Atithi Tum Kab Jaaoge? Hindi Movie Review
While the quality of humor in our comedies is certainly arguable, as far as box office returns go, comedy is certainly the most consistently successful genre of films in Bollywood today. Which is why it is baffling why our filmmakers remain so apologetic about this genre. Why is it that writers feel compelled to stuff high strung drama and morality into what should be a pure Laughton? Therein, quite simply- lies the problem with Athithi, Tum Kab Jaoge?
Writer-director Ashwni Dhir's plot is simple: An urban nuclear family has its life turned upside down when an unwanted guest in the form of a village bumpkin who claims to be a long-lost relative. What's more, he is blissfully oblivious to the mayhem and distress his extended stay is causing to his hapless hosts. A simple plot that could have translated into a fun comedy about a family trying to oust a guest who becomes a pest.
Tragically, Dhir isn't quite interested in just playing around with this premise with innovative comic situations- instead, he employs a ham handed approach that forces in lectures on tradition and values, mores and morality and tries- using the worst cliches- to convince us that the poltergeist is indeed, an angel in disguise who just happens to be very inconsiderate and has, well- alarmingly bad toilet habits.
There are a few stray comic moments here and there, and the actors, especially Konkona Sen Sharma (who has perhaps never attempted pure mainstream comedy before) are impressive, but they are never allowed to cut loose and revel in the madness of the situation. Which is a pity considering the extremely gifted lead cast that boasts three National Award winning actors, no less (irrespective of the fact that these awards are now continually losing their credibility).
For example, we see Moon Moon (Konkona) being wonderfully wicked in one scene, faking exaggerated grief at the her husband Puneet's (Ajay Devgan) uncle's (Paresh Rawal) departure, and to hilarious effect, but in no time she is reduced to performing aartis during Ganesh Chaturthi. I am, by no means saying that being religious is bad, but why can't we have her just being brazenly bitchy- not just because it would be more real, but more importantly, also more fun?
Barely halfway into the film, Atithi already begins to show signs of turning into an often cringe-worthy, and thoroughly tedious and preachy drama that just goes on and yawn. At one point in the film, a film director (Satish Kaushik in a loud cameo) breaks down with guilt and a sudden burst of conscience, realizes his callous behavior towards his parents and declares that he wants to make a film like Baghban.
It's a moment that is scary, not just because you know that Atithi has by that time turned pretty- well, Baghban-esque by then, but also because you get a sneaking suspicion that scripts actually are written and commissioned this way in our film industry. Needless to say, by the time the predictably lame end arrives, it's you in the audience who ends up feeling like the unwanted guest in the story who should've departed quite a while back.
(Technical aspects are average at best, with occasionally jarring background score and surprisingly inconsistent, sometimes shoddy camerawork by Aseem Bajaj- perhaps owing to a small budget and the short time in which the film was shot.)