12 November 2019

Andaz Apna Apna (1994)

Directed by: Rajkumar Santoshi
Music: Tushar Bhatia
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Starring: Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, 
Raveena Tandon, Karishma Kapoor, 
Paresh Rawal, Shakti Kapoor, 
Shehzad Khan, Viju Khote, 
Javed Khan, Deven Verma, 
Mehmood, Jagdeep, Tiku Talsania
When it comes to films you love – and have watched a million times (give or take a few) – you just can’t be objective. Just as, in my salad days, Amitabh Bachchan was God. He could do no wrong. And so it is with Andaz Apna Apna. It’s the only film, other than Sholay, where I can recite the dialogues before the actor delivers it onscreen. I know who’s going to say what, I know what the reaction is, and I will still laugh uncontrollably when the scene plays out. Earlier this month, Andaz Apna Apna - which was a box-office disaster when it released, but has become a much-beloved cult classic in the interim with an 8.4 rating on IMDB – turned 25. So let me chronicle my love for this Archies-inspired comedy.

The film begins with Amar (Aamir Khan), who, upon meeting his dream heroine (‘Ai-la, Juhi chawla’; Juhi Chawla, playing herself), begins to dream of living the good life with her; and Prem (Salman Khan), who (Ooi-ma!) desperately wants to be a hero, and is being conned out of money by a name-dropping photographer, Johnny (Mehmood). 
Both small-town boys with big dreams, they end up blowing up their fathers’ (Deven Verma and Jagdeep, respectively) savings while they run away to Ooty in pursuit of a rich heiress, Raveena Bajaj.

Meeting each other on the way, Amar, the canny one, puts on a friendly face, while also conning Prem into paying for everything (Do dost ek pyaali se chai peeyenge. Is-se dosti badhti hai.
Meanwhile, Raveena (Raveena Tandon) and her secretary, Karishma (Karishma Kapoor) have landed in Ooty to find a groom who will love Raveena for herself. While Amar cons his way into Raveena’s house, aided and abetted by Anand Akela (Javed Khan), Prem’s suit doesn’t proceed as he hopes because he keeps getting side-tracked by Karishma’s charms – much to the amusement of Raveena who finds herself falling for Amar.
What the boys don’t know is that the the girls have exchanged identities – ‘Raveena Bajaj’ is actually Karishma Kapoor, while Raveena is really her friend-cum-secretary, Karishma. Confused much?  Well, so are the boys when they eventually find out, which leads to this plaintive bit:  Tum jo ho, woh tum nahin ho. Woh woh hai. Woh jo hai woh woh nahin hai, woh tum ho. Main jo hoon, main main hoon ya main bhi woh nahin hain jo main hoon? Main kaun hoon?
If all this sounds insane and chaotic, it is. The antics were goofy, the fashions were weird (and hairstyles even weirder), the plot (what there was of it) was farcical, the acting was over-the-top… Yes, indeed, but it still worked! The reason it did that was because every single actor who was cast in the film dived joyously into its totally irreverent premise. 
The plot could be summarised in one line: 'Two wastrels chase an heiress in a get-rich-quick scheme, and fall afoul of villains who want a piece of the wealth stakes.' But add identical twins, the villain's dumb sidekicks, a kidnapping sub-plot, a 'hereditary' thief, diamonds, and what you have is comedic gold. And never mind that the heroines weren’t talking to each other; the director had to keep the two male leads happy… But on the sets, the director says, the four rising young actors were all committed to the project. 
Aamir honed his talent for comedy but Salman was a revelation. While Aamir took on the manipulative Reggie Mantle persona, Salman played his Archie as both lovable and a bit of a klutz. Don’t forget the heroines – in screwball comedies, the heroines are usually ditzy, but it takes a special talent to play the ditz with intelligence. 
The girls cracked it, and how! Where Andaz Apna Apna scored was in not making the heroines the butt of the jokes. They were equally important to the narrative, and Karishma, in particular, played her street-smart-but-dumb-blonde schtick with panache. Raveena had the straightest narrative of the four leads, but her equally dumb character was laced with self-awareness.
Also, it was not just the heroes who got wonderful one-liners, so did the villains. The best, of course, went to ‘Crime Master GoGo’ (Shakti Kapoor), who proudly proclaims ‘Aaya hoon toh kuch toh lootkar jaaoonga. Khandani chor hoon main, khandaani!’ And when Bhalla (Shehzad Khan) is trying to poison Raveena with a cold drink, he claims it’s because it’s ‘Robert’s birthday’. Whereupon the hapless Robert (Viju Khote) blurts out, “Sir, aapne mujhe bataya nahin ki aaj mera happy birthday hai…” To which, Bhalla’s acerbic response is, “Happy birthday, Raabert.”  Viju also got to mouth the iconic 'Galti se mishtake ho gaya, boss', a line that became part of cverday vocabulary since the film's release.
Andaz Apna Apna was that rare comedy – part farce, part slapstick, part situational comedy, part no-one-knows-what-the-heck-is-happening. But the writing was intelligent, it was clever and what was most important, the actors had perfect timing. Even the most-trite lines became giggle-worthy because of the way it was delivered. I dare you to remain straight-faced when an increasingly-irate Ram Gopal Bajaj (Paresh Rawal) insists that ‘Main Teja hoon; mark idhar hai!’, much to the bewilderment of the real Teja, a.k.a. Shyam Gopal Bajaj. Or at the totally nonsensical ‘Yeh Vasco Da Gama ka gun hai.” To which the response is ‘Kiske mama ke gun hai? And later, when Amar finds out that Ram Gopal Bajaj has an identical twin, he snaps: “Saala, waise hi itni pareshania hai Raveena kaun? Karishma kaun? Us museebat se nikle nahin, ki ab ek nai museebat… Uncle kaun?’     
Andaz Apna Apna also worked because it satirised every single masala trope by cheerfully – and joyfully – adopting them. Right from the beginning ‘dream sequence’ to switching identities, to identical twins and a stalking-as-wooing song (with its very unexpected climax), we chortled our way through all of them. Never had there been such a loving ode to the very foundations of our commercial cinema as this one. Rajkumar Santoshi even played the 'vidhwa maa andhi bahen' trope for laughs. 

Old songs put in an intelligent appearance. When Amar, having failed to put Prem behind bars, is jailed instead, the song that plays in the background is ‘Papa kehte hain.' 
When, later, he discovers that ‘Raveena’ is not actually Raveena but Karishma, we get ‘Kya se kya ho gaya bewafaa pyar mein’ even as poor Amar is left to wash the dishes. Prem, on the other hand, is humming Dekha hai pehli baar when he’s thinking of confessing his love to Raveena. The ‘new’ songs were old as gold, even channelling OP Nayyar and his famed tonga beats, but the film never quite lost sight of the fact that everything, including the songs could be mined for comedy.
What’s more, while you can just enjoy the sheer screwball comedy this film is, your enjoyment of the film increases if you’ve been an avid masala film watcher throughout. ‘Raabert’ is a throwback to yesteryear villain, Ajit’s enunciation of ‘Robert’. Shehzad Khan, Ajit’s son, mimicked his famous father’s inflections and dialogue delivery perfectly. Jagdeep plays a character called ‘Bankeylal Bhopali’ – he'd earlier played the iconic ‘Soorma Bhopali’ in Sholay. Mehmood’s character, ‘Johnny’ is supposedly the proprietor of ‘Wah Wah Productions’ – the name of the production house he’s pitching to his father in Pyaar Kiye Jaa.

It doesn’t end there. Witness the scene where Akela asks Prem if he’s seen ‘Sholay’ – Amar caustically retorts, ‘Uske baap ne likha hai.” (Salman Khan’s father, Salim Khan is the co-writer of Sholay.) In fact, the director (who’s also the co-writer) laughs at himself – when the dictatorial father (Paresh Rawal) hears the boys’ names, he snaps, “Amar aur Prem, Amar Prem. Naam sunte hi main samajh gaya tha ke tum dono awwal darje ke filmi aur awaare ladke ho." Or when Teja (Paresh Rawal, again) reminisces about his dreams of becoming 'Bread ka Badshah, Omelette ka raja', he ends it with ‘Hamara Bajaj!’ which was the jingle for Bajaj scooters at the time.
Comedy is perhaps the hardest of all genres to get right, but Rajkumar Santoshi not only succeeded in keeping the audience engaged but did so without diluting the genre with double entendre. Or even drama. Even the ‘action’ scenes are a hoot. In great screwball tradition, everyone who’s anyone in the film shows up in the climax. 
And the one scene where Prem and Crime Master GoGo do a shadow boxing sequence is outright hilarious.
I can proudly say that I’ve turned my older boy into an Andaz Apna Apna junkie. Perhaps it’s time for a re-watch. After all, there’s always an occasion for good, clean fun and belly-aching laughter. Besides, I've a younger son to indoctrinate.

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