It is a perfect day for cricket at Trent Bridge, the home of Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. Blue skies abound and the stadium is filled with exuberant fans. But wait a minute, this is no ordinary cricket game, we are in fact on the sets of Patiala House the big Diwali release of 2010. The fans are all extras, and today’s star player is none other than Akshay Kumar.
The latest in a long line of Hindi films to be shot in the UK, Patiala House is an entertainment film with a strong social message. Starring alongside Kumar is the veteran of Indian cinema Rishi Kapoor, in a cross generational story about a father-son relationship. The two stars are both present today, and the regal lineage of Bollywood’s first family is there for all to see in Kapoor, a stately figure in black kurta with Nehru collar and white turban. As the media gathers to interview the cast of the film, little does anyone realize that the senior star has been seated amidst the crowds of supporting artists. Veteran actress Dimple Kapadia has also been brought in, recreating the same magic pairing with Rishi Kapoor first seen on screen in Bobby, the top grossing hit of 1973. Rumors abound that Dimple will be arriving shortly, but after much anticipation it transpires the actress had left the stadium hours earlier.
The film is set in present day Southall. Rishi Kapoor, who performs the role of Bauji, insists that his family have nothing to do with their English neighbors. However, the younger generation represented by Akshay and on screen sister rap artist Hard Kaur, see themselves as British Asian and play by different rules. For the last fifteen years Akshay’s character Gattu has fallen ever deeper into a life of the mundane and ordinary, working in the family business, a corner shop. When opportunity knocks and Gattu gets the opportunity to live his dream and play cricket, conflict arises in that he is going to represent England and not India. The shoot today sees Akshay filming a scene, which requires him to emerge from a crowd of hostile fans waving flags and blowing horns as he retrieves a ball. It looks as though the physical demands of hitting a six may have taken a toll on the action hero, as on closer inspection it appears that one of the star’s fingers is bandaged.
After delivering well crafted Hindi cinema in the form of the blockbuster Kal Ho Na Ho and overseas success Salaam-e-Ishq, Nikhil Advani is back at the helm with the latest from his production house People Tree Films. Like his earlier projects, Patiala House promises to be a masterful blend of emotion with humor, which will have audiences shedding tears of pathos and happiness. Nikhil is a competent director and despite having to co-ordinate his star talent, hundreds of extras and a near pitch invasion by journalists eager to interview Akshay, he remains focused and composed in his attempts to capture the perfect shot. Clearly an expert filmmaker the only advice Advani needs is from the wardrobe department. The jeans he turned up on set in looked like they were picked up for 100Rs at Bombay’s Fashion Street. Surely the profits from KHNH can extend to more select denim?
Advani has a knack of working with the hottest actresses of the moment. Following in the footsteps of Preity Zinta, Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma as the half British and half Indian Simran brings her confident performance style to this film. Down to earth and charismatic, Anushka cuts quite a contrast to many of her contemporaries in that she arrives on set without an entourage of people, and seems perfectly poised and unfazed in giving numerous media interviews despite the mid-afternoon sun.
Patiala House is not the Bollywood version of Bend it like Beckham replacing football with cricket, nor is it another Lagaan. Extending far beyond the boundaries of the cricket pitch, the game acts as a catalyst to touch upon the real message of the film, namely to fulfill one’s dreams and seize the chances life offers. The film transcends ages, racial barriers and backgrounds, dealing with issues that resonate universally with today’s multicultural society – a story about family ties and duty, a yearning to follow one’s dreams, and trying to make sense of the dichotomies that life presents after migrating to another country.
Patiala House looks like it may be one of the most poignant films of modern times, prepare to be bowled over by this one!
Photo Credit: Eleanor Halsal