This was supposed to be about English Babu Desi Mem (1996), Sonale Bendre's first film with Shah Rukh Khan. Unfortunately, the YouTube video I watched a few months ago is gone, gone, gone, so I will have to rely on song videos and their other appearance, in Duplicate (1998). That turns out to be an awful lot of SRK (he plays a father and two of his sons in EBDM, and a goofy naif and murderous don in Duplicate.) I came away from both films feeling that there was not enough of Sonale, even though she is featured in many dance numbers (she's a wonderful dancer, and it is clear they are showcasing that talent).
If you had heard that Shah Rukh Khan was famous for his romantic roles and you only saw these two films, you would be baffled. In EBDM, his main role is a rather stuffy, officious Anglicized Indian (Vikram)who is trying to bring his orphaned nephew back to England. Sonale plays the boy's aunt, Bijuriya, who makes a living as a club dancer. Vikram is first led to believe that Bijuriya is a wealthy princess who has been raising the child (and even starts to fall in love with her), but he discovers the truth in this scene.
My recollection of the film was that it was mildly entertaining, and that I liked Vikram's happy-go-lucky but short-lived brother Hari better. He and his wife have more chemistry than Vikram and Bijuriya.
Was there more chemistry between Shah Rukh and Sonare in Duplicate? Sadly, no. As Lily, a tough-hearted club dancer (again!), she is initially paired with Shah Rukh's evil avatar, Manu, easily one of his most unattractive villains. And when she starts to fall for the the sweet, nerdy Bablu (initially thinking he is a reformed Manu), she has to complete with Bablu's sweetheart, Sonia (Juhi Chawla). Here they are going head to head:
Duplicate is over the top, juvenile entertainment, clearly aimed at the 11-year-olds in the audience, with a double dose of SRK for the moms and big sisters. In an interview at the time, Shah Rukh says that he thought he did not have enough experience yet to play double roles, and he is mostly right. His performance reminds me of Jim Carey in some of his lamer films, although there are glimpses of the actor who will mature into the double roles in Don, Rab Ni Bana Di Jodi, and Fan. (Especially when Manu and Bablu are trying to mimic each other.)
So, now the questions:
What is your first impression of Vikram? What, another annoying guy, this time with a British accent?
What is Bijuriya's/Lily's first impression of Vikram/Bablu? In EBDM, she is suspicious and fearful, knowing he wants to take the nephew away. She's trying to fool him. In Duplicate, she's the one being fooled, delighted that her menacing, violent boyfriend, Manu, is becoming more respectful and affectionate.
How would you describe their chemistry over the course of the film? Nonexistent, even in English Babu Desi Mem, where they actually end up together.
If you had a first date with Vikram or Bablu, would you go on a second? No and no. Manu is sexy in a dangerous way, but that tongue thing he does is a real turnoff. Ew.
Nest date: Karisma Kapoor in Dil To Pagal Hai (1997) Yay! a non-creepy SRK! And more Madhuri Dixit!