Atithi is perhaps the kind of film you get when you stretch one single half-hour episode of Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai or Khichdi to 2 whole hours. Absolutely yummy to start off with, but a little later, you wish it had been kept to half its run time.
Based on a short story of a similar name, Atithi Tum Kab Jaaoge is an endearing look at the un-cuteness of the whole Atithi Devo Bhava concept. When an uninvited, unidentified chacha (Paresh Rawal) of Puneet (Ajay Devgan) lands up at the latter's place, Puneet, his wife Munn Munn (Konkona Sen Sharma) and their kid all find it an exotic experience to be even welcoming a guest home.
And after the first 5 minutes, the annoyances stare at them right in the face, but the hosts hang in there believing he'll leave after a few days. The unsuspecting small-town chacha, meanwhile, makes himself perfectly at home, taking all the little liberties with the whole set-up. However, his unconditional love for these yuppie relatives of his isn't enough of a balm to soothe the nerves of the increasingly harried Munn Munn, a working mother, and Puneet, an aspiring script writer.
The couple tries to shake him off their backs but in vain. Of course, in semi-Bawarchi style, the lubricants pour on thick and smooth, and the uncle wins over hearts before the climax.
The concept of Atithi is smart, and the wit is woven neatly, with a lot of cozy domestic humour. There is plenty of theatre-like realism in the treatment of the whole script, which makes it easy to sit through. However, when the film begins to lose steam it resorts to hard-to-believe twists and conversations in order to extend the story, which makes it lose steam faster. For example, the whole bit about the police raid on the hotel hurts because it is ridiculous, and because it is looks like quite a desperate measure to fill up run time.
Then, even though there are plenty of other things inconveniencing the hosts, the irritants that the guest brings home are sometimes unceremoniously summarized into a series of farts - a concept exaggerated when the lady keeps trailing after him with a room freshener. This is not done once or twice to keep things light-hearted; it's almost a defining characteristic of Paresh Rawal's character.
Still, Paresh Rawal and Konkona, as expected, slip into their characters effortlessly, and it's hard to pick who's the better of the two. Paresh Rawal's warm supremely-confident-yet-tactless uncle demands aversion, respect and pity in a perplexing measure, and the actor is quite the perfect 10 in the role.
For Konkona, it's a role she's given quite often in mainstream movies, and she's brilliant. Ajay Devgan smolders away with a mix of scenes - he gets to make faces, be comical and be intensely emotional, too. The character actors include a few well-known faces, including Sanjai Mishra as the watchman, and fit in extremely well.
Visually appealing, the film has a slickly done up apartment as its key background setting, and some fun shots all throughout. The music consists of some forgettable "comical" remixes, but the background score keeps with the tone of the flick.
You could actually catch this one for the performances, and to chuckle a bit and feel warm about things. Only, the fun might wear out early.