So you thought Sajid Himmatwala Khan could sink no further. Watch just 15 minutes of Humshakals and you’d be disavowed of that notion. Even by the pitiable cinematic standards that the director has so defiantly set for himself, Humshakals is the very pits. It scrapes the bottom of a barrel that seems to have no bottom at all. Humshakals is an execrable comedy of horrors that plumbs the depths of stupidity and crassness.If there is any purpose that this load of unalloyed trash serves, it is simply this: the film proves how delusional Sajid Khan is. He thinks this is cinema. Sorry, Mr. Khan, no matter how much money your film ends up with at the box office, the joke is entirely on you! Humshakals (screenplay: Robin Bhatt, Sajid Khan and Akarsh Khurana) makes a complete mockery of the medium. It operates on the principle that a mindless mad hatters’ party can be mined for laughs over a runtime of 160 minutes if three sets of lookalikes are thrown into the equation and a wild goose chase is orchestrated.Not a fraction of the film (story and dialogue: who else but Sajid Khan?) comes remotely close to being funny. The gap between what the director believes he is capable of achieving and what he actually delivers is yawning. He has the gumption to pitch Humshakals as a tribute to the “masters of mad comedies” – Kishore Kumar, Jim Carrey and Peter Sellers. Seriously, how insane is that! The acting is appallingly and consistently bad. But that does not stop Riteish Deshmukh from imitating Dilip Kumar on a couple of occasions. One can only cringe.Neither is that all. The memory of Ashok Kumar, Hindi cinema’s other recognized epitome of onscreen restraint, is evoked repeatedly through the names of the two principal male characters – Ashok and Kumar. You squirm in disgust, if not disbelief, as a bunch of morons runs amok in London, taking the film – and in the free-for-all climax, an actor impersonating Prince Charles, no less – down with them into the dregs. The ways of the ho hum hero of Humshakals are perfectly in keeping with the rest of the tawdry film.The man is called Ashok Singhania (Saif Ali Khan), and he is the scion of a mammoth business empire. He doubles up as stand-up comic who cracks PJs that drive away the audience. He and his bum chum, Kumar (Riteish Deshmukh), have to contend with an evil maternal uncle (Ram Kapoor), who answers to the name of Kunwar Amar Nath Singh. The acronym, if you haven’t guessed, is Kans. Wow! Singhania senior (Akash Khurana) is in coma, and this greedy mamaji wants to usurp the business from under the nose of the rightful heir. He is bent upon declaring Ashok mentally unstable.In a ward of the mental asylum where Ashok and Kumar end up after being turned into dogs by a potion created in a secret lab, another pair of guys with the same names and looks surfaces. It eventually turns out that the villain, too, has a lookalike, a man who responds with great violence every time somebody sneezes in his presence. “I hate germs,” he hollers. As the mayhem takes on indescribable proportions, the soundtrack is helpfully overlaid with a musical refrain that goes humshakals, humshakals and adla badly ho gayi confusion shuru ho gayi, lest the audience misses the point.Humshakals is consistent in one respect: the only way it goes is down. The gags turn more and more grotesque as the film progresses, ending in such an unseemly heap that it becomes impossible to fathom what the hell is going on. If two sets of doppelgangers were not bad enough, a third set is introduced in the run-up to the climax. This film’s idea of slapstick humour entails poking fun at the mentally ill, at five-year-olds, and at canines. If members of any of the above categories could lodge a protest, the makers of Humshakals would have had a battle on their hands.If they do not, it is simply because their film is so god awful that it doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously. In the film’s only sequence that might bring forth a mild chuckle, Satish Shah, in the guise a tyrannical warden of an asylum for the criminally insane, subjects two inmates to a screening of Himmatwala. Heed the warning: Humshakals is infinitely more insufferable. Even if you possess plenty of himmat, use it elsewhere.
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