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Movie Review: Khandaani Shafakhana

Banners: T-Series, Sundial

Producers: Bhushan Kumar, Divya Khosla Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Mahaveer Jain, Mrighdeep Singh Lamba

Director: Shilpi Dasgupta

Cast: Sonakshi Sinha, Varun Sharma, Badshah, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Annu Kapoor, Rajesh Sharma, Priyanshu Jora, Nadira Babbar

Writer: Gautam Mehra

Music: Tanishk Bagchi, Rochak Kohli, Badshah, Payal Dev

In the last few years, we have seen a fair share of films that have brought the otherwise hush-hush themes of sexuality to the fore. Old age pregnancy, sperm donation and erectile dysfunction have been refreshingly explored in Hindi cinema, making these otherwise ‘uncomfortable topics’ emerge as dining table conversations. The latest to join the bandwagon could have been Khandaani Shafakhana had it not fizzled out a few minutes after it begins. It ultimately turns out to be yet another uninspiring film that tried too hard to become a trendsetter.  

Khandaani Shafakhana begins with the story of Hakim Tarachand who is an important part of the core team at Hindustani Unani Research Centre. His colleagues make him a subject of mockery and ridicule and they condemn him when they come to know that he runs a sex clinic. He is accused of engaging in obscenity and bringing disgrace to the research institute. After his death, his niece, Baby Bedi, is made to carry his legacy forward and run the clinic against the displeasure of her mother. How she fights deeply ingrained societal prejudices and combats all those who are running after buying the old clinic to turn it into a modern building (yawn) forms the crux of the story. 

Films that are meant to make a social commentary run the risk of turning overtly preachy. This is exactly what happens to the Shilpi Dasgupta directorial. A preachy episode inside a courtroom dilutes the effect that the film had set out to create. The film makes several comments on gender equality, the importance of sex education as part of the academic curriculum and that sex is not a repulsive topic that can only be discussed behind closed doors. But a lackluster script dilutes the film significantly.

Writer Gautam Mehra has resorted to the tool of humour to package an otherwise serious topic but his writing falters in several places. Most of the one-liners do not land right. Some of the dialogues are so melodramatic and dated that you will wonder if you have time travelled back to the ‘80s. Khandaani Shafakhana seems to be a two-line story that has been stretched out way beyond necessary. 

Cinematography is one of the few strongest links in the film. Cinematographer Rishi Punjabi’s lenses delightfully capture the essence of Hoshiarpur in Punjab. The narrow lanes, the swarming thoroughfare and the petite bungalows nudge you to a charming and quaint world. 

The art department of Khandaani Shafakhana deserves a special mention. The shafakhana and its laboratory where unani compounds are concocted look like part of some magical castle. It is adorned with natural light streaming through Moroccan-styled doors and windows and stacks of old books and diaries. 

The invigorating background score is so good but it is wasted thanks to dreary writing and direction. In some of the scenes, Abhishek Nailwal’s background score with a staccato-esque effect will rejuvenate you.

One of the biggest flaws of the film is its editing. The first half is extremely stretched out that halfway through it, you will start getting restless. After a point, you will realise that nothing really is happening and the narrative is unreeling in a rather directionless manner. The second half is equally long-drawn and extremely predictable. The film is devoid of surprises and once it ends, you will see that there was nothing to look forward to throughout the narrative. 

As sad as this may sound, we wish Baby Bedi’s shafakhana stayed locked up for a little longer while. Khandaani Shafakhana is a good opportunity gone to waste. The protagonist’s agony fails to tug at your heartstrings and all that is happening seem to be too cosmetic.  

Coming to performances, Sonakshi Sinha as Baby Bedi is a delight, especially in the lighter scenes. Varun Sharma’s Bhooshit is not a well-fleshed out character and lacks charm. Rapper Badshah as Gabru Ghatak, in his acting debut, is an extension of his own personality but he looks disconnected in the emotional sequences. Annu Kapoor as Tagra is in full form. Rajesh Sharma in his special appearance is a treat. His comic timing will leave you in splits. Newcomer Priyanshu Jora is earnest. Kulbhushan Kharbanda is good as usual. Nadira Babbar leaves little impact.

Verdict: Give this one a miss! 

Rating: *1/2


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