having parents who don't quite comprehend the whats and the whys of your personal quests, could come to identify. It's been a relative slow start on the Hindi movie front this year, so I'm hoping the momentum builds up from this offering.