As has become quite the trend in Bollywood of late, with the credits of the first show barely rolling, producers have already declared Housefull a hit. Not afraid of a cheap gag, puns on the film’s title appear to be proving too good too resist in publicizing its alleged box office performance.
Unusually for such a big budget release, the parties responsible for the film decided to do away with a press screening. Smart move some might say. Bad word of mouth and the film might not recover costs from the ticket buying public in that all important opening weekend. By Monday however, when houses are less than full, audiences may well be suggesting this Bollywood emperor, or rather second time director Sajid Khan, is in desperate need of new clothes.
Ill fated Arush (Akshay Kumar in a phoned in performance speed-dialed from Singh is Kinng/Welcome/Chandni Chowk to China) is the unluckiest man in the world, so unlucky his entrance is accompanied by the track ‘He’s such a loser’. A loser for repeatedly signing bad films perhaps? Arush works at a casino, and it is his job to bring ruin and misfortune to any gambler he plonks himself next to.
In what could have been an amusing back-story, Arush recounts the origins of his cursed kismet through a slapstick scene which involves the unlikely combination of pants on fire and a cement mixer. There is even a Charlie Chaplinesque piano tinkling away for good measure. But this is no Shree 420 nor Mr. India, as a brief moment of hoopla and hilarity is ruined by trying to cut corners on a supposed blow the budget release, by using London’s Canary Warf as a stand-in for New York This Bollywood boo-boo serves as a major distraction from Arush’s on screen antics. Note to director: one yellow cab doth not a city make.
Arush decides the only way he can find happiness is by going to visit his childhood buddy Bob (Ritesh Deshmukh). What follows is the start of an ongoing gay sub plot between Arush and Bob ripping off Kal Ho Naa Ho quicker than you can say Kantaben. While Saif Ali Khan and Shah Rukh pulled the track off with aplomb, this misses the mark completely. The shirtless skin show from a newly buffed up Deshmukh does however go a small way in recompensing the film’s retrogressive humor.
When Arush meets Bob’s wife Hetal (Lara Dutta), things get off to a bad start, as she falls flying out of the window, has the contents of her living room almost vacuumed to oblivion and sees her pet parrot sent to parrot heaven courtesy of aforementioned cleaning device. A stab at an emotional scene about friendship and family, aided by a touch of glycerine tears, and it looks as though Arush’s luck is about to change. Quicker than you can say ‘but you are old enough to be her father’, Arush finds himself in an arranged marriage with traditional Indian girl Devika (Jiah Khan).
Next stop Italy, and it is the honeymoon of Arush and Devika. Shaadi ke baad, forty- year-old virgin Arush sings ‘I don’t know what to do’, in a role reversal of first night bliss, which sees Devika in the skimpiest of outfits and brandishing a whip.
Alas, as the song picturisation ends we realise it has all been a dream. Cue the traditional Indian Devika transformed into a bikini babe in the arms of a handsome hunk, who gets precisely no dialogue – and goes by the unfortunate name of either Benny or Lenny – but does get to cavort wildly with a sexy Bollywood B-lister. In a Namaste London moment, poor loser Arush finds himself tricked into marriage then quickly cast aside, all so Devika can get her greedy mitts on papa’s millions.
The remainder of the film is really much ado about nothing. Arush tries to find his luck with new love Sandy (rapidly turning into Deepika Padukone’s Raj/Rahul screen name), who appears out of nowhere, showing up a little late in the film to save abandoned Arush from suicide. The mixed up lives of Arush and Sandy and Bob and Hetal are then captured in a collection of farcical moments, random sequences, half truths and white lies — including a black baby and a racist joke. As the assembled cast trip themselves up with lies, lies and more lies its time for a lie detector from a seventies villain’s lair to grace the screen, which sees the film spiralling further into a sewer of stinking celluloid slapstick.
It has to be a first in Bollywood when some of its biggest stars are out acted not just by a screeching parrot (Prada darling, Prada), but a performing monkey (who successfully puts the slap into slapstick) and in a ‘Play Him Off, Keyboard Cat’ moment, a real life Tiger (Prada Mark 2). Things are so bad by the time the tiger arrives you almost want it to make a meal of Sandy and Hetal, not that there would be much meat on either of them. There’s a gag somewhere in the film about fasting on Tuesdays. Casting your eye on the female leads, you may well imagine they were fasting on any day with a ‘y’ in it, desperate to look good in those bikinis Sajid has them decked in for vast portions of the flick.
Not to be outdone by such animal antics, Boman Irani proves he can do the best of a bad job (Love Story 2050, Kambakkht Ishq anybody?) giving a good show as the sleepwalking, Sholay spouting Gujju Batuk Patel. Lilette Dubey is equally solid as this Urdu spouting white widow love angle. Arjun Rampal as Major Krishna Rao provides a rerun of his villainous Mukesh from Om Shanti Om. If it worked for Farah, it should do the job for her brother. All izz well performance wise, though the shift from Mr. Nasty to Mr. Nice at the end is unlikely to say the least. Absurdly named Chunkey Pandey as the equally absurd Aakhri Pasta is here a poor man’s Javed Jaffrey. Randhir Kapoor left me pining for Rishi. Malaika Arora Khan borders on a cameo, Jacqueline Fernandez, in one song, a mere item.
Just when you are thinking it cannot possibly get any worse, be prepared for the final scene. The comic escapades in the final reels involving the Queen, Prince Charles, Camilla and a laughing gas gag that goes on and on was met with a stony silence by the first day first show audience. Just when you are thinking surely this film cannot get any worse, Sajid Khan pulls outs the British Royal family, and it does.
How long will Bollywood go on churning out these leave-your-brain-at-home, laugh riot ‘comedies’? Housefull? House #Fail.