FOR YEARS, INDIAN CINEMA HAS EXCELLED WITH DUEL ROLE FILMS. HERE’S THE TOP 20
by ASJAD NAZIR
THE double role has returned to Bollywood in a big way, which included high-profile releases Mubarakan and Judwaa 2 last year.
This continues a long-running trend in Indian cinema featuring many double role films in a variety of genres.
Eastern Eye went back in time to select the greatest double roles of all-time with a hot 20 selection that is just twice as nice…
- Dhoom 3 (2013): The action sequel became the biggest Bollywood hit of all-time when it released. Aamir Khan plays the mysterious head of a circus troop, who is also a master thief. No one can figure out how he does his illusions and the heists until it emerges that he has an identical twin. Although the lookalikes are mentally different, they have a strong connection with each other.
- Anhonee (1952): One of the first high-profile Bollywood films to feature a female double role is a hidden gem from the past. Nargis plays two sisters who are separated and brought up in contrasting environments, which shape them as individuals. Later, a man who is in love with one sister unexpectedly brings them together and digs up a past history that the father wanted to remain hidden. KA Abbas, who had written Raj Kapoor classics including Awaara (1951), Shree 420 (1955) and Mera Naam Joker (1970), directed the film.
- Karan Arjun (1995): How can you not include a movie that sees two of the biggest stars of the modern era playing double roles? Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan play brothers who are murdered and then later reincarnated in the revenge drama. It was the second highest grossing Bollywood film of 1995 after the record-breaking Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.
- Kasme Vaade (1978): Amitabh Bachchan was somewhat of a specialist at playing a double role at the height of his career, but this underrated classic was perhaps one of the most interesting. Rakhee plays a woman heartbroken after her honest and loving fiancé is murdered. Then her world changes when she crosses paths with a wanted criminal who looks exactly like her lost love. Bachchan played the two contrasting characters well in what was ultimately a unique romance during a time of action-dominated Bollywood.
- Angoor (1982): The Bollywood adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Comedy Of Errors had been done previously in Indian cinema, but not this well. The story revolves around two pairs of identical twins separated at birth and reunited in adulthood with hilarious consequences. Sanjeev Kumar and Deven Verma play the respective twins, who also have the same names.
- Lamhe (1991): One of the most unique love triangles in the history of Indian cinema saw Anil Kapoor portray a man in love with an older woman who didn’t feel the same way and married someone else. Years later after she passed away, he crossed paths with her identical looking daughter who began to fall in love with him. Sridevi was on fine form with another superb performance in the two roles and won a well deserved Filmfare Best Actress award.
- Kaminey (2009): The action caper saw Shahid Kapoor play identical twins with different speech impediments and on opposite sides of the law. The twist-laden story of course contained cases of mistaken identity and gave lead star Shahid one of the best performances of his career. Writer/director Vishal Bhardwaj framed the movie uniquely and presented the concept of twins in a contemporary way. It also had a winning soundtrack and sharp editing.
- Aankhen (1993): The slapstick action comedy may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but that doesn’t take away from the incredible impact it made. Apart from being the highest grossing movie of 1993, it launched the era of ‘leave your brains at home’ style of Bollywood. Govinda was all-owed to flex his comedy muscles to the fullest as a slacker and his identical cousin. He recei-ved a Filmfare Best Actor nomination and recreated the comedy magic in a string of subsequent releases.
- Do Kaliyaan (1968): There have been a number of attempts by Indian cinema to remake 1961 Walt Disney classic The Parent Trap, which itself was based on 1949 German novel Lottie and Lisa. This underrated classic was perhaps the best one. A young Neetu Singh made a stunning turn in the story of two twin sisters who are separated at birth after their parents divorce and then switch places after unexpectedly meeting.
- Seeta Aur Geeta (1972): The female adaptation of Indian cinema’s greatest double role movie Ram Aur Shyam (1967) saw Hema Malini play twins separated at birth, who grow up with very different temperaments. The Ramesh Sippy-directed comedy was a massive hit when it released and won Malini her only competitive Filmfare Best Actress award. Seeta Aur Geeta would greatly influence female double role films that followed.
- Hum Dono (1961): This classic drama may be remembered for the beautiful soundtrack, but it was so much more than that and had a great double role performance from lead star Dev Anand. The smash hit story of mistaken identity and romantic idealism saw him portray the jovial Major Verma as well as the sombre Captain Anand. The beloved black and white classic was relaunched in digitally-mastered colour 50 years later in 2011.
- Mausam (1975): The Gulzar-directed comedy loosely based on The Judas Tree saw Sharmila Tagore deliver one of the finest performances of her career and take home a National Award for Best Actress. Tagore played a betrayed woman who passes away, and her daughter, a foulmouthed sex worker drawn to the older man who wronged her mother. She plays the contrasting women in what was a big highlight of her distinguished career.
- Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015): This was a rare Bollywood sequel that carried on an existing story and was better than the first part. Kangana Ranaut plays two different characters in the wedding comedy of a housewife in a troubled marriage and a doppelganger who crosses paths with her husband. The critical and commercial success, which won three National Awards including for Best Actress and Best Screenplay, clocked up huge numbers at the box office.
- Aradhana (1969): The musical blockbuster turned Rajesh Khanna into the king of Bollywood. His portrayal of a dashing air force pilot and the handsome son gave women sleepless nights. The double delight for female fans helped Aradhana win a Filmfare Best Movie award and led to the kind of hysteria not seen in Bollywood before or since. Not surprisingly, men tried copying the suave characters played by Rajesh.
- Chaalbaaz (1989): Iconic actress Sridevi showed just why she was the undisputed queen of Bollywood with this sparkling performance in the fizzy double role comedy-drama. She won a well-deserved Filmfare Best Actress award for her performance of twins separated at birth and brought up in contrasting environments, resulting in polar opposite personalities. It has since been ranked as one of the all-time greatest performances by a Bollywood leading lady and was cited as a favourite by heroines who followed.
- Don (1978): The cult seventies musical thriller was inspired by 1962 Shammi Kapoor classic China Town. Amitabh Bachchan once again showed no one does a double role quite like him in the story of a street musician who is drafted in to take the place of a notorious underworld don who looks like him. The film had all the ingredients of a masala potboiler, with action, big musical numbers, moments of comedy, drama and escapist fun. It was later remade with Shah Rukh Khan in the lead role and a different interpretation of the two men who lookalike.
- Pakeezah (1972): The third most popular use of the double role genre has been a parent and offspring looking identical. This Kamal Amrohi masterpiece, which took 16 years to make, saw Meena Kumari portraying a courtesan spurned by a lover who gives birth to a girl before she dies. The girl grows up to follow a similar tragic path to her late mother. The swan-song to Meena Kumari’s career saw her battle through illness to play the two roles and then pass away shortly after it released. The double role solidified her position as one of the greatest leading ladies in the history of Indian cinema.
- Madhumati (1958): The second most popular double role genre is the reincarnation drama, and this Bimal Roy-directed classic did it the best. Dilip Kumar plays an engineer taking shelter in an old mansion, who has flashes of a past life where he falls in love with a tribal girl, and we see what happened. Vyjanthimala plays three roles in the skilfully-crafted drama, which won the National Award for Best Film along with nine Filmfare Awards. The movie would go onto influence most reincarnation dramas that followed in some way, but none did it better.
- Ram Aur Shyam (1967): The most popular interpretation of the double role genre is the lookalikes with contrasting personalities who get caught up in cases of mistaken identity. This rip-roaring classic did it better than anyone else and saw tragedy king Dilip Kumar show off a whole different side to his acting repertoire. The comedy remake of 1964 Telugu blockbuster Ramudu Bheemudu sees him portray two long lost twins with opposite personalities who unwittingly trade places and unleash a hilarious chain of events.