Film review | Humshakals
An endurance test three times over
Since everything is multiplied three times in Sajid Khan’s latest comedy, it’s totally fair to complain that Humshakals is thrice as excruciating as films in this genre.
The movie, which barely improves on its trailer, is a failed over-the-top comedy in which every single moment is spelt out in skyscraper-high letters. The plot is partly set in an asylum but is bereft of the insane, David Dhawan-esque glee required to carry through its premise of triple roles. Khan pokes fun at himself in a couple of scenes, but he is unable to mine humour from the possibilities of two sets of lookalikes to businessman Ashok (Saif Ali Khan), his best buddy Kumar (Riteish Deshmukh) and a conniving uncle (Ram Kapoor) who schemes to snatch away Ashok’s fortune by declaring him insane.
Cue scenes of the temporary transformation of Ashok and Kumar into humans with canine tendencies upon the administration of a green-coloured liquid, their incarceration at a mental hospital named after one Cray G, scenes involving a cruel Adolf Hitler-worshipping warden (Satish Shah, the only genuine comedian on the set), and the inadvertent mix-up with another Ashok-Kumar pair, who have regressed into childhood for uninteresting reasons.
The return to a pre-adolescent phase says it all. The original Ashok and Kumar have been friends since “the second standard”, and it is at this stage of childhood where the humour is frozen. Undemanding seven-year-olds might just double up at the strictly childish puns, the “Who is the dumbest of them” sight gags, the three post-epilated male characters in red dresses, falsies and garish make-up, a comatose patient being repeatedly revived and shocked back into his stupor, and Prince Charles speaking in Hindi.
Yes, Humshakals is the kind of movie in which Indians make asses of themselves in foreign climes – the United Kingdom in this case – and in the presence of bewildered-looking Caucasian extras picking up a day’s meal.
The three women in the sluggish, 145-minute narrative, played by Bipasha Basu, Tamannah Bhatia and Esha Gupta, are purely ornamental (good for them). The main damage is done by the male actors, of whom only Deshmukh is somewhat amusing. Kapoor hams as broadly as his girth, and only comes to life in the scene in which his evil uncle attempts to seduce his cross-dressing lookalike (so, like, meta). Saif Ali Khan looks ravaged by age and the prospect of resurrecting a dying career by imitating, in succession, a dog, a child, and a gay, and therefore effeminate, man.
Sajid Khan has declared in every available forum that his movies are for audiences rather than critics (whatever that means). The same audiences booed his last offering, Himmatwala, out of the cinemas. If there is something to relish in Humshakals, it is the opportunity to sharpen weapons and words. It’s been a while since there’s been a movie this hatchet-worthy. For that, the team behind Humshakals needs eternal gratitude and continued support.
Humshakals opens on June 20.
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