A thriller with little scope for white knuckles. Plus, a comedy with a mere smattering of chuckles.
MAY 2, 2010 – IS SOHAIL (ANUUJ SAXENA), THE PATIENT ADMITTED under the deliciously delirious condition known as “locked-in syndrome,” truly in a vegetative state, an innocent? Or is this a pretence, a devious attempt by a dangerous criminal to give the cops the slip? That’s the question facing the shapely nurse Nupur (Udita Goswami), employed at the forbiddingly named Neurology Research Centre, and clad perennially in a mini-skirted uniform calculated to send her patients’ pulses pounding. And so she hunkers down to discover the truth. No, I mean, she really hunkers down. She squats and whips her head around to see if Sohail’s eyes have lingered on her hiked-up lingerie. Subsequently, she spills soup on her chest and unbuttons her top to clean up the mess, slyly eying her patient to see if at least this display has attracted his attention. The poor man is still staring at an unfocused infinity, and so, as a final resort, she does what any trained medical practitioner would do. She throws a towel on the security cameras and launches into a seduction number, Raat ki sanson mein uljhi hai koi baat, thus unlocking a mystery that has fuddled mankind for millennia, namely: What lies under a nurse’s uniform. (The utterly unexpected answer: a lacy Victoria’s Secret bustier.)
And when even that doesn’t stir him from stupor, she wheels him to a bridge and dumps him in a lake – by which point, we’ve abandoned all hopes of sane storytelling and settled down for what could be, after an eon, a true-blue, drinking-game guilty pleasure. Unfortunately, the director Jag Mundhra has higher aspirations. He keeps hinting at wanting to craft cinema, and hence the situation wherein Sohail’s girlfriend confesses that her man is full of life when, unknown to her, his immobile frame is being sucked into an scanner. (This, I believe, is called irony.) Elsewhere, Gulshan Grover turns up as a military man and proclaims, “My name is Anthony. Not Gonsalves.” (This, I believe, is called comedy.) The plot about whether or not Sohail (a Muslim yet, branded a terrorist) is innocent is certainly worth a movie – just not this one, with its wholly indifferent acting and staging. Even the much-promised titular action, aided by Amar Mohile’s characteristic assaults on the tympanum, is the dictionary definition of perfunction. The refrain in the title track – “Get, set, go…” – might well be a cautionary injunction to the unwitting viewer settling into his seat.
AT THE OUTSET, SAJID KHAN ASSURES the audience that his film, Housefull, is an homage to madcap monarchs like Manmohan Desai and Prakash Mehra, who instilled in him the philosophy that cinema is just entertainment (in case, you know, we expected the guy who made Heyy Babyy to dazzle us with Sahib, Bibi Aur Ghulam). That is certainly a valid reason for the existence of the movies. We all could use more “entertainment” in our lives, more comedies of confusion like this one (adapted freely from whatever foreign source the Kamal Hassan starrer Kadhala Kadhala was adapted from). The problem, as always, is that our filmmakers confuse no-brainer entertainment with no-brainer filmmaking. Housefull is far too long and laden with far too many emotional subplots to function fully as comedy. (And can someone please issue a moratorium on the Kal Ho Naa Ho-inspired mistaken-gay-identity humour?) Of the sprawling star cast (Akshay Kumar, Riteish Deshmukh, Boman Irani, Arjun Rampal, Deepika Padukone, Lara Dutta), only Chunky Pandey earns his salary, playing an Italian named Aakhri Pasta (get the Bachchan reference?). The times he flailed his hands and declared he was just-a-joa-king were the only times I felt I was in on the joke.
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