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Sonakshi Sinha on Khandaani Shafakhana: It’s my first socially-relevant film- Cinema express

Sonakshi Sinha on Khandaani Shafakhana: It’s my first socially-relevant film

The Dabangg actor, director Shilpi Dasgupta, rapper-actor Badshah, and producer Mrighdeep Lamba discuss Khandaani Shafakhana, a ‘sex film’ for the entire family

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Published: 30th July 2019

Sonakshi Sinha was apprehensive about Khandaani Shafakhana. Since her debut, the Dabangg actor has decidedly picked family-friendly films. So she was surprised when they approached her for what sounded like a sex film. The one-liner — a comedy about a girl who inherits her mamaji’s sex clinic — felt dodgy, and a thorough narration was set up. For good measure, Sonakshi’s mother, veteran actor Poonam Sinha, was present at the reading. “We were testing the script with our own mothers,” says producer Mrighdeep Lamba. “The idea was to see how acceptable it will be for a family audience. Our film is ultimately aimed at them.”

The reading went well and Sonakshi was hooked. More than anything, the message spoke to her. “This is the first time I’ve done a socially-relevant film,” she says, “It raises questions about sexual health and why people shy away from discussing it. We’ve also addressed topics like gender equality. No one bats an eye at a male gynaecologist. But when my character, a girl, wants to run a fertility clinic, people have a problem.”

In the film, Sonakshi plays Baby Bedi, a medical representative in Hoshiarpur, Punjab. Coming from an orthodox family, she sets about the difficult task of raising sexual awareness in an Indian small town. The actor ranks the role among her best ones till date. “As a child, Baby wanted to become a doctor. But because of responsibilities, she had to let go of that dream. Her brother (Varun Sharma) doesn’t work; their mother is old. So she’s just been hustling through life. It’s empowering when (the story turns and) she comes back to following her dream.”

To get people to converse openly about sex, Baby teams up with Gabru Ghataak, a local pop star. This colourful character is portrayed by rapper Badshah in his debut role. “It’s a flamboyant, exaggerated part,” Badshah shares, “I picked up details from fellow pop stars in Punjab: from Gabru’s hair colour to the multiple chains on his neck. I was nervous about remembering my lines on set but it worked out smoothly.”

Badshah weighs in on the film’s subject. “It’s an important topic. Somewhere, every celebrity has a social responsibility to initiate dialogue. I’ve addressed topics like domestic violence and female foeticide in my music before. This is the first time I got to do something on screen.”

Director Shilpi Dasgupta wanted to set the film in Central India. However, working closely with Mrighdeep and screenwriter Gautam Mehra, she opted for a Punjabi setting. The debutant views sex education as an urgent cause across India. “There are a couple of areas where we lead as a country: first is depression, second is sexual repression. Frankly, there’s no awareness. There’s ample stigma attached to mental and sexual well-being. As a society, we are not allowed to understand ourselves,” Shilpi notes. The director singles out the Indian middle class as the most squeamish. “The bottom-most strata are never shy because they live for survival, while the upper class has earned enough to be open. It’s the middle section where the problem lies. Interestingly, that’s where the best stories come from.”

Mrighdeep is known for directing the slacker comedies Fukrey and Fukrey Returns. Khandaani Shafakhaana marks his maiden Bollywood production. The filmmaker feels mainstream audiences are finally warming up to offbeat subjects. “Films can tackle taboo subjects in an entertaining manner,” he says. “Earlier we had films like Chupke Chupke (1975) and Mirch Masala (1987). In recent years, Vicky Donor and Badhaai Ho took that extra leap and were universally loved. Neither of those films were vulgar. Films like PadMan and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha were also great initiatives. Somewhere, I feel, movies do leave an impact.”

Khandaani Shafakhaana also stars Annu Kapoor, Priyanshu Jora and Kulbhushan Kharbanda. The film releases on August 2.

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