Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Because my curiosity got the best of me...Hum Aapke Hain Koun

How much do you really love Bollywood? Sit through 3 and a half hours of Hum Aapke Hain Koun, and you may have an idea. Its a pretty good indicator of how much cheese you can handle, IF you can make it all the way through.

I don't mean to make fun of the movie. I knew what I was getting into...I had read about it in books and other websites and knew it was a struggle for most who were new to Bollywood to sit through, much less enjoy. I had had a similar experience with Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, only to return to it later in my Bollywood watching journey and fall in love with it. So I was curious about this one...Was I still too brainwashed by Western culture to see past what I would call cheesy and appreciate this as the treasured classic it is? Or am I in love with Bollywood enough to embrace it when its at its wackiest, as it is here? And who's to judge what "wackiness" is? Would someone who grew up in India watch my childhood favorite, The Sound of Music, and go, "This is nuts?" No, if I was going to watch Hum Aaapke Hain Koun, I had to go into it with a completely open mind, erasing any traces of ethnocentrism and realizing I am, after all, a Bollywood Amateur.

The verdict? Well, not that I am an any position to criticize(the film did go on to become one of the most successful Bollywood films of all time), there were some things that kept me from loving it and some things that kept me from hating it.

I could overlook the technology snafus(some of the shots were cut before the scenes actually ended), I could tolerate the lack of plot and character development(the dog, Tuffy had more merit as a character than some of the other random actors that would occasionally pop up...I would look at my brother and go, "Ok, who is this guy, again?" and he would shrug and say with a smile, " I have no idea!"), I could even learn to live with the bad 80's video vibe, but what I really
don't understand is why the movie had to be that long? Give me the 14 songs, give me the love story, but don't give me all the filler stuff in between. The real gems of the movie drown in some of the dragging scenes that could have been edited out...

Which brings me to the parts of the movie that kept me watching,the parts that gave me that warm and fuzzy feeling inside, the reasons I couldn't hate HAHK that will cause me to pop it in my DVD player a year from now and see if I can't identify with it a bit more.

Surprise, surprise, one of those reasons is Salman Khan. I really was hoping to see something new in him in this film, to understand why he was so heavily cheered for when he appeared amongst 31 other stars in Om Shanti Om. And I did...for once, he wasn't the egotistical macho man I perceived him to be in the other films I saw him in. He was actually a bit nerdy(he drove a jeep that had writing on it that said "I love my family", "I am witty" and "I am smart")! My brother compared him to Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, but I found his dorkiness endearing, especially when he would say, "Sh*t, I love her!"

Part of my decision to watch HAHK had to do with Madhuri Dixit. I knew she was one of the most successful actresses in the nineties, and I keep hearing her name mentioned in discussion boards as a fan favorite, so I figured I had better get it in gear and start watching some of her work(I saw her only in Devdas, and loved her there, but knew it was not what made her famous). She did not disappoint. Madhuri has this charming quality about her when she smiles and dances that would melt any heart. And her character Nisha had a chocolate fetish!

Prem and Nisha worked for me as a couple because she was the feisty one and he was the lovestruck lass that appeared everywhere she was, like a little boy with a crush. Quite different from the Salman I've known so far. Their courtship had this fresh and innocent quality about it that I adored, and the fact that the family was oblivious to it for most of the movie was too cute for words!

Was I a fan of the 14 songs? Let's just say I find the sitar to be one of the most romantic instruments in the world...but that may just be my fancy for old school Indian music kicking in...(strange because I don't understand Hindi whatsoever).

Oh, and while I'm on the subject of not understanding Hindi...I'm pretty irritated because I still do not know for the life of me what Prem said to Nisha as the bride and groom left after the wedding. Either the person who made the subtitles got stuck on a couple things or was sleeping on the job, because a handful of dialogues were missed, most crucially apparent in this scene(it had to be something important because she never looked at him the same way again).

Ahh, yes, the joys of watching Hum Aapke Hain Koun. I actually feel like I've accomplished something. My brother is probably prepared to see any Bollywood movie after watching this. We can't stop humming, "Dhiktana ,Dhiktana, Dhiktana" and cracking Prem jokes, and my mom thinks we've gone crazy. Clearly she has no idea what a classic HAHK is.

Text (c) Nida Nazir 2008 Bitten By Bollywood


Filmi Geek January 28, 2008 at 2:57 PM  

Hi Nida - I also saw HAHK fairly early in my exploration of Hindi films, and I think I am one of the few Hindi film neophytes who loved it completely the first time through. It was trippy but I loved it. I think I was just dazzled my Madhuri (and charmed by Salman Khan, who was such a cutie in those days), or something. I don't know.

Anyhow I am glad to see you acknowledge that this film was a huge success in India, and that there is an enormous cultural context for that fact, which might not be transparent to those of us approaching Hindi films as neophytes. Mostly, though, I am glad you saw some of its charms, in spite of the things you didn't love about it. And rest assured that not everyone who loves Hindi films loves this one.

Magpie Ima January 30, 2008 at 3:26 PM  

Greetings--so glad to have found your blog! I'm also diving deep into the relatively new-to-me world of Bollywood and having such fun. But this was one that got the better of me. I think I made it through the first 90 minutes before giving up.

Nida January 31, 2008 at 6:13 PM  

Filmigeek-Wow, you loved it the first time through! That's awesome, I think it does take a lot of patience to sit through, but you're right, Salman and Madhuri were so charming (and almost naive, but in a cute way)! For me, they played a huge factor in the parts I did enjoy...

Magpie Ima... Yay, another new Bollywood fan! I know what you mean, but if you're ever without anything to watch, you should try to watch the last half of the film, I actually think that's when the real "plot" kicks in... In the meantime, keep having fun in Bollyland!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat February 5, 2008 at 3:15 PM  

Cool blog Nida! And I love your writing- am adding you to my blog list!

My feelings on HAHK replicate yours- I have attempted to see it - oh maybe 6 times, but have never managed to sit thru it from start to finish. It takes real dedication....:)

Hans Meier April 21, 2010 at 12:00 AM  

Hi, thanks again for posting an entertaining account of a Bolly milestone (i read both your articles on HAHK).

I was thunderstruck how much HAHK anticipated the second part of DDLJ (the merry wedding family gatherings; the mandolin leitmotiv; all those dances; the swinging music) and the young Aditya Chopra had been full of praise for HAHK before doing DDLJ himself. While i found HAHK nice enough, i'd say DDLJ is quite better in most departments except two: The secondary characters in HAHK are more interesting (including Anupam Kher) and HAHK has no violence.

I was a little sad about Madhuri Dixit in HAHK: Even though she showed one funky hip swing and the odd electrical smile, she was a tad subdued and flashed less oomph here than in many other movies of that era (including movies much worse than HAHK). Maybe the director subdued her in his effort to make HAHK a mushy family entertainer.

Ankur Mehta August 9, 2010 at 3:42 AM  

Hi Nida. Just to resolve your curiosity- After the wedding, Prem apologises to Nisha- in case he hurt her while being naughty during the wedding ceremony. This soft side of Prem impresses Nisha.

Peevesie,  February 13, 2011 at 8:44 AM  

just a little trivia. This movie is a remake of rajshri productions own movie, Nadiya ke Paar. YOu should see that considering that its more endearing and set in a village which gives the characters more time during the travel sequences

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Freelancer May 24, 2013 at 8:29 PM  

I was just rewatching the movie again today. 21 years later. And it still makes me laugh, hate some of the cheesy stuff and still make me want to come back to it.

Anyway, its been 5 years since this post and I hope by now u know what Salman told Madhuri when the newly weds were about to depart. If not, here it is... Salman : "Nisha ji, during the course of this wedding, in between the laughter and the fun, if i made a mistake, please forgive me"

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