Superstar Amitabh Bachchan is amongst the fortunate few who had the opportunity to play double role in several films as well as one triple role in his long, illustrious and still on-going film career. He probably holds the record having played dual roles in fourteen films, the other close contenders being Kader Khan, Govinda and Rajesh Khanna.
The stories varied from action thrillers to comedy and even spook but most of his double role films belonged to the era when revenge and violence were important themes in the films made during that period. Hence he got scripts where he was the victim wronged by the system or by the people whom he had trusted and at least one role was devoted to avenging the miscreants and criminals.
Interestingly in 1982 alone he had three films in which he played double role- Satte Pe Satta (look-alikes), Bemisaal (brothers) and Desh Premee (father-son). This remains a unique and commendable feather in his cap. Both in 1978 and 1999 he had two double-role releases each- Don and Kasme Waade in 1978 and Lal Baadshah and Suyavamsham in 1999.
In two films- Bemisaal and Bandhe Haath, the second role was for just a few minutes of on-screen time while in Hum Kaun Hai he had only a special appearance.
Starting from 1973 and going right up to 2004, he played father-son in five films, look-alike in six films, brothers in two and there was one re-incarnation story. This blog enumerates these fourteen films with a little description of the film and his role in them. I have also included the lone triple role in which he plays father and two sons taking the total tally to fifteen!
FILMS WHERE HE PLAYS CHARACTERS WHO ARE LOOK-ALIKES
BANDHE HAATH (1973)
Shyamu- a thief / Deepak- a writer
Heroine: Mumtaz, Kumud Chugani
Director: O P Goyle
The young orphan Shyamu (Amitabh) is brought up by a small-time thief Madan Puri who trains Shyamu also to be a thief. Shyamu is always on the run for fear of being caught by the police and one day while escaping from the police he lands up in the green room of a popular stage actress cum dancer Mumtaz who mistakes him to be the writer who was supposed to come that day to discuss their new play. After meeting Mumtaz, he decides to call it quits and start life afresh by masquerading as the writer. Unluckily for him, the Inspector (played by Ajit) chasing him had managed to get a good look at his face.
Now when he goes to the writer’s house he is even more shocked to find out that the writer is an exact replica of him. He even contemplates killing his look-alike but ironically after meeting him, the writer who had been very ill dies. Shyamu decides to switch places and everyone believes that it is the thief who is dead. Everything seemed perfect for a while for Shyamu till he realizes that the Inspector who had seen him earlier is suspicious and is waiting to nab him at the opportune moment and expose his identity.Amitabh Bachchan is superb as he essays the role which has grey shades with panache and also gets to display a gamut of emotions. However, the ‘double role’ angle is too brief to make an impact and does not offer any scope to show another facet of him. The scene lasts for a total of five minutes.
This film written and directed by O P Ralhan is a remake of the 1958 film Mujrim starring Shammi Kapoor in double role. Incidentally in the 1973 remake, though the screenplay is again by O P Ralhan himself, the director is O P Goyle (I could not find out if he was O P Ralhan’s brother).
Bandhe Haath released in May 1973 and was an average hit and in July 1973 came the super-hit Zanjeer which had a reversal of roles with Amitabh Bachchan playing the angry cop chasing the dreaded criminal Ajit. The film as we all know changed the fate of Amitabh Bachchan and changed the image of the Hindi film hero as well.
Here is a super Kishore Kumar number from the film:
A dreaded criminal-‘Don’ / an innocent ‘paan’-chewing simpleton
Director: Chandra BarotDon is a dreaded gangster who manages to escape the clutches of the police every time with his ingenuity and intelligence. However during one police encounter he gets badly wounded and hides in a police car which belongs to the DSP-Iftekhar, and eventually dies. Iftekhar decides to keep his death a secret and to find out more information about the gang, he trains his exact look-alike a crude and illiterate ‘paan-chewing’ simpleton to masquerade as Don. The plot takes an unexpected turn when Iftekhar dies and the police manage to arrest the masquerading Don. When he tries to explain that he is actually working for the police nobody believes him and the gang members are also out to avenge him. This engaging plot is filled with thrilling twists and action scenes and keeps the viewer glued to the seat.
Amitabh Bachchan comes up with one of his career-best performances in the film which fetched him a well-deserved Filmfare ‘Best Actor’ award! As the suave, sophisticated, cool and cold-blooded Don, Amitabh is outstanding. In his rich baritone, this particular dialogue from the film attained iconic proportions: “Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahi namumkin hai!’’ (It is not just difficult to catch Don, it is actually impossible!) And as the kohl-eyed, paan-chewing simpleton he is a complete contrast and the film offered him an excellent scope to display his histrionics.
The story of a simpleton look-alike masquerading as the criminal to help the police seems to have been inspired from the Shakti Samanta directed 1962 thriller China Gate starring Shammi Kapoor in a double role. Incidentally, Don was remade in 2009 and starred Shah Rukh Khan but it was no match for the classic original as the plot was tampered with mercilessly!
Here is the song sung at a party after which the gang comes to know that their leader is not the real Don but someone masquerading like him:
KASME WAADE (1978)
Profesor Amit / Criminal Shankar
Director: Ramesh Behl
In the first role, Amitabh is a college professor and in love with Raakhee who is an artist. He has a younger brother played by Randhir Kapoor who gets into wrong company and gets involved in violent fights with his rival gangs in college. During one such encounter by mistake Amitabh gets killed and this incident transforms Randhir who is now guilt-ridden. Soon the scene is set for the second Amitabh to enter. In the role of Shankar, he is a wanted criminal and during one of his escapades from police ends up hiding in Randhir and Raakhee’s house. He is stunned to see his own face on all the paintings that Raakhee has kept in her room. Initially they hate each other but expectedly by the end of the film, a series of incidents happen which bring them closer and it is ‘all’s well that ends well’.
Amitabh Bachchan does well in both roles and gets to play contrasting characters with different body language and personalities. Though the story is quite predictable after a point, the film had enough ‘masala’ for his fans to enjoy him in both the avatars.
SATTE PE SATTA (1982)
Simpleton- Ravi Anand/ Killer- Babu
Heroines: Hema Malini, Ranjeeta
Director: Raj N Sippy
Ravi Anand lives with his six brothers in an isolated farm far away from the city. In the absence of any parental guidance or any kind of contact with society, they have grown up to be uncultured, unkempt, boorish and boisterous. When Ravi falls in love with a nurse (Hema Malini) and brings her home after marriage, at first she is shocked and angry but slowly with patience and determination, she brings about a transformation in their lives. They fall in love with six girls who are also sisters and they have a wheel-chair bound friend played by Ranjeeta, who is an heiress to a big fortune.
Ranjeeta’s uncle Amjad Khan is out to get her fortune by attempting to kill her. He hires a professional assassin Babu who is a look-alike of Ravi. Soon Ravi is kidnapped and Babu takes his place in the family to kill Ranjeeta. But Babu ends up falling in love with Ranjeeta and complications arise…
The film is superbly entertaining and filled with a perfect mix of comedy, action, thrill, good acting and outstanding music. Amitabh Bachchan delivers yet another excellent performance and shines in both the roles.
Here is a lovely song from the film:
BADE MIYAAN CHOTE MIYAAN (1998)
Inspector Arjun Singh / Bade Miyan
Heroine: Ramya Krishnan
Director: David Dhawan
This film is a full-on paisa-vasool entertainer and both Amitabh Bachchan and Govinda in their double roles bring the house down with their comic timing and superb camaraderie. Both are policemen in one role and petty conmen in the second role. The film has plenty of hilarious situations wherein one set of Amitabh-Govinda are mistaken to be the other and this leads to plenty of funny situations.
This film was released in the same year as ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ when Amitabh was well past his prime as a hero and was coming after a long gap. He had tough competition from Govinda who was simply brilliant in the film for not only was Govinda at his peak but also playing the kind of role which suited him the most. But Amitabh puts in hs best effort and for the audience it was a treat to have double dose of this delightfully comical pair! In supporting roles Anupam Kher, Satish Kaushik and Paresh Rawal were also very good. Heroines Raveena Tandon and Ramya did not have anything much to do.
The talented actress Ramya who stole the nation’s heart with her brilliant performance as the powerful ‘Shivagami’ in the blockbusters ‘Baahubali 1 &2’ can be seen in an extremely forgettable role of her career. It is sad that many talented actors from South have never been given good roles in Hindi cinema.
The film is fun to watch and the climax is really hilarious. Here is a catchy number from the film:
FILM WHERE LOOK-ALIKES TURN OUT TO BE BROTHERS
THE GREAT GAMBLER (1979)
Gambler Jai / Inspector Vijay
Heroines: Zeenat Aman, Neetu Singh
Director: Shakti Samanta
There was a special charm in the action entertainers of the seventies which can never be replicated. Amitabh was at the peak of his career and this film does full justice to his talent.
Director Shakti Samanta whips up a breezy and superb entertainer with drama, fast-paced action, interesting outdoor locations and good songs that end up making the film a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable watch! Amitabh Bachchan is outstanding in the film and as both the characters look exactly the same the confusions arising due to mistaken identities is also interesting.
One of them is a Police Inspector while the other is an expert gambler who works for his boss in a casino. Confusion arises when both of them decide to go to Lisbon on the same day on the same plane albeit for a different purpose. From then on it is fast paced and the supporting cast comprising of Madan Puri, Prem Chopra, Sujit Kumar, Roopesh Kumar, Iftekhar and Helen also provide good support. Zeenat Aman is superb but Neetu Singh really does not have much to do.
Here is an interesting song where Jai is pretending to be Vijay and Neetu Singh is confused…
FILMS WHERE HE PLAYS BROTHERS
Dr Sudhir Roy / Adhir Roy
Heroines- Raakhee, Sheetal
Director: Hrishikesh Mukherjee
Unlike his other films this Hrishikesh Mukherjee film stands out for its unique plot and Amitabh gets to portray a complex character with many layers. This can easily be rated as one of his finest performances. Amitabh’s double role in the film is actually part of a sub-plot of the film and the second role lasts for very little screen-time. Amitabh has an elder brother-also played by Amitabh- who is confined to a mental asylum because of a painful incident in his past wherein a girl- his tuition student to be precise- wrongly accuses him of attempted rape and not only gets him whipped by her father but also sets mad dogs on him. This incident leaves such a deep impact that he loses his sanity. So the younger brother makes it his mission to find the girl and pay her back in her own coin.
In the film there is also a noble side of Amitabh. As an orphan he is brought up by Vinod Mehra’s father who treats him like his own and educates both of them to become doctors. Both end up falling for Raakhee whom they meet at a ahill-station but when Amitabh comes to know that his brother-like close friend Vinod Mehra also loves her, he decides to have just a bond of friendship with Raakhee and thereafter addresses her as his ‘Sakhi’. Later when Vinod Mehra gets entangled in performing illegal abortions and starts becoming corrupt, Amitabh takes the blame on himself and ends up going to jail to save his friend and does whatever he can to stop anyone from testifying against Vinod Mehra.
Here is a beautiful composition by R D Burman from the film when Amitabh accompanies the other two on their honeymoon and is sung by Kishore Kumar, Suresh Wadkar and Lata Mangeshkar :
Twins: Toofan (has special strength) / Shyam (a magician)
Heroines: Amrita Singh, Meenakshi Sheshadri
Director: Ketan Desai
Twin sons are born to Pran who is an Inspector but sadly his wife passes away soon after delivery. At the same time his magician friend Ramesh Deo’s wife has a fall and loses their child. Pran decides to give away one child to his friend and this secret is known only to the doctor apart from these two men. So both the ‘Amitabhs’ grow up separately without knowing about the existence of a twin and get to meet only in the last few minutes of the film. While Pran’s son called ‘Toofan’ or ‘storm’ is out to avenge Pran’s death and prove his innocence in a case where he had been wrongly framed, Ramesh Deo’s son Shyamu hopes to be the best magician and perform that special trick which had proved fatal to his father who had died while performing it.
Directed by Manmohan Desai’s son Ketan Desai, the film lacked the magic of films directed by Manmohan Desai himself. Though Amitabh’s acting is flawless, and there are some good scenes, he looked a little tired to be playing these roles performing the same kind of antics without any novelty. After all, the aftermath of the Coolie incident did take a toll on his health.
FILMS WHERE HE PLAYS FATHER-SON
Heroines: Waheeda Rehman, Neetu Singh
Director: Narendra Bedi
I wonder why this film is not talked about as much as some of his films like Don, Aakhree Raasta, etc., because this is also another one of Amitabh’s brilliant performances! It is basically a revenge saga where a simple villager’s life turns upside down due to three evil, corrupt and ruthless businessmen who come to his village. He saves the life of one of them from a tiger and in return they offer him a job in their factory if he decides to come to town.
Soon the village faces drought and Dharma goes to meet these folks who give him a job but taking advantage of his naiveté they also get him arrested to cover up their evil tracks. When he comes out of jail after two years he is shocked to learn of his sister’s rape and suicide and the state of poverty in which his wife and son are living. That is when he decides to change his very persona to seek revenge.
In the film, the older Amitabh has a far better role in terms of scope and his transformation from a simpleton to a cold-blooded killer is amazing to watch. The smouldering look in his eyes conveying pain, anger and anguish is unforgettable. No one does or can ever do ‘an angry young man’ the way he has done… As the son, he is his usual self but there are confrontation scenes between the father and son which are great to watch! Kader Khan has an important role and acts superbly!
DESH PREMEE (1982)
Freedom fighter Master Dinanath/ Criminal Raju
Heroines: Sharmila Tagore, Hema Malini, Parveen Babi
Director: Manmohan Desai
The film starts with the story being set against the backdrop of Indian Independence where Master Dinanath is a peace-loving freedom fighter who takes part actively during fights against the British. Post-Independence, Dinanath continues in his mission to cleanse the society of evil-doers and in the process gets Amjad Khan arrested for smuggling arms. Now Dinanath’s wife (Sharmila Tagore) and small daughter (who grows up to be Parveen Babi) are kidnapped by Amjad and Amitabh thinks they are dead. He stays with his son but unknown to him his son Amitabh is attracted to the underworld and starts working for Amjad Khan. In the son’s role he has Hema Malini as his heroine. It is interesting to note that Parveen Babi who has been his heroine in many films gets to play his daughter and his sister!
The film has the typical Manmohan Desai ‘lost and found’ formula but the narrative is interesting and Amitabh Bachchan is a delight to watch in both the roles. Once again Amitabh shines in the older role. In the father’s role he is a little serious but the younger Amitabh has a lot of comic scenes and this difference gives him enough scope to show his talent. The film also has a supporting cast of Shammi Kapoor, Parikshit Sahni, Premnath and Uttam Kumar. Both Uttam Kumar and Mohammed Rafi passed away before the release of the film. Here is the last song Rafi saab recorded for a Manmohan Desai film.
AAKHREE RAASTA (1986)
David D’Costa / Inspector Vijay
Heroines: Jaya Prada, Sridevi
Director: K Bhagyaraj
This film was a remake of the superb action-packed Tamil film ‘Oru Kaidhiyin Diary’. Though the film is high on melodrama, it is packed with a taut storyline, a fast-paced narrative and superb action sequences. This murder cum revenge drama was a roaring hit and till date considered to be one of Amitabh’s career best performances.
David, an honest worker is framed wrongly for a crime he did not commit and sent to prison for 22 years by the very men in whom he had placed his trust. His wife is raped and she commits suicide and he is now seething in anger. Before going to jail he entrusts his best friend Anupam Kher to bring up his son as a criminal so that when he grows up he would help him to avenge the three people who destroyed his life. Unfortunately for him, his son grows up to be an Inspector and unknowingly becomes the biggest obstacle on his very path of revenge.
Amitabh Bachchan is the lifeline of the film and though he is brilliant in both the roles, it is as the father that he gets to tug our hearts and put up an unforgettable act. As the two ‘Amitabhs’ are pitted against each other and on either side of the law, there are many interesting encounters between father and son which are enjoyable to watch.
A film not to be missed…
Thakur Bhanupratap Singh/ Heera Singh
Heroines: Soundarya and Jaysudha
Director: E V V Satyanarayana
This family drama was a remake of the Tamil film of the same name which released in 1997 and later it was made in Telugu and Kannada also. As Thakur Bhanupratap, Amitabh Bachchan is the head of a well-respected and honoured aristocratic family in a village and as Heera, he is Thakur’s youngest son. Unfortunately Heera is not good at studies and remains a simpleton with a golden heart while his two elder brothers get on well in life. With the result he is treated like a servant and not as a son in his own house.
While the son yearns for his father’s love, Thakur does not think much of him and prefers to have him out of his way as far as possible. Though the film is melodramatic and things do fall in place towards the end, the narrative is interesting and enjoyable. In a way the film depicts the meaningless patriarchal values we delight in glorifying in our society. The stress on the son to constantly prove his worth to the father is evident even today.
Though the script is too melodramatic and quite senseless, it offers plenty of scope for Amitabh to showcase his brilliance in both the roles. He does looks a little old as the son but his acting is spot on and touches our heart. There are plenty of confrontation scenes between the father and the son and it is a delight to watch him in both the roles. This one is a must for Amitabh fans…
LAL BAADSHAH (1999)
Father-son: Ranbhir Singh / Lal Singh
Heroines- Manisha Koirala, Shilpa Shetty
Director: K C Bokadia
After the Maharaja’s death, the secret of his hidden treasure is only known to his loyal Dewan- Ranbhir Singh (the father Amitabh). Villains Amrish Puri and Prem Chopra manage to murder him and in all this confusion his wife and son also get separated. His son brought up by a childless lady Nirupa Roy grows up to be Lal Badshah-a saviour of the poor and downtrodden. By now Amrish Puri’s two sons have also grown up (played by Mukesh Rishi and Raghuvaran) and they continue to follow in the father’s evil footsteps spreading terror everywhere.
Lal Baadshah meanwhile falls in love with Manisha Koirala and also incurs the wrath of Amrish’s sons. He manages to kill them both and now it is open war between Amrish and Lal Badshah. By a quirk of fate it is revealed that the father Ranbhir Singh is still alive and the son Amitabh also gets to meet his real mother (Radhika) before she dies. Now it is two ‘Amitabhs’ vs Amrish and Prem Chopra and no marks for guessing who wins in the end. Shilpa Shetty has a very brief role.
Though Amitabh’s acting was good and his fight sequences fun to watch, his age did not suit the young character he was playing and his pairing with Manisha and Shilpa did not look good at all. Manisha’s acting was quite bad. This was also the film where Nirupa Roy plays Amitabh Bachchan’s on-screen mother for the last time. This could be rated as one of Amitabh’s forgettable films.
HUM KAUN HAI? (2004)
Major Frank John Williams / Engineer Frank James Williams
Heroines-Dimple Kapadia, Moushmi Chatterjee
Director: Ravi Sharma Shankar
This film is literally unheard of and I am not sure if it had a proper release also. However the film is available on YouTube and is definitely worth watching. The story is unique and has elements of suspense, spook and supernatural in it which keeps the viewer engrossed and guessing from beginning to end. The film revolves around a widow Dimple Kapadia and her two small kids who live in a huge mansion in the woods. To help her with the housework she employs a cook, a butler and a housekeeper-cum-nanny (played by Moushmi Chatterjee). Many weird and creepy things happen in the house and the characters seem to be jumpy and also behave strangely.
The film entirely belongs to the two ladies and the two kids who act very well. Amitabh Bachchan’s role is quite brief-more like a special appearance and what makes his presence interesting is that in that short role he has a double role. He is Dimple’s dead husband as well as a look-alike whom Dimple forcibly insists is her husband. He does not have much to do but definitely contributes to the already existing suspenseful atmosphere. Surprisingly Dharmendra makes a guest appearance for a few scenes.
Father and two sons: Amit / Shankar/ Guru
Heroines: Waheeda Rehman, Zeenat Aman, Parveen Babi
Director: S Ramanathan
Amitabh Bachchan takes on the challenge of playing three roles –that of a father and his twin sons. The father Amitabh is an honest lawyer but wily Amjad Khan pretending to be his friend gets him wrongly charged with Sujit Kumar’s murder because of which Amitabh runs away to a new place and takes on a new identity. He also adopts a baby girl and stays with her. Meanwhile wife Waheeda Rehman delivers twin boys but the lady doctor agrees to give one of the babies to a drama actor Mukri who is childless. This Amitabh grows up to be an actor in the drama company like his guardian father Mukri and the third Amitabh who is brought up by the mother grows up to be an honest police inspector.
Though the film with a running time of almost three hours seems a little long, it is required to give scope to show Amitabh in three different characters. He manages to enact the three characters with a lot of variation and there are interesting confrontation scenes between the different ‘Amitabhs’ to entertain the audience.
Here is a song which comes towards the climax and has the twin brothers trying to fool their captors by confusing them: