By Subhash K. Jha
Film: "Housefull"; Starring: Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Arjun Rampal, Lara Dutta, Jiah Khan, Riteish Deshmukh; Directed by: Sajid Khan; Rating: ***
This is a sly tongue firmly and stubbornly in cheek, slick and chic comedy about a loser, or a panauti - a word that recurs ad nauseum in this glorious gasbag of giggles, winks, nudges and innuendos packaged with such polished panache that you don't really care what the inter-relations in the parodic plot finally signify.
Maybe they signify nothing more than a numbing but pleasantly diverting nothingness. But who the heck cares, as long as the tumble of confusions generates a hilarious havoc.
"Housefull", as the title suggests, is chockful of characters who bump into one another and into hard surfaces (including the unresolved edges in the plot) without injury. It's all done in ricocheting rhythms of laughter that rises from the pit of the plot's belly and moves upwards towards us, sometimes missing its target.
More than the screenplay (Milap Zaveri, Sajid Khan, Vibha Singh) which moves helter-skelter in every direction away from the centre of the plot and just about succeeds in coming to a reasonably coherent conclusion, it is the bevy of characters who are positioned in the screenplay with a supreme sense of pyramidal aptness.
Every actor shines because he or she knows the idea is to have fun and to transmit that fun to the audience. It's the actors' responsibility to make the maze of inter-relations hold together. They succeed.
Yes, sometimes the actors seem to enjoy the comedy of energetic error more than we do. Beyond a point how many slap-happy slipping-on-the-floor nudge-nudge-wink-wink oops-we-did-it-again rolling of the eyes biting-of-the-tongue jokes can we take??
But somehow it all holds together. Like a jigsaw done in the pages of a comic book and then put on celluloid, "Housefull" evokes smiles and chuckles in cramped and wide-open spaces.
There is a casino in London where our loser-hero is beckoned to stem losses, a casino waitress (Lara Dutta) whose traditional Gujarati father (Boman Irani, as confidently spontaneous as ever) has disowned her for eloping with a man of her choice, a stern government agent (Arjun Rampal, the only actor who doesn't get to smile in this chirpy
chuckle-fest), a sexy widow (Lilette Dubey) and assorted characters who come and go in a whoosh of wacky misunderstandings, confused identity and half-resolved comic snarls.
Sajid Khan's earlier film "Heyy Babyy" was a minty mix of mirth and maudlinism. "Housefull" is a full-on flamboyant farce. Strangely there's a subtlety even tenderness at times, in the way Sajid Khan handles the satirical material centred on the theme of a loser who brings bad luck on himself so often that he begins to wonder if there's a method to the madness of his destiny.
Unlike most situational comedies "Housefull" chooses the lower octaves of storytelling. The scale is pitched down. Even when the characters scream their lungs out we don't wince in discomfort. This is the most well-behaved comedy in recent times with an array of pert but low-key performances.
Stripped of all buffoonery Akshay Kumar does his most delicately balanced comic act ever. There's a mellow maturity to the way he balances farce with a more underplayed style of comedy. Riteish Deshmukh provides Akshay with the right cues. So do the rest of the actors. Among the three glamorous and sexy ladies Lara Dutta has the best comic
timing. Mention must be made of Chunky Pandey who brings the roof down with his Italian-Punjabi accent and burlesque.
"Housefull" looks and feels right. The climax in 'Buckingham Palace' (replete with Queen
Elizabeth and Prince Charles look-alikes) depends too closely on a literal outflow of laughter gas. But that's okay. Delicacy of comic presentation is not a claim that "Housefull" makes. But moments of muffled tenderness just happen in the plot's confounded journey of a loser from no-love to know-love.
Worth watching for its mix of the wacky and the more tender variety of laughter.