Director: Sanjay Chhel
Cast: Paresh Rawal, Rishi Kapoor, Vir Das, Prem Chopra, Payal Ghosh
Vir Das should consider doing a ten-hour comedy special about his own filmography. It’s like he goes out of his way to choose the absolute worst of productions – the kind of tasteless, juvenile and loud films standup comics (or other notorious funnyman-to-Bollywood imports like Shekhar Suman and Sajid Khan) like him have made a full-blown career out of trolling. The moment I see his name on a poster, my heart sinks. It doesn’t help that his voice magically keeps altering itself depending on the volume of his scenes. Far from sounding like a Tandon, he doesn’t even sound like a Das anymore.
And the moment I see Paresh Rawal headlining a poster these days, my mind paints him a prime ministerial white beard and bald patch; this acting legend, like many others from his era, is now little more than a harebrained political pawn making a nuisance of himself. I’ve lost count of the number of times he has played a Patel (does he really “play” them though?) trying to uphold the sacred outdated virtues of his pristine culture.
In the consistently awful Patel Ki Punjabi Shaadi, he even begins a society meeting speech (Adarsh Gujarati Housing Society) with “Mitron” before banning alcohol, non-vegetarian food, loud music and videshi channels for all his fellow khakhra-dhokla (I swear, we are more than that) residents. At another point, in the Gujarati version of KBC hosted by who else but Darshan Jariwala, Rawal’s provision-store owning character Hasmukh Patel promises to donate all his earnings to Gujarat’s villages to boost the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ initiative. After resisting and accepting Islam in the communally brave Dharam Sankat Mein, this time his lurid focus is more intra-Hindutva: Punjabis.
It’s as if the famous G-U-J-J-U and Mahi Ve faceoff performances from Kal Ho Naa Ho were bought, interpreted, translated and bloated up into a full-blown, feature-length SMS joke by the government.
“Saala Punjabi” he continuously mutters, when confronted by Rishi Kapoor merry band of North Indians. I’m not going to name Kapoor’s character here, because he seems to be playing himself. Or maybe he seems to be playing Boman Irani’s caricatured interpretations of various castes. There is always a
glass peg of whisky in his hand. Floral shirts, vivid interiors, tandoori chicken, a second-hand-car sales business – the works. Prem Chopra plays his equally colourful father and ex-freedom fighter, whose lines and kooky behavior makes us want to fight for freedom from this film. As Patel’s new neighbours in a “Gujju” society, we know exactly how this age-old, tired feud will sound (“Dhandha is our dharm,” “Eat meat, not ghaas-phoos,” “Indar, isko kar do andar,” Gujarati rap, Punjabi item song).
It’s as if the famous G-U-J-J-U and Mahi Ve faceoff performances from Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003) were bought, interpreted, translated and bloated up into a full-blown, feature-length SMS joke by the government. One that features their favourite son of the soil; I’m quite surprised Anupam and Kirron Kher weren’t considered as the North Indian enemies here. Punjabi son (Das) also fancies the locked-up Patel daughter (Payal Ghosh; eyes perpetually glycerin-d), and this love will of course save the day and the country from intolerance and religious discrimination and cultural stereotypes and mediocre “family” comedies. Or not.
There is also an entire sequence where lover boy narrates trivia from a Gujarati General Knowledge book to imbibe best values and impress his stubborn potential father-in-law. In the end, however, politics is the winner. The two families don’t get close until attacked by a Shiv-Sena-ish Samaajwadi party of goons. The message: nothing like bigger bigotry to unite smaller bigots.
If today’s Akshay Kumar and Paresh Rawal do a “social” drama together, it’ll be played before the National Anthem in cinema halls.
Being a fairly straightforward product of a Gujarati-Punjabi union, I thought perhaps I’d relate to some of this nonsense. What this horribly dated film did instead is made me believe that I’m just a citizen of the world. I suppose that is a good thing. It’s only Bollywood directors and veteran actors who imagine – and privatize – the differences.
Watch the trailer of Patel Ki Punjabi Shaadi here: