Have the times really changed in England ?

I had watched Patiala House when it was released in February 2011 but due to having taken a break from writing those days, I did not pen a review though I had liked it very much. Then the question arises as to why at all, I penned its review after lapse of a substantial time period. Well, the reason is – at that time, I had thought that the subject matter of the movie was not relevant contemporarily, however suddenly the riots in London during 6th August – 11th August, 2011 made me feel that perhaps the moviemaker must have experienced something like premonition or telepathy that he had chosen the theme of the movie which was not only true a few decades back but it had again come true after a few months of the movie’s release – the hate-filled attacks on the Asians in England, especially London. The movie tells the story of a Sikh family settled in Southall and after the riots, the English authorities were praising the spirit of the people (mainly Indians) settled in Southall only in checking that avoidable havoc. Further coincidence was that the movie tells the story of a Cricketer and during second week of August 2011, the Indian Cricket team was playing with England at Edgbaston while the hooliganism was going on in Birmingham outside the Cricket stadium.

Southall is considered a mini India in London and when the astray, unemployed and spoilt English youths were on a rampage in London and adjacent towns, the movie appeared to be all the more relevant at that time making me feel that coincidentally it had become a movie ahead of its time. The moviemaker has made the film in the fashion of a masala flick only, intermixing comedy and emotions to the optimum, however by default, it became practically relevant too because the Indians and the other Asians being attacked and looted in London in those days must be feeling the same way the main protagonist of this movie (Rishi Kapoor) feels towards the English. Perhaps, it’s the jealousy of the native British towards the prosperity of the immigrant Indians that sometimes leads to such incidents by the underachieving English youths.1336413406Gurtej Singh Kahlon (Rishi Kapoor) becomes an anti-English when his family is attacked by the English brats and his uncle (Prem Chopra) is killed in the anti-Indian riots. He unites all the Indians living in Southall and go for a lot of development for them through his sheer hard work and dedication. Due to his efforts, not only the Indians prosper there but also his own family becomes a reputed one, settled in a house known as Patiala House. However, his anti-British sentiments cost his talented Cricketer son – Pargat Singh Kahlon (Akshay Kumar) dearly when he is not able to play for England at the international level. Years pass and due to his anti-British fervour, his young family members start feeling suffocated. Since Pargat is completely dedicated to his father and he has willingly sacrificed his ambitions for his father’s sentiments, he is the only man in the family who does not have any grudge against the head of the family, i.e., Gurtej or Baauji. However, his heart weeps at his shattered dream of playing international Cricket. Only his mother (Dimple Kapadia) understands and feels his pain. Else everybody in Patiala House only mocks him.patiala-house-0vI don’t know how many people in the real world are lucky enough to get a second chance to fulfil their dreams. However, in at least two contemporary movies, I have seen life providing a second opportunity to the protagonists. Firstly, it’s Meghana Mathur (Priyanka Chopra) in Fashion (2008) and secondly, it’s Pargat Singh Kahlon of the movie under review who being a fast bowler, gets a chance to play for England at an age when usually the sportspersons seek retirement from playing. How Pargat avails this second opportunity provided to him by the destiny to turn his long-cherished yet unfulfilled dream into reality and how it leads to an emotional confrontation between the anti-British father and his beloved son, forms the bulk of the narrative which is highly appealing.

Patiala House could have become a great movie because it’s a movie which has its heart in the right place. The director – Nikhil Advani has reminded of the skilful direction of his maiden venture – Kal Ho Na Ho (2003) at certain places. The emotional drama which is the essence of the movie, has been presented very well on the screen and it not only moves the audience but also inspires the youths not to lose heart and pursue whatever they are passionate about. The hurt sentiments of aggrieved Indians (who have been victims of racial hatred in the West) have been portrayed forcefully through the character of Gurtej aka Baauji. The relationship between a proud father and his obedient son and their subsequent interactions after the twist in the tale are simply tear-jerking. The climax in which the father visualizes his son to bowl the final ball in the style of Lala Amarnath and his son actually clean bowls Andrew Symonds off that delivery, is highly impressive.268474-patiala-houseHowever due to commercial constraints, the director could not convert this good movie into a great movie. The post-interval session has been wrapped in comedy in which the family members are busy in preventing Baauji from watching TV (lest he should see his son – Pargat aka Gattu playing on the screen). The songs and dances block the flow of the narrative. The gravity of the stuff has been toned down by this comedy, romance and song-dance tracks. The final song at the fag-end (when practically the movie is over) is quite irritating.

Technically and production-value wise the movie is topnotch. Cinematography is also praiseworthy. Dialogues are also good. Editing should have been better.

Music composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy is admirable because most of the songs are hummable and enjoyable. However there is only one song – Kyun Main Jaagoon which is in sync with the theme of the movie. This sentimental song has been penned by Anvita Dutt Guptan and sung by Shafqat Amanat Ali.

Rishi Kapoor and Akshay Kumar have delivered towering performances in the central roles of father-son duo. It’s, by all means, one of Akshay’s five best performances. I feel, he is so emotional about his late father in his real life that whenever he has to play the role of a son in any father-son emotional saga, he excels like anything. Rishi Kapoor is a legend now and Dimple perfectly compliments him (though she gets proper scope in the final phase of the movie only). Anushka Sharma as the young heroine is lively and energetic and her mere presence infuses life into this serious movie. The complete supporting cast has done well. The presence of many real life Cricketers has added value to the movie. I don’t know the names of the actors but I wholeheartedly admire those who have played the roles of young Rishi Kapoor and young Akshay Kumar. Theirs are heart-conquering performances.

I recommend this flop and underrated movie to all those Indians (whether settled in India or abroad) who are proud to be so. However when I contrast this movie with the violence taken place in London and nearby towns, I wonder whether the filmmaker is right in conveying his message that now there is no ethnic bias against the Indians (or the Asians in general) in England. Have the times really changed in England ?

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About Jitendra Mathur

A Chartered Accountant with literary passion and a fondness for fine arts
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