May 31, 2013

#5: Officially in Love

“Thank you for the movie today. It was a gift.” – Martin Scorsese’s ‘Hugo’ (2011) 

I hardly felt bad when my parents and brother left me that Sunday evening, my first day at hostel. The reality set in the following morning when I woke up at 5 am and found myself in a new and alien world. None of us knew each other, so we hardly talked while getting ready at the common wash basin. It was dark and gloomy and I felt a painful lump in my throat. Life had changed from that day. That afternoon, we were informed that the last two lectures have been cancelled for a movie screening! Our Principal, who was to be changed after my first month there, preferred sports and extra-curricular activities over studies. “Wow”, we thought, “and they call it the best school in this part of the world!” The movie screened that day from a VHS tape was Orson Welles’ “Macbeth” (1948). I hardly knew then that the actor-director was the maker of “the greatest film ever made” and that I would be idolizing him some 15 years later. That movie bored us all. I much preferred ‘Karan Arjun’ that I had watched only five days ago!

During the days that followed, ‘Karan Arjun’ was to soothe me in ways more than one. We had no source of entertainment except sports at specified hours and a couple of hours of TV on Sundays. During our leisure time in the hostel, my friends would ask me to sing film songs. Those born and brought up in today’s era of iPods and laptops can’t even understand what it was, as I sang and others, all in their beds, quietly listened. The song that I always ended up choosing was “Sooraj kab door gagan se” from ‘Karan Arjun’. I was reminded of my brother and my Mom every time I sang that, and possibly that emotion was felt in my voice. It’s often the distance from your loved ones that makes you realize the intensity of your love.

And the same happened with my first favorite film that I had watched nine days before joining hostel, with Mom and brother, reaching theater late and missing the opening credits. We had loved the film and kept talking about it, comparing our favorite moments and our favorite songs. But it was only after I left home that I realized how much I loved ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun’ (1994). During the summer vacation, it was still running in our home town. Encouraged by Dad’s gesture of taking us to ‘Karan Arjun’, Mom suggested that we watch it again, this time with Dad. Surprisingly, he agreed. We went back to the same theater – Neelam Talkies, and missed the opening credits this time too. I don’t remember how much I read into the film, but it was to remain my favorite film for the next six years. It was also to give birth to the crazy cinephile in me around the end of 1999. How that happened will be covered in a later chapter, because this is dedicated to my first ‘official’ love!

Loving ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun’ came naturally to me. It was so close to the world I lived in, the world of joint families that ate and danced together. And it was also as far away from reality as it should be – the romance of the lead pair was a stuff of the movies. At a time when Hindi cinema was at its shameful lowest, here came a film devoid of all formulae that were in practice. There was no effective villain except destiny, and no violence except one now-famous slap. Grace prevailed over vulgar hip-shaking dance numbers, and people sang for their loved ones in the family, and played household games. After it became such a huge hit, and created a trend that was to be used and abused for the following years, we feel the film itself was based on a contrived formula. It was not. It gave birth to the formula, and changed the content and commerce of Hindi popular cinema forever. I was to watch the film several times in the years that followed. Diwali 1997 was when it came on TV and I watched its Opening Song, only to be blown over. Imagine discovering an exceptional quality in your loved one, years after you have known her! And it was to happen again. Last month, I watched the film again and watched the song “Mujhse juda ho kar” for the first time as it was edited out of the versions I had seen before. And I so loved it, especially the moments where the lovers are imagining their marriage and their married life. I was haunted by the presence of Pooja, Nisha’s elder sister, in those dreams, because I knew the painful end she is going to have. And I wished – what if she had not died, what if they all lived together as they had imagined.

But if Pooja had not died, there would have been no ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun’. Her death and everything that follows, which is covered only in the last half hour of the film, is its Conflict, Confrontation, and the Resolution. The entire 150 minutes before that is the Set-up. I have not seen a single film, from across the world that can entertain you, and hundreds of you sitting together, for more than two hours without any real conflict. It was the conviction of Sooraj Barjatya, who until today is my most revered film-maker, that he just made the audience spend time with these endearing characters, and made them fall in love with them and care for them. The audience was living with the family, attending their functions and playing games, and dreaming about the future, until that unexpected tragedy. No other film-maker that I have seen has managed to achieve this. Name some if you can think of, and please do not name Tarkovsky because we all know how difficult to watch his films are. To my relief, when I watched the film again last month, I could see the perfect ‘cinematic language’ used by Barjatya, something I could not have appreciated as a child. I was scared that my knowledge of film-grammar would spoil my first love. It didn’t. It can not. There is not a single shot in the film that does not seem to have born out of meticulous planning and a purposeful design. People who understand film grammar will agree to this even if they hate the film, that the writer-director had everything under his control, and it was not a fluke that this ‘marriage video’ made by a 28-year old went on to become the highest grossing Hindi film of all time, a record that was to be broken only in the new millennium.

From dreaming to buy a mandolin and eventually getting one after my Class X exams, to creating the story of an endearing family celebrating a child’s birthday (my first screenplay), ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun’ is an inseparable part of me. It started this love-affair that eventually became my raison d’etre.


  1. I am not a big fan of reading and have just started to cultivate the habit of it but I am sure even if I was to read this section few years ago when reading was 'uncool' I would have followed it with the same fondness. I am gonna make a collection of this section once it comes to an end (which I don't want it to)

  2. Thanks so much Harshit. Even I don't want this section to end. :)