Bad comedies do good business often. Unaffected by poor ratings and reviews, such films market slapstick along with dumb humour successfully. To understand the implications of this argument - just in case you haven't, which is unlikely - watch the first three films of the Housefull franchise.
Housefull, the first film of the series helmed by Sajid Khan, had been carpet-bombed by negative reviews in 2010. But the masses had endorsed it wholeheartedly. Ultimately, the film grossed around Rs 165 crore, which was four times more than its estimated production budget of Rs 41 crore.
Made with a reported budget of Rs 43 crore, Housefull 2 (2012) had a big ensemble cast. Trashed by most critics, the over-the-comedy with a mishmash of subplots did great business, grossing around Rs 202 crore.
Housefull 3 (2016) directed by Sajid-Farhad was modestly budgeted at Rs 30 crore. The film grossed Rs 195 crore, becoming a blockbuster.
Now comes Housefull 4 helmed by Farhad Samji, who is one-half of the duo of Sajid-Farhad. The trailer insists that the film is an 'epic' reincarnation comedy. The plot seesaws between a fictitious place named Sitamgarh and modern-day India. The story covers 600 years in time, with part of it unravelling in Sitamgarh in 1419 and the rest of it in the India of 2019.
Slated for release amidst Diwali's lights and fireworks, Housefull 4, which will clash with the Taapsu Pannu and Bhumi Pednekar starrer Saand Ki Aankh and the Rajkummar Rao starrer Made in China, has Akshay Kumar in the role of a bald king in the segment that deals with his life in Sitamgarh. Bobby Deol as a warrior and Riteish Deshmukh as a dance teacher play his courtiers. Kriti Sanon, Kriti Kharbanda and Pooja Hegde, the three leading ladies, step into the shoes of princesses when the plot journeys back in time.
The trailer, which is well over three minutes long, also shows other characters played by Ranjeet (a king), Nawazuddin Siddiqui ( in a cameo in which he says, ‘Kabhi kabhi lagta hai apun hi bhagwan hai’, his famous one-liner from Sacred Games), Johnny Lever (a transgender) and Rana Daggubati (the antagonist with a painted face). Daggubati’s character seems to have got the maximum screen time among the supporting characters. Is it also responsible for a twist in the tale?
The film, it is evident, has a non-linear narrative. Kumar, in the present, shows up in salt and pepper hair. In other words, it does seem that the prolific star is prepared to age gracefully on the big screen, which may not be such a bad thing. He remembers his life in the 15th century, which includes what happened – or did not happen – in his love life. People who had shared his life in the past have reappeared in the present as vastly different individuals. He sets out to unite with the woman he loved when he reigned over an empire as the bald and moustachioed king.
The upcoming comedy has an appetising plotline. It will surely attract loyalist fans who have seen the previous three goofy offerings. But will it have what it takes to be a long-distance runner? We shall see if it does - very soon.