Bollywood in drag

2014-07-10 00:00

HUMSHAKALS, currently on the circuit, may have been roundly written off by critics internationally, but Riteish Deshmukh’s drag act in the film is still drawing fans to the box office as they hear about it from those who have seen it.

Deshmukh, together with co-stars Saif Ali Khan and Ram Kapoor, donned women’s outfits in a scene from the film that had the audience raving about how good he looked as a woman with fluttering eyelashes. Deshmukh confessed that the worst part was having to wax his entire body and also that they refused when director Sajid Khan wanted them to wear women’s swimsuits on the beach, as it was much more difficult to hide their biceps.

But Aamir Khan still holds the title of best Bollywood drag queen for his role in Baazi almost two decades ago, while Amitabh Bachchan looked the worst when he put on a sari and women’s make-up for a stanza in the song Mere Angne Mein in Lawaaris. His lanky frame and stumbling footwork in the dance was quite ungraceful, but it was probably deliberately designed to be so in the comic song.

Aamir Khan, meanwhile, was so impressive that he went on to do advertisements in drag for Coca Cola, Tata Sky satellite network and even Godrej Furniture.

Shahrukh Khan also impressed as a woman in Duplicate, with many calling his made-up eyes very sexy at the time. So too South Indian superstar Kamal Haasan, who won plaudits for playing the title role in Chachi 420 as a buxom elderly nanny in the remake of the Hollywood hit Mrs Doubtfire.

Way before all of them though, the handsomest leading man of the sixties, Shammi Kapoor, was brave enough to do a drag act in Bluffmaster. His nephew, Rishi Kapoor, reprised the act in Rafoo Chakkar, and Rishi’s son, Ranbir, last year joined Shahrukh Khan in doing a drag act at the FilmFare Awards.

Salman Khan went drag in his first super-hit film, Hum Apke Hain Kaun, repeating it more than a decade later in Jaaneman. He did not impress in either role, except for his comic timing, as he looked too macho to be a ­woman. Govinda though also made a great lady in Raja Babu after his first attempt in Aunty No.1 raised a few laughs.

Deshmukh, who was earlier also the only saving grace for his drag role in the flop film Apna Sapna Money Money, probably summed up best the challenges that the ­actors face in doing drag roles when he said that playing a girl on screen was tough, but looking like one was even more difficult.

But he did it so well in Humshakals that even his wife and former co-star Genelia D’Souza said she hated it, which he said was proof that he had done a good job.

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