Khandaani Shafakhana movie cast: Sonakshi Sinha, Varun Sharma, Annu Kapoor, Priyanshu Jora, Badshah, Nadira Babbar, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Rajesh Gupta
Khandaani Shafakhana movie director: Shilipi Dasgupta
Khandaani Shafakhana movie rating: Two stars
Baby Bedi (Sinha) of Hoshiarpur, Punjab, is your average young woman, trying to hack a living. And then one day, she receives an unusual bequest from her ‘mamaji’ (Kharbanda), a wise, kindly ‘hakim’, and her life changes.
For most of us, even those who reside in big cities with its so-called ‘broad-minded’ swathes, a ‘sex clinic’ is the subject of nudge-wink jokes, a place where non-virile men go to get ‘fixed’, and women, if they at all venture into such a ‘badnaam’ place, are usually unwilling tag-alongs.
For a Bollywood movie to place its small-town leading lady squarely in charge of a ‘khandaani shafakhana’ is a brave step. And there are some unexpected delights in this film helmed by a debutant director: a sperm sample is called, straight-facedly, ‘wiggle wiggle’, brawny males submit to the medical ministrations of a clearly inexperienced girl, and, in a terrific throwaway moment, a matron terms her husband’s nether part as an always pumped-up ‘balloon’.
The trouble with this film is that quite soon it chickens out. From a comedy with a strong ‘social’ component which could have been a barrel of meaningful laughs, it turns into a soppy melodrama. Baby, along with her brother Bhushit (Sharma, in familiar jokester mode) mother (Babbar, wasted in a whiny role), and supportive love interest (Jora), is surrounded by relatives, neighbours and nosy townspeople who mock her ‘ganda, ashleel kaam’. That’s all it takes for Baby, and the film, to promptly dissolve into a soppy puddle.
Why? Because a young woman talking frankly about sex, and exhorting everyone else to do so, is still an anomaly. She can go down that untrodden path a little bit, make some noise, but will then have to subside because of the threat of family ‘shame’. She will need to be rescued by feminine tears and a manly intervention by a famous rapper (Badshah, in a nice turn, as himself).
This insistence on a ‘balancing act’ lets the film down. Which is a pity because this film could have been something. Annu Kapoor, playing a sympathetic lawyer here, reminds us of Vicky Donor, which first opened up conversation around sex and virility and fertility. Khandaani Shafakhana could have been a great extension, a vehicle to shed inhibitions and talk, really talk, especially with a young woman in the lead. Female desire could have been brought up, not just as a brief joke which perks things up momentarily. But it doesn’t, and the film stays, for most part, flat, and yes, limp.