Film:Atithi Kab Jaoge?
Director: Ahwini Dheer
Actors: Ajay Devgn, Konkona Sen Sharma
“Guesting,’ is a prominent term of old India. It means a visitor, almost always a relative, who often lands up unannounced, and usually comes with no determination or date (tithi) to leave. Hence ‘atithi’ ('no date'), or guest!
Nuclear, urban homes can’t permit such luxuries. There’s barely space in city apartments for a family of four, let alone time to entertain a fifth. As they say in Mumbai, where this film is set, ‘Aaye toh achcha. Na aaye toh aur bhi achcha (If you come, good. If you don’t, even better!).”
Devgn plays one such unfortunate host, and a screenwriter by profession. He has a wife (Sen Sharma), a kid, and understandably a tiny place in a suburb called Goregaon (not very different fom Delhi’s Gurgaon). The guest, Lamobodar Chachaji (Rawal), is a long lost uncle, inexplicably related to them -- no one in the family seems to know how.
The premise is still somewhat valid. It could corner a fair amount of comedy. If the belaboured and sporadic humour thereafter isn’t dull enough, they stuff in so many third-rate songs, you feel a bit of a troubled host yourself. You could rush out of the theatre as the family on this screen does, from their own home, while Lambodar Chacha (like this over-the-top flick) refuses to budge.
Lamobdar farts uncontrollably, chats non-stop, slaps the building guard around, demands feats for meals, gargles early mornings loud enough for his hosts to literally suspect wild animals inside their high-rise apartment. Ok then.
The supposed nephew loses his job for his apparent uncle. His wife loses sleep. Yet at no moment does the uncurious couple make any casual conversation, or nostalgic chitchat over chai, to figure who this gentleman really is. They’re polite enough to let in terrorists in this day and age. To be fair, the said gentleman does make a decent enough assault on your senses. As does the film.
Everybody over-does it. Among gags after gags, one or two mildly work. But it’s the cast that had initially inspired confidence. Devgn’s last comedy, All The Best, was in parts a riot. Sen Sharma’s last, Wake Up Sid, was a wonderfully affectionate rom-com. And as anyone will tell you, not just a wealthy Gujarati trader in Jersey, Paresh Rawal is Paresh Rawal. None of them (bumbling together in a room) even vaguely add up. The producer thanks the cast and crew, at the beginning of the film, for wrapping up the entire movie in four months flat. The shoddiness, or commercial desperation, shows.
Come to think of it, the finest film on the Indian ‘atithi’ (guest) that I can recall, starred Utpal Dutt as a long lost uncle on “vhanderlast” -- Satyajit Ray’s Agantuk (The Stranger). Quiet, charming, sensible.... And that was a huge commercial success, by the way.