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Review: Sonam is no match for Pakistan's Fawad Afzal Khan

Love sells in Bollywood, and how. Whether it’s packaged rather subtly in out-and-out action masalas or brash comedies, or pushed into the spotlight in mushy musicals, there’s always a damsel in distress waiting to be swept off her feet by her prince charming.

Keeping that essence intact, and having borrowed generously from Hollywood’s ‘Princes Diaries’ and the Hindi classic ‘Khoobsurat’, the Kapoors (Anil, Sonam and Rhea) team up to give love a regal twist.

Only, their love story appears rather flat, much unlike its excessively hyper leading lady.

The fairytale is pitched between opposites. One’s a dignified blue-blooded prince, while the other is an eccentric physiotherapist, dressed in shades that’s becoming of a circus clown.

It’s a mismatch from the word go, but one that debutant director Shashanka Ghosh hopes to turn into a ‘happily ever after’.

So, we are forced to witness this great reveal over 130 minutes, as the two personalities, who occasionally step out of their own worlds into one another’s.

While it’s those rare, uninhibited moments of romance and laughter that make rom-coms turn into delightful tales, ‘Khoobsurat’ refuses to work towards it. The rare banter the lovers share are far too few to show promise.

Instead, it lazily embraces a tone, similar to that of Kapoor clan’s earlier family venture ‘Aisha’, and follows Hollywood’s ‘chick flick’ format blindly.

The hero is undoubtedly charming, and not in the customary body-flexing, six-abs kind of way. The heroine is the Kapoor girl, dressed in fashion finery, and allowed to flash her ‘cover girl’ pouts and poses even when the story doesn’t ask for it. And, since their love story is in Bollywood, they also sing and dance.

Set in an opulent palace in Rajasthan, ‘Khoobsurat’ unfolds as the high-profile physiotherapist Dr Mili Chakraborty struggles to cure a wheel-chair-bound king who refuses to be treated, and adapt to the queen’s alarmingly disciplined way of life.

Even Prince Vikram Singh Rathore appears conceited and unfriendly, forcing the lonely Mili to find solace in the late-night parties with the butlers, and skype-chats with her boisterous mom.

As the days pass by, the royal family begins to warm up to her madness, and suddenly transforms their personalities considerably. The grouchy, yet obedient king turns confident and authoritative. The tyrant of a queen abruptly blushes, while the stiff prince turns soppy. Only, the doctor remains high-pitched and clumsy, and so does her animated mother.

But, this is light-hearted entertainment, where logic and characterisation don’t hold much prominence. Where a single kiss is enough to ruin one love-story and start another one.

Sonam Kapoor is perpetually high-pitched, shrieking and giggling without much purpose. For someone with limited acting talent, Mili appears to be a fun part to play, especially since it doesn’t require much skill. But, even that Sonam doesn’t pull off.

Sonam ends up wearing hideous clothes, possibly to establish the disconnect with her real (fashionista) image. But, where her real and on-screen image connect is in their eagerness to speak their mind without (ever) filtering their thoughts. At least, that she manages to crack!

It’s a treat to watch seasoned actor Ratna Pathak take on Nirmala Devi Rathore and her quirks. It’s sadly wasted in a movie like this. Even her king, played by imposing Aamir Raza is noteworthy. Kirron Kher repeats her loud-mouthed Punjabi mother act in loud strokes, but manages to inject some humour into the madness. It’s those rare moments when she shuts up and lets her facial expressions do the work that exposes her true genius.

Fawad’s Bollywood debut attains incredible charm and dignity. He’s spot-on as the tight-lipped prince, who refuses to let his emotions overcome his stately duties. It’s when he finally sheds his image, that he weakens a bit. But, that’s forgiven considering it’s easy to slip into exaggeration in a Bollywood frame.

With some hits and misses, ‘Khoobsurat’ remains fairly grounded in its genre, and comes with the disclaimer – “strictly for girls”.

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