Bollywood franchises are impossible to make sense of. You give them any premise and a set of recurring characters, the writers – albeit their extreme lack of creativity – will concoct a story around them. By that logic, director Farhad Samji’s Housefull 4 could actually have been easily the next edition to the Golmaal franchise or even Fukrey. For a series that has lost it sheen thanks to the lack of a finite layer connecting each of its elements, the fourth edition to Housefull comes with a reincarnation twist. If only the proceedings were any fun, as the franchise is supposed to be a comic one.
To give it to the makers, this multi-starrer headlined by Akshay Kumar is not devoid of moments or a story. Housefull 4 kicks off with three siblings in London who are chased by a deadly gangster. In order to pay off a debt, the middle-aged men begin to date three young, attractive, and rich women (Kriti Sanon, Pooja Hegde and Kriti Kharbanda). All is well until destiny takes them to Sitamgarh in India where they discover their past connect with the very same women although paired differently. Now this template offers plenty of scope for grand Bollywood-size visuals, costumes and elaborate dance numbers. The 15th century portions which, despite its length, is filled with some exemplary cinematography (Sudeep Chatterjee). Well, the good bits end right there. The struggle for the film’s writers (Farhad Samji, Aakash Kaushik, Madhur Sharma, Tushar Hiranandani, Sparsh Khetarpal, Tasha Bhambra) from here on is to make this intensely dramatic setting funny. This is one gargantuan task which they achieve at no point.
It is equally amusing and appalling that mainstream Bollywood still considers racist and homophobic gags to be humourous. Riteish Deshmukh’s Roy is said to be dancer with effeminate tendencies in 1419 whereas his present-day version uses the Hindi language the way women ought to. There is Giggly (Johnny Lever) who realizes his past connect with Aakhri Pasta (Chunky Panday) and randomly chooses to dress up as a woman – which is a clear dig on the transgender community. I do not deny that any of it wouldn’t be funny to a group of cinegoers. It is simply in the audacity of the makers to conjure up characters and gender-appropriating situations such as this, in this day and age, is what surprises bigtime.
Among the lead couples, it is predictably Akshay Kumar (Bala/Harry) and Kriti Sanon (Madhu/Kriti) who get the maximum mileage and screen space. Kumar, with his impeccable timing tries hard to salvage several scenes but there is only so much possibility to work around a hackneyed plot as this. That said, Housefull 4 becomes tiring only towards the end of the third act. Nawazuddin Siddiqui randomly appears as a possessed exorcist to perform a yawn-inducing dance number. This is followed by Rana Daggubati struggling hard to be funny as the brides’ cousin who happens to be qawwali performer but has also some vengeance to seek from the past. Housefull 4 converts itself with a manic comedy of errors post this point but this ain’t no Priyadarshan film to tie them all in style. The characters change hearts on the drop of their hats and we lose interest in no time.
As for the actors, almost all of them have been asked to sleepwalk with only seasoned comedians Chunky Panday and Johnny Lever seem to be putting in some effort. Riteish Deshmukh steps out of his comfort zone only while he is in his dancing mode. Bobby Deol gets the physicality of the character right but has a deadpan face all through. As for the girls, it’s hard to differentiate between them given how they have been styled with similar looks and character sketches. Ranjeet surrounded by white women, complete with his timeworn beti-beauty one-liner doesn’t click anymore.
It isn’t that one steps into a cinema hall screening Housefull 4 with monumental expectations. The least you would want is some chemistry, a bagful comic dialogues and bunch of characters to keep invested in. The film, instead, turns into a maha bore where one literally waits for a joke to click, or for the lead actor to unload some burden off his shoulders. None of it happens as the film goes on to become a never-ending drivel which is two-and-a-half-hours too long and we do not even know why it is called Housefull in the first place.
Rating: ★ 1/2
Author at Filmy Sasi