director: shashanka ghosh
a modern fairy tale, loosely based on the hrishikesh mukherjee comedy of the same name, directed by sonam kapoor? he dreaded entering ‘khooburat’, beset as he was by dark thoughts about kapoor’s previous failed attempts to take real characters, ranging from the terribly cheesy (‘aisha’) to the mercifully short (‘bhaag milkha bhaag’).
I’m happy to report that one of the nicest surprises about ‘khoobsurat’ is that kapoor isn’t that bad. She fits well with the overall tone of the film which is suitably cheerful and giggly, and unapologetically goofy: Sonam Kapoor’s introduction causes her character to give a carefree giggle, and that sets the tenor for her and the film. /p>
dr. mili chakravarty (sonam kapoor) is presented in a ‘rajmahal’ which has a cranky middle-aged nobleman in a wheelchair (hussain), his discipline-loving wife (ratna pathak shah) and his children. a daughter on the verge of rebellion and a disheveled son (khan) who wanders around in vintage cars, striking deals involving crumbling castles and their reluctant owners.
From the very first frame, you know the film is set up as the union of mouthy milli brood and high-nosed prince vikram singh rathore. what saves ‘khubsoorat’ from drowning in predictability are the unexpected touches, woven into the writing, and some great acting.
The film is brimming with standard tropes: jodhpurs and jeans, puffy shirts and stiff lips, loose-limbed girls doing ‘bakar-bakar’, ‘khammaghanis’ and bristling ‘saafas’. this is rajasthan so of course the ‘rani sahiba’ is immaculately coiffed and wears custom printed chiffon and fat pearls, the ‘raja sahib’ spins his wine glass and rolls the rs at him. the handsome scion is dignified and well dressed and engaged to a beauty (aditi rao hydari) who seems to fit well into his eight o’clock dinner lifestyle, and a starched napkin by the plate please.
Into this calm scene comes Mili, the girl who will do everything wrong, but will finally fix everything. and everything proceeds according to plan, spreading lots of smiles as it goes.
the plot and rhythm loosen up in the middle. the singing and dancing parts are completely superfluous, even if the lyrics and melodies are energetic. but the rest makes up for it. kirron kher as the down to earth punjabi mother, who could easily sleepwalk through the role given the practice she’s had, she has the best lines in the movie and makes us laugh out loud. the gang in the palace, the icy mama bear who will melt, the grumpy papa bear who will throw a leg, the downtrodden girl who will break free, and the frog who will learn to frown, are all up to the task.
The Frog, also known as Pakistani heartthrob Fawad Khan, who has amassed a gigantic following in India after his haunting role in a popular TV series, makes his Bollywood debut here. he didn’t make me gasp, but he turns heads and does it well enough as a prince-cum-‘maindak’. and sonam kapoor, after a too bright and sharp false start, suits the part of him.
what you see is what you get with our mili, and kapoor plays her well, without showing the effort, and that’s what works for the role and for her. she just wished her deliberately mismatched outfits didn’t scream “look, look, I’m so delightfully jarring, therefore kooky,” but he helped de-disneyfy and punish her.
‘khubsoorat’ is bubblegum, airheaded and good-natured, and its greatest strength is that it maintains consistency, making it one of those films that goes overboard precisely because it doesn’t promise.