Andaz Apna Apna: Celebrating the Mahapurushes of the Fool’s World

Bollywood

Andaz Apna Apna: Celebrating the Mahapurushes of the Fool’s World

Illustration: Akshita Monga/Arré

I

hate eggs. For me, they are the stinking yellow squish that nightmares are made of. As a general rule, I’d rather jump off the cliff than step into an egg-exclusive joint to torment my soul. There are only two known exceptions to that rule. One of them is an exceptionally delicious sunny side up. The other one is a movie.

Somewhere in the wilderness of Mumbai’s fabled Yari Road is an egg-exclusive joint that I happily frequent despite my aversion. Why? Because the place calls itself Anda Apna Apna and serves Teja Double Egg Roll, Robert Masala Bhurji, and Gogo Master Pavlet Egg with the impunity they deserve. As it turns out, any reference to Andaz Apna Apna is a reason enough for me to give up my established food preferences and happily frequent a place that serves a grand total of one dish that I can possibly consume.

Andaz Apna Apna
Image credit: Ultra Studios

If you think a crazy writer and the owner of an obscure food joint (or four, that place has branches) are the only ones inhabiting the bizarre universe of Andaz Apna Apna’s rabid fandom, think again. Every single character in the movie, from Amar-Prem, to Teja to Gogo to even Robert (Rabbit?) and Bhalla, is a popular culture legend with dedicated followers. From Orkut fan clubs to Facebook fan pages to being the richest source of memes despite preceding the very idea of memes by over a decade, Andaz Apna Apna is a pop culture force that has stood the test of time and changing technology with an ease that is only matched by Amitabh Bachchan and Gunda. Except Gunda’s longevity is mostly ironic. Andaz Apna Apna, however, is a genuine cult classic that has established and reinforced its worth time and again, not just on our social-media feeds but in our everyday lives.

A few days ago my brother called to inform me that our mother is like Crime Master Gogo after she had snagged an impossible bargain from an equally impossible vendor. “Aayi hain toh kuch leke hi jayengi,” he sniggered, referencing Gogo’s second catchphrase. I don’t remember the last time I have shared a cup of tea with a friend without the mandatory recitation of Aamir Khan’s inimitable pronouncement, “Do dost ek hi pyale me chai peeyenge. Pyaar badhta hai.” And when a friend proudly posted a status that said, “Watching Andaz Apna Apna for the 47th time,” the resulting war in her comments over who has the higher watch count escalated within minutes. It was a metric of insanity – and the winner had a count that was somewhere in the low hundreds.

Andaz_Apna
Image Credit: Ultra Studios

Andaz Apna Apna fanatics are everywhere, a species that keeps multiplying like hyperactive bunnies. It is a contagion that spreads through well-timed, impeccably quoted lines from the movie, recited with the dedication and accuracy of a well-rehearsed kindergarten poem. And with the internet’s natural affinity for this movie’s madness, nobody is immune. Not anymore.

What makes Andaz Apna Apna truly great is the fact that it is one of those rare cinematic gems that have transcended the aura of not one but two superstars. It helps that it features a pre-bhai era Salman Khan who seems to have no problem being unheroically stupid (or mock-fight with Shakti Kapoor) and a pre-Lagaan Aamir Khan who hasn’t yet taken up the mantle of the intellectual saviour and plays a character which is an inadvertent spoof of his modern-day avatar.

So, what makes Andaz Apna Apna click? There is absolutely nothing conventional about this supposed “classic”, to an extent that it had bombed when it first released. Despite its stellar cast, it refuses to take itself or its supposed stars seriously; every pivotal scene is a spoof of itself. It is a movie where Mogambo has a bhatija who wears a cape that seems to have been stolen from a three-year-old trying to cosplay Batman (complete with a bright red ribbon) and where the scariest villain monologue involves eggs and poultry (cue for all fellow fanatics to start humming Hamara Bajaj).

The answer is simple. At its core, Andaz Apna Apna is an ode to stupidity. To foolishness. To batshit crazy.

To unpack the allure behind this bizarre movie’s equally bizarre popularity is to answer the question, why do we celebrate April Fools’ Day? Because really, if April Fools’ were to be a movie made in India, it would be this movie that is nothing more than a series of pranks with consequences that seem to belong to a Looney Toons episode. Except Aamir Khan is no Bugs Bunny, impeccable impersonation notwithstanding and is hence, a hundred times funnier.

Aamir_Salman
Image credit: Ultra Studios

A lot of movies including David Dhawan and Rohit Shetty’s magnum opus have been cashing in on the hyperbole of idiocy. But what sets Andaz Apna Apna apart is that it manages to embrace the idea of being a fool without caricaturing it or demeaning it or even justifying it. There are no forced emotions, no tear-jerkers, no backstories, no deus ex machina to set off the tomfoolery. A fool is a fool is a fool. And to top this, there are no pretenses of innocence or naivety. In this fool’s universe, everybody is a fool and every fool has an agenda as well as shades of good and evil. Every fool has been allowed their humanity and shades of their personhood.

We love Andaz Apna Apna for the same reason we enjoy a good April Fools’ prank. Sometimes and in small doses, being a fool can be exhilarating. Being able to laugh at ourselves and others without the fear of any censure or consequences is liberating. Minus the abductions and the denouement, Andaz Apna Apna is what life would look like if we stopped taking ourselves so damned seriously all the time and embraced our inner idiot.

Andaz Apna Apna is a reminder that sometimes it is okay to let go off our intellectual burdens and just enjoy the unparalleled, unrestrained delight of our stupidities. A reminder that sometimes the best way to survive life is to laugh at it. And that sometimes, the best way to win over the devil is to remind him that his cape is trailing with a well-timed Gogoji, aapka ghaghra!

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