The role of cricket as a substitute for a populist agenda has always been on the shortlist of Hindi film artifacts. The success of Aamir Khan’s Lagaan (2001) and Nagesh Kukunoor’s sensational small budget Iqbal(2005) smartly sold the premise that only good guys play good cricket. Ergo, what is good for cricket should be good for the masses. Falling into the same wavelength, more or less, Patiala House moves the cricket pitch to London’s vibrant and mostly-Punjabi neighborhood of Southall, substitutes inverted racism as the oppressing force that needs “curing”—and emerges surprisingly intact.
After Tees Maar Khan, Action Replayy and Houseful, Kumar finally digs into a role with sharper edges. Kumar plays Parghat Singh AKA Gattu, a cricket sensation, who at the age of seventeen is ordered by his domineering father, Gurtej Kahlon (Kapoor) AKA Bauji, to give up cricket to placate Bauji’s views on racism in his adopted country. Seventeen years later, Gattu, toiling at his family’s corner store, and unbeknownst to his father, gets another chance to play big time cricket.
Director Advani is no stranger to using diaspora backdrops in his movies (Kal Ho Na Ho, Chandi Chowk to China) and he nicely zooms in on the multi-cultural frothiness of suburban London. Patiala’s highlight, without a doubt, is the father-son interplay between Gattu and Bauji, a conflict that spans generations and also explores a couple of lucid strata of immigrant angst. Boosted by a bouncy, bhangra-infused Shankar Ehsaan Loy score that features famed DJ Hard Kaur,Patiala House finds a nice niche.