India Insight

Movie Review: ‘Humshakals’ is best avoided

June 20, 2014

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

In the opening scene of director Sajid Khan’s “Humshakals” (lookalikes), Ashok Singhania (Saif Ali Khan) rattles off a series of unfunny jokes at a club as unamused guests flee. In a way, the scene is a sign of things to come, portending a long-winded tale with dull, contrived and ineffective humour.

Humshakals With “Humshakals”, Sajid Khan returns with his particular brand of slapstick comedy (remember “Housefull?). The plot is predictably threadbare. Ashok is taking care of his comatose father’s business empire; he’s an amateur comedian, a devoted son and a caring lover. Kumar (Riteish Deshmukh) is his best friend. Then there is Kunwar Amar Singh (Ram Kapoor), Ashok’s scheming maternal uncle who wants to seize his property by proving he is mentally unstable.

Confusion arises when Ashok and Kumar are admitted to the ‘Cray G. Mental Asylum’ (you read that right) and are mistaken for a pair of doppelganger patients with the same names. If that isn’t bizarre enough, there is a third patient called Joe in the same institution who is a lookalike of the scheming uncle.

By the time the third set of humshakals makes its entry, I’d stopped trying to make sense of the plot. The loopholes are too many and too glaring to ignore.

After his evil designs are exposed, the scheming uncle holds billionaire Ashok’s father at gunpoint to pressure Ashok into transfer his property to him — all this happening in a hall full of people, including a guy who plays Charles, the Prince of Wales. And every Caucasian character, including Prince Charles, is fluent in Hindi.

What he lacks in terms of an actual script, Sajid Khan tries to make up for by exploiting every possible Bollywood stereotype. The patients at the mental asylum are portrayed as objects of ridicule or pity, unfit to mingle with the outside world and deserving to stay locked away till they get better. In a particularly disturbing scene, the warden of the asylum’s criminal wing (Satish Shah) tortures the second set of lookalikes by reminding them of the electric shocks that had turned them insane. In another scene, a doctor waves a rubber bone at Ashok and Kumar, and they respond by barking like dogs. Joe, the most dangerous among all asylum patients, tries to kill anyone who sneezes.

HumshakalsThen there is a cross-dressing sequence in which the film’s three protagonists wear women’s clothing and are in danger of being molested by their lookalikes. The sequence is peppered with sexual puns and seems to suggest that an attempt to rape is funny if the victim is a man. Don’t miss the effeminate gay stereotype — the movie has a generous dose of homophobic humour.

Saif Ali Khan is believable as the sophisticated billionaire but is not convincing enough as the mentally unstable Ashok. Riteish does justice to his role. The three female leads — Mishti (Bipasha Basu), Shanaya (Tamannaah Bhatia) and Shivani Gupta (Esha Gupta) — introduced as a bevy of beauties in the film’s YouTube trailer, have insignificant parts. That’s actually not a bad thing, given the movie’s abysmal standard of script and direction.

Seasoned comedian Satish Shah elicits a few laughs as the crazy warden of the asylum’s criminal wing. Chunky Pandey’s cameo as a cruel and disgruntled ex-employer of the insane Ashok and Kumar is forgettable.

In the opening credits, Sajid Khan pays tribute to Kishore Kumar, Jim Carrey and Peter Sellers. It takes barely a few minutes of “Humshakals” to find this claim to greatness by association both arrogant and audacious. The movie is best avoided.

(Follow Anupriya on Twitter @anupriyakumar)

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