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Why Does God Create Duplicates And Create So Much Of Confusion?

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 Ali Peter John

I was fourteen when my mother who I was closest to died. I was completely shattered and wherever I went, whether it was a church, a school, a market or any other place which was crowded with people, I tried to find my mother, I knew she had died and gone away forever, but there was some kind of obsession that kept me on some mysterious hunt for my mother who I had spent the first fourteen years of my life, almost every part of it, except for the time when I went to school. I looked around in fairs and at the festivals of every religion, especially the church at Mahim and the church of the Mother of the Mount. I was not willing to give up and rationality and religion could go to the dogs as far as I was concerned….

I saw many women who looked exactly like her, dressed like her in her many flowery frocks and bordered saris, but when I really looked at them, sometimes taking a full turn when my mind was full of doubts, I found that other woman at best to be a ‘duplicate’ of my mother. By the time I was sixteen, I had given up my search for my mother as I realised that ‘duplicates’ could never be the same as good as the original. I knew I would only have to live with ‘duplicates’ of my mother and would never ever find my original mother, not even in heaven which I had stopped believing in ever since my mother was buried four and a half feet in the ground and the stupid priest who fed on her delicious food and drank her best liquor sang his hoarse voice high into some hollow heaven which was just not there and couldn’t be there. She lived, she died, she was buried and all this time I was looking for something called the soul which would get out of her body and soar into some unknown heaven…

Duplicates have always fascinated me ever since November 30,1965 when she was an inert body lying in a cheap black coffin wearing a cheap black sari because everything had to match even in death.

I never could imagine that a few years later, I world be in a profession where I would have to live and work with duplicates, the world of Hindi films where anything could be possible, even the impossible could be possible or made possible……

In the beginning I saw the duplicates of some of the leading stars doing all the hard and risky scenes for which the heroes would get all the applause. They were not even paid one-third of what the stars were paid and they were treated a little better than animals, but being a duplicate was a profession for which they needed no perfect qualifications, all they needed was an able body with an alert mind and the courage to forget their families and their future and put their lives at stake to add to the glory of someone who already had all the fame and glory. It took me a little more to know that there were young women too who were professional duplicates….

But the unusual story of men looking exactly or almost exactly as the original is what I have still not been able to unravel…

It was in the early seventies that I saw two men who looked just like Dharmendra and Manoj Kumar. The one who looked like Dharmendra even took on the name of Parmendra, but all he could do was act in one film which did not even run for a day and that was the end of Parmendra and the original Dharmendra continued to rule and at eighty-two is still ruling.

The real but brief era of the duplicates started with the idol-breaker actor and filmmaker, I.S Johar who used to make films which no one could dare to and still make successful films like “Johar Mehmood in Hong Kong”,“Johar Mehmood in Goa”,“Johar in Kashmir”,“Nasbandi”and “5 Rifles”among others.

I S Johar

Johar couldn’t afford to pay the original stars the back-breaking prices they were demanding and took on the challenge of finding duplicates who had a strong resemblance to some of the ruling stars….

And so, he made a film called “5 Rifles”in which he had five duplicates of big stars paying the main roles.

He had an actor who he named Anitav Button who had some resemblance to Amitabh Bachchan. He had Rakesh Khanna who in reality was a tailor in Andheri East who specialised in stitching the famous Rajesh Khanna kurtas. He was one duplicate who if he had not put on so much weight could have been an easy alternate to the then ruling superstar Rajesh Khanna. After “5 Rifles”, his tailoring shop turned into a museum as hundreds of people stood outside to see this naqli Rajesh Khanna because seeing the original was just or of their dreams. This Rakesh Khanna however made some good money by going to villages and other far off places where people were too innocent to know the difference between the original and the duplicate and paid for having a glimpse of him. His naqli reign however lasted for a short while and then he was back to his tailoring shop and when the same people who craved to have one look at him, made fun of him and he had to go back to his village somewhere in Uttar Pradesh.

There were two other duplicates in Johar’s “5 Rifles”. There was Shahi Kapoor who was a strong replacement for Shashi Kapoor who was busy shooting six to seven films in a day. Shahi Kapoor went on to play some roles in B-grade mythological and devotional films and then vanished from the scenes. In the same film, Johar had a villain who had a striking resemblance to the newly rising star Shatrughan Sinha and Johar named him Shatrubin Sinha and he turned out to be a one film wonder.

There was a comic take-off on Ramesh Sippy’s“Sholay”which was called “Ramgarh Ke Sholay”in which Amitabh’s role was played by a duplicate called Vijay Kumar and the rest of the cast consisted of junior artists. The film, needless to say was a disaster. To think of it, even the very clever and brilliant (according to some) Ram Gopal Varma tried to make “RGV Ke Sholay”in which he had a casting coup when he had Amitabh playing Gabbar Singh. The original “Sholay”was shot in Ramgarh,a village created only for the film on the outskirts of Mandya district of Bangalore, but RGV’s“Sholay”was entirely shot at King’s cottage in Seven Bungalows in Andheri West. This “Sholay” couldn’t succeed in creating any kind of fire and in a way was the beginning and the end of a genius called Ram Gopal Varma.

There was a sorry case of a duplicate of Dev Anand called Kishore Bhanushali. He was the son-in-law of a smalltime grocery shop owner in my village and was quite good at imitating the legendary Dev Anand. All was well with him and he was also making a good living till the great original, Dev Saahab caught him mimicking him in his own Anand recording studio and decided to ban his entry in his studio. The story of his being banned by Dev Sahab ended his story as the duplicate of Dev Anand.

The most amusing story when it comes to talking about duplicates is the story of his mother who came to Mumbai from Lucknow. She had managed to have a photograph of Dilip Kumar and her together with a little boy in her arms. She tried her best to catch the attention of the legend and waited outside his gate for three days till he stopped his car and asked her what her problem was. She asked him how he had forgotten her and their son. The legend was puzzled till the woman told him that she was his wife and the boy in her arms was Shah Rukh Khan. The legend could only keep quiet, smile a mysterious smile and asked his driver Kutty to move on. He had come across several such stories in a seventy year long career of his extraordinary life.

The only woman who could be close to a duplicate of Madhubala was an actress called Sona, but she could only win the heart of the renowned (?) smuggler turned activist and politician, Haji Mastan Mirza who got two films made with her and left leaving her with a bungalow in Juhu.

Duplicate hai toh kya hua? Hum bhi kisi star se kam thodi hai. This last line was spoken by Rakesh Khanna who had his tailoring shop very close to my house and then got lost god alone knows where…

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Tags: Bollywood, Bollywood News, Bollywood Updates, Television, Telly News, Duplicates, 5 Rifles, I S Johar

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