Duplicate (1998)

If not for the presence of Shah Rukh Khan I probably would have avoided Duplicate, since I’m not a fan of slapstick comedy and usually detest buffoonish characters. But despite all the farce I totally loved it, although even though I’ve now watched it multiple times, I’m still not entirely sure why it appeals to me so much. Of course Shah Rukh in a double role is enough to explain at least some of the attraction, but no matter how many times I watch Duplicate I still find it funny even though I know the plot is preposterous and the end completely ridiculous. It all comes down to the charm of the lead couple and an excellent supporting cast who manage to hold the film together, keeping it genuinely entertaining the whole way through. Plus there isn’t even a whiff of Johnny Lever which is always a win in any Hindi comedy as far as I’m concerned!

Shah Rukh plays the dual roles of Bablu Chaudary – a rather gormless and naïve chef, and his duplicate in appearance Manu Dada – a vicious gangster out for revenge on his former partners in crime. He keeps the two characters totally separate and it’s always very clear who he is at any time in the film.

Bablu is the son of a Punjabi wrestler and since he has no desire to follow in his father’s footsteps he is a severe disappointment to his mother (Farida Jalal). Bablu comes across as the lovechild of Frank Spencer and Norman Wisdom as he indulges in pratfalls and causes general mayhem when he goes for a job interview at a posh hotel. Despite all the face-pulling and foolish grins, Bablu isn’t quite as stupid as he looks and gets the job after proving he can whip up a rather un-Japanese looking Japanese meal in 20 minutes while dancing with various vegetables and duly impressing the banquet manager Sonia Kapoor (Juhi Chawla) with his multi-tasking skills. It’s quite silly but rather engaging at the same time.

This initial attraction between Bablu and Sonia develops into a romance that isn’t quite as creepy as it might have been given Bablu’s essentially child-like nature and Sonia’s more mature outlook on life. Although she is appalled when his secret fantasy is to feed his bride potato dumplings on their wedding night, they do seem to reach an understanding during the songs. Sadly Juhi’s character seems to have been cursed with the worst shoe costume designer ever as she appears in a number of terrible ankle boots throughout most of this, but otherwise it’s a very cute song and there are some good shots of Prague in the background.

While Bablu is getting to know his boss, Manu escapes from jail although why he is wearing nifty pleather pants accessorised with circa 80’s Madonna-style jewellery for his jail-break is a total mystery. Manu is on the trail of his previous accomplices who set him up for his jail time and then absconded with all the loot from their criminal activities. The gang includes Dhingra (Sharat Saxena), Gappa (Rana Jung Bahadur) and Gulshan Grover as Shalaku – the man who rather significantly does not have a death line on his hand. They are an incredibly inept gang of criminals and seem totally unable to recognise Manu when he turns up to kill each of them. Of course he is a man of mystery and a master of disguise, at least according to the equally inept police team who are out to catch Manu and send him back to jail.

Manu dresses in drag as part of his plan to get past security and eliminate Dhingra. I have to say that although Shah Rukh does make a particularly ugly woman, he is disturbingly convincing as he dances provocatively before whipping off his wig and revealing his true persona. It’s a classic scene and it’s made even better by the wonderful decor in the background.

It’s inevitable that the police find Bablu and mistake him for Manu which starts off a chain of mistaken identity that Manu uses to his advantage. But Manu makes a mistake when he captures Bablu’s mother as this forces Bablu to take action. Bablu decides to impersonate Manu to get his mother back from the gangster’s clutches and while his attempts to mimic Manu’s menacing persona fall far short of the real thing, he does manage to convince Mnau’s girlfriend Lily (Sonali Bendre) and Manu’s gang. This leads to a totally crazy song where Sonia is out with Manu, thinking he is Bablu, while Bablu does his best to avoid Lily’s attentions. I’ll just point out that Karan Johar was responsible for Shah Rukh’s costumes and leave it at that since I think that explains it all.

The confusion gets more and more ridiculous but Shah Rukh keeps it easy to decipher whether we’re watching Bablu pretending to be Manu or Manu pretending to be Bablu, even if the police, Shalaku and his cronies, Sonia and Lily can’t manage to work it out. Although Shah Rukh overplays both characters it works in the film since it’s all totally over the top and silly. Watching Bablu (pretending to be Manu) and Shalaku battle it out in a bathtub (thankfully) full of bubbles and squeaky toys should have been absurd but instead it’s hilarious.

The supporting cast are all excellent and Farida Jalal is perfect as Bablu’s mother. Her loud and overbearing personality make it seem quite understandable that she would have a son as foolish as Bablu and her rapport with her son comes across clearly. Sonali Bendre is also well cast as the sexy girlfriend Lily, and ably portrays her obvious attraction to bad boy Manu warring with her common sense. Lily is quite aware that Manu takes her for granted and only wants her for one thing, but she still can’t help herself and is irrestibly drawn towards him. Shah Rukh also manages to convey an aura of dangerous desire even though Manu really is quite repulsive with his repetitive tongue flicks and strange sneers.  There is so much detail in Shah Rukh’s performance that it does take a few viewings to fully appreciate every nuance. I love the way that Manu uses a burning TV set to light his cigarette as he leaves the scene of one of his crimes, and also snags some chicken from the table on the way out while Bablu lets every emotion show in his expression, exactly like a small child.

Juhi Chawla is one of my favourite actresses and she is simply wonderful here. I’m not sure how she manages to keep a straight face through some of Shah Rukh’s more insane moments, but she plays Sonia as quite a serious career woman with a tendency to lecture in English. Although I do prefer her romance with Shah Rukh in Yes Boss they still make a sweet couple here. This is my favourite song from the film and I love the way Bablu changes his expression as he looks from Lily to Sonia and also manages to totally change his posture and body language – brilliant!

Apart from the great performances, there are plenty of small touches that make this film appealing. Bablu lives in a very colourful house with a wonderfully brightly painted bathroom and some very groovy pictures on the walls while Manu’s garage has lots of cheery graffiti. The songs by Anu Malik are memorable and the picturisations are all well done with Farah Khan being responsible for the excellent choreography which of course suits Shah Rukh perfectly. Monish Bahl pops up in a small but important role as the hotel manager Ravi Lamba, and Tiku Talsania is very funny in his brief appearance as the bumbling Inspector Thakur. Kajol also appears briefly in a blink and you’ll miss it guest appearance which I didn’t even notice amongst all the other craziness the first time I watched the film. Although there is plenty of slapstick it is used well and there is plenty of comedy in the dialogue and the situations to help stop the film from becoming too farcical – at least until the end. But really, I think it’s Shah Rukh’s performance and his ability to make his characters so appealing despite their flaws that really make this such a watchable film. I can’t say that it’s good because it does have a nonsensical plot and everyone is overacting like crazy. But it is entertaining, it does make me laugh and it’s a film I can watch over and over again without having to resort to the FF button. 4 stars.


Indra is a really entertaining vehicle for Chiranjeevi, combining action, melodrama and music in a visual feast. I say entertaining despite a huge bodycount and an impressive gore budget. The violence is so over the top and cartoonishly bloody, the baddies are so one dimensionally bad, that I couldn’t take it seriously.I also had to laugh at this little moment in the opening credits. Really Paruchuri Brothers, you call yourselves ‘writters’?

This is a film of many incidents and little introspection so I won’t delve into the plot too much or there will be too many spoilers. The action kicks off in 1975 with scenes of murder and betrayal. Young Indrasena Reddy assumes the leadership of his clan after God knows how many of his male relatives are killed. The boy shows signs of some kind of power:

Then we land in Varanasi in 2002. Sankaranarayana (Chiranjeevi) is a taxi driver, classical vocalist, philanthropist and deliverer-of-justice. His family mean everything to him, and Sankar does all he can to support their education and happiness. When his niece Nandhini says she needs inspiration to sing, he comes up with this little beauty:

What a guy! Isn’t Varanasi beautiful too? And I loved him ‘singing’ in front of SPB in another scene. [Edited to note: It seems Eros only want us to see the Hindi dubbed versions of the songs and I can’t find Telugu clips online anymore so apologies for that but the picturisations are really lovely.]

It’s clear there is a connection between the two episodes, but the first part of the film is all about the peaceful family man. Well–he is a man of peace, until he isn’t. Chiranjeevi is all hero and there is no doubt this is his film. The action scenes are action packed, the dancing is high energy and the speeches are compelling. This is not a film that demands subtlety but Chiru adds a bit more emotion and credibility than I expected. And he does it in plaid, in sequins or in a lunghi. So versatile! I don’t understand why people keep asking me why I love him – surely it’s obvious.

Sonali Bendre is the smitten Pallavi who pursues Sankar and schemes her way into his household (and incidentally, out of an unwanted marriage). Her machinations are highly amusing as is Sankar’s discomfort at her flirting and they have good comic chemistry. Sonali’s overacting is excellent, and her fake filmi gestures are spot on for this role. She also gets the full support of the wardrobe team, although I have my doubts about the footwear. Is she wearing yellow fluffy slippers?

I wish I could say the Comedy Side Plot was funny but it wears thin very quickly and Brahmi and gang overstay their welcome. Sunil does a more successful spot as a hapless brother-in-law and is on screen just enough.

The drama takes place on an intimate scale as well as in an epic feud saga.  Pradeep (Sankar’s nephew) is in love with Mumtaz, a Muslim, and their relationship is discovered. Later in the film Nandhini has her own troubles. I was perplexed by the suicidal tendencies of these young women but luckily they were not alone. Sankar never turns his back on his family and goes to bat for them, making a few message statements along the way.

He also impresses Mumtaz’s father, the rich and powerful Shaukat Ali Khan (Puneet Issar). This comes in very handy when Chiru finds himself in need of a helicopter.

Prakash Raj comes to destroy the man he believes has ruined his daughter Pallavi, only to recognise Sankaranarayana as Indrasena. If you like your Prakash Dad frothing at the mouth screaming ‘shoot them all’ then this is for you. If you like your Prakash Raj and his Gaze of Blossoming Bromance, this is for you.

Sankar makes Nandhini’s wedding a condition before he is free to marry Pallavi (when Prakash feels the love, he really feels the love and his decision making process is as rushed as when he is feeling the hate) so plans proceed quick smart.

The wedding draws all the players out into the open. As soon as Mukesh Rishi dipped his toes in the Ganges, I knew bad things would happen. Tanikella Bharani is loyal Valmiki, apparently mute and certainly devoted to Indrasena. When things get ugly, he is the means of laying out the shared history of the characters. We also get an excellent montage of Chiru and heavy machinery as he displays his instant engineering skills.

Snehalatha Reddy (Aarti Agarwal) is the other heroine, and she is not averse to throwing her weight around. While I found her unpleasantly abrasive in some scenes I enjoyed her performance immensely. She was filmed as many heroes are –the first shot a chunky shoe emerging from one of a convoy of cars, the framing of her walk, how she sits–and she has her own irritating and ominous theme music. Snehalatha has her own priorities and her interactions with the men are on the same level.

Snehalatha has set her sights on Indra. But given her family history of betrayal her motives are suspect. Or are they? Her character is more developed than Pallavi and she certainly makes the stronger impression despite arriving later in the story. The chronology of the film doesn’t hold up too well under scrutiny, but there is an excellent 90s style dance number. It’s perfectly vintage right down to the costumes and locations (I choose to believe the dated look is an intentional statement).

A hero as upright, generous and moral as Indra requires a weak, nasty and unlikable baddie as an opposing force. Veer Shankar Reddy (Mukesh Rishi) is that man. His villainy is more about excessive violence, obsession with supposed family honour coupled with total disregard for his wife and child, and finger pointing with a lot of “Rrrrrrrrrrey!” Mukesh Rishi has an excellent range of furious and outraged expressions, as does Chiru, and their confrontations are memorable.

There is a big spoiler after this picture so scroll past the next paragraph quickly if you wish and rejoin me after the following set of pictures.

There is a nasty incident in which Veer Shankar Reddy murders his young son rather than be indebted to Indra. This is ridiculous rather than real violence against a child but it shows how low the writers felt they had to go to make him bad enough. He is a liar and cheat, and sees no need to keep his word. This does put him at some advantage against his honour bound adversary but the final result is never in any doubt. Even the land he claimed seems to be against him at the end.

Indra is kind of predictable but still kept me glued to the screen, so Chinni Krishna and B. Gopal should be congratulated on getting the basics right. All the ingredients work, and the visuals in Varanasi are beautiful. The songs by Mani Sharma are great and flow well in the story, and Lawrence and the other choreographers work to their stars’ strengths so the picturisations are just brilliant. There is an inconclusive ending with the two women vying for Indra, but we can all make up our own resolution to that. And I think Pallavi gave a pretty clear clue as to what she might propose.

Chiru is awesome as the great hero, and Indra really is for the people! Well, for my kind of people anyway. I give Indra 4 stars (points off for unfunny funnymen and poor spelling).

Heather says: Indra is a film for the megastar made on a mega-scale with a mega storyline! There really is a lot happening in this film and it seems as if the writers were determined to embody every trait of the divine Indra in the character of Indrasena Reddy. The basic story of warring families is expanded to include a number of romances, star-crossed lovers, vengeful wives, the building of a reservoir ( the ‘bringing of water’ ), street cons in Varanasi and even some politics! I do like young Indra with his self-important declarations, and the fact that throughout the story many of the women are very strong and decisive characters. Everybody has at least one impressive declarative sentence in this film.  Initially I was concerned that Indrasena’s family are so very, very good while Veer Shankar Reddy’s family are so very, very bad, but then Indra starts hacking and slashing with the rest of them and it all becomes a bit too cartoon-like to be taken seriously. The whole side plot of Puneet Issar as Shaukhat Ali Khan, although I’m sure designed to show Indra’s compassion, courage and forgiveness, really seems to be just so that Chriu would have a helicopter to borrow – and that is absolutely fine with me!

Chiranjeevi is as fantastic as always and is the reason the film works so well. His dancing is amazing and Lawrence’s choreography is immediately recognisable. I was very impressed by Chiru’s moves as the dancing is very fast and physical and he pulls it off with nary a stumble.

I also really like Aarti Agarwal as Snehalatha Reddy, the sister who fell in love with the enemy. I think her portrayal is well done considering her limited screen time and she comes across as a very strong character. Sonali Bendre on the other hand, although adequate in her role, doesn’t impress me as much, although a lot of that could be that I don’t really believe in her character. I can understand that she would fall in love with Indra (after all – who wouldn’t!) but her subsequent actions seem out of place, and I would have thought that the daughter of a politician should be a little more aware of the consequences of her actions. Indra’s treatment of her is also a problem for me. On one hand he is very avuncular and treats her  appropriately as  his niece’s friend as he resists her advances, but then later on he involves her in his deception back in the village which I was  more uncomfortable with.

I missed a lot of the final fight scene between Chiru and the brothers as John and I were trying to decide which climbing area it was filmed at. We’re pretty sure it’s just south of Bengaluru (Bangalore) but perhaps someone could let me know exactly where? I did get a bit distracted by the lines on some of those great granite boulders!

Overall a very entertaining film as long as you don’t think too closely about some elements of the plot. I don’t think it would have worked at all without the star power of Chiru, but I still give it 4 stars – 3 ½ of those for Chiranjeevi and ½ for inspiring my husband to come back to India with me on my next trip to track down those climbing areas!


One day our friend Indiequill asked for film recommendations, specifying that she wanted to see Mahesh Babu as something other than a baby faced killer. Murari was a popular pick amongst friends on Twitter, and for that reason as well as our commitment to research and possibly a bit of persuasion by The Mahesh Fan, we watched it too. And it wasn’t bad. There is nothing really out of the ordinary in the story, the jokes or the material so the film had to rely heavily on the appeal of the cast and the production design to keep us engaged.

The film opens with a bonus appearance by Prakash Raj in a wig (according to Liz he may have been channelling Jackie Shroff in this avatar) and it was obvious he was No Good. After insulting the deity at a local temple, he is promptly despatched by a green CGI monster and leaves a curse attached to family.

Goodbye and thanks for coming Prakash Raj.

The film skips forward several generations and we learn that every 48 years a member of the family dies to fulfil the requirements of the curse. Why 48 years is never explained, at least in our subtitles, and it really doesn’t seem to matter except as a device to show a few grisly deaths.  When we see Mahesh Babu leap onto the screen it is not only obvious he is the hero, but we were also sure that he is marked for death. He plays Murari, a bit of a too good to be true type who defends the defenceless and all that, but is saved from being a total prig by his good natured pranks and teasing. These were actually pretty funny and captured the adolescent nature of our hero.

This was apparently Peter Hein’s first film as a fight director, and certainly there are several heroic scuffles with bad guys thrown through the air like so much sweaty confetti. And one interesting fight scene in the water. But no baby faced killer.

Murari is from a feuding family. During one attempt to bring the two sides back together he meets his cousin Vasundhara, played by Sonali Bendre. Sparks and insults begin to fly as instant dislike signals the love story to come. Romance blossoms over pranks and practical jokes, as does some more dodgy CGI work.

In order to facilitate the growing relationship, Murari is intent on resolving the family schism as his grandmother Sabari is equally intent on removing the curse. Murari is blissfully unaware of the danger he is in, but the gods seem to like Mahesh Babu and his elephant Ganesh keeps a watchful eye on his owner. There are lots of close calls, and we know Murari is drawing closer to his death a long time before the family priest bothers to check the horoscopes.

Murari’s family approve of him marrying Vasundhara, hers are eventually persuaded and then grandmother puts the veto on this union. She is obsessed with saving Murari (who was named for her husband who was a previous victim of the curse), and keeping Vasundhara from being left a widow. In the midst of all the domestic drama, death is lurking and only an arduous and lengthy ritual can save Murari. Since the angry deity in question is Durga, the price for absolution had to be blood; and that is spilled in abundance before the film ends. Although the climax was powerful in its visual impact  the outcome was rather predictable as Sabari had always known what was needed to lift the curse. Along with all that blood of course. Why she held off on taking action until this particular generation is never adequately explained.

Mahesh Babu seems to be the actor who explains basic concepts in Telugu film, and we thank him for that. In Athadu he laid out the rules for killing and in Murari he explains the rules of obsessive filmi love. Apparently if he was thinking of Vasundhara, he needn’t worry about whether she loved him before going to politely kidnap her and bring her back to the family home. The reason he was thinking of her was that she was thinking of him. So his father told Murari there was no need for boring talking about feelings and plans and all that. She wanted him! It was all her fault! Just go grab her! Another filmi mystery solved!

It was interesting to see Mahesh Babu playing a young man who wasn’t a homicidal loner. This is also before maxi-layer Mahesh became quite so multilayered and developed his signature style. Although his favoured T-shirt and shirt combo make plenty of appearances there are quite a few scenes where only a single T-shirt was in evidence and nary a scarf in sight. We enjoyed his comedic flair in Khaaleja and he certainly milked the laughs from some of his scenes with Sonali. He did all the standard heroic stuff but this was much more character driven than action centred and relied on dialogue.  Sonali and Mahesh had some fun and flirty scenes that helped give the romance a bit more spark. Sonali is beautiful to look at and seemed to enjoy playing her more extrovert character in this.  She really excels at frustrated screams, and her performance appeared very genuine and heartfelt particularly in the latter half of the film.

Murari’s mother Gopamma was played by Lakshmi who did a great job of giving this teary filmi Ma some real character. She was very believable in her confrontational scenes when visiting her brother and family, and emanated a warm and loving personality in scenes with Mahesh Babu. The rest of the supporting cast were all OK without being exceptional. It’s often comforting seeing so many familiar faces in amongst all the cousins, uncles, aunts and servants but it does mean we tend to overlook them as they usually perform the same role over and over. The sets for the family homes were lovely and looked really lived in.

There were lots of knick-knacks and paintings scattered around to catch the eye and each house had a different feel that reflected the occupants’ tastes. The elephant fountain was fabulous and so was the actual elephant.

The music was forgettable, and so was most of the dancing although it was rather exuberant at times. See this film if you’re interested in watching one of the biggest stars in the industry before he adopted the cool calm killer persona and if you like a bit of domestic drama.

Temple says: This is an entertaining if unexceptional film. I like Mahesh Babu as an actor, and he did well in this romantic comedy hero style. It is kind of fun to see him playing such a young and flirty boy rather than the brooding loner role he has put his stamp on of late. Having seen Khaaleja recently, I am now surprised at how shocked everyone seemed to be at his ability to do comedy in that, as he had that under his belt in this film (along with snake wrangling skills). I particularly liked the teasing flirty interludes with Sonali as they each had their moments of triumph and of discomfort and the scenes flowed really well. I even tolerated the dreaded Filmi Child Actors as they were kept well under control and wore a pleasing array of stripey shirts. Speaking of costumes, Mahesh Babu in a lungi is always memorable (I’m thinking of you Jenni). It’s a shame the DVD copy is so bad as the visual design of the film is very nice, and it was a pleasure to watch – certainly these screencaps do it no justice. I don’t know that I would hurry to watch this again, but I did enjoy it for what it is – a romantic comedy with a bit of gore, a bit of divine intervention and excellent use of elephants. I give it 3 stars.

Heather Says: I liked Murari, but then it’s a romance and I’m a sucker for love stories. It also has elephants (an instant win), snakes (also a win), and the goddess revenge drama does spice up the storyline nicely. I enjoyed the way the two characters played it true to their supposed ages in the story and the little touches that were very typical of a guy trying to be macho and impress the girl. The teasing between Murari and Vasundhara appeared very natural and Mahesh showed that he has a natural flair for comedy. It was great to see him in a role where he wasn’t just a cool and competent killing machine, but had so much warmth and feeling. There seemed to have been quite a lot of thought put into the interactions between the various members of the two families as well, and I liked the way that they all had different characteristics within their roles in the family. Even the kids were ably utilised in this film, and the elephants weren’t just there for decoration.

My only complaint, apart from the terrible DVD quality, was that the ending dragged a little. The lead up to the climax was great, but then it seemed to take forever to actually get there. There were also perhaps a few too many near misses for Murari, especially since at least one appeared very contrived. However the rest of the film was fun and overall its an entertaining watch. I vote for more elephants and snakes in all movies! 3 ½ stars from me.