Khoobsurat: Just a string of selfies

Dr Mili Chakraborty likes to pose for selfies... perhaps that is why every frame she is in seems to be carefully composed for a snapshot.

Published: 20th September 2014 10:56 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th September 2014 11:13 AM   |  A+A-

Film: Khoobsurat

Director: Shashanka Ghosh

Starring: Sonam Kapoor , Fawad Khan , Kirron Kher, Aditi Rao Hyderi, Ratna Pathak

Dr Mili Chakraborty likes to pose for selfies... perhaps that is why every frame she is in seems to be carefully composed for a snapshot. Her smile is always selfie ready and even though she says, "jo dil mein hai..wohi zabaan par," nothing she says really come across as spontaneous.

Not even her Skype conversations with her madcap mother who she calls, Manju without batting an eyelid. Now please travel back in time to 1980's Khoobsurat. And watch that moment again when Rekha (also called Manju) in pigtails, stormed into a stuffy dining hall to the galloping tonga tune that Hrishikesh Mukherjee used in Anand and in any situation that called for some joy and mischief.

This was Nirmala Devi's

(the taciturn Dina Pathak whose daughter Ratna plays the same character in the current version) household and her three sons, two daughters-in-law and a grand daughter, not to forget the subdued yet jovial patriarch Ashok Kumar look up in horror and disbelief as Manju yells greetings and rolls up a parantha to eat with unwashed hands and without a by your leave.

We know right then that change is afoot and a clash between a stern authoritarian and a free spirit, imminent. Hrishi da's creations..Manju in Khoobsurat and  Mili (played by Jaya Bachchan in 1975) were the precursors to Geet and Mili Chakraborty. The updated versions in Jab We Met and in Shashanka Ghosh's Khoobsurat too melt reserves of silence with varying degrees of success but hardly with unaffected simplicity. Nothing about Sonam Kapoor's Mili is unstudied. Not her mixed up, psychedelic attire. Not her clumsiness. Or her joie-de-vivre. The only time she is effective is when she is quiet and falling in hopeless love.

The audience's unwillingness to suspend disbelief begins with Sonam as Sonam, tucking in a pretty cupcake and gushing prettily over her family pictures and the chance to play a Disney princess. You almost wait for her to stop midway in the film later on, face the camera and scream, "Oh yaaay....I am so happy to be in a Disney movie co-produced by daddy!"

Unlike Hrishi da, Ghosh does not have the time or the script to build the story with little conflicts and a climactic blow up. So where Rekha tapped into a family's repression and unarticulated need for freedom with card games, skits and picnics, Mili chats up the young daughter half-heartedly about her dreams, calls the resident prince, Vikku and swings the family patriarch around on his wheelchair while the forbidding Nirmala Devi fumes on. 

And to Rekha's mellifluous Piya Bawri, we have Sonam jiving to Engine ki seeti mein mharo bum dole. She is all over the place, screechy, only occasionally funny as when she is kidnapped. It is hard to warm up to her though anyone who has watched her in Raanjhanaa, knows that when a role is well-etched, she can inhabit it with real feeling.

Fawad Khan's Vikram Singh Rathore is also a one dimensional sketch but watch him fill it with life, with a compact body language that betrays nothing, the demeanour of a man who owns everything but can be human and vulnerable and emotionally bereft. Nothing he says is overdone or underdone. In an underwritten part where nothing he gets to say is even remotely incisive, he makes you see who the character is beyond the spiffy suits, the sardonic brows and undeniable, movie-star charisma.

So yes, this is not a very well-written film and the script channels even a bit of Pretty Woman and the Mills & Boon premise of an impossible love, but it is visually beautiful as it strolls across royal gardens and terraces. It engages the senses with lush colours and the romance of long corridors, liveried attendants and beautifully lit royal suites. The performances too are not bad. Ratna Pathak replays her mother's role with rollers in her perfect bob and the cold precision she came to be known for in Sarabhai vs Sarabhai while the flawless Aamir Raza Husain plays the emotionally paralysed father with empathy and biting bitterness.

Kirron Kher is her usual effusive self and does the patented grandstanding.

The paintball finale is in keeping with the tone of the film.

Entertaining occasionally but never believable and always lost in a burst of colour. 

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