Sept 21, 2014
It’s only fair to state upfront that I approached Sonam Kapoor’s Khoobsurat with a bias. I find Miss Kapoor one of the most annoying people in the whole wide world.
Her pretty but vacuous characters on the big screen make me ill, and on telly interviews her incessant giggling in between pronouncements that scream “entitlement” and “delusions of grandeur” make me want to throw stuff at her. And it doesn’t help that she often appears on kiddie channels and talks about how proud she is to be a “Disney Princess”, that too “in my Twenties”. She’s 29.
Yet, Miss Kapoor won me over with her performance in Khoobsurat. A long time after Aisha, she again plays herself, but this time with pitch-perfect silly spontaneity. It helped, of course, that the film is very well conceptualised and directed by Shashanka Ghosh, so much so that not once did I recall Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 1980 Khoobsurat starring Rekha, Rakesh Roshan, Dina Pathak and Ashok Kumar.
It also helped that the film’s spirited and hysterical dialogue were written by the inimitable Juhi Chaturvedi who shot to fame, quite literally, with her story and dialogue for Vicky Donor.
In a far, far away palace there once lived a king, his queen, a prince and a princess.
The rich royal family of Sambhalgarh had everything, yet laughter had vanished from their large, majestic palace.
The king, Shekhar (Aamir Raza Husain), could not walk. And this made the queen, Nirmala (Ratna Pathak), very sad and angry.
Yuvraj Vikram Singh Rathore (Fawad Khan), the handsome prince of Sambhalgarh, was stiff and saadu and always working. Prince Vikram was engaged to marry a poised portrait of elegance. She was called Kiara (Aditi Rao Haydri), but let’s just call her The Necklace. If you watch the film, you’ll know why.
Every day in the palace was a quiet ritual of formality and order. Dinner was always at the stroke of 8. And it was always a quiet affair. Cutlery would not clank on plates. People would not talk. Crunchy papad would be left untouched.
A dark secret hid in this silence; a sad story that had left only memories of happiness in framed photographs.
No one dared to break the ring of sadness that separated and bound them all. Not even little princess Divya who had a secret dream.
Unbeknownst to them, in a far away land that was loud and chaotic, lived Dr Mrinalini Chakravarty (Sonam Kapoor). Milli, a sports physiotherapist, had magic hands. She could fix the cramps and sprains of Sehwag and Kapoor and other IPL creatures.
Milli lived with her mother Manju (Kirron Kher), daddy and little brother. They were a chattering lot. Manju and Milli, that is. The men sat around and wondered.
Milli and Manju were besties, on first-name basis, and shared all details of love and life.
One day King Shekhar’s 39th physiotherapist left in a huff and Milli was hired to treat him.
Into the quiet palace skipped the cute and clumsy Milli wearing a riot of colours and taking smiling selfies.
The queen almost had a fainting spell.
The prince too did not like her.
He called her a “bloody aafat”, and Milli called him “khadoos”. But these were terms of endearment because hatred is always the first sign of love.
And in any case, Milli had magical powers. She could sing and dance and spread happiness. Soon the king started to smile, princess Divya wanted to reach out and grab her dream, and Milli showed how Pretty Woman’s business ethics could make even the meanest prince smile.
When the quiet but handsome prince smiled, Milli felt woozy. He too would secretly look at Milli. But both were scared.
Only Manju, while doing FaceTime with Milli and peeling oranges, could guess what was going on.
Before she could do anything, Milli was taken away by evil men who made her drink an evil potion. Prince Vikram saved her. To thank him, Milli smooched him, and then passed out.
Director Shashanka Ghosh tells the story of a girl with magical powers and a handsome prince just like it’s told in those precious, hard-bound bedtime books with pretty pictures. Though Khoobsurat is entirely predictable, it’s a hugely entertaining and funny film. That’s mainly because it’s very clear and happy about what it is — a balle-balle fairytale.
But his film is more than a contemporary twist to an old fairytale. It has oodles of street-cred.
Though mostly set in the beautiful, enchanted palace, it takes regular flights to the land of the loud Punjabi mummy, Manju. As always, Kirron Kher overdoes it, but she is also the one who holds the film together, much more than the crisp Ratna Pathak who once again plays Mrs Sarabhai with the same crusty flair.
But Khoobsurat really is Sonam Kapoor and Fawad Khan’s film. They make a lovely pair, and their chemistry is crackling, aided and abetted as it is by funny moments when their inner voice speaks to us. The contrast in what they want to do and what they actually to do makes them terribly endearing. Their friendly foreplay, gone idiotic with youthful delirium of first love, is fabulous.
Since Papa Kapoor has put some money into the film, the stage is often set for cutie Miss Kapoor to act up, act out and act stupid. She’s perfectly cast and doesn’t give the impression — except in one or two scenes where the going gets serious — that she’s acting. She very much looks and acts the part of a psychedelic, bohemian fairy who can fix broken hearts.
Fawad Khan too is very well cast. He’s suitably stiff and buttoned-up, till he’s not. And every time he opens his mouth to speak, his Pakistani-Punjabi pronunciation is plain seduction. Like when he says “bloody aafat”. Hai! Mar jaan-wan gur khaa ke.