Cast: Sonakshi Sinha, Varun Sharma, Badshah, Annu Kapoor
Director: Shilpi Dasgupta
It is just frustrating how many well-intentioned films are marred by inept storytelling. ‘Khandaani Shafakhana’ wants to destigmatise conversations around sex and other sexual dysfunctions, but surely taking the zing out of the act is not the way to go about it!
A laborious approach makes this one a tepid tale. Baby Bedi (Sonakshi Sinha), a medical representative in Hoshiarpur, is witty and feisty but not prudent enough to pay off the many debts that she has piled up. When her paternal uncle passes away, he wills his sex clinic away to her to run for a period of six months, after which she is free to sell it off. In dire need of a windfall, and despite the disapproval of her mother and judgmental stares from all and sundry, Baby decides to find a way to run the place. Initially bored and clueless, she soon realises that she has shifa or the ability to cure people.
Much like ‘Vicky Donor’ and ‘Shubh Mangal Savdhan’, this unusual premise seemingly checks all the boxes needed to make a well-received film. Debutant director Shilpi Dasgupta, however, doesn’t display the same competence that the other directors displayed while handling a taboo subject such as this one.
Insipid jokes and trite dialogues maim the objective of the tale. Unnecessary melodrama and a clumsy narrative further dilute the impact of what could have been an important comment on why there is a need to open up discussions on sex, and why they are even more necessary now than before.
Sonakshi tries her best to deliver a convincing portrayal, but she doesn’t yet have the ability to shoulder the weight of an entire film. She is also saddled by a script that doesn’t really help her to make the right moves. Here is a novice in Unani medicine, who is trying hard to find a way to run a sex clinic in a place like Hoshiarpur — a vocation that has stigma attached to it even when it’s practiced by a man, leave alone a small-town girl.
If the audience is to wholeheartedly buy into the idea of Sonakshi as an expert sex clinic practitioner with a masterly healing touch, then the director should have at least provided some background to the premise. But all we get are cursory flashbacks to show how she helped her uncle as a child or her experimenting with his nuskhe (prescriptions) and these are not nearly enough!
The supporting cast, with actors like Varun Sharma as the useless brother, Annu Kapoor as the lawyer and Rakesh Sharma, aren’t entrusted with enough material to do justice to their parts. Badshah’s cameo works somewhat, but it isn’t really a performance that can raise the appeal of this tale.
Despite the flaws, the topic is a pertinent one — this is a conversation that needs to happen and people with issues related to sex need to feel that there is no need to keep their gupt rog all that gupt anymore.
Alas, only if the matter was handled with a little more finesse, this story about yaun sambandh wouldn’t have been a yawn-fest.