September 15, 2017
Rishi Kapoor, Paresh Rawal, Vir Das, Payal Ghosh, Prem Chopra, Divya Seth, Bharti Achrekar, Tikku Talsania
A few years back at an informal luncheon meeting in Delhi, a major male Hindi film star tried to convince a bunch of us journalists that Bollywood’s portrayal of the boisterous Punjabi/Sikh is not a stereotype but a 100 per cent reflection of reality. “I am telling you this although I’m a Punjabi myself,” he said in response to our vehement disagreement. “Tell me, can you name even one quiet Sardar?”
“Manmohan Singh,” a lady in the group replied without batting an eyelid, over the din of our collective arguments. Briefly, ever so briefly, the star’s commitment to his cliché was shaken. Then though, as the rest of us fell off our chairs laughing, he smilingly continued to try to persuade us that he was right and that Singh is an exception.
This is the mindset from which emerges a comedy like Patel ki Punjabi Shaadi (PKPS). If you insist on trading in stereotypes then do it as Anees Bazmee did recently with the Anil Kapoor-starrer Mubarakan – with intelligence, imagination and affection. Director Sanjay Chhel’s PKPS is as stale as last week’s bread, as trite as the Hindu-Muslim-Christian trio in the Modi Kaaka short film Pahlaj Nihalani made as Censor Board chief, and loud, oh so exasperatingly loud.
The screenplay of PKPS does not possess a single original bone in its body, not one new thought or idea. The only reason why I am bothering to tell you the story is because I have a job to do.
Gurpreet Singh Tandon a.k.a. Guggi (Rishi Kapoor) moves into an all-Gujarati neighbourhood where the hamari-sanskriti-bachao brigade is led by the sanskari, penny-pinching owner of Patel Provision Store played by Paresh Rawal.
Gurpreet’s son Monty (Vir Das) immediately sets his sights on Patel’s young daughter Pooja (Payal Ghosh). Rab ne bana di jodi maybe, but first we must have some good old stalking scenes after which, as always, the girl too is smitten but dilwale will dulhania le jayenge only if Papa says, “Ja Pooja ja, ja jee le apni zindagi.” The baadha on the road to their milan is that Patel hates Punjabis with a vengeance for a reason that is built up throughout PKPS, but when revealed turns out to be even more boring than everything that came before it.
Sounds so shiny and new, no?
Early in the film, there are a couple of throwaway lines to which Kapoor, Rawal and Das lend their innate charm and comic timing, but after a while even their presence can do nothing to redeem this irredeemable screen offering. I mean, the song Maaro line toh tabiyat fine might have worked as a good illustration of clashing cultures in a more inventive film, but here it just adds to the all-pervading noise.
And what can poor Das do anyway when he is even given a rhyming dialogue of the kind that lazy comedy writers in Bollywood resort to when all else fails? “Pairon mein gobar hai par ab bhi Uncle sobre hai,” he says at one point when Monty is in the neighbourhood of cowdung. If you don’t understand Hindi, please don’t resent me for not troubling myself to translate that line – it is really not worth your effort or mine.
Add to this mix tacky sets, gaudy costumes and an all-round over-the-top colour palette and you have to wonder why the two senior actors – especially Kapoor who is enjoying such an excellent second innings in Bollywood – would lend their names to this film.
The sad part is that Sanjay Chhel – whose filmography consists of some impressive writing credits – appears to be well-intentioned and keen to make a point about the insider-outsider debate currently raging across an India steeped in prejudice. Yet, oddly enough, he appears not to realise that he himself seems to buy into some of the very prejudice he is fighting. In one scene, a Punjabi character tells Patel, not in a moment of merriment but in all seriousness: “Hum (the reference being to Punjabis) ladaaku zaroor hai, lekin lootere nahin.” (We Punjabis may be belligerent, but we are not thieves.) What are they refraining from stealing? Answer: Pooja wants to leave her family for Monty but the Tandons deliver her back to Daddy, like honourable men returning property to its rightful owner because, you know, dilwale dulhania and all that, and why should her opinion matter?
Later, Granddaddy Tandon (Prem Chopra) says gravely: “We Punjabis can break bones but we cannot break hearts.”
The stage is set for all this nonsense right at the start when Monty’s initial appearances are accompanied by loud chants of the word “Punjabi” in the background (as we have heard it in a million Hindi films before), and when Gurpreet – who is a used-car salesman and proprietor of Guggi Car Bazar – introduces his wife (Divya Seth) to the Patels thus: “Pachaas saal ki model hai par abhi bhi achha mileage deti hai.” (She’s a 50-year-old model but she still gives good mileage.)
I repeat: sometimes you can take an age-old stereotype and still make a refreshing comedy out of it. Patel ki Punjabi Shaadi is not even worthy of being deemed crude or offensive – it is just plain blah.
Rating (out of five stars): 1/2
CBFC Rating (India):
This review has also been published on Firstpost:
Poster courtesy: https://www.facebook.com/PatelkiPunjabiShaadibySanjayChhel/