Starring Akshay Kumar, Rishi Kapoor, and Anushka Sharma. Rated PG. In Hindi with English subtitles.
Nikhil Advani’s Patiala House is a melodramatic tale of a large Sikh family living in the London suburb of Southall, in a supposedly postracial Britain. The film plays with diasporic cultural politics, generational strife, and the aesthetics of a community frozen in time. However, like all previous Bollywood films about the diaspora, it doesn’t quite pull it off.
Watch the trailer for Patiala House. />
It seems the only one to not receive the memo announcing the end of racism is the patriarch of this family, Gurtej Singh Kahlon (Rishi Kapoor). With his mostly silent and loyal wife (Dimple Kapadia), he rules over his multigenerational clan and the community. Decades ago, in response to racist attacks by skinheads, Gurtej became the angry champion for his ethnic group and has never stopped fighting that fight. His son, Gattu (Akshay Kumar), was compelled at the age of 17 to give up his dreams of playing cricket for England to appease his father’s political principles.
Gattu is now a sad middle-aged man who is resented by his younger cousins for having set a standard of obedience to which they all must comply. With the help of Simran (Anushka Sharma), a young woman with a bad reputation whom Gattu secretly crushes on, the cousins manage to convince him to give his cricket dreams a second chance. They work together to keep this plan from the patriarch.
It is unclear what transformative power there could be in an act of rebellion that is so concertedly concealed. The film does not fixate on such questions of logic and realism. However, with a fanciful and triumphalist take on multiculturalism, the formulaic underdog sports plot, cameos from famous cricketers, and a small role for rapper Hard Kaur, this film works marginally as a coming-of-age story in which the hero hasn’t been a teenager in decades.