A trailblazer called Hum Aapke Hain Koun

Yesterday, an entire generation was made to feel old, after being told that Hum Aapke Hain Koun turned 20. Time just flies like no one’s business. Every year, some film or the other celebrates a milestone. But Hum Aapke Hain Koun was not any other film. It was not just nostalgia that made this film important for us. Sooraj Barjatya’s Hum Aapke Hain Koun changed the dynamics of the Hindi film industry forever; it wasn’t just another blockbuster.

Having spent my childhood in the Middle East, I never went to a theatre to watch a film for a long time in my life. But it wasn’t just me who was away from the theatres in the 1980s. The Hindi film industry, in the 1980s, went down the drain completely and lost its theatre audience to video cassette libraries and television serials. Yes, there were blockbusters coming out every year. But the condition of theatres had gone from bad to worse. Hence, Hum Aapke Hain Koun was released only in a limited number of theatres across the country, where the entire family could have a good viewing experience. The film premiered at Liberty Cinema in Mumbai, on August 5, 1994 and viewers thronged to those limited theatres where it was being screened. Across the country, many theatre owners took cue and began renovation activities in their cinema halls. The family audience, which had remained away for over a decade, was returning to the theatres.
Madhuri Dixit came to be known as female Amitabh Bachchan
 after delivering back-to-back blockbusters

Shooting the climax scene

But the ground for Hum Aapke Hain Koun was being prepared right through the late 1980s. At the core of Hum Aapke Hain Koun was the idea of family, drawn from the Indian epic Ramayan. Ramanand Sagar’s blockbuster TV serial in 1987 created a longing for the good old family values among the audience. There were reported instances of siblings having buried their differences after watching the serial, especially the Ram-Bharat milap episode. The collectivist spirit of the Indian society (as opposed to the individualism of the western society), with the joint family system as its base, was revived. But in real, India was changing. Urbanisation had led to the rise of nuclear families and the joint family system was largely a piece of nostalgia, a reminder of ‘the idea of home’ for most Indians, especially the NRIs settled in various foreign countries. Sooraj Barjatya’s first production Main ne pyar kiya, was in many ways an early indication of what he sought to deliver to the Indian audience. Romance had been killed in an era of violence and revenge through the late 1970s and 80s. Main ne pyar kiya and Qayamat se qayamat tak set the standard for the kind of cinema that would dominate in the 1990s.
Hum Aapke Hain Koun also made a superstar out of Madhuri Dixit. This diva was launched by Rajshris in Abodh (1984), in which Sooraj Barjatya was an assistant director. But after Hum Aapke Hain Koun, she wasn’t just another star. Sobriquets like ‘Female Amitabh Bachchan’ were being showered on her. Salman Khan carried forward the lover boy Prem for the next few years, till he realised the Dabangg side of his persona. 
Music became a major highlight of this movie, with 14 songs!

Sooraj Barjatya giving instructions to Reema Lagoo
To think of it, Hum Aapke Hain Koun did not even have an original story. It was a remake of Rajshri’s 1982 hit Nadiya Ke Paar. The story, set in the rural heartland, was adapted to suit the urban sensibilities of the 1990s. While romance was an important highlight of Hum Aapke Hain Koun, at the core of it was the fulcrum of family. While many critics wrote off the film as an extended wedding album, it had struck the right chord among moviegoers. The decade of 1980s was a time when people skipped the songs while watching movies on their VCRs or worse, many libraries even deleted songs according to their whims. Songs were treated as toilet breaks in theatres. But how could one delete songs in a movie where relationships were forged over songs and dances? Hum Aapke Hain Koun restored the lost glory of the Hindi film song, though the trend began with the musical success of Main ne pyar kiya and Qayamat se qayamat tak. HMV, which was running on losses, saw brighter days after 1989.
Today, the coy smiles of Renuka Shahane, the didactic and sanskari lectures of Alok Nath and the silly idea of a widower being married to his sister-in-law might elicit laughter. Many spoofs of Hum Aapke Hain Koun can be found in social media and their observations are not misplaced. But there can be no denial that Hum Aapke Hain Koun was the need of that era. Along with Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995), it was a breath of fresh air in a time filled with gore and blood.
Madhuri won a new fan in painter MF Hussian,
who made a series of paintings on her

 For those born in the 1980s, watching Hum Aapke Hain Koun in the theatre with their family was the dominant movie viewing experience to cherish from their early years. So hugely successful it was that for many south Indian friends of mine, this was the first Hindi movie they watched in a theatre. It ran for an incredible 100 weeks at Liberty Cinema, where it premiered and joined the ranks of Mughal-e-azam and Sholay to become one of the biggest grossers in the history of Hindi cinema. So while we laugh our hearts out watching Salman and Madhuri fight over a pair of shoes through a song, we cannot quite write off a film, which not only formed an impressionable childhood experience for an entire generation, but also made filmmakers consider ‘family’ as their target audience while making a film.

3 thoughts on “A trailblazer called Hum Aapke Hain Koun

Add yours

  1. That note made me feel like watching HAHK again. I'm not from India and I guess I can never feel that vibe Indians feel watching this family movie. But maybe I can try. Salman was such a cutie in times of MPK and HAHK though I like his present dabangg image too.


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