Humshakal (1974)

Double roles have provided Hindi cinema with some fascinating subjects. Dilip Kumar playing three roles in “Bairag” and Sanjeev Kumar’s nine-part epic show in “Naya Din Nayi Raat” continue to appeal. Dev Anand, the eternal romantic, won our hearts in “Hum Dono”. How can one not remember Dilip Kumar’s iconic “Ram aur Shyam” and Hema Malini’s award-winning act in “Seeta aur Geeta”.

“Don” was a sterling performance by Amitabh Bachchan while Sridevi in “Chaalbaaz” and Rakhee in “Sharmilee” left a lasting impression. But nothing to beat Kamal Hassan in “Appu Raja”! He was present in literally every frame of the movie and swept the audience with his class act. It was a feast indeed to get two vibrant characters played by an actor of Hassan’s stature in the same movie. His fans could not have asked for more.

Rajesh Khanna had already done a double role in “Sachaa Jhutha”, which was a hit, before “Humshakal”, not to forget “Raaz” in his debut year. Obviously the expectations were high but he could not match the standards set under the direction of Manmohan Desai in “Sachaa Jhutha”. Music was a strong element in both the movies but “Humshakal” paled in comparison even though Khanna’s stock was yet to dip in the face of competition from younger opponents, notably Bachchan.

It was a tough time in his career as Khanna had begun to feel the pressure because his superstar status was being challenged. His on-screen mannerisms were branded stereotyped in an era when the hero had assumed the image of robustness. Khanna looked odd when fighting the villain and his cronies. Certainly misplaced when the audience watched Bachchan, Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna and Shatrughan Sinha take on the army of bad men and beat the pulp out of them.

“Humshakal” has Khanna playing the part of a poor and an affluent look-alike. As Ram, he saves Radha (Moushumi Chatterjee) from the clutches of a bad character but ends up promising her dying mother to look after her. Circumstances lead to Ram marrying Radha. This is one part of the story. The other involves the affluent Laxman, who is married to Lalita (Tanuja). Radha stumbles upon the distressing truth but there is a story hidden behind Laxman and Lalita.

Moushumi, recently recognised for her lifetime contribution to cinema, was happy to share space with the superstar of the times. She had begun her journey in 1967 with Bengali film “Balika Badhu” and succeeded in making an impact with her debut movie. “Anurag”, in which she paired with Vinod Mehra and played the blind girl’s role with the finesse of a veteran, convinced the industry of her acting prowess but, who once said she regarded herself as a superstar always, did not keep the early promise. She had one of the most beautiful faces, if not the diction, in Hindi cinema and was reportedly considered for the role of Bobby, which ultimately went to Dimple Kapadia.

Coming back to “Humshakal”, it is essentially about Rajesh Khanna, who juggles between two households, but Moushumi plays her part well. Just as Tanuja, each getting to sing pleasant duets – “Hum Tum Gum Sum” and “Kahe Ko Bulaya” – with their respectively loves. The movie tends to drag even as the director looks for an escape route through music and comedy in short phases. The comedy at times looks out of place and Asrani comes off an unbearable character as a spy who is out to help his friend unravel a mystery. The titles announce Aruna Irani, David, Jagdeep, Asit Sen as part of the cast but they have eminently fleeting and forgettable presence.

Apart from the double role act by Khanna and the decorative inclusion of the pretty Moushumi and Tanuja, it is RD Burman who stands out with some delightful compositions. The lullaby – “Rastaa Dekhe Tera Vyakul Man Mera” – is said to be close to Kishore Kumar’s heart and the soulful rendition confirms it.

There is not much to rave about “Humshakal” but getting Rajesh Khanna to play two roles was a huge bonus for his fans those days.

Genre: Social drama

Director: Jambulingam

Cast: Rajesh Khanna, Tanuja, Moushmi Chatterjee, Ramesh Behl, Asrani, Asit Sen, Jagdeep, David, Aruna Irani

Written by: Poovai Krishnan

Dialogue: Inder Raj Anand

Lyrics: Anand Bakshi

Music: R. D. Burman

Box office status: Average

Keywords: Vijay Lokapally, Humshakal, Rajesh Khanna, Tanuja, Moushmi Chatterjee, Asrani