There are some movies that fail to set the box-office alight when they are released and simply die away over a period of time. At the same time there are movie’s that even though they are not super-hits at the time of release, become cult favorites over the passage of time and become bona-fide classics. Among the films that can be categorised in the latter group is Rajkumar Santoshi’s 1994 comedy ‘Andaz Apna Apna’.
Like ‘Citizen Kane’, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ the film did not become a hit upon immediate release. But over the years the film has become a favorite of the public. That is not to say that ‘Andaz Apna Apna’ is in the same league as the above mentioned movies, but still it shows that in the first round sometimes people don’t appreciate great films.
The movie combines an almost whirlpool combination of gags and comedy scenes that seem to amalgamate the antics of the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy and The Three Stooges. From the first scene to the last there are so many classic moments that you sometimes think you are watching a long circus performance that only lets you go when you have a silly grin on your face. It is this and a number of other factors that have given this film the status of a cult classic among film audiences in the subcontinent.
The story of the film, if there is one, relates the antics of two scoundrels named Amar and Prem who dream big, despite the meager circumstances in which they live.
Amar (Aamir Khan) is pretty much a loafer who spends the day goofing off and daydreaming about rescuing damsels in distress, in particular a certain Juhi Chawla who just happens to be on her way to a film shoot when her car breaks down. Things seem to be going quite well for him in this fantasy world, that is until his father wakes him up and brings him back to reality. Turns out Amar, rather than being Juhi Chawla’s would-be husband, is actually the son of a local barber who is simply fed up with his lazy good-for-nothing son. Amar on the other hand wears his fathers numerous disappointments as badges of honour and decides to add another medal to that tally by selling his father’s barber shop and with the money heads off in an improbable mission to marry a rich heiress.
At the same time Prem (Salman Khan) is a mirror copy of Amar, with the exception that his I.Q is way below the level of a normal person, a fact that does not sit well with his own father. Prem’s initial dream is to become a big movie star, which leaves his father aghast, but gives a fraud named Johnny the opportunity to squeeze as much out of his gullible prey. Johnny convinces Prem to sell his own fathers business and head off to try and woo the same rich heiress that Amar is trying to catch.
The two protagonists eventually meet up on a bus, which is taking them to their destination and become fast friends. That is until they both discover that they are after the same prize. After that both of them try to outdo each other in outlandish attempts to snag the girl.
The object of their ploy is Raveena Gopal Bajaj (played by the doleful Raveena Tandon) who as it turns out is not what she seems. She is actually the secretary of Karishma (played by, guess who, Karishma Kapoor), the real heiress to the Bajaj millions. They switched identities simply because the real Raveena wants her would-be husband to love her for herself alone and not the money that she is attached to. In a clever plot twist the actresses’ real names have been swapped into the names of the characters that they play.
While the heroes of the film are unaware of this plot twist, the villains as well are completely oblivious of this fact. The main villain of the film is Teja (Paresh Rawal) who is an identical twin of Ram Gopal Bajaj, the millionaire tycoon who holds the keys to the fortune in diamonds that his evil brother so desperately wants. Teja comes up with his own plot to kidnap his brother and take his place. At the same time another outlandish villain named (words fail me here) Crime Master Gogo, has his own beef with Teja. It seems that Teja had swindled out money from the dastardly villain. This does not sit well with the man who calls himself ‘Mogambo ka bhatija’ and wants to take his own revenge by stealing the diamonds that Teja seeks.
Amar and Prem are unaware of this and hatch their own plan to conduct a phony kidnapping of their would-be father-in-law. They hope that by rescuing him, they will impress him into changing the unflattering opinion that he first held of them after their initial meeting. But lo and behold, before their brilliant scheme materialises, Teja kidnap’s his brother and switches places with him. Once the truth about the kidnapping dawns on them and the fact that Ram Gopal Bajaj is not the man they think he his, our two heroes suddenly realise that they are swimming in really deep waters. How they unravel the situation is one sequence of comedy routines after another, leaving the audience in fits of laughter.
All the lead and supporting actors are hilarious in their respective roles and deserve high praise. While they may seem to overact and ham up in certain sequences, that in effect only raises the notches on the number of laughs that the movie generates. Rajkumar Santoshi and Dilip Shukla wrote a screenplay and dialogue full of pure genius. The fact that such an outrageous plot and storyline could be conveyed so successfully on the big screen is a testament to the film’s magic.
As mentioned above, ‘Andaz Apna Apna’ was not successful when it was initially released. Despite the fact that it was nominated for Best Picture at the annual Filmfare Awards, the movie was a box-office flop. However repeated viewing on television and on video gradually grew the film’s appeal to a level where it is now regarded as a comedy classic.
Raza Ali Sayeed is a journalist at Dawn.com