Movie Review: Humshakals (2014)

Humshakals_poster0 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

How does a filmmaker who goes out of his way to set a low bar for himself still fail to make a movie that’s even slightly funny or appropriate? Director Sajid Khan achieves that feat with Humshakals (“Lookalikes“), his worst film yet in a career full of horrible films.

Khan opens Humshakals with an allegedly humorous director’s note about having forgotten something important a wise man once told him. Then he introduces his main character, Ashok (Saif Ali Khan), a millionaire moonlighting as a terrible standup comedian. Later, Ashok and his best friend, Kumar (Riteish Deshmukh), are tortured by being forced to watch Khan’s awful 2013 film Himmatwala.

Ashok’s bad jokes are pertinent because they set up a theme that runs through all of Khan’s movies: a lack of respect for women. Even if Khan doesn’t personally feel that way, he panders to the segment of the audience that does.

Ashok’s jokes are straight out of my 8-year-old nephew’s joke book, yet TV presenter Shanaya (Tamannaah Bhatia) finds them unironically hilarious. Beautiful and stupid: Khan’s ideal woman.

Shanaya’s not the only mental lightweight in the movie. Ashok and Kumar are imprisoned in a mental asylum by Ashok’s evil uncle, Mamaji (Ram Kapoor), alongside a pair of identical lookalikes, also named Ashok (Saif) and Kumar (Riteish), only the lookalikes have the mental capacity of children.

In yet another knock against women, the asylum’s psychologist, Dr. Shivani (Esha Gupta), falls instantly in love with Stupid Ashok when he tells her she’s pretty. Shivani — a doctor — is so insecure and desperate to have her physical appearance validated that she agrees to marry the first man who compliments her, even if he has the intellectual capacity of a grade schooler.

At least twice more Khan asserts the belief that a woman’s most important quality is her appearance. Shivani, Shanaya, and Mishti (Bipasha Basu) — a doctor, a TV presenter, and Rich Ashok’s estate manager — save the day by baring their midriffs and performing a racy dance number.

The worst is what happens when hefty Mamaji’s lookalike, Johnny (Ram), dresses in drag to help Rich Ashok and Rich Kumar. As soon as Johnny appears on screen in a dress and wig, the soundtrack is punctuated with elephant sound effects. Not when Johnny is dressed as a man of exactly the same proportions, only when he’s pretending to be a woman.

When a woman’s only value is how sexually appealing she is to straight men, there’s no greater character flaw than being overweight or unattractive. It’s such an egregious flaw that it deserves ridicule, even though an overweight man does not.

Khan really, really likes to poke fun at people he thinks are abnormal. Jokes are made at the expense of overweight women, little people, gays, Koreans, and especially the mentally ill. Everyone in the movie with a mental illness is also portrayed as being intellectually deficient.

Know who else Khan thinks are hilarious? Nazis. The asylum’s warden (played by Satish Shah) wears an SS uniform and prays to a photo of Adolf Hitler. He gives a “Heil Hitler” salute and threatens to send Ashok and Kumar to the “gas chamber.” Because there’s nothing funnier than genocide.

In addition to lacking empathy or an appropriate sense of humor, Khan is also a thief. Stupid Ashok mistakes a model of an orphanage for an “orphanage for ants,” a joke lifted from 2001’s Zoolander (I’ve included a video of the original below). Khan stole a joke from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles for Himmatwala, so this is a pattern.

On top of all these offenses, Humshakals just plain sucks. Shots are out of focus. The plot moves at a snail’s pace. The songs are soulless. The choreography is lazy. The acting is bad, even though Ram Kapoor tries to humanize his characters.

With this track record of misogyny, intellectual property theft, and general disrespect for large segments of the global community, it’s time for actors to question whether appearing in a Sajid Khan film is worth the paycheck. I hope that the actors in Humshakals didn’t realize how offensive the movie was as they were making it (although Saif and Riteish should’ve known better when asked to prance around as a pair of gay stereotypes). I’m trying not let this piece of garbage tarnish my respect for them as performers, but it’s difficult.


36 thoughts on “Movie Review: Humshakals (2014)

  1. Shah Shahid

    I still remember how good HEYY BABYY was. I was excited that a Director showed such promise with something so family friendly, yet commercially viable. And that film really toned down the female disrespect. Loved Vidya Balan’s angle, despite the end results.

    Sajid Khan since, has devolved as, not just a Director, but a human being. For shame.

    1. Kathy

      I didn’t see Heyy Babyy, but the devolution is obvious from Housefull on. What’s really dumb is that this could’ve been a pretty good family movie without all the offensive stuff. I’m sure kids would enjoy the sequences where Saif and Riteish think that they are dogs, and same with the drag scenes. Unfortunately, there’s no market in India for kid-movies, and Khan isn’t a very good director.

      1. Shah Shahid

        You must watch HEYY BABYY. Besides the baby cuteness, I think you’ll enjoy the Vidya-Akshay angle. Even HOUSEFULL to me was a step down from the harmless fun of Khan’s first film. A 3 minute static electric break dancing boogaloo scene? Come on!!

          1. shrey

            πŸ˜€ Actually he just picks the plot up and churns out a completely original (& shitty) version of the same.. πŸ˜€

  2. Keyur Seta

    Your review was many times more funnier than the movie, Kathy πŸ™‚
    By the way, it hurts to see the film becoming a super hit!

    Read this –
    Do read points 1, 7 and 8. That’s more than being rude and mean.

    Also see this –
    Do see the 2nd question πŸ˜€


    1. Kathy

      Thanks for the compliment, and thanks for the links, Keyur. Perhaps Khan should let someone else do interviews on his behalf, because he seems to put his foot in his mouth whenever her opens it. “I feel this kind of cinema should not be judged harshly.” Oh, okay then. If it will make you feel better, I’ll pretend I didn’t spend all 160 minutes of Humshakals trying not to walk of the theater and demand my money back.

        1. Kathy

          Nice review, Keyur! Thanks for bringing up an important point that I forgot to highlight: the patients at an English mental hospital are tortured and treated like animals. As if a hospital in England would be able to get away with that! Ridiculous.

          1. Keyur Seta

            Absolutely! You can’t do such things with patients anywhere in the world. In fact, even animals shouldn’t be treated in this manner.

            Thanks for appreciating, Kathy!

  3. Deepak C.

    Sajid Khan is officially the Michael Bay of Bollywood – loud, overlong, unfunny movies that get big stars and huge budgets, and somehow continue to make money. I gave up on him after Housefull 2.

    1. Kathy

      Good comparison, Deepak. Guess you won’t be seeing Transformers 4 this weekend, huh? πŸ˜‰

  4. JustMeMike

    This one came and went and has left Sarasota. It played at the Parkway 8 but based on the trailer, and your comments about the trailer, I gave it a pass. Looking forward to Bobby Jasoos next weekend.

    1. Kathy

      That video is great, shrey! I loved the Jackky Bhagnani joke. I’m feeling better already. πŸ™‚

    1. Kathy

      I tried to watch it once, Bhavya, but I gave up. One of the early dance numbers is supposed to take place in New York City, but it was clearly filmed in Canada. As a North American, it ruined the suspension of disbelief for me.

  5. Nma

    Kathy, honestly, don’t waste your time watching watch Heyy Baby – from what I remember, it is as horrible and sexist and regressive as any other Sajid Khan movie! [warning – SPOILERS after this] Vidya Balan’s character pines after Akshay Kumar’s douchey character (who claimed to love her purely in order to get into her pants and then left her pregnant). Akshay’s character does redeem himself in the end, but it isn’t a convincing enough redemption to justify Vidya’s character going back to him… plus his claim to “love” her makes no sense after his heinous actions throughout. It is a horrible film with only couple of good jokes.

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