Team Andaz Apna Apna forever!

Andaz Apna ApnaCan I look at a plate of oranges and not think about Salman Khan’s proposal jinxed by an upset tummy?

Can I resist this childish urge to play football whenever I see a bunch of glasses filled with what may or may not be sherbet-e-jannat inspired by Aamir Khan’s goal-making turn?

Can I ever get bored of using Andaz Apna Apna’s quips and quotes in my vocabulary?

Once a film becomes a part of one’s being it ceases to be a film; it becomes a person, a friend and a source of lifelong comfort. Rajkumar Santoshi’s 1994 laugh-raiser is one of my all-time favourites and irreversibly entrenched in my unapologetically filmi system.

When I first watched Andaz Apna Apna, I was just another school going kid developing a taste for silver screen. When I watched it again a couple of days back, I was a wary viewer who scrutinizes films for a living. Cynically speaking, two decades can be a long time, long enough to fall out of love with a film. And yet, my fondness for this screwball comedy has only gotten more unquestioning with the passage of time.

Except it’s not some nostalgic sentiment that binds me (and the manically obsessive cult of us) to AAA, which, ironically, was a non-starter at the box-office and went on to gain unprecedented popularity on the video/cable television circuit. For all its over-the-top looniness, there is a ton to appreciate about its ingenuity, timing and spontaneity.

One of the most versatile filmmakers of the 1990s, Santoshi demonstrates the extent of his creative pliability, following back-to-back gritty fare like Ghayal and Damini, with a scatter-brained drollery starring two of the biggest teen heartthrobs of that time opposite can’t-see-eye-to-eye rivals Raveena Tandon and Karisma Kapoor. Perceived as a major casting coup even in the pre-100 Crore Club era, I distinctly remember reeling in anticipation on spotting a tiny black and white picture of its mahurat day attended by its entire unit along with chief guests Dharmendra and Sachin Tendulkar.

Sadly, the scarcely promoted multi-starrer hit the marquee much too discreetly and left without a trace. In theory, AAA was headed for doom and obscurity. But, the curse of cable & video (which was eating into a large share of theatre business) proved to be a blessing in disguise. The more one came in contact with the madcap inhabitants of Santoshi’s universe and its trippy background score by Viju Shah, the more one got addicted. After all, repeat value is the virtue of every classic.

There’s no real plot to speak of: two good-for-nothing losers, Amar (Aamir), a cocky twit and Prem (Salman), a whiny goofball aim to get rich quick by wooing Raveena (Raveena/Karisma), a wealthy heiress in search of a perfect groom even as Karisma (Karisma/Raveena), her secretary cum friend instantly falls for Prem.

While the boys are busy competing for Ms Moneybags through a series of laugh-out-loud misadventures, Raveena’s crooked uncle Teja (Paresh Rawal) hatches a scheme to kidnap her father and his lookalike twin Ram Gopal Bajaj with little help from his daft co-thugs Bhalla (Shehzad) and Robert (Viju Khote). Adding to the rib-tickling confusion is fake amnesia, bungled-up kidnapping, muddled identities and Shakti Kapoor’s Crime Master Gogo with a clear-cut agenda –Aaya hoon toh kuch toh lootkar lekar jaaonga. Khandaani chor hoon main.

Right from it’s first scene, which opens with a hilarious cameo featuring Juhi Chawla (and later Govinda) to its nearly half-hour long climax, Andaz Apna Apna moves at a breathless pace and, not once, takes itself seriously.

What’s amazing is how Santoshi, in a year when David Dhawan’s Raja Babu flourished, never resorts to below-the-belt humour to extract laughs. His idea of wit is clean, clever, parodies Bollywood stereotypes and classic imagery infusing it with countless movie references and in-jokes to devise a highly unique approach to filmmaking long before director Farah Khan embraced it as her career speciality.

Santoshi’s combination of imagination (Crime Master Gogo is Mogambo’s nephew), tribute (Aamir-Raveena recreating OP Nayyarish/tonga retro magic in Elo Eloji) and cheek (making light of Juhi’s persistent link-up rumours with co-star Sunny Deol) lend AAA a body of reference future filmmakers would learn from in the long run.

Technically, AAA is far from spectacular and wears a tacky, substandard look. Call me a blind fangirl but I believe it only adds to the conviction of Amar (Bandar ke sar pe tarbooz) and Prem’s (Circus ka retired bandar) verbal banter. Dialogues, penned by Santoshi and Dilip Shukla, of course, are its most enduring aspect. It’s practically the most quoted film since Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay.

Have you ever tried posting one of its many hilarious lines on Twitter or Facebook? Within seconds, you’ll be inundated with some more memorable quotes. The Andaz Apna Apna phenomenon is infectious, indescribable and endless. Truth be told, I’ve made so many friends thanks to my unwavering enthusiasm for this film.

Back in 2003 when YouTube didn’t exist and I had to rely purely on my memory to write a column on why I love AAA, that’s when I realised the extent of its impact on my being. I didn’t paraphrase the dialogues word to word but an overwhelming number of readers understood and connected to me with their amusing recollection of Vasco Da Gama’s gun and Gogoji’s ghagra.

All these words and props would be half as effective if the actors wouldn’t be in sync with the tone of Santoshi’s joke. AAA depends on its cast to feel comfortably foolish. And Aamir’s inflated smugness, Karisma’s dim-witted zeal, Rawal’s chameleon brilliance, Kapoor’s waggish vehemence, Raveena’s energetic huffing-puffing and an unaffected, sportingly wimpy Salman at his career best conveys it in heaps.

Andaz Apna ApnaIt’s not the sort of cinema that aspires to change life but in the last 20 years, Amar-Prem’s incessant stockpile of tomfoolery has *never* failed to lift my spirits or transform a dull hour into a dazzling one.

I don’t even need to watch the entire film, just the sight of Aamir woefully wolfing down a plateful of kalimirch ke ladoo or Salman and Shakti Kapoor’s weapon-free/punch-free climatic fight or the sound of Paresh Rawal’s ardent claim, “Teja main hoon. Mark idhar hai!” is enough to prompt delighted cries of ‘Haila’ and ‘Ooimaa.’

This Guest Column was first published in Absolute India in March 2014.

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