One can't deny the fact that audience is well prepared for the mandatory high, low and ending points of 'Patiala House'. You know that Akshay would be hesitant to pursue his cricket dreams all over again, you know that entry of Anushka in his life would be a motivating factor, you know that his family would rally around him, you know that initially his father (Rishi Kapoor) would be against him, you know that Dimple will stand besides her husband only to come up with a final outburst (a la Jaya Bhaduri in 'Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham') and you of course know that eventually all would be well!
With all such predictions/assumptions actually coming true, one may wonder what really makes 'Patiala House' tick? Well there are two factors here - a) classy treatment and b) performances. Due to the kind of stereotypes that have been built around Punjabis, it would have been the easiest way out for the writers to incorporate 'sarson ka saag', 'Punjab ki mitti' and 'makki da saag' into the narrative. However none of that actually happens in 'Patiala House' as 'being Punjabi' just stays on to be one of the many factors that keep the story ticking.
Instead, the film arrests you right from the opening sequence where Akshay indulges in some net practice all by himself. He is not a looser here; he is just someone who is on the verge of loosing total self confidence in him and could well reach a nervous breakdown as he continues to be haunted by his father's decision. His lonely lunches, lack of love life and 'let me stay in the background' attitude only sucks him deeper into depression which is a complete departure from the carefree image that has been built around him for years now.
On the other hand as the Head of the family, Rishi Kapoor is someone who knows how to have his way even as it crosses the boundaries of being selfishly protective. From someone who kept himself on the back foot for the sake of his family (in 'Do Dooni Chaar') to the man who leads from the front without even giving his family's emotions a second thought (now in 'Patiala House'), Rishi Kapoor demonstrates a good range.
Any points where one would have wished a tighter grip? Well, after the character establishment and the background setting, one would have expected the drama to move a wee bit faster. Also, one would have wanted the push for Akshay to resume cricket a little harder and with far solid reasoning. Also, one misses Anushka (spunky all over again and extremely effective in each of her scenes) when she goes missing for large part of the second half.
On a different note, one also expected some tender moments between Rishi and Akshay so that the father-son relationship could have looked far stronger. Here, it just seems as an act of respect more than anything else. Also in the second half, the entire plan around Akshay's identity being hidden from his father seems a bit too far fetched.
However this is compensated by some drama that stays on to be subtle with 'Patiala House' turning out to be one of those rare films in recent times that maintains a 'thehrav' right through it's narrative. In fact it is apparent that director Nikhil Advani's funda was clear - he didn't want anything over the top or out of the ordinary for this fourth film. Instead he wanted to bring a different depth to his characters and treatment, something that makes 'Patiala House' different from rest of it's ilk.
What compliments the going-ons in the film is the music and background score. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy spin some good tunes with the one that tops the list being 'Kyun...'. Others keep the momentum going as well while 'Laungda Lashkara' rounds up the film well.
Eventually, what you take home after 'Patiala House' is through is a nuanced performance by Akshay Kumar who indeed silences his detractors once for and all. He may have gone by the demand of the market and done back to back laughter entertainers during last few years. However with 'Patiala House' he announces once again (after milestone films like 'Jaanwar', 'Dhadkan', 'Ek Rishta', 'Namaste London') that if he wishes, he can go subtle and underplay his character well too. 2011 may have just started but with 'Patiala House', Akshay has made himself a good contender already when awards for the best of the best are announced.
And yeah, for the sheer effort by the overall team which - instead of going overboard about the inherent classiness that the film carried - kept it all low and allowed the product to talk about itself, 'Patiala House' wins for itself an additional quarter of star.