Directed by: Sajid Khan
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Ritesh Deshmukh, Arjun Rampal, Lara Dutta, Deepika Padukone, Jiah Khan, Boman Irani and Randhir Kapoor
I’ve long advocated the use of Vitamin B (aka Bollywood) as a medicinal tool to cure illnesses like flu, the common cold and fatigue and this weekend adds another successful example to my case. Battling a nasty case of food poisoning, with no appetite and feeling very light headed on a windy and grey bank holiday Monday, I dragged myself out of the house to go to the cinema to see Housefull, which is reported to have set the cash registers ringing once more after a recent lull in proceedings, thanks to the IPL and no major releases.
I’ll be honest, before even seeing it, I had written Housefull off as being one of those awful comedies that everyone else finds funny but I don’t (No Entry, Partner, Golmaal Returns) and had little doubt that it would have the Dostana effect on me (when in the grip of nasty flu, I went to see Dostana and had gone from having a runny nose to being able to breathe normally again at the end of the film) but nevertheless, was determined to see if this was another addition to that genre – if it was, then I could say how I went to see the film whilst ill and it didn’t help. However, I didn’t expect the opposite to happen…
Housefull is the story of Arush (Kumar), a man who has had bad fortune all his life and creates a calamity wherever he goes. Unlike Happy in Singh Is Kinng, Arush is unhappy and goes to London to visit his best friend Bob (Deshmukh) who is married to Hetal (Dutta). After bringing his bad luck with him, it looks like things are about to change when Bob sets up Arush with Devika (Khan), an heiress to a small fortune. When Devika agrees to marry Arush, it seems his luck has finally changed. But of course, things are not what they seem…
Housefull moves along at a choppy pace and seems to segue from one film into another quite smoothly. Whilst a lot of the territory covered does feel very familiar (mistaken identity, marriages of convenience, misunderstandings), the film has many laughs and doesn’t drag on the sub plots for too long (a mistake made by some other comedies). Sajid Khan keeps a tight rein on proceedings, clearly working the ensemble cast well and ensures that Housefull entertains above all else.
In fact, at the start of the film, there is a note from Sajid that says the film is his tribute to filmmakers like Prakash Mehra and Manmohan Desai and when watched in this spirit, the film is a lot of fun. I loved the clever references to their films – note the motorbike shot in Girl, You’re Mine song with Lara and Deepika perched on the back of the bikes with their respective beaus in the film or the retro styling or the “too coincidental to be a coincidence” moments that occur. It is little touches like these that make Housefull quite fun and make the recognisable material seem fresh (we’ll overlook the Tom & Jerry physical comedy and Night At The Museum “tributes” for now).
What surprised me in the film were the emotional moments that appear at different parts in the film – whether it is Hetal’s estrangement from her father, Sandy standing up to her brother or Arush’s speech at the end, these moments are well enacted and directed and arrived at crucial points in the film – well, at least when my interest was beginning to wane. These moments also give the film some soul, which again, marks it as different from other comedy entertainers in the genre. I suspect there is a darker humoured film lurking inside Housefull and it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if this wasn’t an all out entertainer but a darker comedy instead.
In terms of performances, the entire cast give their all, remaining in their comfort zones but not using that as an excuse to underperform. As previously mentioned, we have seen Akshay play the happy go lucky loser before and here, he plays Arush with a genuine sadness and helplessness which makes for a good central performance. Arjun Rampal is suitably menacing as the older brother and whilst he plays the sterner side of his role well, I felt it would have been nice to see a bit more of his character’s softer side too. Ritesh Deshmukh also gives a energetic performance, adding another notch to his comedy innings, and showing some good comic timing, not only supporting others but stealing some moments too (I still think Rann is his career best performance to date).
Out of the ladies, Deepika and Lara do very well in their roles, looking absolutely stunning but also stepping up to the mark – Lara shows off her comic skills, having fun with her role but also convincing us in the emotional scenes. Similarly, I liked Deepika in this film, as she really embraces her part and like Katrina in Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, makes a rapid improvement on some of her previous work. I was also pleased that the film finally creates and utilises the chemistry between Deepika and Akshay quite well – Chandni Chowk To China is now officially forgotten (though not forgiven!) Jiah Khan has little to do and though she looks good, she is totally overshadowed by Lara and Deepika. Chunky Pandey is at his best as Aakhri Pasta (in a hilarious and highly offensive cameo) and Boman Irani continues on fine form with another impressive performance and some very good dancing (I was most impressed by Boman in the Papa Jag Jayega song). I loved Randhir Kapoor who seems to be having a constant party on set and enjoying himself and credit must also go to the woman who plays the Queen and her one liner which made floored me with its hilarity.
In fact, the entire dénouement of Housefull reminds one of the films that Sajid is paying tribute to and it is here that the film succeeds – yes, it may not be logical or have something to say in the same vein as other films but it does make you smile/laugh (delete according to personal level of cynicism) and is an entertaining – that word again – film that really does make you forget about everything and submit yourself to the crazy world the film inhabits.
Housefull was exactly what I needed to forget about my woes and feeling ill and whilst I am not back to 100%, I felt a lot better than when the film began, which shows the healing powers of a good Bollywood film. I also think the film would stand up to a repeat viewing although I think I would save it for the DVD release or telecast. But in any case, I liked Housefull, was pleasantly surprised by it and felt better after watching it – paisa vasool (worth the money) me thinks!