There are some wonderful things happening in this offbeat entertainer. For one, the tightlipped stuffed shirts are being made to talk about, ahem, sex.
When did Bollywood lose its inhibitions? Probably when we were watching B R Ishara’s Chetna or Rajinder Singh Bedi’s Dastak, revolutionary films way back in the 1970s where women were shown to have a sexual appetite that needed fuelling in a country that won’t even acknowledge male sexuality and its pitfalls unless done in whispers.
Here in this brave and uninhibited film, an anonymous woman comes to a courtroom and speaks of a husband whose ‘balloon’ had no ‘gas’ until he visited the notorious Baby Bedi’s sex clinic.
Baby, by the way, is played with feisty energy by Sonakshi Sinha. Whether riding her rickety scootie to work, berating an angry sex-o-phobic patriarch whose anger is rooted to a bad case of piles, or advising her neighbourhood crush to try the roadside soup…. Sonakshi pulls off the Baby talk (ironically, sex) with spirit… too much at times as she belongs to that school of acting which believes an actor must act every second in a frame to justify her paycheck. It’s an anxious performance, but nonetheless effective as it suits the purpose of this perky yet wound-up tale of a young aimless woman who must take over her beloved uncle’s sex clinic.
Sex is a tricky subject in Bollywood, specially when you want to make it palatable to a non-adult audience. Debutante director Shilpi Dasgupta succeeds in giving the sex-talk a goofy yet sober spin. However, the sex talk lacks the ‘it’ quality. The narrative structures itself as a coming-of-age saga, but the episodes leading up to Baby Bedi’s self-awareness are a little tame.
The regular customers of Bedi’s Mamajee (Kulbhushan Kharbanda, who plays a dead man with the affection and warmth that only he can) who trickle into the clinic when Baby takes over, could have been more lively and provocative. Sadly the patients try our patience. Their inhibition in sharing their bedroom problems with the sex guru’s novice niece seems to be shared by the director. Where a more robust approach was needed to show how sinfully sex is swept under the carpet in our society, the narrative opts for much fumbling and stumbling.
But then rapper-singer Badshah comes forward to tell Baby he suffers from, ahem, erectile dysfunction and would she please help him….errrr, rise to the occasion. That’s when the plot gets stimulated and, ummm, sexed up.
By simply being a film that espouses a more open attitude to sex, even in the mildly hilarious courtroom sequence where Annu Kapoor and Rajesh Varma are fabulous as the defence lawyer and judge, Khaandani Shafakhana wins you over. While the director does stumble a bit in talking about sex, she is bang-on with Baby’s family life. Varun Dhawan and Nadira Bedi look so much like Baby’s brother and mother that I felt I was watching a reality show where the prize is a free trip to Bangkok’s massage parlour without assuming an alias.
There is a wonderful real-life moment in the family scene when Nadira Babbar wishes her daughter would get a husband like Raj Babbar.
Babbar, Sonakshi doesn’t get. But she does get the shy sensible boy nextdoor (Priyanshu Jora) who blushes hard when Baby bursts into her bedroom babble.
With a camera (Rishi Punjabi) that captures Punjab’s inner-city vibes with as much throbbing efficacy as it clasps Baby in tight no-frills close-ups, this is film of far more value than the throwaway lines may initially suggest.