Languishing in the very bottom of mainstream Hindi film-dom, the Housefull series has always chosen the road less tasteful. So, when one witnesses casual homophobia, transphobia in Housefull 4, is it even worth wringing hands about? When Akshay Kumar’s character looks at Riteish Deshmukh and says “isne gender ka tender nahi bharaa” and the line is greeted with applause, one knows what the filmmaker is aiming for. Our basest instincts. Let’s understand that first and primary reason behind the existence of a film like Housefull 4 is – the audience, empowering this drivel with a 100+ crore box office on three separate occasions before this.
Housefull 4 seems like the kind of film that came into existence after producer Sajid Nadiadwala held all his writers hostage, forcing them to come up with something along the lines of SS Rajamouli. Obviously, motivated by the sheer box office records broken by Baahubali, Nadiadwala probably knew his writers could fit anything into the Housefull franchise. In a no-head-or-tail franchise like Housefull, anything goes. Even a substitute for Mahishmati and Bhallaladeva; or a first-half that borrows from Magadheera (another Rajamouli film). After all, the only things constant in these films are Akshay Kumar, Riteish Deshmukh, and a revolving door for a third male actor, played between Arjun Rampal/John Abraham/Abhishek Bachchan/Bobby Deol till date.
Another consistent note in the Housefull franchise is its triplet of heroines in every film. Only meant to grovel in front of a rich father to let them marry the love of their lives and dance with them, the women in this series might as well be called meri waali and teri waali. Previously played by Deepika Padukone/Lara Dutta/Jiah Khan, Asin/Jacqueline Fernandez/Zarine Khan & Jacqueline Fernandez/Nargis Fakhri/Lisa Haydon, the fourth film’s triplet of heroines include – Kriti Sanon/Pooja Hegde/Kriti Kharbanda, who spend a majority of the film being referred to as ‘girlfriend/Bhabhi’. None of the women in the Housefull films have a individuality of their own, they cry/scream/cheer like a singular entity. Director Farhad Samji tries a little ‘wokeness’ by allowing these damsels to rescue themselves from their own distress, but he’s fooling no one about his gaze that sees the three women only as the ‘love interest’.
Featuring cameos from Chunky Pandey, Johnny Lever, (a sporting) Ranjeet and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Housefull 4 never really made any promises to be a life-altering experience. But it’s disappointing how the humour never graduates beyond high school. “Aaj mera fast hai, isiliye maine tumhe slow maara…” – Bobby Deol snarls at two characters in one scene. “Hum paise withdraw karne ke liye YES Bank gaye the, lekin unhone humein NO bol diya” – Akshay Kumar tells a loan shark in another.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays a role of ‘Ramsay Baba’ that regurgitates his famous punchlines. “Kabhi kabhi lagta hai apun hi bhagwaan hai“, says Siddiqui within the first 10 seconds of his scene. A sad thing about Housefull 4 is seeing an actor like Ranjeet shamelessly submit himself for the film’s sleazy gags, that never match his enthusiasm. Instead, Ranjeet is made to eat (metaphorical & literal) shit.
Akshay Kumar can be irreverent and edgy with his comic-timing, but it’s understandable why he would rather stick to having knives being shoved into his butt-cheeks here. This sequence almost got a standing-ovation from some members of the audience, who probably couldn’t fathom the sheer audacity of this gag. A franchise like Housefull 4 exists purely to mint money, and the money comes from an audience who legitimise such films by buying the tickets. Maybe it’s time the audience understood the power vested in them. If you’re buying a ticket for Housefull 4, you have absolutely no right to complain about a Housefull 5… when it (surely) happens.