I haven’t seen Humshakals.
After becoming a father and with the World Cup on, free-time is at such a premium that I don’t think I would have a few hours to destroy on something I have already seen before.
I know I just contradicted myself.
I have seen Humshakals.
As a matter of fact I have seen it many times.
It’s what used to pass off as comedy in the days of single-screens. Rakesh Bedi in “Afsana Pyar Ka” pretending to be blind so that he can feel up girls. Shakti Kapoor in Raja Babu with his Hitler moustache, speech impediment and intellectual disability. Mehmood in black-face dancing to Hum Kaale Hai To Kya Hua in Hua in Gumnaam right after a comedy bit where Helen tells him “Shut up you kaala aadmi”.
I could go on but then I would be guilty of Sajid Khanian repeated poking in eye excess, so I will simply state my point.
Hindi movies have had an inglorious tradition of decades of making fun of Madrasis, Bangalees, Sardarjees, Chinese, gay men (visual cue: effeminate), cross-dressers, dark-colored people, Africans, fat people, all in various cliched, unimaginative, juvenile and deeply offensive ways.
Why? For the same reason they had the rain song, with the white sari clinging to the soft contours.
The audience loved it.
And as Sajid Khan unleashes “Humshakals” and it marches towards 40 crores at the time of writing, the truth once again stares at us in the face.
The audience still loves it. And if Humshakals do not make you believe that, try to sit through a few seconds of various “Comedy Shows” or even of Jhalak Dikh La Ja, where the audience bursts into peals of laughter just because there is a man on stage dressed as a woman.
Of course if you read the papers you would think Humshakals would sink without a trace. Each and every reviewer, the boughts to the knowledgeables, have savaged “Humshakals”. Not just the critics, all over social media, people are aghast at how utterly senseless, unfunny and offensive “Humshakals” is.
The verdict is unanimous.
Humshakals is the pits.
And yet it has made 40 crores in a few days. Now that’s some serious cash for a movie with no Khan (Saif doesn’t count as Khan any more) or Kumar or Kapoor, even accounting for possible over-reporting of revenues.
How does that happen?
Sajid Khan, together with brother-in-law Sirish Kunder, are two of Bollywood’s most hated directors. It’s not just because they are considered to make bad movies. By that token, everyone would be hated. No. They are hated because they are brash and arrogant. They poke fun at other people in the industry, and yes, because they make worse films than those whom they trash.
The only difference is while Sirish Kunder makes crap that bombs, Sajid Khan makes crap that succeeds (a one-of Himmatwala aside).
The reason for that is while the former is clueless, the latter most definitely is not.
Sajid Khan breathes Bollywood. Those who have followed him from his wildly original breakout “Kahene Mein Kya Harj Hai” days know that. He was a pioneer in many ways, introducing the concept of making fun of “so bad it’s good” Bollywood cliches, scenes, characters and movies at a time when no one else did this kind of comedy in India. His perspective as a comic was one of superiority, it was almost as if he was telling the audience “Haha look how shitty these movies are”. Yet he was a fan too, because unless you were a die hard devotee no one would consume as much Bollywood as he did. Which was kind of strange, but I totally got it, because I felt the same way about Bollywood.
In one of the “Making of “shorts on Youtube on “Humshakals” (I had time to see that), he says about one of his heroines something like “Yeh doctor kam aur model zyada lagti hai” before breaking into uproarious laughter.
Its like he is talking about someone else’s film in “Kahene Mein Kya Harj Hai” , but of course he isn’t.
What he is doing is very deliberately producing crap, and that act itself amuses him greatly.
Because for Sajid Khan, and this is a hypothesis of mine with nothing behind it but conjecture, the whole process of making a film is one gigantic gag, with multiple laugh lines.
Make a so bad it’s good film in the best traditions of old-world Bollywood. Throw in a few Bollywood in-references for his own amusement. Laugh.
Make the film as offensive and moronic as possible. Don’t miss a single stereotype. Raise hat to old Bollywood. Get people angry and offended. Laugh again. Because he can.
Let the critics savage the film. Throw a success party and go on channels saying “I am the greatest and reviewers are frustrated morons. Lightning-road more hate. Laugh once more.
Look at box office numbers. Be smug about being right about the fact that people were exactly like as they were before.
Laugh the biggest laugh.
Which is all well and good and I wish him the best.
As for me, a once-fan, I am done. His whole shtick has become predictable and , though I mildly enjoyed Housefull 2 for its quirky in-references to some of my favorite Bollywood films (did not watch Himmatwala), there is only so much one of the same thing one can take.
So goodbye Mr. Sajid Khan. I no longer want to be part of your joke.