Shahrukh Birthday Countdown, Duplicate! The Strangely Endearing Ugly Child

This is NOT a good movie. Sorry to everyone (including one of my closest friends) who loves it, but facts are facts. On the other hand, there are more people than you would expect who love it! Something about this bad bad movie is just strangely lovable.

Let me get the most important thing out of the way first, Shahrukh based his whole performance on Jerry Lewis. If you watch if as an actor trying to seriously convey to characters, it is ridiculous. If you watch it as an actor doing straight comedy, it isn’t that funny. But if you watch it as an actor doing an homage to a great comedian, it is spot on perfection. Still not necessarily entertaining, but perfection!

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I honestly can’t remember where I read that Shahrukh was doing that, but I know it wasn’t my idea to begin with. And I also know that I read this and, based on my minor Jerry Lewis period in my wild youth, I immediately went “YES! Of course! That is exactly what he is doing, and it is perfect!” It’s an odd odd performance (and directing, I have no doubt that Mahesh Bhatt knew exactly what he was doing and encouraged it) choice, but it is also something that requires great skill. Kind of an odd way to use your skill, like having perfect pitch and using it to tune kazoos, but still skill.

And then around Shahrukh we just have a series of bonkers nonsense performances. Everything from Mohnish Behl as the jealous romantic rival to Farida Jalal as the weight lifting doting mother, makes NO SENSE!!! Gleefully makes no sense. This movie anticipated the Golmaal series of the present day, and calls back not just to Jerry Lewis films but also The Marx Brothers, comedy from chaos. Or, in the case of this movie, strangely appealing oddity from chaos.

I think the problem is the directing, mostly, and also a little bit the script. The individual gags are well-written (for what they are), but the film fails in the sort of overall tension required to make laughter come through. That’s the scriptwriters job a little bit, to craft the narrative build. But in terms of comedy, it is the director more than anyone. He needs to build a rhythm into the film, guide the actors and cameraman and editors all into the right direction so that laughs come on top of laughs. It’s really really hard to do, there’s the old line “dying is easy, comedy’s hard” about acting, but I think it is even more true about directing. So often I am watching a “comedy” and not laughing and it’s not that the lines aren’t funny, or that the actors aren’t delivering them well, it’s that somehow the effervescence just isn’t there.

But so much else is there! There are more random moments of “what now?” in this movie than maybe any other Shahrukh film, even more than Guddu, worth watching for those alone. And his chemistry with both heroines is magnificent! Juhi and Shahrukh, of course, are a fabulous comic duo. And Sonali and Shahrukh show off their surprising comic/sexy chemistry here. Oh, and the soundtrack is really really good! Each individual song sequence is good, this is Farah Khan in full flower of her imaginative joyful Farah-ness, but also just the soundtrack alone is excellent! There isn’t a single flop song on the list, you start smiling as soon as any of them begin playing.

Really, this film is just a joy to watch. The last one I reviewed is technically good in so many ways, and yet I find it a slog somehow. This film is a failure as comedy, an even bigger failure as drama, and a total failure of logic, and yet it is strangely enjoyable to see it.

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There’s really not much to the plot. Good Shahrukh is a somewhat weak and cowardly and maybe a bit mentally defective son of funny weight lifting domeanering but loving mother Farida Jalal. He gets his first job as a hotel chef under manager Juhi Chawla, who falls for his simple charms (despite her boss Mohnish Bahl also liking her). Meanwhile, Bad Shahrukh is an evil gangster who escapes from jail and reunites with his sexy girlfriend Sonali Bendre. Bad Shahrukh takes advantage of his similarity in appearance to Good Shahrukh and invades his life (while Farida is out of town so she can’t identify Good Shahrukh). Bad Shahrukh also takes revenge on his gangster enemies by dressing in sexy drag and then killing them, a crime for which Good Shahrukh is blamed. Good Shahrukh is also suffering because sexy Sonali keeps coming on to him and wanting to have sex, thinking he is Bad Shahrukh. In the end, Sonali helps the police capture Bad Shahrukh because Good Shahrukh has helped her see the error of her ways.

I think that’s the whole plot. I remember distinctly Shahrukh needing to whip up a whole Chinese meal to get his job at the hotel, and the drag scene, and that Good Shahrukh and Bad Shahrukh have their final fight while covered in flour so no one can tell them apart (but they already had the same face? I guess maybe so no one can tell Actor Shahrukh from Stunt Double Shahrukh). But the big plot points escape me. They aren’t important. The whole movie is just “what if there was a Good Shahrukh and a Bad Shahrukh and a Sexy Heroine and a Good Heroine and they all kept getting mixed up?” Clearly no one had any ideas greater than that.

Even in this wacky plot, there is a lot to like. For instance, I like that Juhi likes Shahrukh. He’s dim, a little less smart than she is and a lot less successful, but he’s super sweet and kind and good to her. And I like that Sonali has depth. Straight through she is shown as torn between her love for Bad Shahrukh and what she knows is right. Oh, I also like that Sonali is shown to have patient sexy desires! She enjoys being with Bad Shahrukh as much as he enjoys being with her. Heck, I even like that Shahrukh is a chef! It’s such a funny sweet random kind of job for him to have.

So yes, if you haven’t seen this movie, you really should. It’s fun! And if you have seen this movie, and enjoy it, like it, maybe even love it, don’t be ashamed! There’s a lot there that is strangely lovable.

2 thoughts on “Shahrukh Birthday Countdown, Duplicate! The Strangely Endearing Ugly Child

  1. I saw this movie just because it was on Netflix. I also think it’s pretty bad, but it has fun isolated moments. I also realized that Shah Rukh was imitating Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor, The Ladies Man or something!!! But my favorite scene really is when he disguises himself as a sexy drag. I didn’t realize it was him until the last minute. I laughed so hard, I even replayed it. And 9 1⁄2 Weeks was on TV (as in Darr!). He was looking good as a drag, like Gael García in La Mala Educación. And why is he with his jacket open, almost falling, on the poster for this movie?

    Like

    • Yes! I thought I was the only person whose first response to that scene was “Like Darr!” I’ve never seen 9 and a half weeks, but I’ve seen Darr loads of times.

      On Sat, Oct 17, 2020 at 3:14 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Like

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