He thinks she is ‘aafat’. She thinks he is ‘khadoos’. That’s the starting point. The thinking continues. He thinks. She thinks. In voiceovers. They say the opposite. It doesn’t take much for them to have second thoughts. The hormones play Cupid. The oldest trick in Hindi movies is used here. She falls into his arms while reaching out for a book. (How original). Not that either of them read much.
One (Mili, Sonam Kapoor) is a physiotherapist, which is supposed to explain why only her upward pointing legs are seen on screen, more than once. The other is Prince Vikram Singh Rathore (Fawad Khan) who is too busy doing ‘business’. But since Shashank Ghosh’s Khoobsurat is a love story where sparks are supposed to fly between opposites, the two don’t care what they really think of each other. When the voiceover thoughts wear out their comic value (yes, there is some), the loud half Punju, thoughtless Mili blurts out to the silent, thoughtful handsome Prince, “mujhe gande khayal aa rahein hain.”
Would Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s vivacious Rekha have ever said this to the mild mannered Rakesh Roshan in the original Khoobsurat? A flutter of her lashes would have done the needful. Romance in those days didn’t boil down to mere attraction. Hormonal rush was created to heighten the moment. You could hear their hearts beating just by the virtue of the unspoken.
Any good love story makes you root for the lovers when the story gives meaning to that thing called love. In this case, it seems to be—opposites can attract and love can override the differences. But then the originalKhoobsurat wasn’t just a romance between two people. It was about a home which runs on rules and how a happy-go-lucky girl brings, love, joy and laughter to the entire family, including the hero. The memorable parts in the film were between this young lively girl (Rekha) and the iron lady of the house (Dina Pathak),which worked their beautiful magic.
Disney produced, Ghosh’s Khoobsurat is totally devoid of any subtlety either in character or presentation. A glossy presentation, grand Rajasthani locales displaying royal palatial surroundings and good looking actors, particularly our Pakistani hero playing a Rajput prince, do succeed in blinding you with the glitter, momentarily. But not long enough.
Every character is a caricature and every scene is a safe cliché. Rani-Sa (Ratna Pathak) in a blunt cut wig with perfect greys, silk sarees, huge pearls; is more of a stereotype royal snob running a palace. Dina Pathak’s strict matriarch act was a far more superior portrayal of a household run by rules and more rules. So when Rekha and the rest of the family sang, “saare niyam tod do, niyam pe chalna chod do..”, it resonated and felt liberating. But when Sonam shakes her hips (she does dance well here) to lyrics like “maaro bum dole” or “bum mein dum hai”, it is anything but liberating.
When Mili is not romping around and dropping things, she is known to have helped the likes of Dhoni and Sehwag on the cricket fields. Her sports therapy is soon forgotten once she sets foot inside the royal place.
So we see Mili drinking wine and more wine, straight from the bottle. She drinks with the wheel chair ridden king whom she has come to treat. She drinks with the prince and keeps thinking how handsome he is. So do we. She drinks some more with another king who is the prince’s business rival. While wine and champagne flow easy, conversations between Mili and Vicku (she calls him that, yes) are limited to shopping and silver.
Rest of the time, she flashes toothpaste, sugar and honey coated smiles and he looks at her long bare legs. “Taad rahe ho?”she reacts. She shares every detail with her louder counterpart, her mom whom she calls Manju (Kirron Kher). The two skype about the handsome prince who happens to be engaged, by the way. The fiancé (Aditi Rao) appears like an afterthought.
So while Manju and her daughter together wreck havoc in the boring household, little attention is paid to the real story of the disciplinarian royal mom. Ratna Pathak Shah does not go beyond a lift of the chin or the shoulders. Her husband (Aamir Raza) is a tad more fun to watch. Fawad who is outstanding in Pakistani serial, Zindagi Gulzar Hai, does little other than looking suitably dashing. It’s a Sonam Kapoor film all the way. Dressed in tight colorful pants, she prances around mostly and charms and engages though not convincingly enough to surpass her previous performances.
The original Khoobsurat remains like old wine, cherished more than ever. As for the remake, it’s bubbly and frothy. The high doesn’t last beyond the interval.