After watching Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, I am baffled by the fact that it is one of the highest grossing Bollywood films of all time. Honestly, I wrote it off within the first two minutes after I saw the family's dog run out wearing a top hat and bow tie. The vast majority of the movie is focused on watching the characters play silly little tricks on each other and listening to them sing and speak about trivial issues. It was difficult to sit through a three hour and twenty minute movie with such a dull plot. I must admit that Hum Aapke Hain Kaun does have some redeeming qualities though. Almost all of the characters are incredibly kind and loveable, ideal qualities that many of us wish everyone in our real extended families could have too. The main characters, Prem and Nisha, also provide the audience with a sweet romance that is easy to root for. In addition to that, it is a great film to better understand Indian customs and cultural practices as well.
One common aspect that appears in most Bollywood movies is the lighthearted mischief and coy flirtation that goes on between the characters. This behavior is especially prevalent in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun where everyone pulls innocent pranks and teases each other sweetly. The playful mood of the film is introduced in the first scene when the characters enjoy a lively game of cricket. Each person pokes fun at the other for their skills, or lack thereof, with the ball and bat, but it is all in a loving tone. Let us also not forget the dog in a bow tie and the joy that a silly sight like that brings. Is the film already too saccharine? The mood of Prem and Nisha's relationship starts off mischievously as well when the two meet while she is impersonating a man. They proceed to pull a multitude of pranks, such as when Nisha lines Prem's seat with loud chips and when they chase each other around the house to get hold of Rajesh's shoes. Not only that, they make fun of each other too. They always innocently want to make fools of each other which is reminiscent of how kids in elementary and middle school show romantic interest. I cannot decide if their behavior is immature or cute; I guess it can be seen from both angles. This playful type of relationship is not just seen between Nisha and Prem but between almost all of the characters. I am very curious as to why constantly playing tricks on each other and coquettishly teasing is so prevalent in Bollywood cinema. Devdas and Rang de Basanti are specific movies seen in this class that often involve that type of relationship too. In a romantic sense, the only reason that makes sense to me is because these games are a way to play hard to get. They help to give the person doing the teasing a sense of power and having the upper hand. The flirty relationship games also create a type of sexual tension that is very present in these films but in a more understated way than most Westerners are used to. The underlying attraction between Prem and Nisha is later demonstrated by subtly provocative statements said to each other such as “I'm your sinner,” “Your slave is here,” and “When we come, there will be fireworks.” No, I definitely do not think that the last quotation was meant to be taken in an innocent sense. The words they exchange and their body language, coy but secretly filled with longing, is appropriate for the film's target audience in India— the whole family. In this way, adults can enjoy the underlying meanings within the film while not having to worry about the purity of their children being tarnished from watching it. That is likely the reason why Hum Aapke Hain Kaun was such a cinematic hit, as it was one of the first of its kind in India.
Another reason why I believe this film was so popular is that it demonstrates what ideal familial and romantic relationships should be like in a perfect world. Every character, except for the snotty aunt, oozes deep love and immense respect for every other person in the storyline. The characters are constantly bending down to touch each others' feet, a common sign of respect in India. They are also always doting on each other by giving thoughtful gifts, serving one another food, and singing each others' praises. This behavior in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun is a bit shocking, since it is completely different than what has been demonstrated in most other Bollywood films. It lacks the wicked sister-in-law characters seen in Jai Santoshi Ma and Devdas, and the judgmental and discriminating parental figures seen in Devdas and Alaipayuthey. The only character in the movie who has a bad attitude at times is the aunt of Prem; however, she doesn't influence the plot at all, and she is punished with a slap when she becomes offensive. Instead of showing the negativity of what family life can be like in India, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun seems like it is trying to be a good influence to people by portraying ideal relationship treatment. I've noticed that in a majority of Bollywood movies romantic relationships are carried out entirely by communicating only vague intentions or by speaking in dramatically poetic expressions. While that is all nice and charming, it does not seem real or have substance. It strikes me as a planned game. Hum Aapke Hain Kaun does incorporate some love games of teasing flirtation between Prem and Nisha, but the couple also has times of straight and non-flowery communication that is rare to find in the other films I have watched. One particularly tender moment between the two is when Prem comes to pick Nisha up in his car so that she can visit her sister. The ride is filled with sweet honesty and an attempt by Prem to truly connect with her without any fancy wording. In my opinion, the key to an ideal relationship is good communication, and that is something which the couple exhibits better than many other Bollywood romances I have witnessed. The concept of duty is also shown to be important in ideal relationships. Women in the film demonstrate duty by showing constant devotion to their family members through things like cooking and other forms of service. The biggest example showing the importance of duty is when Nisha and Prem are willing to sacrifice their love in order to have Rajesh's baby raised in a complete home. Rajesh later says to the two something along the lines of, “You were willing to throw away your happiness for what you thought was your duty.” That willingness to sacrifice is eventually understood to be an act of total love for one's family's well-being and happiness which is an ideal characteristic for relationships in India to have.
A beneficial part to watching Hum Aapke Hain Kaun is that I got a better understanding of some Indian cultural practices. The best example of this was the full traditional Indian wedding experience that I had never seen in such completeness. The film showed the importance of the bride's family playfully hiding the groom's shoes in order to bargain more money out of his family. It also demonstrated the beautiful wedding attire worn by the bride such as an ornate sari, henna covered hands, and a golden nose ring. The elaborate processional going up to the bride's home and the teary-eyed official transfer of the bride to her husband's family was incredibly interesting to witness. While at times I was annoyed by such lengthy detail in the film, many moments are very informative and help one to get a better grasp on what Indian life is like.
The thing that I disliked about Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, other than the minor detail that it lacks a decent plot, is the fact that Pooja's death does not match up in the slightest to the rasa of the rest of the film. The movie's mood is playful, happy, and loving, but then completely out of nowhere Pooja dies. What was once a place full of color and life then becomes shrouded in white and sadness. I find it so strange that the tragic turn of events happens right near the end third of the movie. It's like the directors only realized at the end of filming that they had made a movie about nothing except for playing flirtatious tricks and having family conversations, so they had to do something to spice things up a bit. It is just out of place and pointless. I believe that Hum Aapke Hain Kaun would have been better if the joyful mood was not so abruptly changed near the end of the film. Even though I think the death was a poor plot choice, the movie does have a happy ending which seems to be of utmost importance for a family film. Obviously, if Hum Aapke Hain Kaun can make about seventy million dollars (inflated) in the Indian box office then it can't be such a failure.