Director Soraj Barjatya turns a year old today; He is currently 55 years old. And recently the blockbuster defining his legacy for the first time on Netflix, Hum Aapke Hain Koun ..! Little did I know that I was signing up for a three-hour long non-stop flow of festive songs and occasional strokes of melodrama. More surprising is that I enjoyed it.
Of course, the film, released in 1994, is full of old-fashioned sexual roles, which seem to be regressive from Handsome’s vantage point. Let us not forget that the film was a reflection of its time, where patriarchy ruled the mainstream without many challenges. However, we cannot extend the same generosity to Soraj Barjatya for making Prem Ratan Dhan Payo in 2015. The film is a sign of Sooraj’s deep understanding for continuing his mission of teaching women in their place in society. Now, this is a debate for another time.
Who am I to you ..! In, Sooraj marries his vision of a perfect Indian family about an ideal world, where it is impossible to find a scene of human suffering. In a way, the film promotes the idea that the root cause of all troubles is people’s desire for social mobility. And dedication to the status quo is the solution to all human suffering. Imagine, when people do not desire things like social progress, rights, equality and recognition of their talent. A society where mediocrity is celebrated, fed, nurtured and honored.
In Sooraj’s imaginary fantasy, working-class people are so grateful that their boss’s family treats them with respect and kindness. Perhaps he felt it was an improvement, by the brutality of the dominant class. And women are content to play second fiddle to men in their lives. They do not nurture an ambition of their own and believe that the reason for placing them on earth was to support and entertain men. Every character who populates Sooraj’s fantasy in Hum Aapke Hain Koun ..!, Behaves as if they live under a monarchy. He has an oath to serve the throne, which is adorned by men of the Nath family (Kailash Nath, Rajesh Nath and Prem Nath). Yes, this film sells quite problematic ideas. No two questions about it.
However, for a minute, let’s discount the questionable ideas that Sooraj’s film promoted and bought based on his fantasy. When you consider who we are with you ..! From a purely cinematic point of view, the film is a revelation. It is quite important for Sooraj to think of only one film that breaks the major narrative, in the context of a long, long, choreographed, high-energy dance number without a hint of sorrow. It is a celebration of life that barely understands pain. So much so, that there is no song to mourn the death of an important character. Mind You, a film in which everyone breaks into a song and dance at the drop of a hat.
And the Nath family suffers irreparable loss on some horrifically written melodramatic lines and begins planning a second marriage. This is why Sooraj hates the idea of grief and the human drama that comes after it.
And yet, it is very fun to watch this escapist fantasy. Especially composed by Rama Laxman because of its solid music. The songs sung by SP Balasubramanian and Lata Mangeshkar remain the mainstay.
Also, Salman Khan’s performance was a revelation. Who thought he could move like this? He is so fluid in this film as opposed to his trademark rigor that we have become accustomed to.