By Sharada Iyer
Bollywood has always been fascinated with the concept of double roles and now after some gap, the industry seems to be turning to this interesting genre with gusto. In 2012, we had Akshay Kumar in a thrilling double role in Rowdy Rathore. 2013 had Hrithik Roshan playing father-son duo in the action film Krrish 3 and Aamir Khan essaying the first double role of his career-as twin brothers in Dhoom 3. In 2014, Ajay Devgn was seen in dual avatar in Action Jackson, Saif Khan in Happy Ending and Abhishek Bachchan in Happy New Year. We also had Ram Kapoor, Riteish Deshmukh and Saif Khan doing triple roles in the comedy Humshakals . 2015 started with Bipasha Basu playing conjoined twins in the horror film Alone and now Jacqueline Fernandez will be seen in a double role in the romantic thriller Roy opposite Ranbir Kapoor and Arjun Rampal followed by Ameesha Patel in Desi Magic opposite Zayed Khan and Sahil Shroff. This year will also see Shah Rukh Khan in an interesting double role in his upcoming Fan, where he is playing himself, i.e., SRK the superstar in one role and his look-alike fan in the other role.
Future projects include a double role for Sunny Leone in Mastizaade, Kangna Ranaut in the sequel of Tanu Weds Manu, Shahid Kapoor in Kaminey 2 and Salman Khan in the sequel of No Entry titled No Entry Mein Entry.
Looking back, there have many memorable films in this category right from the silent era and whether they have met with box-office success or not they have always succeeded in engaging and entertaining the audience without fail. After all, for the price of one, the audience gets to enjoy their favourite actor/actress in double and triple roles and in some extreme cases in nine, ten or even twelve roles!
It is indeed a challenge for the actors to display their prowess and mastery over the craft in more than one role in the same film. Who can forget Naya Din Nayi Raat (1974) where Sanjeev Kumar essayed nine roles with remarkable aplomb or Dilip Kumar’s superb portrayal of the twins in Ram Aur Shyam (1967) or Amitabh Bachchan’s class act in Don or Rajesh Khanna’s fabulous performance in Sachcha Jhoota! A few years back Dev Anand’s evergreen film Hum Dono (1961) completed fifty years and was released in colour and his portrayal of the two look-alike Army officers brought much joy to his fans. Among the heroines Hema Malini’s Seeta Aur Geeta (1972) still remains an all-time favourite. While Kamal Hassan attempted ten roles in Dasavathar, Priyanka Chopra played twelve roles with a lot of confidence in What’s Your Rashee? (2009) and technically, as far as the number of roles by a single actor goes, she still holds the record. Among child artistes, Baby Sonia’s (Neetu Singh) portrayal of the twin sisters Ganga and Jamuna in Do Kaliyaan (1968) remains unique even today.
The concept of Double Role in films emerged in the silent era itself. In 1917, Anna Salunke played both Ram and Sita in the silent film Lanka Dahan. Those were days when Dadasaheb Phalke could not find a female to play the heroine’s part and so the effeminate-looking male Anna Salunke played the roles of both hero and heroine. Later, Patience Cooper, an Anglo-Indian actress played the role of twin sisters in Patni Pratap in the year 1923 and again mother-daughter in Kashmiri Sundari in the year 1925. The first Indian talkie to have a double role was Awara Shahzada (1933), directed by Master Vitthal, where Shahu Modak played the double role of a prince and a pauper. In 1948 this dual aspect was explored by Gemini Productions’ Nishaan starring Ranjan and Bhanumati and it was the hero Ranjan who got to play the double role.
In 1951, B R Chopra’s directorial debut Afsana had the veteran Ashok Kumar playing the role of identical twin brothers Ratan and Chaman and the success of this film gave birth to the ‘Judwa Bhai/Behn’ concept in our films and set the ball rolling for the producers to cash in on the double-role formula in a big way. The same film was remade as Dastaan in 1972, wherein Dilip Kumar essayed the double role with a flourish.
This formula of good versus bad through the portrayal of twins has been used time and again by our filmmakers and met with success too. Shammi Kapoor’s 1962 starrer Chinatown and 1974 starrer Chote Sarkaar, Sridevi ‘s 1989 starrer Chaalbaaz, Sharmila Tagore’s class act in An Evening In Paris (1967), Raakhee’s unforgettable double-role in Sharmilee (1971), Nargis‘s superb performance in Anhonee (1952) , Madhubala’ twin act in Kal Hamara Hai (1959) , Shyama’s dual role in Do Behnen (1959), and more recently Deepika Padukone in Chandni Chowk to China (2009), and Arjun Kapoor in Aurangzeb (2013) are all examples of such roles.
Another popular theme which has always worked wonders with respect to double roles is the theme of re-incarnation. The most popular film in this genre remains Bimal Roy’s Madhumati (1958) where both Dilip Kumar and Vyjayantimala got to essay double roles. Other films in this category are Bharat Bhushan-Madhubala starrer Phagun (1958), Rajesh Khanna- Hema Malini starrers Mehbooba (1976) and Kudrat (1981), Shah Rukh Khan-Deepika Padukone’s Om Shanti Om (2008) Shah Rukh- Salman’s Karan Arjun (1995), Sunil Dutt-Nutan’s Milan (1967), Saif Khan-Kajol starrer Hamesha (1997), Rishi Kapoor’s Janam Janam (1988), etc.
The same actor portraying father-son or mother-daughter is also quite a favourite with our films. Popular among these are Amitabh Bachchan’s Adalat (1976), Desh Premee (1982) and Aakhree Raasta (1986), Rajesh Khanna’s Aaradhna (1969) and Dard, Sridevi’s act in Lamhe (1991) and Khuda Gawah (1982), Madhuri Dixit’s sensitive portrayal in Sangeet (1992) and Sharmila Tagore’s outstanding performance in Mausam (1975).
Some actors took on the challenge of triple roles to test their skill and emerged triumphant. In the role of father and two sons we had Dilip Kumar in Bairaag (1976), Rajnikant in John Jani Janardhan (1984), Shah Rukh Khan in English Babu Desi Mem (1996), Amitabh Bachchan in Mahaan (1983)and Kamalhasan in Appu Raja (1990). In fact in this film one of the sons was a midget and Kamal was simply mind-blowing.
The comedians also brought the house down with their double/triple roles and some of these include Johny Lever as Joni, Moni and Toni in Achanak (1998), I S Johar as Pehleram, Doojaram and Teejaram in Johny Mera Naam (1970), Paresh Rawal as Lucky’s father , Gogi Bhai and Dr. Handan in Oye Lucky Lucky Oye (2008),and again as Ram Gopal and Shyam Gopal in Andaz Apna Apna (1994), Kader Khan in Hum(1991) and Mehmood in Humjoli (1970) where he imitates the Kapoors- Prithviraj, Raj and Randhir in a triple role beautifully.
Double Roles where the actors had look-alikes without any connection are aplenty. Shashi Kapoor’s debonair act in Haseena Maan Jayegi (1968), Amitabh Bachchan’s action-packed thrillers Don (1978),The Great Gambler (1979) , Satte Pe Satta (1982) and Kasme Vaade (1978), Rajesh Khanna’s Sachcha Jhoota (1970), Humshakal (1974) , Hum Dono (1985) and Raaz (1967) , Shatrughan Sinha in Kalicharan, Mehmood’s class act in Do Phool (1974), Hrithik Roshan’s debut film Kaho Na Pyaar Hai (2000), Shah Rukh Khan’s Duplicate (1998) and Paheli (2005),the Rajnikant super-hit Robot (2010) and Akshay Kumar starrer Rowdy Rathore (2012)– all belong to this category.
Films where there were two or more than two actors playing double roles include all-time favourite hits like Sanjeev Kumar- Deven Verma starrer Angoor (1982), Amitabh Bachchan-Govinda-Kader Khan starrer Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (1998), Kishore Kumar-Asit Sen starrer Do Dooni Chaar (1968- incidentally, this is the original on which Gulzar’s Angoor was based), Govinda-Kader Khan-Raj Babbar starrer Aankhen (1993) and the Bobby Deol-Paresh Rawal-Om Puri starrer Chor Machaye Shor (2002).
Actors who have attempted double-roles in ten or more films include Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Kader Khan, Dharmendra and Govinda. Other actors who have done five or more films include Mithun Chakravorthy , Shah Rukh Khan, Rishi Kapoor, Kishore Kumar, Asrani and Mehmood. Though most of our actors have got a chance to play double roles, there are are some who were not so fortunate like Balraj Sahni, Amjad Khan,Smita Patil, Jaya Bhaduri, Meena Kumari, etc. Among the current lot, Katrina, Kareena, Ranbir Kapoor, etc.,are waiting for the right script to come along and still have a chance to prove their mettle
Among the heroines, Sridevi and Hema Malini have done maximum films followed by Kajol, Rekha and Sadhna. There are many examples of actresses with two films- Sharmila Tagore, Waheeda Rehman, Mala Sinha, Bipasha Basu, Deepika Padukone, Reena Roy, Priyanka Chopra, Madhubala, Nutan and Madhuri Dixit.
Some left their mark even though they did only one film and they include Joy Mukherjee (Humsaaya), Pran (Jangal Mein Mangal), Raj Kapoor (Paapi), Dev Anand (Hum Dono), Mumtaz (Roop Tera Mastana), Raakhee (Sharmilee), Shahid Kapoor (Kaminey).
Technically we have come a long way from the days when the process of shooting a double- role film was tedious and required a lot of effort and time. First, the scenes involving the actor/actress who would perform the scenes of one of the characters would be shot. Then the same film strip was used and scenes involving the second character were shot by masking the camera lens. Also doubles would be used with his/her back to the audience to shoot scenes which required hugging of the characters. However with the use of special effects and the advances in computer graphics shooting of artistes in double-roles is no longer cumbersome.
Indeed, double roles are quite unique to our films and have played an important part in the history of our 100-year old film industry. Hopefully, the new-generation producers, directors, actors and actresses would do their utmost to keep this genre alive and vibrant with novel storylines and not just resort to remakes of our old films…