Mumbai: The last big successful film Sajid Nadiadwala produced was Kambakkht Ishq, an asinine, imbecile comedy replete with cruel stereotypes. His new film, Housefull, directed by Sajid Khan, doesn’t really break that mould. Considering that his last film didn’t attain blockbuster status, why would Nadiadwala want to repeat the formula?
In my book, Nadiadwala is the king of bad trash. He has produced movies that have played to the galleries, but that are unabashedly poor in writing, acting and dialogues: Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, Jaan-e-Mann, Heyy Babyy (this was also directed by Khan). It’s one thing to make films with just financial gain in mind, and quite another to repeat the same formula year after year, hoping to cash in. There are no risks in this kind of film-making, only the assumption that all audiences are looking for is mindless, bawdy slapstick.
Mindless: (from left) Lara Dutta, Riteish Deshmukh, Deepika Padukone, Arjun Rampal, Jiah Khan and Akshay Kumar (lying down) in Housefull.
A multi-starrer (Deepika Padukone, Lara Dutta, Riteish Deshmukh, Arjun Rampal and Boman Irani, besides Akshay Kumar) shot in London and a gorgeous, seaside location— supposedly a honeymoon spot in Italy—Housefull looks like an expensive film. The clothes are haute couture, the locations are either exotic European or glossy, candyfloss luxe. Cinematographer Vikas Sivaraman reels in some beautiful, sweeping shots of the sexy, swimwear-clad women on azure blue beaches. But that’s where the decent cinema experience ends.
There is no respite from absurd superficialities and improbabilities in this film; there is even a long scene with hundreds of extras in what’s shown to be Buckingham Palace, where the Queen, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles (all horribly miscast) host a commemorative party. Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is let loose here by Santa and Banta Singh (two dumb, ordinary sardars in charge of the air conditioning at Buckingham Palace), and the entire house erupts into unstoppable laughter. You get the drift?
Bob (Deshmukh) and Hetal (Dutta) work in a London casino owned by a gregarious Sindhi (Randhir Kapoor). Bob’s friend Arush (Kumar) comes to live with them—he has suffered heartbreak and had a miserable job in Macau and has nowhere else to go. He is the “loser”—the good guy who always messes up, and is considered to bring bad luck wherever he goes. His fortunes seem to look up in London when he meets a simple Indian girl (Jiah Khan), but plummet right after he reaches Italy with her. Then he meets another girl, Sandy (Padukone), who could change his life forever—a much-needed lucky charm and panacea for the idiot? Meanwhile, Hetal’s father, who had disowned her (Irani, bumbling and painfully agitated throughout), arrives in London. So does military intelligence expert Krishna (Rampal), Sandy’s brother, who threatens his sister’s boyfriend in the middle of interrogating dangerous terrorists.
Many misgivings and mistaken identities ensue, until everybody lands up at Buckingham Palace. You will have to sit through two-and-a-half hours to know how and why.
Khan, the director, is a master of crude humour. We saw lots of it in Heyy Babyy. There are few scenes in the film where I let out a chuckle or two: One was when Arush couldn’t pronounce “Sandy”; another, when the character of Chunkey Pandey, a resort owner in Italy, explains in a faux Italian-Hindi accent why his name is “Aakhri Pasta”. But when Arush had a slapping match with a monkey (literally), or when a ponderous old lady beats up her middle-aged son with a wooden stick, or when Bob and Arush thrash about after being electrocuted and are mistaken by some street children to be dancers, I was deadpan.
There are some situations (I am sorry, there’s not much cinematic that can be critiqued or praised in this film; I can only offer examples from it to give you a taste of what it is like) that were reminiscent of other films: a tiger named Prada whom Arush brings to Bob’s house as a pet (Hangover); or a lie detector that Krishna, “the chief of Indian military intelligence”, resorts to every time he has any suspicion (Meet the Parents); friends mistaken for gay lovers (Dostana and Kal Ho Naa Ho); the really offensive racist jokes (a black woman, for example, is referred to as “Surpanakha”, a witch in Indian mythology) have precedents in Nadiadwala’s home production Kambakkht Ishq.
The women are always either befuddled and panic-stricken or shouted into silence by the men—they come to life only on the beach.
Throughout the film, it was all too obvious that the actors had been instructed to go overboard with their expressions and dialogue delivery. None of the performances was off-kilter—they were true to the absurd, loud, over-the-top tone of the film.
Kumar fits right in; the star is in his prime and seems sorely incapable of doing anything better than sloppy comedy.
Don’t watch Housefull if you want anything unpredictable or thoughtful. Or if you’re tired of films that “play to the gallery”—the gallery of empty- heads.
Housefull released in theatres on Friday.