Yes, it’s a film on male strippers and escorts. Yes, the son of the hugest comedy movie director in the Hindi Film Industry directs the film. Yes of course the music seems to have caught on commercially. Now there’s just one small, teensy-weensy little problem. The undisputed king of commercial comedies Akshay Kumar doesn’t seem to be a saleable actor anymore, what with his last two films Patiala House and Thank You bombing at the box office with pathetic openings for each – at least for Kumar’s standards. The film also drops on expectations further because of the fact that that maybe the film’s all crass-commercialized gloss and no logic – and maybe it’s because Rohit Dhawan’s father hasn’t been doing too well on the comedy radar thus far (Rascals and Do Knot Disturb bearing disturbing testimonies to the viewers who have dared to watch both the films). But given the director has taken the pains to learn the art of filmmaking, shouldn’t we give him the benefit of doubt? As a filmmaker myself, all I could think of when grabbing my ticket was the very same thought. Read on to find out if my generosity cost me anything...
Set in London in 2009, Nick Mathur and Jignesh “Jerry” Patel are living the life – Nick is living the dream life with the dream girlfriend, all set to have a dream marriage and a dream honeymoon, just like his girlfriend Radhika (Deepika Padukone) wants. “Jerry” on the other hand just about manages to live by borrowing a lot from Nick, and is in trouble with the Social Services as he isn’t able to fulfill the basic needs of his nephew Veer. Things drastically change when recession strikes London and they’re forced to break their shells to do something different. This is when the owner of the biggest male escort agency Desi Boyz (Sanjay Dutt) makes them an offer – considering they look hot enough for women to ogle. “Jerry” grabs the offer, while Nick takes some more time, before they both realize they need a means to an end. But it is this very means that rips apart their long standing relationship as best buddies – like the Jai and Veeru, the Batman and Robin of the real life of this alternate reality.
I’m pretty sure Rohit Dhawan and his writers must have gotten the idea of making a movie by watching Dostana and Housefull back to back. Didn’t get me? Okay, in Dostana, we’ve gotten John Abraham who sends his best buddy Abhishek to a strip-party. Best buddy, check. Male strippers and escorts, check. Housefull is set in London, and stars Deepika Padukone and Akshay Kumar. Location, check. Cast (let’s mix them up a bit), check. “So what should the title be?” the question must have arised. What with “Desi Girl” being a rage, let’s just replace the “girl” with “boyz”. And to make it more relevant to the film, let’s make it the name of a male escort franchise. Convenient, isn’t it?
The story is interesting; the dramatic portions are well written and well executed by Rohit Dhawan. The pre-interval portions give out a completely different story, but the post-interval portions take a 360-degree turn when it’s not about male escorts, or recession, or male bonding anymore. It’s suddenly about falling in love, and fighting for what’s right, and the yada-yadas – you get my point. I wonder what happened to either their jobs, or getting money to survive. Akshay Kumar goes back to college – and then again I wonder how did he end up getting the money for that too. Oh, and just so you all know, the whole “telepathic” conversation between Jerry and Nick works well, but that too has been lifted off the Hollywood show How I Met Your Mother’s telepathic conversations. How unfortunate.
What works well is that inimitable charm that the best-buddy characters exude throughout, giving you another film about bromance! But what the audience expected was a movie about two people who end up being male escorts and end up in funny situations, and I guess the audience found most of that in the first half. The second half works solely on the basis of strong drama, but the soppy part is what the hell happened to what they’ve promoted?
Technically, the movie boasts of brilliance through and through. Camerawork and cinematography speak style and class, with each frame almost trying to make the boys look like extreme eye-candy at best, and the girls to look as hot as hot can get. I can easily say that this has to be the most stylish film Akshay Kumar’s performed in recent times. Check out the song “Subha Hone Na De/Tu Mera Hero” – a brilliantly shot, mind-blowingly edited visual extravaganza. In fact, it’s the visuals that hold most of the numbers above the level of just functionality for a masala fare. “Jhak Maar Ke” and “Allah Maaf Kare” do really well too with the right amount of technical sharpness and the chemistry. Nitin Rokade’s edit is well-balanced throughout, but I guess he should have made the second half as breathless as the first half, which actually moves at breakneck speed. The background score enhances a lot of scenes that make them even better connected with the viewer.
Performances wise, Akshay Kumar finally does a film which is neither too restrained nor too loud. His comic timing is bang on and he looks easygoing, which is a breath of fresh air for those who want to see him in a role that’s funny and witty enough, but not too funny you want to run away. I really liked him and his wisecracks in the movie. They actually made me laugh. John can act. Those people who don’t seem to trust his acting should watch this movie. He is laugh out loud funny in many, many places – case in point, his conversation with Deepika Padukone on how fake she can be when she lies. He steals the show even from Akshay, in many scenes. Deepika Padukone is confident and in the whole movie we can see that she’s at ease playing Radhika. Some of her scenes are brilliantly executed and her performance in them excels. Chitrangada Singh is bit disappointing though. She appears before the middle of the second half, and although she performs infectiously, her screen space constricts what she has to offer. Mohnish Behl performs well. Omi Vaidya is unceremoniously wasted and so is Anupam Kher. And what is such a talented actress like Bharti Achrekar doing in just one scene? That could as well have not been a necessary inclusion. Sanjay Dutt has an interesting and powerful cameo that fizzles out badly in the second hour.
Oh well, I’m done nit-picking here. Honestly, I think it’s a one-time watch for the prowess that Rohit holds for making something as regressive and masala-fied as this watchable because of that thing – I’m not sure what it is, but it’s that thing that made me sit through the whole film – and for Akshay Kumar, who finally does a film that does not portray him to be a loud character. Delicious cinematography, enjoyable numbers and some good performances end up making this movie fairly enjoyable for some people, but for others who were expecting something outrageously hatke…whoops! You’d be terribly disappointed.