Let’s talk about sex! It’s not just a song by Salt-N-Pepa, it’s also the urge of the new Sonakshi Sinha starrer Khandaani Shafakhana. Sexual dysfunctions in India are grouped under the title ‘Gupt Rog’. However modernized we think of ourselves, sex is one issue we don’t tend to open up about, even though we must.
By Chetan Mehrishi
It is this ignorance which leads several Indian patients to routinely be treated on the sly, by Unani hakims — doctors working in the Hellenic tradition — and Shilpi Dasgupta’s debut film Khandaani Shafakhana is about a clinic run by a revered old doctor called Mamaji, played by the venerable Kulbhushan Kharbanda, who has spent decades fixing problems that people won’t publicly speak of. The film has a strong message to preach but fails at the execution level. Here’s our detailed dissection of this week’s Khandaani Shafakhana.
The aforementioned Mamaji is killed by a former patient who couldn’t deal with his overactive sex-drive. The reading of his will leads to a Maalamaal-like setup where the clinic is bequeathed to Mamaji’s niece but on the condition that she actively runs the place for six months since Mamaji doesn’t want his patients to feel abandoned. It’s a standard setup and the film’s intent is clear: to get people talking about their problems instead of being beset by shame, and often trusting in snake-oil salesmen when they require help from qualified professionals.
On The Upside
As far as the positives go, the performances are praiseworthy. A big surprise comes from the rapper Badshah. As a larger-than-life pop star called Gabru Ghattack — to rhyme with the attack — he plays a man with the erectile disorder who bawls about his problem moments after he first emerges from his SUV. It’s a bold role for the musician to take, one that is aware of the connotations, as other characters in the film call him “a homo pop star”. Still, big ups to the rapper to take on this persona. The niece running the show is played by the alliterative Sonakshi Sinha. Though the character is poorly written, Sonakshi manages to work with whatever she’s got. Sadly the script does not leave much scope for her. Still, a courageous attempt.
On The Downside
The problem arises when a film like this tries to play sexual troubles for laughs — making jokes of a wrestler with a broken penis, or a popular musician suffering from an erectile disorder — and while Khandaani Shafakhana tries to eventually reach out with empathy, the initial attempts at humour rise mostly from the heroine’s disgust. The other problem comes from the film’s unnecessary attempts at melodrama, but these are both redundant and half-baked.
In one scene, for instance, a mother is evicted from her house and ends up giving an evocative speech about pride and loss of face, but then we never see her living elsewhere. It’s as if the filmmakers were instructed to amp up the drama to increase the storytelling stakes and that hurts this film’s simple, good-natured spirit.
All In All
As a nation, we need to open up about sex. We’re obviously having enough of it to not be scandalised this easy. It’s not all shock and haww. As for the film, the script could’ve been much better if the topic would’ve been dealt with more maturity. We’re going with 2 out of 5 stars for Khandaani Shafakhana. The subject matter, not the film, is worth your time.