Prem (Salman Khan) and Nisha (Madhuri)’s elder siblings, Rajesh (Monish Behl) and Pooja (Renuka), respectively get married. Over the course of the various wedding ceremonies and Pooja’s ‘godh bharai’ (Indian equivalent of a baby shower), Prem and Nisha too come close to each other. Pooja is ecstatic as she finds Prem and Nisha are in love and is all set to get them married when she dies suddenly in an accident leaving behind an infant son. As Rajesh finds it extremely difficult to bring up his son single-handedly and seeing the way Nisha takes care of the infant following Pooja’s death, the parents decide to get Nisha married to him. Prem and Nisha decide to sacrifice their love for the sake of duty. Finally, thanks to Tuffy the dog, all’s well that ends well.
Hum Aapke Hain Koun…! or HAHK as it is also known proves that if a filmmaker’s conviction and belief in his subject is strong and genuine, he’s bound to make a film that reaches out to people and succeed and how! Though dismissed by many as a loooong marriage video and nothing more, the film, well over 3 hours in length with as many as 14 songs, touched a very solid emotional chord in the Indian cinegoer’s psyche and went on to become one of the highest grossers ever in the history of Indian Cinema in fact, it was the highest grosser till overtaken by Gadar – Ek Prem Katha (2001) and remains number two on the list of all time successful Hindi films.
HAHK is Sooraj R Barjatya’s second film following his superhit debut film Maine Pyar Kiya (1989) and an urban remake of Rajshri’s own Nadiya ke Paar (1982). The film, while being a typical Bollywood film, also contradicts a lot of what popular Hindi cinema stands for. For instance, the film has no villain, no violence or the usual triumph of good over evil and is full of ever smiling nice people. What’s more, it appears almost plotless for three quarters of the way until Pooja’s sudden death as she slips and falls down the stairs. Nevertheless, the film holds its own and works beautifully enough. And though it appears that nothing happens, the clever screenplay of the film develops the budding romance of Prem and Nisha rather nicely set against the various wedding functions. It is this track that is the central core of the film and is made up of small tender moments between the two that cannot help but make one feel good all over be it the journey after Prem picks up Nisha from her house or when Nisha prepares her first meal for Prem.
HAHK proved to be a trendsetter and extremely influential on subsequent mainstream Indian cinema as wedding songs and marriage rituals became a necessity in most Indian films thereafter. To quote Channel 4, UK, “The film is feel good fare of the finest order, well deserving of its reputation as one of the most exuberant and accessible Indian films of the 1990s.” What’s more, the film become a yardstick for defining Indian traditional values and its obvious affect on filmmakers like Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar cannot be denied. Leave alone films, many real life weddings in India began having the same functions and same games shown in HAHK with women copying Madhuri’s outfits in the film as well!
The feel good film propagating so called ‘Indian traditional values’ and an’ ideal Indian family’ is dedicated by Barjatya to all the families of the world. The film is made up of several characters in a large joint family and it is to Barjatya’s credit he is able to flesh out each character, however major or minor, and give them his or her definite moments in the film. But Madhuri Dixit, reunited with the banner that launched her, stands out and is undoubtedly the life of the film as Nisha. Be it the mischievous but strong minded independent girl who gives it to Prem as good as she gets or the woman willing to sacrifice her love believing she is doing the right thing, Madhuri is absolutely spot on creating one of the more memorable female characters of Hindi Cinema. The film deservedly won her Filmfare Award for Best Actress and inspired a series of paintings of Madhuri by one of India’s foremost artists, MF Hussain. Salman Khan too is in fine form playing one of his most popular roles. But here one has to say he has been cast perfectly. Monish Behl and Renuka are adequately sugary while the rest of the supporting cast do their bit though Bindu is extremely loud. Special mention must be made of the Alok Nath-Anupam Kher-Reema Lagoo track that is beautifully and maturely handled.
Another highlight of the film is undoubtedly its music by Raamlaxman. The music gels extremely well with the film. In fact, the music, so situational to the film, took its time to catch on when the audio released but following the film’s release it jumped to the top of the charts and stayed there several weeks. Practically every song be it the title song accompanying the opening credits, Wah Wah Ramji, Joote De Do, Chocolate Lime Juice, Maayi Re Maayi, Yeh Mausam Ka Jaadu Hai Mitwa, Pehla Pehla Pyaar Hai, the two versions of Dhik Tana Dhik Tana and in particular Didi Tera Dewar Deewaana were hummed in every nook and corner of the country.
Where the film falters, and majorly so, is in the terribly garish and tacky production design. The awful gaudy sets and loud costumes, in particular Salman Khan’s clothes show a total lack of aesthetics and something that one wouldn’t like to be caught dead wearing. And the track of Tuffy the dog who umpires the cricket matches and is the final saviour is just gob smacking to say the least. Also, I have major issues with the picturization of Didi Tera Dewar Deewana. Yes, it’s supposed to be in good humour but it is highly politically incorrect and the filmmakers are lucky that this was before the age of #MeToo. The songs shows that it’s fine to untie blouses of women from behind, hug maid servants and molest a pregnant woman under the sheets. The last, an act which gets the devar a fond kiss from the ‘bhabhi’… Really?! This one song made me wonder about giving the film it’s classic status but then one has to also look at the larger picture and the context of the film and there’s no doubt HAHK will always have an important place in the annals of history of Hindi cinema.
Besides Madhuri’s Filmfare Award, the film also won the Filmfare Award for Best Film and Best Director for Sooraj R Barjatya. The film also won the National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment. Following its huge success, Barjatya tried his hand again at a sugary sweet joint family melodrama Hum Saath Saath Hain. But the film was a major disappointment leaving one with the feeling that Sooraj was repeating his ‘formula’ for success rather than believing in it. Like HAHK, he then tried his hand at remaking another older Rajshri film, Chitchor (1976) as Main Prem ki Deewaani Hoon (2003) starring Hrithik Roshan, Abhishek Bachchan and Kareena Kapoor with disastrous results. Going back to his instincts, he has subsequently made, Vivah (2006), looking at the tribulations of a young couple who are engaged to be married and following them from engagement to marriage. Though the critics came down heavily on the film, the film like HAHK touched a unique chord in audiences and yes, was a hit! A matter of conviction again!
Hindi, Romance, Color