There never has been any love lost between director Sajid Khan and movie critics. When a diaper filled with baby poo flew in slow motion in the filmmaker’s debut flick ‘Hey Babyy’ (2007), everyone got an idea of the type of humor he wanted to specialize in. The two ‘Housefull’ movies followed, they were uniformly panned by critics – but Sajid went all the way laughing to the bank. Then came the rude jolt of ‘Himmatwala’ last year, which proved that Sajid had not become big enough to sell anything in the name of ‘entertainers’ to the paying public. In the name of making amends, Sajid has now come with ‘Humshakals’ – a movie that is clearly made with a lot of desperation, hurry…and yes, probably a bit of anger. He has succeeded in doing just the one thing though – giving the phrase ‘pathetic filmmaking’ a whole new meaning!
Storylines that make much sense have never featured in any of Sajid’s films till date, and ‘Humshakals’ is yet another collage of weird buffoonery. It first introduces us to filthy rich business tycoon ‘Ashok’ (Saif Ali Khan), whose passion is to shine as a stand-up comedy artist (don’t ask why, films like these defy logic!). His best buddy is ‘Kumar’ (Ritiesh Deshmukh) – who clearly has nothing else to do than give company to his well-to-do friend. ‘Ashok’ falls in love with ‘Shanaya’ (Tamannah), while ‘Kumar’ has a big-time crush on ‘Akash’s secretary (she might be a caretaker or housekeeper too – no one can tell!) ‘Mishti’ (Bipasha Basu). Yes Sajid, we noticed the nod to Ashok Kumar (more of an insult, it appears though!), and how a Bong actress MUST have a Bong name!
Ram Kapoor, after his ‘Bade Achhe Lagte Hai’ stint on the tele has become big property (no pun intended!) in Bollywood. In ‘Humshakals’, he plays ‘Kunwar Amar Nath Singh’ (the acronym is KANS, in case you missed that!) – the evil uncle of ‘Ashok’. With the help of his shady scientist crony ‘Khan’ (Nawab Shah), he proves that ‘Ashok’ is mentally unhinged, and since the latter’s father is in a coma, manipulates the power of attorney of the business in his name. And then starts all the mayhem – Sajid Khan style!
At the asylum ‘Ashok’ and ‘Kumar’ are sent too, there is another set of ‘Ashok’ and ‘Kumar’ (same actors) – but the latter are truly stark, raving mad. ‘Ashok’ from the second set of the duo has a soft corner for ‘Dr. Shivani’ (Esha Gupta) – one of the docs at the madhouse. There is also a super-deadly, violent lunatic – caged in seclusion at the asylum (a bearded Ram Kapoor, again). Through a series of absurd coincidences, the sane ‘Ashok’ and ‘Kumar’ get trapped in the asylum, while the mad ones reach the former’s mansion. Oh, and there is another set of ‘Ashok’ and ‘Kumar’ too – who are gay, and have had their faces changed by plastic surgery. A third Ram Kapoor is present too, as the owner of a dance bar in Southall (this time, he has a handlebar moustache). Feeling lost already? Don’t worry, you are not alone!
Probably to prove his credentials as a top-grade filmmaker after the ‘Himmatwala’ debacle, Sajid Khan pulls out all the stops (and then some more) in ‘Humshakals’ – to make people laugh. The results are disastrous, and all that you will get after watching the movie (if you are of otherwise robust health, that is!) is a splitting migraine. Sajid even dabbles in a bit of sci-fi in this atrocious flick – but whether mixing a dog’s DNA in a chemical solution and making someone drink it can turn the latter into a canine (for 24 hours) remains debatable. You will also learn about such delicacies like ‘cocaine ke paranthe’ (paratha made of cocaine) and ‘vodka ke paranthe’ (paratha made of vodka). People slap each other in the film – and then, one of them refers to the incident as ‘slapstick’. That should give you an idea about the type of…let’s call it humor…in ‘Humshakals’. Well done Sajid, ‘Himmatwala’ is no longer your most forgettable film!
If the movie (which, if you recall, had promised ‘9 times the fun’) premise is bad, the performances of the actors make it totally unwatchable. Saif Ali Khan and Ritiesh Deshmukh’s sane ‘Ashok’ and ‘Kumar’ acts are just about okay. The original Ram ‘KANS’ Kapoor isn’t that bad either. But as soon as the lookalikes arrive, everything becomes a farce. The second set of ‘Ashok’ and ‘Kumar’ (the mad ones, if you recall) keep saying ‘Hum pagal nahi hai…hamara dimaag kharab hai’ – often with a lisp. Ritiesh totally sleepwalks through this role, while it’s sad to see Saif making weird facial expressions (to prove that he is out of his mind, one presumes). The dangerous lunatic (the second Ram Kapoor) suffers from third degree obsessive compulsive disorder (dear Sajid, that does not only mean fussing over non-existent germs!), tries to kill anyone who even sneezes in front of him – but becomes happy as a baby when handed a lollypop. The third set of the trio (get that now? 3×3=9!) is simply forced into the narrative, to inflict more torture on the viewers. Of course, good ol’ Sajid thought it will add to the fun.
Even in male-dominated Bolly films, heroine(s) get to do something – at least have a couple of nice song-and-dance sequences. ‘Humshakals’ does not offer even that teeny-weeny bit of favor to its leading ladies. Tamannah, as ‘Shanaya’, has nothing to do except look pretty (which, let’s give her credit, she does). Esha Gupta has a thankless job of putting on a doctor’s robe and trying to appear all serious. Of course, when the need arises she can give a few ‘thumkas’ as well. Why a senior actress like Bipasha Basu took on the role of ‘Mishti’ will remain one of biggest unsolved mysteries in tinsel town. Again, since she’s a Bong playing a Bong character, she has 3-4 Bengali lines to deliver.
Satish Shah, as the Hitler and Idi Amin-worshipping warden of the asylum, behaves more like a nutjob than any of the madmen he is supposed to be guarding. Sajid even has the audacity of bringing in a character portraying ‘Prince Charles’ (Guy Ingle) – who can talk in Hindi, make faces, shout, and run for cover. It’s a minor miracle that the director did not think of thrusting even more characters in the film.
To be fair, there are instances of self-deprecating humor in ‘Humshakals’, which do bring a smile to viewers’ faces. The first has to be that of a dressed-as-a-female Ram Kapoor telling the menacing KANS Ram Kapoor ‘bistar toot gayi’ (the bed’s broken) – to which the latter replies ‘tum khud hi ek bistar ho’ (you are a whole bed in yourself!), a reference to the actor’s ample proportions. While torturing ‘Ashok’ and ‘Kumar’, Satish Shah threatens them with the ultimate punishment – forcing them to see ‘Himmatwala’ (in the first half), and Farah Khan’s marginally better ‘Tees Maar Khan’, during the end credits. These bits are few and way far between though, to create any overall impact.
Himesh Reshammiya rose and fell as a singer, rose (very briefly) and fell as an actor – and it seems like his career as a music director is on a downward spiral as well. Numbers like ‘Caller Tune’ (which, incidentally, has the laziest choreography in Hindi films, in recent times), and ‘Hum Pagal Nahi Hai’ are not even hummable. ‘Piya Ke Bazaar Mein’ – supposedly the oomphy qawaali where the three heroines scorch the screen, is an out-of-sync number. You will forget these though – after watching Himesh’s coup de grace – ‘Khol de’, a song that is an assault to your visual and auditory senses. Of course, if you like seeing two madmen and one fat man chasing two sane men dressed as girls and one fat madman dressed as a huge woman, you might love its picturization. Weirdly enough, the least publicized of ‘Humshakals’ songs, ‘Barbaad Raat’ has some recall value. It also has Sajid’s signature style of lead actors prancing around in a big house, with an elderly person in hot pursuit. There’s no Boman Irani this time, so Satish Shah slots in that role. There is a scene where Ritiesh urinates on Satish Shah – which is almost as crass as the slow-mo baby diaper throw in ‘Hey Babyy’.
The credits mention the name of Bunty Nagi as the editor, but ‘Humshakals’ has not been edited in any way – this is clear to even the dumbest viewer. It stretches on and on, with repetitive gags, unfunny dialogs, and one setpiece of wacky (not in a good way) coincidences after another. ‘Ashok’s mansion is the same one used in ‘Housefull 2’ (remember, the one in which Mithun-da lived?). The background score is horrendous – every nod of the head and flutter of the eyes are accompanied with sounds like ‘twing!twing!’. There are also background choruses like ‘adlabadli ho gayi/confusion shuru ho gayi’ – which describe the overall film better, than the incidents happening on screen.
It’s high time Sajid Khan realized (not that he would, but still) that there is a world of difference between being witty with one-liners and quips on TV shows, and making an enjoyable ‘blockbuster entertainer’ that he continues trying to make. Someone should tell him, as soon as possible, that farce and comedy are poles apart. There’s hardly any point blaming the ho-hum performances of the actors – when they had been cast in a movie which can be as outrageously bad as this one.
Bipasha Basu had skipped the promotions of ‘Humshakals’, citing her unhappiness over Sajid’s preferential treatment of Tamannah Bhatia. After watching the film, you will feel suspicious – Bips had probably realized what a blunder she had made by signing it, and understandably, wanted to distance herself from it. Who wants to promote a trash can (also known as ‘Humshakals’!), anyway?