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Double roles are still fun as ever

Bollywood movie plots thrive on confusion-induced humour and what creates more confusion than two people who look the same.

Written by Pooja Pillai | Mumbai |
June 12, 2009 11:28:52 am

Movie plots thrive on confusion-induced humour and what creates more confusion than two people who look the same.

Remember the hilarity that ensued when Anju and Manju changed places in Sridevi’s hit Chaalbaaz? Or the Shakespearean mess that was Angoor where two sets of master and servant changed place,much to the befuddlement of all and sundry,except the audience,for whom,double roles means double the fun.

It’s not a co-incidence,then,that classic comedy in India is often associated with double roles. Chaalbaaz and Angoor are movies that are fondly remembered when the topic of double roles and comedy comes up and they’re not alone — the list is long and illustrious and includes movies like Andaz Apna Apna,Seeta aur Geeta,Judwaa and Aankhen. “It’s the scope for twists and misunderstandings that doubles provide for comedy that is so appealing to filmmakers,” says director Anees Bazmee who’s made such movies himself like Govinda-starrer Aankhen and Gopi Kishen,which was one of Suneil Shetty’s earliest hits. “And it’s interesting to audiences because it’s basic human nature to be curious about people who look exactly alike.”

However,it’s not just comedy that has benefited from this penchant for twins. Director Vikramjit Singh whose Mera Jahaan stars Ranbir Kapoor in a double role feels that double roles have contributed to more than just comedy. “I don’t really see the connection between the two. Double roles have also worked in movies where humour didn’t play such a large part. In fact,it all depends on the script requirements.”

Director Mahesh Bhatt too says that double roles offer more than just a way to advance humour; they play a symbolic role,representing the complexities of human nature. “My earliest memory of a double role is of Ram aur Shyam where Dilip Kumar played the role of two brothers — one good,one evil,” says the filmmaker. However,Bhatt insists that pulling off a double role is not up just any actor’s alley. “You need someone with personality to pull it off. If you think about it,it’s always been charismatic actors like Dilip Kumar,Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan who’ve been most successful with such portrayals.” Bazmee concurs,“The audience will get tired of the same person playing two roles if that person is not a good actor or not a superstar.”

Such roles offer actors a chance to show off their acting chops. Pankuj Parashar who directed Sridevi in Chaalbaaz,says that when he found out that the superstar would be working with him,he knew he had to have her in a double role. “Sridevi was at her peak that time. She proved her range with the movie and after that,she got lots of offers like Khuda Gawah,which saw her in a double role.” As for the actors themselves,though they appreciate the opportunity to play such roles,its not all pie. Speaking about his role in his home production Love Aaj Kal,Saif Ali Khan admits that it’s tough to get two diverse roles right if they’re in the same movie. “The look,the personality,everything about the two characters is different,so it became quite tough to switch back and forth. Only thing similar to both characters is that they’re both madly in love.”

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