Akki tries for his Lagaan moment – Patiala House!

After the box office disappointment of Chandni Chowk to China, director Nikhil Advani returns with a film set in London with full on Punjabiyat and nationalism at its core. Right at the start we see racial riots, skinheads, racially motivated killing of a member of the Kahlon family and are given the back story for why Rishi Kappor is the kind of patriarch he is. He lives in his own little enclave, populated with his extended family that we are never really introduced to, other than to be told that they all have aspirations that do not match the expectations the patriarch has of them. So the family lives on London and yet hatred for the “goras” simmers in Baauji’s heart. He feels that making jalebis is more patriotic than becoming a chef, and running a corner convenience store in London is anti-British, while playing cricket for the English team is traitorous behavior. This is the tyranny that the Kahlon family suffers under, while they live in a mansion and have lavish Punjabi weddings and festivities. This is accompanied by Punjabi, rappy and peppy music.

To deliver them from under the tyrant’s rule, Gattu (Akshay Kumar) must revive his dream to play cricket for England and give them the courage to pursue their dreams. Why is a 34 year old man, who never played test cricket, even given a chance? Apparently England are hurting bad and county and university cricket throws up no possibles other than a man who quit the game 17 years ago! All this while we see Akshay Kumar in a glum and morose, almost funereal, avatar, where he neither speaks much nor ever cracks a smile. He tells us this is his finest role to date – I say give me Bachchan Pandey any day! He is persuaded to bowl for the Queen by a motormouth neighbor Simran (Anushka Sharma) who is always accompanied by a pint-sized kid. Next there are a series of improbable events that allow the clan to hide all evidence of Gattu’s (now called Kaali) going against Baauji’s wishes. The cricket shows us people we are likely to see around almost all the time in these days of event upon event in cricket, no novelty there. Other than the mention of Lala Amarnath and Akshay’s strange bowling movement nothing new or unique comes our way via the cricket.

The film is 15 years too late, and predictable to the core. Akshay and Anushka share some decent vibes but she is too perky and the antithesis of his extreme moroseness. The family has a plethora of characters, and the only identity I remember is that of Hard Kaur with a tattoo, wanting to be a rapper (what else can she do?)! Dimple Kapadia is wasted in a role that is even more poorly written than her role in Dabangg, and Rishi Kapoor is loud and caricaturish, though he does seem to be having fun doing what he is doing. The logic of staying in Britain, living there and hating the country, only works if you are secretly trying to sabotage the government. In a modern version you expect a terrorist cell at the very least! This version with Rishi’s high quotient of “dog in the manger” makes no sense at all.

All said and done, this is not the film that will change the fortunes of Akshay Kumar for the better. It is certainly not as offensive or useless as his recent films, but neither is it the quality of film it could have been. It is hard to get excited about the theme of “break free of homegrown rich tyrant fathers that keep 34 year olds under their thumb”.

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