Puneet (Ajay Devgn) and Munmun (Konkona Sen Sharma) are a happily married couple living in Mumbai whose lives take an interesting turn when a distant relative, Chachaji (Paresh Rawal), suddenly turns up unannounced at their doorstep from a far off village. The guest overstays his welcome so much so that the exasperated couple come up with various ploys to hasten his departure…
In itself, Atithi… is a competently made film. If you read the plot overview, you’d have a fair idea of what the film will and should turn out to be, and that’s pretty much what happens. You can see that it’s been executed well within the scope of the script, and that is a credit to Ashwani Dheer. The handling – technical and otherwise – of some of the scenes show a filmmaker in control of his craft. The aesthetics of characters, dialogue and acting are in place, and in general, this is a solid effort at a good first glance.
The problems are at a more intangible level. The biggest drawback of the film is lack of any real emotional connect with the audience. In trying to keep the story light, it ends up too frivolous. You are not rooting for anything or anyone at any point of the film, neither do you anticipate any event to unfold. The film becomes a monologue, and seeks no response from you. The blame lies on the one-dimensional nature of the script and the characters. The story of an uninvited guest overstaying his stay walks the trodden path, and segues not an inch. What adds to the lack of depth is the monotonous pitch in the interactions between the guest (Paresh Rawal) and the family (Ajay Devgn, Konkona Sen Sharma). There is a nice bittersweet flavor to them in the beginning, which is real and works well. But this doesn’t change in a way that creates any conflict or drama, and the one time it does, its diffused right away. It is only at the end that you see an emotional spike, but without a serious character or plot build up to it, it fails to resonate with the audience. The film is too direct, and sorely misses a layer or two to go beyond the obvious promise.
Paresh Rawal is very good in the title role. This is the kind of performance that seems second nature to him, and he eases into it comfortably. Ajay Devgn’s strength is not comedy, and though he tries hard to keep it real, it is obvious he’d rather be standing on mobikes than play a domesticated script writer. Koko manages to be cute in the snatches of her Bengali curses, but hers is a bit role, with not too much to do but support Paresh and Ajay.
Atithi… is a well crafted effort, but it needed the flair of an artist to rise above the functional. With film, as with most art, serviceable just doesn’t cut the grade.
Hindi, Comedy, Color