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Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla, Sonali Bendre and Farida Jalal|
Director: Mahesh Bhatt
The double decker treat that Duplicate offers to Shah Rukh khan’s vast fan following in the country will contribute as much to its initial draw and its sustaining power at the box-office as the pleasant surprise it has in store for the inveterate viewer who has long tired of the cheap buffoonery that passes in the name of comedy in Hindi cinema. If Duplicate emerges a winner at the box-office it will be a triumph for that creative section of the industry which is moving steadily towards tuning its skills for the approaching century. In this year of introspection and self- evaluation the industry as well as its audience will, without doubt, sit up and notice this bold venture which gives comedy its deserving status as genre that need not stoop to conquer. To Mahesh Bhatt and his team of writers will go the credit for delivering a product that appeals to the intellect with a finesse and maturity that is rarely associated with comedy per se in Hindi cinema. Indeed, the orchestration that has been very successfully worked out between the director, writers and the leading pair Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla, provides the springboard for the entertainment to take off with unusual aplomb at crucial junctures in the screenplay. Mannu and Babloo are identical in appearance but have nothing else in common. They are poles apart as characters to the extent that Mannu is shamelessly wicked while Babloo is uninhibitedly naive. To integrate the two characters who have no genetic connection artfully into a story that must steer clear of clichés and familiar situations is a challenge for any writer and it must be said to the credit of the writers that the feat has been admirably accomplished. With a quintessential comic strip plot packed with action and romance to match the fairy tale nature of the contents, the escapades of Mannu and Babloo will regale the younger fans of Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla more than their older admirers. While Shah Rukh Khan once again confirms his prowess as an extremely versatile and ingenious performer capable of adding more to a role than the script offers by his incredible will to excel, Juhi Chawla deserves to be applauded for providing the perfect balance with an imaginative and memorable performance that is easily her most challenging to date considering the overwhelming threat she is given to encounter with Shah Rukh Khan legitimately dominating the show all the way. By the sheer vivacity of her screen presence she elevates even those scenes where she has very little to do. Sonali Bendre cast in a mollish role opposite the evil Shah Rukh Khan is required to look sexy and she manages to do that quite comfortably. At least she manages to get a fair measure of attention despite the kinetic presence of Shah Rukh Khan in practically every scene she has in the script. Others in the cast, save Farida Jalal, who is very charming and lovable as Babloo’s doting mother, have nothing much to do. Though there is very little scope for memorable music in the scheme of things, Anu Malik strives to provide a couple of catchy numbers that are well picturised on attractive locales.