Sajid Khan has a set of jokes on himself that he plays through in the first half of his latest Humshakals. Maybe that’s the bigger picture with him and title of the film. Saif Ali Khan plays Ashok Singhania, a wealthy businessman who travels in helicopters and owns mansions that are straight out of a Karan Johar family film. But Ashok is a terrible comedian who insists on following his passion of stand up comedy that only makes people want to stand up and leave. Sajid Khan thinks it sums up his directorial career. We can laugh at it. He laughs at it. He insists on sticking to it because that’s what people do with their passion. We continue wanting to walk out of it. You see the circle? It’s not a joke anymore.
It’s not a joke when it is on someone’s mental illness. It’s not a joke when it reeks of sexism. It’s not a joke when you use an emotional father-son moment and the next instant have fun with the father in coma pushed around in a wheelchair. Seriously, choose your genre Mr. Sajid Khan! It’s not a joke when the film is unkind to women and their character arcs. Cocaine parathas are definitely not a joke but then, hey, this is a film where a scientist develops a drug to make people behave like dogs mouthing something about changing chromosome structure. But we all are guilty of laughing at such jokes at some point or the other but that’s the thing, are any of these jokes even good? There is a thin line here and the good stand up comedians usually are nimble with it. There isn’t even a joke where you laugh and then look around and check yourself. It’s loud and in your face in all the wrong ways possible. It surely can’t be a joke when we have to see Ram Kapoor in drag.
Farah Khan in her directorial career made one fairly good film and another passable one – both with Shah Rukh Khan. Sajid Khan on the other hand continues to make irredeemable features. Both talk about their love for old world Bollywood but only one of them has taken that inspiration to its logical conclusion with Main Hoon Naa. Sajid Khan has a dedication in the beginning of this film to Kishore Kumar, Jim Carrey and Peter Sellers. One can only hope that Carrey doesn’t catch hold of this and the film for if he does he may be forced to join the other two below the ground.
(An edited version of this was first published in The New Indian Express)