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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Double-trouble or twice as nice? My favorite Bollywood-double roles

Writers elsewhere have noted that the double role not only allows the audience to have twice as much of their favorite star in one film, it also saves the producer money by getting one actor to play two characters for the price of one! As far as I am concerned though, double roles usually mean double the fun and/or double the style. Since double roles come in all flavors and shapes, I have arranged my favorite double roles according to the specific genres they fall into. And here they are for your reading pleasure.

The “twins separated at birth” double roles
Separation of twins is a widespread practice across cultures, which is why film-makers tend to take this phenomenon so seriously. There are just so many ways for twins to be separated (lost in a fair or a storm, carried away by a vengeful villain, stolen by a childless couple, etc.) that I am surprised that there are any un-separated twins in this world, at all!
Angoor: This is double role times two – two Sanjeev Kumars and two Deven Varmas. AND it is twice as much fun as one double role! It doesnt get any better than this. Based on Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, this Gulzar film has to be the funniest double role ever and is one of my favorite comedies.
Seeta Aur Geeta: One twin gets to be downtrodden Cinderella in her own home, while the other twin has fun with her gypsy foster-family. Hema Malini kicks some serious ass AND has a skate off with Sanjeev Kumar. Plus, she gets Garam Dharam to round off the hero stakes. Hema gets it ALL, and we have fun all the way!

The “twins NOT separated at birth” double roles
I wonder what is worse, being separated from your twin at birth and waiting for the re-union, or always knowing that you will be separated as adults and there may/may not be a re-union?
Sharmelee: The best thing about the two Rakhees here are their fabulous fashions! Unfortunately, the more fashionable Rakhee comes a cropper – like most stylish women in Hindi films do – and lands up with the bad men. So the sarees win the day (AND Shashi Kapoor)!
Andaz Apna Apna: Evil twin and good twin (Paresh Rawal), were separated sometime in their adulthood by the cruel LAW - the evil twin went to jail and the good one went to vilaayat. But the evil twin couldnt be in jail and the good one in vilaayat all the time - else how would the two cause hilarious confusion and mayhem? Another of my favorite comedies, this one uses the double role to make fun of double roles - and does it so well.
The “random look-alikes” double roles
Now this is my favorite category ever. I am always on the look out for my look-alike, and when I do find her, we will make our own film. In the meantime, I can enjoy other people’s look-alike tales.
Hum Dono: Two Dev Anands for the price of one! How can that be a bad thing? It cant, not by my reckoning. However, Dev Sahib’s stand point is somewhat different. He has to minister to his dead comrade (also Dev Anand)’s not so dead wife (Nanda) and Mom (Lalita Pawar) and his own girl friend (Sadhana) who waits patiently at home for him. If that isnt complicated enough, his dead comrade turns up alive! Worry not, Dev Sahib, I am sure everything will come out right at the end.
Satte Pe Satta: Bollywood added its own fabulous masala to Seven Brides For Seven Brothers and came up with this fun-flick. There is the clueless Ravi (Amitabh Bachchan) - brother to six strapping men. And then there is the light-eyed Babu (also Big B) – brother to none and a killer to boot. Of course, Babu’s killer instincts cant stand out against Hema’s wifely-devotion to her hubby, or Ranjeeta’s helplessness – so all ends happily, after an entertaining 2+ hours!
Humsaya: Reality is stranger than fiction, as Joy Mukherjee discovers when he goes to China. He runs into a Chinese look-alike! He then gets mixed up with a plot to spy on India, and a beautiful Chinese woman – his look-alike’s wife (Mala Sinha). And all the poor man wanted was to get back to his ex-girlfriend (Sharmila Tagore). He does get back his girl friend, though not before we have a great time watching all the action and songs, not to mention all the beautiful people!
Kaho Na Pyar Hai: Sonia (Amisha Patel) loses her lovely boy friend Rohit (Hrithik Roshan) and goes all the way to New Zealand to grieve. But guess what, all is not lost. There is another Hrithik in store for her, one who dances beautifully, too! Now, wouldnt YOU love to know that there are more Hrithiks where the first one came from? I certainly do!
The “same face runs in the family” double roles
When one character has to die, the first law of conservation of actors dictates that the same actor be brought back as a son/daughter/descendant and I whole-heartedly approve. Why lose out on a favorite star just because the script demands a death?
Mausam: A young girl (Sharmila Tagore) has a summer romance with a visiting doctor (Sanjeev Kumar), who returns years later to find his love dead and her daughter (also Sharmila Tagore) working as a prostitute. His attempts at reparation for deserting the Mom by taking care of the daughter, lead to some interesting results in this unusual story, which is more popular for its lovely songs – Dil dhoondta hai and Chhadi re chhadi.
The faux double-role
This had to happen. With so many doubles around, the non-doubled people might feel neglected. Some might even invent a fictitious twin/look-alike. Though its hard to sustain a faux-double role, Bollywood actors can do anything, and certainly do not lag behind in this field.
Golmaal: The hero (Amol Palekar) in this film doesnt feel the need to invent an identical twin out of a desire to have a doppelganger. Its all the fault of a cricket match. No wait, its the fault of a tyrannical boss (Utpal Dutt) who goes to watch a cricket match that he shouldnt have. Anyhow, our hero is forced to invent an identical twin and then sustain the double role, at great personal peril, for the rest of the film. I am sure everyone who’s laughed at poor Ram Prasad’s (Amol Palekar) trials and tribulations, appreciates the difficulties inherent in a faux-double role. I certainly wont try it!

So, these are my favorite double-roles. What are yours?


  1. Delightful post! And you've listed some of my favourite films - I love Sharmeelee, Golmaal, Angoor and Andaz Apna Apna.

    Here are some other double roles I like: Ram aur Shyam, the precursor to Seeta aur Geeta: Dilip Kumar, though aging, does some great acting in it; Haseena Maan Jaayegi - Shashi Kapoor!! (enough reason to watch, though it's an interesting film even otherwise), Mera Saaya and Woh Kaun Thi, both with Sadhana as twin sisters. Yes, the plots have holes galore, but I am a confirmed Sadhana fan, and I love both films.

    Does I S Johar's delightful acting as triplets in Johny Mera Naam count?

  2. Ha! Great post :-) I love Ashok Kumar as twins in Afsana (precursor to Dilip Kumar's Dastaan, and better as well). You've listed my other favorites already! :)

  3. dustedoff, your other favorites were also on my list (two Sadhanas are always better than one, and the same goes for Shashi!) - they just didnt make it to the top 10.

    I havent seen Johnny Mera Naam - but three I. S. Johars sound delightful!

    memsaab, you've seen Afsana?!! I'm still hunting for it - even landed up trying the 60s Afsana though I knew it wasnt the right one. Are you going to write it up? Please do!

  4. Yaay, i love this post, full of my favorite doubles, though one of my favorite doubles is like memsaab's afsana, ashok kumar is soo good as both. Another that i love is the "same face in the family" of Sridevi in Lamhe, to confuse poor old anil!

  5. Fantastic list!!! XD

    One of the most clever double roles - although the film was rather dull - was Amitabh Bachchan in Bhande Haath. He plays both a criminal type and a poet who are totally unrelated. The criminal type kills the poet and takes over his life.

    I wish it had been a better film, but somebody could surely re-use this plot!!

  6. Rum, I am sure Afsana would be my favorite too, if I could only find it! :-( As to Lamhe, I think poor Anil is more confused by a 27 year old Sridevi pretending (very badly) to be a bubbly 18 year old!

    Filmi Girl, I think I have Bandhe Haath in my to-watch pile somewhere. The premise certainly sounds very interesting - too bad the execution isnt great. Maybe it'll find its way into my DVD player anyway.

  7. Jewel Thief is one that always comes to mind when I think about double roles, since it's a very interesting take on that trope.

    I sometimes feel a little bit bad in "random look-alike" films when the first guy is completely replaced by the second guy, like in Kasme Vaade and Kaho Na Pyar Hai. I'm glad the first guy's family members, love interests, and friends end up happy, but it seems rather hard on the poor dead guy that he can be so completely replaced and forgotten if someone with the same face comes along.

  8. Bollyviewer, do look out for Johny Mera Naam - good masala/suspense film, great songs, and a gorgeous Hema Malini. I S Johar, by the way, won a Filmfare Award for his role(s) in the film. He's delightful! Way better than Mehmood as grandfather, father and son in Humjoli.

  9. Hi. Now, this is a fun theme for a post!

    My favorite double role of all was actually in a Tamil film, Uthama Puthiran (1958), in which Sivaji Ganesan plays twins separated at birth. The story is too complicated to get into here, but briefly, one twin Sivaji grows up as a noble and courageous man being cared for by a poor family, and the other Sivaji is a spoiled brat of a prince who spends all his time drinking and watching dances by Helen (among others). Eventually, the separated twins meet while the good Sivaji is sneaking into palace to see the beautiful woman he's fallen in love with (of course, it's Padmini!) and we end up seeing some good combat between Sivaji and Sivaji.

  10. Cindy, Jewel Thief certainly had a very interesting take on double-roles!

    Its interesting that you feel sorry for the dead person since he/she is replaced. I am usually sorry for the look-alike since everybody just sees in him/her their lost loved one!

    dustedoff, I am not very fond of post-60s Dev Anand (though he made some great films in the 70s) and that usually keeps me away from any of his 70s films that I havent already seen on DD! Will look out for JMN though - Hema is lovely there and I do heart the songs. And yes, I. S. Johar was certainly a whole lot funnier than Mahmood!

    Richard, doubles fighting each other is always such fun - Haseena Maan Jayegi had one Shashi Kapoor kill the other Shashi Kapoor! Bet Uthama Puthiran was even more fun as South Indian films are, usually, wackier than Hindi ones.

  11. You can find Afsana (and its a YashRaj DVD too! hooray!) here:

    I saw it ages ago (rented it from Netflix) and loved it. And yes, I'm writing it up soon (I bought it too, since it's so great)---it's part of my 80s detoxification program :)

    JMN is FAB FUN (I wrote it up a while ago)---I think you'd like it.

    Also @ Filmi Girl: Bandhe Hath was a remake of Shammi's Mujrim, which was much better IMHO (well, duh)---also made by OP Ralhan, by the way.

  12. Haha! This is too fun; I've seen a lot of these but not all. I'd add Sridevi's roles in Lamhe to the list too. :-)

  13. Fantastic and fun post!!!!! I've only seen Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, but it sure does give one incentive to seek out the others. I especially loved the reference to Seven Brothers for Seven Brides, which I saw so many years ago and loved (though no one else saw it). What about the reincarnation story line? I can think of two SRK ones right off the bat: Karan Arjun and Om Shanti Om.

  14. memsaab, thanks so much for that link. I've ordered my copy of Afsana (plus a bunch of other DVDs - shopping spree!). :-D

    So, thats why I remember Bandhe Haath - I think you commented about its Shamminess earlier somewhere. I need to find Mujrim - would much rather watch Shammi than Big B any day!

    ajnabi, if you're a Sridevi fan, you must try Chalbaaz (a remake of Seeta Aur Geeta) - that is one double role that is a lot of fun!

    shell, I saw Seven Brides for Seven Brothers long after I saw its Hindi remake and prefer the Hindi masala-additions - though I do love Jane Powell a lot. And Om Shanti Om is fun unlimited!

  15. I think my favorite double role is Sridevi's in Chaalbaaz, which I (Warning: upcoming sacrilege) actually like better than Seeta aur Geeta.

    I also remember being throughly impressed and entertained by Amitabh's triple role in Mahaan.

    And the most disappointing performance in mutliple-roles, has to be Sanjeev Kumar in Naya Din Nayi Raat. SK hamming x 9 = torture.

  16. Sacrilege indeed! How could you prefer Sridevi, Rajnikant and Sunny Deol to Hema, Dharam and Sanjeev?!!! O well... I never could get to like Sridevi, so really cannot understand the charm of Chalbaaz.

    And Naya Din Nayi Raat was certainly horrendous. If only they had invested more money and employed nine actors instead of one! Mahaan I have yet to see - it sounds like fun.

  17. Fab Post bollyviewer i was laughing to myself all the way through, by the way what's the meaning of Vilaayat and my fave double role would have to be Seeta aur Geeta i can't believe how one person managed to pull off two different and yet equally convincing characters

  18. bollywooddeewana, vilaayat means "abroad" or "foreign land", but in the context of older Bollywood films, it usually means England.

    Hema was awesome in Seeta Aur Geeta. As a kid I loved how she horse-whipped the evil relatives!

  19. Thanks Bollyviewer, how do you get your blog headers to change with each click to a different page

  20. Wonderful,
    my favourites are nearly all listed up there including two of Sridevis.
    I just add BeSharam with Amitabh (real lost and found brothers) and Aaye Din Bahaar Ke: Dharmendra playing with Asha Parekh´s heart by taking up the role of a twin brother as well in the first half of the movie.
    Very naughty!
    Watch and enjoy!

  21. bollywooddeewana, the rotating banners required addition of javascript to the blog header - I think I found the hacks at the Hackosphere. I have forgotten how exactly it was done. You could request help at the blogger help forum.

    Lisa, I have Besharam which I havent watched yet. It goes next on my to-watch list. And I dont remember Dharmendra's faux double-role - its obviusly too long since I watched Aaye Din Bahar Ke!

  22. Sorry, I noticed my mistake only today: it´s not Be-sharam with an Amitabh double, it´s "The Great Gambler" (I watched them together in one long go). Be-Sharam otherwise is not really interesting in this case, Amitabh plays somebody else according to his disguise.
    Watch 8 X 10 Tasveer instead with Akshay Kumar as ? (I don´t want to be a spoil sport, it´s a crime & suspense).

  23. The Great Gambler is a fun film. It also has my all-time favorite song Do lafzon ki hai dil ki kahani. Big B does have a lot of double roles - guess his fans couldnt have enough of him!

    And 8 X 10 Tasveer is on my to-watch list. From the reviews it sounds like an intriguing film.

  24. Fun! So far my favorite is probably Sharmilee...and also Paheli, which is sort of a faux double role, I guess.... I like both of those for alllllll the interesting points they raise about identity, affinity, true knowledge of people, etc.

    LOVE the law of conservation of actors! One must never waste precious resources!

  25. How could I forget about Paheli?!!! I love that film and it IS a double role in my book. The best part of the film was that the woman not only gets to make her own choice, she isnt punished for it! That'll teach me to do my research more thoroughly before I write up any more lists.

  26. You forgot - Lamhe - Sridevi in a double role as ma and beti!

  27. Anonymous, I didnt forget Sridevi's double role in Lamhe - I am saving it for my least favorite and never-to-be-re-watched double roles list. This one is strictly for my favorites.