Disney's forthcoming film Khoobsurat, due to release tomorrow, comes with big names tagged to it. For starters, it has Anil Kapoor producing it. And for whatever it's worth, Sonam’s papa seems to have left no stone unturned to ensure the film is chicly produced. Some of the industry’s best-known acting talents (Kirron Kher and Ratna Pathak Shah) will share screen space with Sonam. Even the hero, the freshest and promising Pakistani import into Bollywood, Fawad Khan does have a fan following among girls and its growing.
Yet, despite all these pluses, something doesn’t seem right.
Here’s why.1. The missing stone in the wall called Hrishikesh Mukherjee
He was arguably one of the most gifted storytellers of Bollywood. His empathetic understanding of middle class Indian mores was spot on. In the ’70s and early ’80s, he, along with Basu Chatterjee, steered clear of the melodrama and larger-than-life presentations that were the order of the day, and instead gave us intimate sketches of what it meant to live in a middle-class family with pathos and humour. The original Khoobsurat had all of it and was an instant winner. It was the story of breaking free from the stifling world of middle class value systems in an upper middle class household dominated by the menacing-yet-caring mother figure (Dina Pathak) whose authority and control is undermined by a new entrant into the household.
With no offense to Shashanka Ghosh, director of the remake, the promos don’t look inviting enough. The setting changes and so does a lot of laden implications. Instead, now we have a story of a free-spirited physiotherapist (Sonam) entering the cloistered world of a former Rajasthani royal, led by the matriarch (Ratna Pathak Shah) who is fastidious and stickler to correctness. Compelling enough? Can’t say.2. Sonam’s no Rekha
Truth be told, despite being blessed with the right genes, Sonam doesn’t show any great propensity to act. Whenever she's appeared in any women-oriented role, she has come a cropper. In Aisha, which was supposedly based on Jane Austen’s Emma, she played an Emma-inspired character but in a South Delhi milieu. The film looked pretty but lacked in spirit and verve. Sonam just couldn’t manage to engage with the audiences as Emma’s character did with its complexity – story of a girl from English upper-crust aristocracy who is pretty, kind-hearted but affected with a misplaced understanding of the world. Maybe, the screenplay did not offer Sonam much to showcase her talent, but Aisha too was her baby (produced by her dad). Yes, she was good in Ranjhaanaa but it was Dhanush who stole the show.
Rekha, on the other hand, took to the character in the original, as duck takes to water. As the younger sister visiting her sister’s in-laws, who is unaware of this claustrophobic world where the matriarch rules, Rekha was in her elements. In this world respect isn’t earned, but taken for granted and Rekha’s character presents an alternative. With sensitivity, humour and fun, Rekha’s performance was a complete contrast to her onscreen persona. Small wonder the movie clicked with the audience.3. Relevance of the story today
Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Khoobsurat unfolded in an India which was still very rooted in orthodoxy. It took its cue from the age-old tradition of respecting your peers, no matter what, so apparent in Oriental cultures like India and China. With it came a plethora of added values – discipline, confirming with manners, arranged marriages, collective spirit vis-à-vis an independent identity, etc. Rebellion was ripe. That was early 1980s India.
Cut to 2014. Love and romance is very much the order of the day, at least in urban India. Not that marriages don’t get arranged, but there’s a higher possibility of parents telling their children to find their soul mates instead of expecting them to do the honours. Sex is the open truth – gynacs are more likely to advice young mothers to give their girls a shot of cervical cancer vaccine when still in their teens, for instance. At least, in the homes, the definition of authority has undergone a sea change. The royals, of course, may still be a different ball game but it’s hard to tell.
Rekha’s Khoosurat was intimately personal. The household in which the story unfolds, the manner in the ‘broth cooks’, the way the subject was treated, it all seemed plausible. In Sonam’s Khoosurat, the drama unfolds in a world of old money. At once, it seems a bit distant.4. The support cast
For any story to click, it’s critical that the support cast is chosen with care and the screenplay allows enough engagement. In Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s world, care was taken to ensure that. The formidable Dina Rathak as the mother hen could inspire awe and affection with equal ease. Veteran Ashok Kumar as her helpless husband made a perfect fit. Rakesh Roshan as the otherwise obedient son who will eventually stand up to his mother’s unbending ways made for an engaging watch.
We will soon see Ratna Pathak Shah reprise her mom’s role in this remake. While Ratna’s talent is beyond doubt, whether she’ll make any impact as a crusty middle-aged woman in a rusty old world of Rajasthani royals is anybody’s guess.
Kirron Kher is the surprise addition. As a complete antithesis to Ratna’s character, she fits the bill to the T. But the ‘buts’ remain. Fawad Khan as the new Rakesh Roshan, who plays ‘working in the corporate’ no nonsense son to Ratna, might just pull it off, but as they say, the proof of the pudding lies in eating; we’ll have to wait for the final offering.5. Music, the soul of a romance in India
Mahesh Bhatt’s Aashiqui franchise is proof enough. In the sub continental context, music is what sets the audience going. And if is a romantic comedy, be rest assured music is the perfect bait. None other than Yash Chopra, the king of romance in Bollywood, would have vouched for it.
Also watch: Rekha sing saare niyam todd doh, niyam se chalna chhod doh
It’s been more than 30s years now, but people will still recall Rekha prancing around her home teasing her sister with ‘Sunn sunn didi tere liye eik rishta aaya hai’. One can almost see that crooked smile on your face on hearing ‘Saare niyam thod doh, niyam se chalna chhod do, Inquilaab Zindabad’. Now, compare this with ‘Teri maa ka phone’ and you’ll instinctively know what we are hinting at.
Also watch: Sonam in Teri ma ka phone
Of course, that still doesn’t mean we stop experimenting.