First things first. The most welcome thing about this tragic-comedy about unwelcome guests is Paresh Rawal, an actor of myriad means who has lately strayed into politics. Seeing him back, doing what he’s most comfortable doing, it is crystal-clear that the actor is most at home doing what he was born to.
Could he please stop being a neta and return to being a full-time abhineta?
Paresh and the neglected Tanve Azmi put in spirited sometimes boisterous,sometimes subdued but never uneven performance as an over-friendly Punjabi couple who insist on inflicting their scorching overbearing warmth on a young couple with commitment issues in London, played by the affable Kartik Aryan and Kriti Kharbanda (both need to be seen more often), who have no choice but to bear with the unwanted guests’ intrusive presence in their home and with his…errrr, farting.
For some strange reason the script, otherwise devilishly deft in the way it blends bacchanalia and backchat with somewhat serious issues, is obsessed with flatulence. Rawal’s character speaks about and indulges in it constantly and there is a lengthy mushaira session over whiskey and pakodas where the theme is….paad(fart).
This fetish for flatulence destroys much of the film’s otherwise well-intended potshots at contemporary relationships which tend to be weighed down by the stress of staying afloat. There is a touching interlude where the oldest neighbour (the veteran Vishwa Mohan Badola) in suburban London passes away and his sons have no time for his funeral times.
Or when Kartik Narayan’s slimy boss hits on a hapless Chinese employee, Paresh intervenes firmly. It’s a sequence done with conviction, though tiresomely lengthy and repetitive.
Yup, Rawal knows how to hold a scene together even if it (the scene) overstays its welcome. And young Kartik and Kriti stand up well to his histrionic binging. On the other hand, the ever-dependable Sanjai Mishra is curiously out of sorts as a Pakistani neighbour. There are some cringe-worthy racist jibes about skin colour, Indo-Pak relations and Chinese dominion and a distastefully long and painful sequence involving a mistaken case of infant abuse that could have been avoided.
But there is more to like than hate in the awfully titled Guest Iin London (who would want to a comedy with such an insipid title?). Let me tell you, it’s not easy to generate sustained laughter without offending any individual or community. Writer-director Dheer succeeds in doing so to a large extent. There are frequent flings with farce in the plot that yield some solid laughs.
Cinematographer Sudhir K Chaudhary captures London in a sweet obvious way that jells with the film’s de-intellectualized tone.
If you’ve seen the prequel to this comedy of bin bulaaye mehmaan you would know exactly what to expect. Paresh Rawal steps into the same role with an infectious sometimes-overdone gusto that fits into the ‘scream’ of things. And Tanve Azmi as his better-half adds considerably to Rawal’s punchy performance. Together the couple is a laugh riot, whenever the writing permits.
While some of jokes work swimmingly, for example Rawal’s entry gag where he brings an entire organization to a standstill while escorting his wife up the elevator, other gags simply fall apart. Much like the guests who overstay their welcome, come of the jokes also go on for too long. As writer-director Ashwni Dheer’s roots are in television several plot point read like episodes from a television sitcom.
What stays with us beyond the bustle of humorous confederation is the message that we need to respect personal space, but not at the cost of family ties. And when Kartik dumps his overbearing uncle and aunt at a deserted café we are dealt blow that goes far beyond the film’s comic aspirations.