HOUSEFULL 2.  Director: Sajid Khan.  Players:  Akshay Kumar, Asin, John Abraham, Mithun Chakraborty, Riteish Deshmukh, Jacqueline Fernandez, Shreyas Talpade, Rishi Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor, Boman Irani, Shazahn Padamsee, Zaine Khan.  Music: Sajid-Wajid.

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Theatrical Release (EROS).

It is rare that a second installment—for this is truly not a sequel to anything—of formula filmmaking gets much credit. Even thoughHousefull (2010) had an amazing box office haul, it felt like an exercise in shallow, lascivious debauchery. For the record,Housefull 2 still has a shallow, lascivious debauched underpinning. However, Housefull 2 offers much better staging, slightly better acting, and good music.

With such a huge cast, led by Kumar and Chakraborty, one would think that there would be constant elbowing going on. Not so.

Four former college buddies (Kumar, Abraham, Deshmukh, Talpade) reunite for match making mischief involving their girlfriends (Asin, Fernandez, Padamsee, Khan) and opposed by their girlfriends’ rich dads (Chakraborty, Rishi Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor, Irani). All of them converge on one big mansion—where mayhem promptly ensues—to sort out the mess.

Set in an international playboy’s playing field, which ranges from London to Bangkok, there are lush locales for holding resort parties, conniving fathers who will only settle for the richest son-in-law while at the same time trying to outdo each other on the size of their homes in the ’hood. Lest one goes looking for any allegories related to the global real estate bust, be warned that, at least according to Housefull 2’s world view, the property boom never lost its charm and to buy big, bigger, biggest would still be the name of the game.

Malaika Arora is a decent dancer. In addition to being married to Salman Khan’s brother Arbaaz Khan, Arora’s biggest artistic success has been an amazing run with what is known as “item numbers.” Beginning with the on-the-moving-train jig with “Chaiyyan Chaiyyan” from Dil Se, Arora followed up with “Munni Badnam Hui” from Dabangg. In Houseful 2, Arora does encores with “Anarkali Disco Chali.”

Choreographed by dance-master Saroj Khan, who is also director Sajid Khan’s sister, “Anarkali” is a party number with Sameer’s innocuous lyrics that make it, both, pedestrian and evocative, all underlined by a dance groove that is pure guilty pleasure. Housefull 2’s entire soundtrack rests on singers Mamta Sharma and Sukhwinder celebrating Anarkali leaving her lover Salim and heading to the dance club. With this Anarkali, resistance is a losing battle.

Akshay Kumar has a knack for comedy— and the script provides good fodder for slapstick, something Kumar can do well under the right circumstances(Singh is Kinng, Heyy Babyy).

Kumar matches brawns with Abraham, which makes for decent onscreen rivalry, as do real life brothers Rishi Kapoor and Randhir Kapoor who inflect their on-screen stepbrother jealousies with humor and vigor. The best histrionics kudos goes to Chakraborty, who displays great screen presence and can chew up the scenery with one side-ways doubting glance.

Producer Sajid Nadiadwala, under his Nadiadwala Grandson banner, has done extremely well by banking on Akhsay Kumar and filmmaker Sajid Khan. This pairing did well at the box office with Heyy Babyy and the first Housefull. Third time is now the biggest charm. Within a week of release, Housefull 2 has grossed Indian Rs. 1 billion (approx $20 million). In additiona to being the second biggest opening of 2012—after Agneepath—Houseful 2 also elevates Akshay Kumar to the company of Aamir Khan (3 Idiots), Shahrukh Khan (Ra One), Salman Khan (Bodyguard), Ajay Devgn (Golmaal 3) and Hrithik Roshan(Agneepath) as the handful of Hindi actors who have opened at a global $20 million. No brain, no shame is the slogan for Housefull 2.

Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator, Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.

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