x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Akshay Kumar in Dubai for cricket movie

Bollywood's latest offering tells the story of a man who must choose between his love of the game and his Indian immigrant father's wishes.

Bollywood stars Akshay Kumar, Anushka Sharma, and Rishi Kapoor arrive at a press conference to launch their new film, Patiala House, in Dubai.
Bollywood stars Akshay Kumar, Anushka Sharma, and Rishi Kapoor arrive at a press conference to launch their new film, Patiala House, in Dubai.

DUBAI // Not many films appeal to cricket lovers but the latest Bollywood movie to open in the Emirates may manage to lure fans off the crease and into the cinema aisles.

Patiala House, which premiered in the UAE yesterday, tells of one man's chance to play for the England cricket team and his father's insistence he give up the dream.

Yesterday, the stars of the film were in Dubai to talk about the strong themes of family, immigration and racism woven into the plot.

Patiala House centres on a conflict within an immigrant Indian family living in the Southall district of London. The son is selected to play cricket for the country but must first find the courage to stand up to his father, who is scarred by racist attacks against the minority Sikh community in the 1980s and has a strong bond with his homeland.

"I try to make my father understand that I'm not going to war," said the Indian actor Akshay Kumar.

"All my life my character has listened to his father but he is getting a chance to play for the country. Why shouldn't I play? It's about my connection to cricket."

Kumar, who has appeared in more than 90 movies and is best known for his action roles, plays Gattu, who gets a second chance to play for England years after he bows to his father's intimidation and goes into the family business. He runs a small shop that, like many in the UK, is owned by immigrants from India and Pakistan.

The movie's UAE launch aims to capture the attention of the large Asian expatriate community from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who are passionate about the game.

It also contains original footage of protests by the Sikh community in Britain over racial attacks in the 1970s and 1980s and touches on the raw emotions that go along with not being accepted in a nation they have made their home.

The movie's cast features Hard Kaur, a pioneering Asian female rap artist from Britain, who plays Kumar's younger sister. A second-generation immigrant, Kaur said the subject of acceptance should appeal to the film's target audience.

"When I look at some of the footage it makes me very emotional," said Kaur, who mixes English, Punjabi and Hindi lyrics in her hip-hop songs. "It makes me connect and I know so many people in the UK and Canada who feel like me, so it's a great film for them to watch too."

Several Asian cricketers have worn England's colours, including such notables as Ravi Bopara, Monty Panesar, Owais Shah and Ajmal Shahzad. Attitudes are changing, with cricketing audiences unconcerned about where cricketers hail from as long as they win, said Kaur.

However, reverse racism can also raise its head when British-Asian sportsmen tour the countries their parents were born in, as many face jibes from spectators.

Kumar recalled that when the left-arm spinner Monty Panesar toured India with the English team he was booed when he claimed the wicket of the Indian cricket hero Sachin Tendulkar.

"He [Monty] said the same thing, 'I'm just here playing a game'," recalled Kumar. "A lot of times in a game riots happen, in football too. People become so violent. They need to remember it's just a game, guys. Relax."

The veteran actor Rishi Kapoor, who has more than 120 films to his credit over a span of nearly four decades, says cricket is one portion of the film that focuses on strong family ties.

Kapoor, who is now 58 but was a Bollywood heartthrob in the 1970s, plays Gattu's domineering father.

"It's about our culture and family bonds," Kapoor said about Patiala House.

"The movie shows the respect children have for their parents and how they don't revolt and stay quiet out of respect. It's also about aspirations and how people must fulfil their desires."

The one person who speaks her mind before the elder generation in the movie is Simran, the character played by the actress Anushka Sharma, who is in love with Gattu.

"Nobody seems to notice his [Gattu's] sadness, his frustration, but she does," said Sharma, 22, describing Simran as someone who pushes him to live out his fantasy.

"I'm the go-getter. I tell him it's OK Bauji [father] feels like this but you must follow your dream."

Kumar and Sharma took an active part in the film's opening ceremonies as they played cricket and danced with young adults from the Dubai-based Special Needs Children Development Centre as part of a string of promotional events.

"Now they feel they really know him," said Safia Bari, the film's director. "They have only seen him on the screen before. They are thrilled."

rtalwar@thenational.ae