Director : Shashanka Ghosh
A modern day fairytale, loosely based on the Hrishikesh Mukherjee comedy of the same name, helmed by Sonam Kapoor? I dreaded going into ‘Khooburat’, plagued as I was by dark thoughts of Kapoor’s previous botched attempts at carrying off real characters, which ranged from the terribly twee (‘Aisha’), to the mercifully short (‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’).
One of the most pleasant surprises of ‘Khoobsurat’, I’m happy to report, is that Kapoor is not half-bad. She is well suited to the film’s general tone which is suitably perky and giggly, and unapologetically silly: Sonam Kapoor’s introduction has her character give off an unselfconscious titter , and that sets the tenor for her, and the film.
Dr Mili Chakravarty (Sonam Kapoor) shows up at a ‘rajmahal’ which has a wheelchair-bound morose middle-aged noble (Hussain), his discipline-loving martinet of a wife (Ratna Pathak Shah), and their children–a daughter on the point of rebellion, and a dishy son (Khan) who roams about in vintage cars, striking deals involving mouldering castles and their reluctant owners.
From the first frame, you know that the film is set up as the coming together of the motor-mouth prole Mili and the high-nosed prince Vikram Singh Rathore. What saves ‘Khubsoorat’ from drowning in predictability are the unexpected touches, woven into the writing, and some spiffy acting .
The film brims with standard tropes: jodhpurs and jeans, stuffed shirts and stiff upper lips, loose-limbed girls going ‘bakar-bakar’, ‘khammaghanis’ and bristling ‘saafas’. This is Rajasthan, so of course the ‘rani sahiba’ is immaculately coiffed and wears bespoke printed chiffons and fat pearls, the ‘raja sahib’ twirls his wine glass and rolls his Rs. The handsome scion is worthy and well-dressed and betrothed to a beauty (Aditi Rao Hydari) who looks as if she would fit well into their lifestyle of dinner at the stroke of eight, and a starched napkin beside the plate, please.
Into this becalmed set-up arrives Mili, the girl who will do everything wrong, but will ultimately set everything right. And everything proceeds according to plan, scattering a bunch of smiles as it goes along.
The plot, and pace, slackens in between. The song-and-dance bits are completely superfluous, even if the lyrics and the tunes are spirited. But the rest compensates. Kirron Kher as the down-to-earth Punjabi mother, who could easily sleepwalk through the role given how much practice she’s had at it, has the film’s best lines, and makes us guffaw. The gang at the palace– the frosty mama bear who will melt, the grouchy papa bear who will throw out a leg, the oppressed girl who will burst free, and the frog who will learn to pucker up– are all up to the mark.
The frog aka the Pakistani hearthrob Fawad Khan, who has amassed a mammoth following in India after his brooding turn in a popular TV serial, makes his Bollywood debut here. He didn’t make me sigh, but he catches the eye, and does well enough for a prince-cum- ‘maindak’. And Sonam Kapoor, after a false over-bright, high-pitched start, settles into her part.
What you see is what you get with our Mili, and Kapoor plays her right, without letting the effort show, and that’s what works for the part, and for her. I only wished her deliberately mismatched outfits didn’t scream ‘see, see, I am so delightfully un-cordinated therefore daffy’, but it did help in un-Disney-fying her and grounding her.
‘Khubsoorat’ is bubblegum-y and air-headed and good-natured, and its biggest strength is that it keeps it consistent, becoming one of those films that over-delivers precisely because it under-promises.