There’s a fundamental problem in adapting the films of Hrishikesh Mukherjee to a time and milieu other than what he projected in them. Their humour, sense of morality and dilemmas, much of the life of the stories, are distinctly derived from a middle-class, 1970s’ and 80’s ethos. But never has an adaptation been as unconvincing as Shashanka Ghosh’s retelling of DN Mukherjee’s original story. Hrishikesh Mukherjee translated the film to a delightful clash between two women and their world views (played by Rekha and Dina Pathak). Ghosh’s film is essentially a farce about the clash between Punjabiyat and maharaja propreity—and how the bumbling Punjabi triumphs.

Punjabiyat is a loose canon in the name of spontaneity. Mrinalini or Mili Chakravarty (Sonam Kapoor) is more her mother Manju (Kirron Kher), the Punjabi mother you have seen in hundreds of Hindi film, than her docile Bengali father. After proving herself a genius as a physiotherapist for IPL teams, curing Dhoni of prohibitive injuries, she arrives at a royal mansion in Rajasthan owned by the Rathore family—a maharaja confined to a wheelchair (Aamir Raza Husain), a maharani, all decorum and alarming eyes (Ratna Pathak Shah), who manages the estate, the betrothed and brooding prince Vikram (Fawad Afzal Khan) and a 17-year-old princess (Simran Jehani).

The royal family considers Mili “aafat" or disaster. For the audience too, as she is the film’s really sore note. The writing by Indira Bisht renders the heroine imbecile. Her Punjabi spontaneity gets her sozzled with the estate’s staff, after which she breaks into a sexy dance with them. She sprawls herself everywhere she sits, bumps into every precious object in the palace, gets kidnapped by local goons with whom she seems to have a jolly good time too, and shrieks and squeals through every dialogue.

How low can the Punjabi sink in our films? Mainstream Hindi films have celebrated, magnified and homogenized Punjabiyat for decades now. Here’s a film that makes it utterly empty—a pathetic joke. Kirron Kher as Manju, Mili’s convulsive mother, adds to the farce with her gimmicky and loud tricks. Racial stereotyping sinks to an all-time low in Ghosh’s treatment.

Before the film begins, Kapoor enacts a promotion for Disney saying how excited she was to finally play a Disney princess. Once the film begins, she is a caricature in carefully mismatched costumes. Shah and Husain competently drum up their roles as dysfunctional royalty and Khan, known for his roles in Pakistani television serials, and making his Hindi film debut with Khoobsurat, is a glimmer of sense and a discreet charm. He manages to tide over the insipid writing and dialogues, making Vikram believable. But Khan or Sneha Khanwalkar’s funky beats to the songs can’t redeem it.

Shashanka Ghosh’s Khoosurat is an all-round disaster. It reminds me all over again how confident a film-maker Hrishikesh Mukherjee was, and how sympathetic he was to his characters.

Khoobsurat released in theatres on Friday

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