Humshakals: Hum Shock-Alls reeling under the farce

Saif Ali Khan Bipasha Basu

Ram Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan and Riteish Deshmukh in a still from Humshakals. Handout/Vancouver Desi

SUBHASH K. JHA
IANS 

Film: Humshakals
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Ram Kapoor, Riteish Deshmukh, Bipasha Basu, Tamnannah Bhatia, Esha Gupta
Directed by Sajid Khan
Rating: ** (2 stars)

Tammanah Bhatia makes so many faces in every frame you wonder if she’s auditioning for a film against drug addiction while pretending to be in the comedy revolving around three sets of identical characters.

Bipasha Basu who plays one of the female leads in the comedy of ghastly errors, has gone on record to say she was extremely disturbed by the end-result of this film.

And to be honest, so are we. And the end that Bipasha talks about seems to take forever to reach as we watch three grown-up actors lapse into a collective state of incurable idiocy.

Moronic and misconceived, the Ashok and Kumar duo seem to revel in crass mediocrity. As inmates in a mental asylum in London, Saif Ali Khan and Riteish Deshmukh raise the ante for lunacy to a point where sanity begins to seem like a state of mind invented to make us believe there is a world, a relatively sane one, outside what comic filmmakers in Bollywood consider to be funny.

To be fair, Sajid Khan’s new brainwave replete with triple roles for its three male leads plus a drag act each in the second half which is genuinely funny, is as obnoxious in treatment as the slapstick comedies of Rohit Shetty or Anees Bazmi.

I suspect the actors must have had a whale of a time shooting the scenes. And Sajid Khan must have enjoyed writing the comedy of mistaken identity especially when the look-alikes keep multiplying as the plot progresses.But the growth is unstructured. It’s like supplementary food being air-dropped to famine victims. The basic food items are missing. What do you do with add-ons?

The comedynmoves with the screechy stealth of a boys choir singing Yo Yo Honey Singh’s numbers when the head priest is on vacation. Every member of the cast and crew seems to be in a vacation mood. Many of the gags are stretched out as though the director commanded the camera to roll and then went off to sleep.

Saif and Riteish vacillate between being spoofy and spiffy with some help from Ram Kapoor who gets to play two characters, one of them suffering from what the medical experts on board for this specialized comedy refer to as OCD Level 3.

Riteish, as regular in Sajid Khan’s cinema as titles beginning with the letter H, makes a better impression than Saif who tries hard to show us he’s in the fun no-brainer mood. Saif is clearly out of his depths indulging in the slapstick lunacy of a world that has no logic except to create a chaotic humour out of a stockpile of mistaken identities.

To shock us, there are lots of gay jokes popping up when you least expect it, as though the director wants to remind us that political incorrectness is not only about mistaken identities but also about identity crises.

Don’t even try to make sense of the world that Sajid Khan builds. The sand castle of goofiness can any time be washed away by the high tide. The director doesn’t really care.

Sajid Khan takes potshots at himself and his sister Farah Khan by showing Himmatwala and Tees Maar Khan as part of torture curriculum in the mental asylum. Don’t be surprised if the DVD of Humshakals shows up in Humshakals 2 as a torture device.

In one of the rare genuinely funny sequences, Saif and Riteish try to impress Ram Kapoor by pulling off the tablecloth from a table filled with food, promising  that nothing will spill.

Of course all the food comes crashing down. But does the fear of falling ever hold back the broad comedy of ill manners which Bollywood considers funny?

Wish we had as much fun watching this film as the team seems to have had making it. Saif is shown to be a bad stand-up comedian. The film never outgrows its hero’s character’s craving to make people laugh.

IANS 2014-06-20 23:06:16

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