Years ago when I was in my twenties, I woke up one night with an unbearable pain that was later diagnosed as a kidney stone. The damn thing had lodged itself somewhere in my intestines, and it was literally the worst pain I’ve felt in my life. Watching Sajid Khan’s Humshakals, I was reminded of my helpless, miserable state from so many years ago.
This singularly unfunny film plumbs the depths of comedic bankruptcy by a director who quite frankly, hasn’t delivered anything funny in a long time. Unless the sight of two dwarves, their faces buried in Saif Ali Khan and Ritesh Deshmukh’s crotches, dangling off the actors’ pelvises as they try to shake them off, is your idea of a good laugh. Or a lip-smacking, lecherous Ram Kapoor trying to rape Ram Kapoor-in-drag is your definition of entertainment.
The plot, if you can call it that, is noodle-thin. Saif Ali Khan is Ashok, the heir to a vast business empire. Ritesh Deshmukh is Kumar, his best friend. Get it? Ashok, Kumar! Anyway, Ram Kapoor is Ashok’s uncle, Kunwar Amar Nath Singh or Kans, and he wants to take over the business. So he recruits lookalikes of both men, a pair of crazies from the local asylum, to achieve this. Eventually we get three sets of doppelgangers – three Saif Ali Khans, three Ritesh Deshmukhs, and three Ram Kapoors – and we also get a migraine in the process.
In keeping with the standards set by Sajid in his previous films, the jokes in Humshakals are uniformly low-IQ. So dwarves and gays continue to be easy targets, and he can’t resist making fun of the mentally challenged, the disabled, or the obese either. Nothing is sacred, no joke too offensive in Sajid’s world. The problem, unfortunately, is that most of the jokes just aren’t funny. The film, in fact, is really a series of gags that misfire. Your heart bleeds for Saif as the Nawab barks, sniffs and growls when a mind-altering drug sends him into full canine mode. The scenes in which the three men go undercover in drag to seduce their lookalikes are so embarrassing, you have to wonder just how well the actors were paid, or perhaps if they were blackmailed into sacrificing their dignity.
The few moments that do work are the throwaway jokes, and they invariably involve Ritesh or Ram Kapoor’s characters. During a tense brainstorming session, Ram, playing a germ-fearing loony passes around hand-sanitizer casually. And unlike Saif, Ritesh pulls off the dog routine amusingly, including a bit in which he humps the leg of another actor. To be fair, Ritesh is the only actor here who doesn’t entirely disappoint, once again revealing a knack for physical comedy and some sharp timing. Sadly, the opposite is true for Saif, who is completely out of place here, trying very hard to carry a joke, the effort always visible.
The actresses – Bipasha Basu, Tamannah and Esha Gupta – have precious little to do but look good in short skirts, and shake a leg in the song sequences. Satish Shah shows up as a sadistic asylum warden who counts Saddam Hussain, Idi Amin and Hitler as his inspirations. He gets the film’s best joke, when he ties up our heroes and subjects them to what he describes as the ultimate torture – he’s going to make them watch Sajid Khan’s Himmatwala.
That bit of self-deprecatory humor aside, this is essentially a tasteless, overblown affair that plods on for 159 brain-numbing minutes. I’m going with half out of five, yes just half out of five, for Sajid Khan’s Humshakals. I’ve never had one, but I imagine a ruptured appendix would hurt less.