Khan’s replacement Farhad Samji and other writers make the poor reincarnation plot more insufferable for its cast and the audience
Rating: 1.5 / 5
By Mayur Lookhar
When you are not a fan of a franchise, it’s hard, and perhaps, unfair to make a comment. However, a genuine reviewer would never let personal opinions, corrupt his/her sense of judgement. Yours truly swears by his words that he has penned an unbiased review of Housefull 4.
A franchise built by director Sajid Khan. The filmmaker though has had a frosty relationship with the principal producer and story ideator Sajid Nadiadwala. A struggling Khan, who had perhaps become too big for his own boots, wasn’t picked to direct Housefull 3. Nadiadwala though buried the hatched and roped in Khan for the fourth instalment in the franchise. A series of sexual harassment allegations against Khan saw him being replaced by Farhad Samji in Housefull 4 (2019). However, it was widely believed that Khan had directed 60-70 % of the film before he was dropped. Actor Nana Patekar, too, was dropped for similar reasons.
Often fatigue slips in to every franchise after the second film. Thus it is a serious challenge to expand the franchise. A reincarnation story though built a certain curiosity around Housefull 4. Now, even if you haven’t seen the previous films, Housefull 4 promised a refreshing experience.
London-based hair stylist trio of brothers Harry (Akshay Kumar), Roy (Riteish Deshmukh) and Max (Bobby Deol) owe 10 million pounds to one don Michael (Sharad Kelkar). Their only hope of saving their backside is to trick their wealthy girl friends into marrying them. And the brothers have fallen for the siblings Pooja (Pooja Hedge) , Neha (Kriti Kharbanda) and Kriti (Kriti Sanon), respectively.
Destiny brings them to the royal palace hotel in Sitamgarh. A few days before their wedding, Harry realises that the visions he had was no hallucinations, but he led a different life in the 15 century. In 1419, Harry was a spoilt prince Bala Dev Singh of Madhavgarh, while Bangdu Maharaj (Riteish Deshmukh) was the classical dance teacher to the Sitamgarh princesses – siblings Madhu (Sanon), Mala (Hegde) and Meena (Kharbanda). Dharam Putra (Deol) was the princesses’ bodyguard. Madhu-Bala, Dharam-Meena, and Bangdu-Mala were all set to be married but fate strikes a cruel blow as the roof over their head crumbles down crushing the lovers and also the barbarian king Gama (Rana Daggubati). Gama had gatecrashed the wedding to avenge his brother’s death.
A typical Bollywood reincarnation drama would have a sense of déjà vu to it, but producer and story writer Nadiadwala adds his dash of chaos to the mix. The producer is perhaps a firm believer in ‘saaton janam ka saath’ [soul mates for seven lives). And so going by this myth, Harry (Kumar) should be marrying Kriti (Sanon) and not Pooja (Hegde). Roy should be tying the knot with Pooja and not Neha (Kharbanda), while Max (Deol) is destined to marry Neha and not Kriti (Sanon). Why is that? Because in 1419, the Gods had picked a different match and so it ought to be honoured in 2019.
Phew, if this story idea works for you, then good luck to you. But most sane mortals are unlikely to be amused by Nadiadwala’s confused insane plot. One is walking on tightrope with such a wafer thin plot. The silly plot is turned into a shocking, cringe worthy screenplay by Sajid Khan and Sara Bodinar. Tasha Bhambra and Sparsh Kheterpal are credited for additional screenplay. Too many minds but very little creativity on offer. The poor script is made insufferable by Samji’s screenplay and the campy dialogues. There is very little humour, with Samji’s amateur dialogues bordering more on poor wordplays, and cringing puns. Samji’s inefficiency as a screenwriter has come to the fore again.
Farhad and his brother Sajid have made a career out of penning mindless comedies. Commercial success of a few has lulled one into believing that they have a grip on the genre, but an honest critic or cinephile worth his/her salt would simply balk at the crass that’s been sold by the duo under the garb of comedy. The Samji brothers thrive on chaos, confusion, campy dialogues. These story tropes tough have a sell-by date. The regular abuse only leads to repetition and boredom. While Sajid is not here, Farhad’s Housefull 4 gets on to your nerves.
These writers, directors will throw past box-office figures, undermine logic but this writer has never bought the farce theory of leaving your brains home while watching such mediocrity. It’s not logic but cinema is judged as per one’s sensibilities. So, if you leave your brains behind, would one really know how a film touched your senses? Also, the customer pays full ticket prize. Then why should a customer be asked to leave his/her brains behind.
It’s not just these writers, filmmakers who are at fault. The star-struck, sycophant section of the media, too, is equally culpable in building a false image of a film. Of course, this further reflects the inefficiency, incompetency of the media.
Films like Housefull 4 are treated with leniency with certain scribes labelling such content as commercial cinema, mass/masala entertainers. Hey, irrespective of the genre or style [mainstream or art], isn’t every film that releases in theatres a commercial film? No producer, distributor or director is making films for social service. While commercial success is pivotal, but it’s not a criteria to judge the quality of a film.
Slapstick humour is popular among desi audiences, but the repetitive clumsy story tropes only lead to a killjoy. A comedy entitles its writers to play with logic, reasoning as long as the scene is well written. Samji and co. use certain liberties to add humour to its 15 century plot. Few 90s and contemporary songs are passed off as lyrical conversation between the 15 century lovers. Messors Bala, Madhu & co. were the inspiration for the great lyricists of the 90s and new millennia. The Britishers only came to India in 17 century, but the presence of white women in Bala’s court is bizarre. May be they were not British. Besides dance/electronic music finds its way in the 15 century with the Shaitaan Ka Bala song – desi version of musician Tony Montana’s Bala song (2016). It’s fine to mix certain elements of the new with the old, but barring the Bala song, the other sequences play out poorly on the screen.
People usually like to watch a comedy on Diwali period but the mindless tales are anything but amusing. Going forward, Sajid Nadiadwala, Sajid Khan, Sajid and Farhad Samji need to introspect on the kind of cinema that they are doling out through their silly comedies/action dramas.
A poor script, screenplay leaves its actors handicapped. The natural wit, comic timing of Akshay Kumar, Riteish Deshmukh has helped carry a poor script before. Bala and Harry are two completely different characters. The former is cunning, self-obsessed, hungers for power whereas Harry is a dim wit guy suffering from amnesia. Kumar looks sharp in his bald look. Bala has a bit of Admiral General Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen from the 2012 political satire The Dictator ) in him. Both men overate themselves and misuse their power. Much like Admiral General Aladeen, Bala loved giving execution orders. And much like Aladeen, Bala is disappointed to know that none have been executed since he fired the hangman. Flawed he may be, but Bala is still a likable character.
In 1419, effeminate men were subject to homophobic slurs. (Well, they still do) Deshmukh’s Bangdu Maharaj is more on the lines of Bollywood’s cliched gay characters. Deshmukh still puts in an honest effort.
While Kumar and Deshmukh strive hard, Bobby Deol cuts a sorry figure. Deol clearly looks uncomfortable romancing the two Kritis.
Kumar’s 52, Deol’s 50 and Deshmukh’s 40. The aging men of Bollywood romancing young heroines doesn’t make for a pretty sight. But thankfully, Samji doesn’t hide this age gap. Well, it’s indefensible. The girls have willingly fallen in love with the aging men.
Despite their best efforts, Housefull 4 is unlikely to win too many admirers. Most of the other characters disappoint, or their characters are poorly written.
Rana Daggubati is overbearing as the barbarian Gama, while he is very under whelming as the soft spoken, singer Pappu Rangeela, one who has poor eye sight. Aakhri Pasta was conceived only for the first film, but given the popularity of the character, Nadiadwala roped Chunky Pandey for Housefull 2 (2012) and Housefull 3 (2016). Be it Pehla or his reincarnated avatar Aakhri Pasta, Pandey caves in to monotony.
The most disappointing is veteran comedian Johnny Lever. In his few media interviews, the reclusive actor expressed shame over some his work in the past, especially acts that smack of chauvinism. Lever’s even issued an apology to women. It’s ironical though that despite this realisation, why would Johnny Lever take up a role that objectifies, stereotypes women? As opposed to all the other characters, Giggly was reincarnated as a male, Winston Churchill (Lever), the manager of the now palace hotel of Sitamgarh. (Relax, Giggly didn’t inspire Larry Page and Sergey Brin to come up with the name Google). Giggly had lost her heart to Pehla Pasta.
Once he realises his past identity, Churchill undergoes a physical transformation dressing up as a woman. It’s disappointing for Lever to describe his transformation as looking ugly. Now when he has no qualms in dressing, talking like a woman, Churchill throws a bizarre query to Aakhri Pasta “who will change their gender if they are to get married?”. What’s more shocking though is why does Lever play such terrible characters even today?
Sanon, Kharbanda and Hegde look like siblings on screen, but one has to feel sorry for the three women for they are used as mere objects. Now, it would have been acceptable if Kriti, Pooja and Neha were reborn as poor village girls, but here are three London-born women who eventually buy into the reincarnation past. You’ve dated a man for some time, and you’re all set to marry him but 48 hours before, the reincarnation story is thrown at our face. And that’s the prime problem with Housefull 4. It’s a man who will always decide what is best for a woman. Even if one believes in reincarnation, is it a crime to marry someone, who perhaps may have been your brother-in-law in an earlier century?
Hegde had a disastrous debut in Bollywood with Mohenjo Daro (2016). Housefull 4 only gives more teeth to her critics. Kriti Sanon and Kriti Kharbanda are two promising talents, but Housefull 4 is a blot on their resume. Aligning with the superstars was a convenient strategy for Bollywood’s poor imports or few ‘insiders’. Outsiders Sanon and Kharbanda though have the potential to carve their own paths. It is no crime in sharing screen space with the ageing superstars, but these women need to find their voice in such films and not be reduced to an object.
The array of talent is wasted in Housefull 4. In another shocker, it’s not just humans, but birds, too, are reincarnated. Sajid Khan didn’t even spare the three doves – Neil, Nitin, Mukesh (yet another cliched dig at Neil Nitin Mukesh). The doves though are more fortunate than the humans. They don’t have to bear the brunt of muttering such painstaking cheesy dialogues. The poor music [by Sohail Sen], special effects only add to the film’s misery.
Sajid Khan was sacked, uncredited as co-director, but Housefull 4 has his mediocre imprints all over it. There’ve been murmurs of Khan being upset with Nadiadwala for not giving him director’s credit. Given how embarrassing the film has turned out to be, perhaps Nadiadwala should give Khan the solo credit and relieve himself of the ignominy of conceiving and producing such a disaster.