This is India's funniest movie? Andaz Apna Apna

It's a strange feeling when you find yourself disagreeing vehemently with web posts by people you don't know and will never meet, such as the opinion expressed by someone about this movie on imdb; it's a less strange but still puzzling thing to find yourself once again going "Huh?" when told that a certain movie is a don't-miss, perhaps one of a country's finest.

Keeping the advice of Thumper, at least to start with, I'll say something nice. I genuinely enjoyed seeing Aamir Khan go to ridiculous lengths for ridiculous bits. I was grateful for his dance moves, especially the arm-fling on top of the bus. (Not quite as good as SRK's in Dil Se, of course, but that's a train, so there's no comparison.) The opening sequence with Juhi, Govinda, and name-dropping was truly inspired - I can't tell you why it was so much funnier than the movie industry jokes in the Karisma-Abhishek mess a few films back, but it was. Trust me. I also like a good tongue-in-cheek hair-flip, and Juhi made me proud.

Regarding the plot, I have nothing to say that you can't observe for yourself just as easily. If you haven't seen the movie, just know it's a wacky scheme done wackily. I warned you.

Now. I am limiting myself to just three negatives. With great glee I put this disc in my computer to get screen captures, and once I started it was hard to know where to stop. These are the three that made the cut - not only because they are funny, but also because I think the picture can really help my point. Some things, like a squad of armed goons standing around during the end fight, or a mad scramble for diamonds, or voiceovers narrating our protagonists' assessment of each other's lies, cannot be done justice in stills.

Regular readers know how I do enjoy the mid-1990s fashions of Bollywood, and poor Karisma Kapoor seems to get caught in lots of them. Here she is sporting...I don't know what this is - and it could use a good name, if anyone can come up with one. Black mock turtleneck, long sleeves, with suspenders, frayed white daisy dukes, and black tights with a stripe up the side? With those crappy dollar store metal circle earrings, whose white paint is going to chip off at any second, and boots, I think? I read somewhere that Karisma and Raveena ended up being archrivals, and I like to think that these outfits resulted from Raveena slipping the costume designer something to make it work out in her favor - she has some bad outfits, but they're just sort of Dynasty-excess bad, not genuine crimes against fashion. It's like Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall ten years early.

Next up: Karisma's hair. Raveena's face here says it all, but, to be fair, Karisma's expression mirrors my own to some of Raveena's dos (even this one, scrunchy and all), so it all comes out even, as another childhood favorite cartoon animal would say (Frances the badger, whom no one else ever remembers). But as with clothes, Raveena gets glam or vampy insane hair, where poor Karisma gets dorky twin french braids or claw bangs. My credentials on this front - I come from a small town in central Illinois and was in junior high and high school in the late 1980s and early 1990s - are beyond reproach. I know from big bangs.

And, finally, Crime Master Gogo (Shakti Kapoor) and Prem (Salman) demonstrate how to fight by...thrusting. Yes. I don't think I'm the type to find sex everywhere I look (unless distracted by an exceptionally professorial elbow-patch jacket), but this was really odd.

Aside to Salman: thank you for keeping your clothes on. And for sporting such a very, very choice mullet. Who'd have thunk it - eleven years later, here you are, getting hair implants. How time and shirts fly....


Good review, Beth!

I remember the time when Andaz Apna Apna was about to be released. There was a lot of hype surrounding this movie because the then two successfull actors of the Hndi film industry were going to be seen TOGETHER! Along with two heroines who had never worked together before! But the film flopped real bad. Someone the people felt cheated and these two Khans haven't worked together again.
Beth said…
Wow! Thanks for filling me in on that! I can see how there would have been a big build-up. I'm delighted to know that it flopped - I mean, not delighted that people may have lost money and whatnot, but I kept reading all these posts online about how great it is, and I was completely mystified!

And while admittedly I am no fan of Salman, it seems that his and Aamir's styles aren't really all that compatible - I wonder if pairing them in the first place was a bit of a gamble?
Obi Wan said…
Methinks, and a lot of young Indians will agree with this, that Andaz Apna Apna flopping was one of the greatest mysteries of all time, ranking alongside the Loch Ness Monster, the Yeti and the Bermuda Triangle!
The movie defines cult. Each dialogue, each gesture is aped and narrated whenever more than 2 people sit together to have a good time. Start with the story: Simple yet complicated- mistaken idenities, false and true love, double roles- sheer madness. The characters: Amar, Prem, the lovable Don 'Mogambo ka bhateeja' Crime Master Gogo, Bhalla(with the Ajit hangover) and his 'Galti se mistake ho gaya' sidekick Raabert, Ram Gopal Bajaj and his evil twin Teja.... I could go on and on!
The dialogues: Gogoji aapka ghaghra, jhakaas, Aaya hoon to kuchh le ke jaaoonga, khandaani chor hoon!
The situations: Amar/Prem entering Gogo's den behind him, he carrying a revolver and they with their hands up! Aamir Khan's football demonstration with glasses, Salman Khan's "Amar Dekh Rifle" while picking up a revolver at Gogo's den, Teja's dreams of opening up a poultry farm, ending with 'Hamara Bajaj', one of the most famous jingles of all time(for Bajaj scooters)!
I guess the reason why we love this movie is because it is so nonsensical, and has been watched again and again and again with friends in school and college! Anyways, movies after all, are a matter of personal taste and choice, I can only hope that one day you will get to really appreciate this masterpiece! :-)
Beth said…
Hey Obi Wan - that all makes a lot of sense. I can see how this would be great fun late at night with a room full of friends! I will admit, though, that many of the Hollywood movies that fit that same category - Caddyshack and Blues Brothers come to mind - don't do much for me either. Maybe it's something about pacing - the zany plots that are a string of antics - just not my cup of tea for whatever reason. I'm trying to think of an example of this kidn of thing that I do like - as I mentioned when talking about Hungama, Clue doesn't really grab me either, and it is probably the US's finest example of this tye of thing.

As you say, sometimes movies that you first saw at a certain time in a certain place with certain people will always be great because of their first context. I will always love Four Weddings and a Funeral (also 1994!) because I saw it on a warm spring night with a group of friends in college. We all walkeld across campus to this junky old movie theater and we had a great time, swooning over Hugh Grant, crying when Gareth died, giggling at all the mushy lines and mishaps we've all had. When I see bits of it now, it still makes me happy for those reasons and far less becuase it's actually a great movie.

But I'm still glad to have seen AAA - I've read and heard so much about it.
Anonymous said…
I have to agree with obi wan, this is arguably the funniest movie I have ever seen and I've noticed that non-Indians who enjoy/suffer through Bollywood movies usually don't get the movies from the comedy genre. For this reason, Army of Monkeys' policy of not reviewing comedies makes sense but I still wish there was a way to bridge the culture gap (which was much greater in the early 90s when this movie was released) so that you could enjoy this movie as well Beth. Much of the humour rubs off as absolutely hilarious from an Indian perspective, that I can assure you. Hopefully though, given that recent Bollyflicks are more universally appealing (or otherwise) in nature, you should be able to identify with newer cult classics.
Contempt'late said…
Hey beth,
Maybe you didn't like the movie because you didn't get all the jokes..
A lot of the "stupid" stuff, is even more tongue-in-cheek than you might think. Everything from Crime master gogo, to Bhalla to the fights are all pretty much spoofs of much older movies/genres/characters (1970-80s)

I'm guessing you saw the movie with the English subtitles, and I can tell you that a LOT is lost in translation.
I'm actually sending a AAA DVD to a friend of mine in Israel.. I doubt she'll find the movie half as funny as I do.. Won't be easy explaining why -"ooiimaa, Sita aur Gita" is hilarious..

Hey.. btw... nice blog.. I'm going to spend some more time reading it..
Anonymous said…
the problem with this movie, the release date clashed with hum apke hai kaun... obviously as per the land's law every indian should watch HAHK.. else would be treated as social outcast. and in all the hoopla AAA lost its voice.
Spygirl said…
Totally off topic with the rest of the comments and two years too late but oh well:

Frances! "Bedtime-for-Frances" Frances! She's my favorite badger.
I love the audiobook version, in which the three actors for Mother, Father, and Frances give such droll deliveries of their lines, including the "..., said Frances" or "..., said Father" parts.

And my favorite bit is where Frances makes up a song to try to get herself to go to sleep: "Frances had no trouble till she got near the end of the alphabet. 'S is for sailboat, T is for tiger, U is for . . . . . . underwear! down in the dryer.'"
Beth said…
spygirl - It is NEVER too late for Fances comments! I lurve her. I used to get the LPs from the library when i was little - I wonder if they're the same recordings as your audiobooks? And now I want to stop by the library and see what I can find!
Yunus Perveez said…
Just added you on twitter so decided to check out your blog.
It puts mine to shame.
I saw you had written a review on Andaz Apna Apna which as many desi's I also agree is the funniest Indian movie EVER.

I would have been very surprised though if you had liked this. Being a film international film sampler myself I always find comedy the thoughest genre to really aprecciate.

If I can compare it to something like KungFu hustle. I've grown up on Martial Arts movies but I do not speak Chinese and a lot of humour was lost on me.
Same with French movies ( i do speak French quiet fleuently but am not French if that makes any sense).
The broad slapstick elements are internationally translatable, the small subtle hints do get lost.
eg Amir and Salman wearing shades when walking in Gogo's den was a spoof on an Ajay devgan flick were he wasn't blind but took an oath to never take of his shades until he found the guy that killed his father/ molested his sister/ or took his childhood home( don't remember which reason it was exactly).

- I kinda feel like a douche habving to explain the joke though :-)
but I did want to know being non-desi do you think you loose out most in comedy films because of translation or can you enjoy them for the slapstick elements.
Beth said…
Yunus - Very interesting thoughts. I love talking to people about the question of whether different kinds of comedy can translate, and the general opinion seems to be that they are the hardest to convey.

As for your question, I think (but could be wrong) that I'm getting more and more comedic elements the more films I watch. But there's nothing like going to a film in the theater (which I only get a chance to do a few times a year) to realize how little I understand - it seems at least once per film, the subtitles will say something fairly ordinary and most of the Indians in the audience are laughing. And of course that could be because of language or culture - or both. In English-language films, I MUCH prefer verbal to slapstick humor, so that should be a carrot for me to buckle down and work on learning Hindi seriously. :)
Wanderer said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wanderer said…
Beth - the best part of the movie were the dialogues, and beyond being wacky, there was a lot of subtlety in it too (which was probably why the movie flopped).

There are so many in-jokes and layers of humour, I have found something new in my nth viewing.

I can't explain really the cult following this movie has, I have seen it atleast a couple hundred times, and most people in my ex-college a similar number.

This is such a zany, male, college-going, good-humoured comedy as never before. Please, don't mind my saying this but the real demography of this movie is an Indian male between 25 and 30. I don't think this works for any other demography as well.

Which reminds me, another movie for the same demography - Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar. I don't of any of my guy friends who didn't fall in love with Pehla Nasha - if you haven't seen the song, do it now.
Beth said…
Wanderer - Great explanation! This was the movie that made me start thinking hard about comedy and its relationship with its cultural context (including language). I'm still not able to think of a strong example of an American comedy that I think non-Americans can never fully "get," even if they're totally fluent in English and/or have lived here a long time. Haven't come up with one yet, but I'm sure it's out there.

I have seen "Pehla Nasha" - multiple times this spring it popped up in conversations about the American film Breaking Away. :)
jensc00t said…
Oh, thank god. Glad I wasn't the only one confused.

I bumped into bits and pieces of this on youtube, and thought, wait a minute. There's something beyond the fact that the West should really apologize for the 80s and 90s fashion mistakes that we exported to the rest of the world, that I am not understanding here.

Beth, you pose the question of whether there are American comedies that just don't translate well. I think you are right with the Blues Brothers, but I also wonder how well Monty Python translates (British but adopted and lurved by nerdboys across the states.)

Especially considering how Wanderer describes the movie demographic. Think about the movies American nerdboys (I name these folks with all the love of a nerdgirl) have comPLETEly memorized (yes I can recite large swaths of Princess Bride, why do you ask?) How well would those translate with out someone sitting next to you on a couch with the pause button on the ready.
Usman said…
I think that the main reason why you didn't find this movie to be funny was because of the language. You really have to know urdu/hindi (no offence) to get the jokes. My all-time favorite Bolly movie. My sisters and I have seen it at least a thousand times. hehe. We had it on VHS before. We saw it so many times that we weared out the tape. LOL. :D And then after some years we said: Thanks God for DVDs. hehe. And got ourself a copy :) And that one has more scratches than an ice rink! :p
Blogowner! said…
This movie is best enjoyed when watching with friends like someone said. Also I think the humor in this movie is aimed at teenagers at that time. Enough said!
I love this movie... thanks for sharing your thoughts...
Anonymous said…
So I came upon your review and just couldn't resist posting my thesis on 'Andaz Apna Apna'.

1. This is *the* comic film as far as the post-80s generation in India is concerned.

2. The reason it was a big flop when it released, IMHO, is that the generation that really groked the humour in this film was really not of a film-going age at that time (1990?).
The movie had the misfortune to be presented to the pre-DDLJ generation. Pearls before swine, really. Also, this was a pre-liberalization India, an entirely different cup of tea.

3. Most of the humour in the movie is abstract and seemingly nonsensical. Puns, In-jokes, fourth-wall breakages, and pop-culture references abound. If I had to find a Western analogue, it would be Monty Python's Flying Circus. No wonder its a cult film among the college-educated, post liberalization generation.

4. The film has an outlook about the world that was a radical departure from Hindi films that preceded it. For instance, if the 60s were to be considered the romantic era of Hindi films, the 70s the era of angst, the 80s one of ... ummm ... let's just forget the 80s, then the 90s were the era of a creeping skepticism about the old moral order and the dawn of the knavish, subversive hero (ala Aamir in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander or SRK in DDLJ).

5. Most of the film is untranslateable unless you grew up watching 'Ramayana' on Sundays on Doordarshan (the guest-house scene), or know instantly that Salim Khan wrote Sholay, or that pop-culture sensation called the "Ajit Joke".


Raabert: What shall we do with him boss?

Ajit: Raabert, Put him in liquid oxygen. The liquid will not let him live, and the oxygen will not let him die. HA HA HA HA HA!
Swetha said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
KASHIF said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
KASHIF said…
I found this website to watch hindi movies online:
EP said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
EP said…
Andaz Apna Apna is a classic but u have to understand a little bit of hindi or urdu to catch all the jokes.

The biggest clue that I got that you didnt catch the humour was that your review had no reference of the funniest trio in the movie Robert, Balla and Teja/Uncle (Paresh Rawal). Their comic timing and humour was fantastic.

This is a movie that i have watched with my brothers easily 50 times, over the years and even now although its been 4 years since we last watched it, when the situation demands it, we will adhoc quote lines from it and burst out laughing, with most people around us going "huh?".

Absolutely brilliant Movie, definitely in the top 3 funniest hindi movies ever released.
Beth said…
Anon - First, sorry for my very late reply to your comment! I read it when you first wrote and have just not known how to reply. I really can't until I re-watch this (I haven't seen it for over five years). But I promise that when I do re-watch it, which I definitely will because I want to understand it better, especially now that I know a lot more about India, Indian films, etc., I promise to give your theory its due :D

Your linking it to Monty Python is FASCINATING. I LOOOOOVE Monty Python and you have just increased my desire to see AAA about tenfold! :D

EP - Yeah, that's what I figure. Comedies can be so language and reference-dependent that they are untranslatable. You are one of many, many people to tell me how much they love this and how often they quote it. I promise I'll try it again! :D
Broadway said…
First of all, there is no way this film can be translated into english because the language is core street slang. Just the fact that you do not understand this comedy will give you an idea of the kind of lingo(hindi) people in actual india speak. AAA is probably the most funniest movie india has ever made.

If you want to try your hand at understanding actual hindi lingo in an indian film then take a look at the "gangs of wasseypur" sequels. It's very violent; the opposite of AAA(goofy).

btw, your blog has a lot of content. wow
Movie Maven Gal said…

I just watched Andaz Apna Apna, and like you most of the humor went right over my head. I enjoyed Aamir Khan in this zany role, but I could tell that the wordplay wasn't translating at all in the subtitles. I had also had this film recommended as a MUST watch, and am glad I saw it, but it wasn't for me. I thought Teja was one of the best parts -- right up there with Salman's mullet. I just don't have the cultural context needed to make this film the laugh riot is was billed to be.