An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Patiala House: Struggle of a Sikh Family against odds in London

Patiala_House_1.jpgThis weekend we watched the movie Patiala House. It was directed by Nikhil Advani and had Akshay Kumar, Anushka Sharma and Rishi Kapoor in the lead role. It was an interesting movie on Punjabis in London – specifically Sikhs in South-hall.

Unfortunately, most of the movies on Punjabis make a mockery of the Punjabi culture. And if the Sikhs are involved, then creating humor from everything and anything has become important. Even when it is insensitive. The portrayal, specially the dressing (turban etc) is never done authentically. One can see cut hair under the turban and trimmed beard etc as well. Not that I am in favor of ritualistic stuff, but it is a tradition and it is deemed important by religious Sikhs and so it must be respected. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

This movie was different though. Rishi Kapoor was as authentic a Sikh in any of the bollywood movie as I have seen. The way he handles the beard and the “thata”, the turban, the loose hair etc. It is all done by someone who knows the stuff. The only other portrayal which was real looking was by his son Ranbir in Rocket Singh.

The story revolves around how a Sikh family was discriminated against, and how this one person (played by Rishi Kapoor) fights for justice. During his fight he develops strong prejudices and creates rules, which help him take on the impossible, but also create unintended side effects. His own family members are hurt.

One lesson that comes loud and clear in the movie was that if one subjugates and supresses one’s heart and wishes, it is tough for such a being to flower and have a happy life. Life is short, whether you believe or do not believe in after life. It is imperative that one uses this life to the fullest. That one explores it to its limits. That was one strong message that came out. A message I endorse whole-heartedly!

The way to bring home the message, however, could have been less cliched and more palatable. LIke the example of Hard Kaur, who plays the sister of Akshay Kumar. She is made to sing Bhajans and Kirtan in the Gurudwara, while she wants to become a rapper. Bhajan in Gurudwara and Rap music is posited against each other. As if one is a symbol of repression and another is a symbol of liberation. The cliche of showing tradition as completely holy – as some movies show – or as something of a burden – as this one implied – are both wrong. There is no contradiction in having Rap music and Bhajan to reside in the same singer, if she can pull it off.

Another thing, as an immigrant, which this movie brought out. That I am able to live so easily and well in US or any other country is due to the sacrifices, hard work and fight against discrimination faced by those who came here before us. I cannot even fathom how tough it must have been for them to fight against the odds and yet make a successful life of their own. I am not sure, given double those resources, I could repeat their achievements. So my respect to all of them.

On the movie making side, the music was nothing great. No song stuck in my mind, although they sounded good. I liked the performances by everyone. Although the tale of using the English team seemed a bit fantastic, but it was still done authentically. Overall worth a watch once.

As a passing remark, for lovers of old movies, we see Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia together for the first time after Bobby!

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