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|November 6, 1999||
It's not HAHK..!
Savera R Someshwar
Security personnel dressed in black, barred gates, disappointed faces crowding outside... You could be forgiven for thinking you were at a politician's residence or, maybe, a film star's. I actually spend a couple of minutes circling the place, before I figure out that I am one of privileged few with the required entry document.
So I flaunt my ticket to Rajshri Productions' Hum Saath-Saath Hain and am allowed into the sanctum sanctorum -- in this case, the Liberty theatre, Bombay, for the 2.15pm show on Friday, November 5.
Though Coke has bagged the rights to feature on the publicity material of the film, it is Pepsi that has set up a stand on the theatre's premises. And is offering a special, scratch card where you can win 2,000 free gifts. There's a popcorn stand, an ice-cream stand, a slot machine for cold drink cans... all of which are meant to help you pass the time as you wait for the doors of the theatre to open.
When they do, it is a free-for-all. The normally suave Bombayites seem to have forgotten that the seats in the theatre are numbered and they have the tickets in their hand. They shove through the half-open door, past the second line of cream safari-suited security and dive into their seats. And only then pause to admire the newly refurbished theatre, right from the refreshment stalls to the carpets to, even, the toilets. And the showcase featuring costumes worn by the six main stars of the film!
All of which is very fine, but what about that one question everyone wants answered -- is Hum Saath-Saath Hain going to be a hit? After all, this is Rajshri scion Sooraj Barjatya third offering, after their spectacular movie-history-making revival with Maine Pyar Kiya and Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! But I digress, so let me address that burning question before I proceed further: Does Barjatya rise still higher in Bollywood's glittering firmament?
Well, yes! In my considered opinion, and if we go by the reaction of the audience (cheers when the movie began and loud whistles when Salman made his entrance), the film will definitely do well! Very well, if I may say so.
But will it be as big a hit as Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!? It might. On the other hand, there is a very good chance that it might not. Though grandiose, colourful and chockfull of songs, beautiful, happy people and family values, the film somehow lacks the appeal of Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!
The plot revolves around a happy joint family, whose members come together to celebrate the silver wedding of Ramkishen (Alok Nath) and Mamta (Reema). It's the perfect occasion to introduce the rest of the cast -- the sober elder son Vivek (Mohnish Bahl), and full-of-beans younger son Vinod (Saif Ali Khan). The second son, Prem (Salman Khan), the apple of everyone's eye, honours the occasion by taking a break from his scholastic pursuits aboard.
Married daughter Sangeeta (Neelam) drops in with husband Anand Babu (Mahesh Thakur), their daughter and nephews. Mamta's brother and his wife (Ajit Vachchani and Himani Shivpuri), family friend (Satish Shah), his daughter Preeti (Sonali Bendre), and just-like-our-son Anwar (Shakti Kapoor) also land up. The happy occasion is also graced by Sapna (Karisma Kapoor), her father (Sadashiv Amrapurkar), Durga mausi (Shammi), Sadhana (Tabu) and her father (Rajiv Verma). Not to forget a whole lot of family axioms that are thrown in almost every minute.
By the time you come up for air -- 15 minutes and two songs later -- you're into the first wedding. Just when things seem to be settling into hunky-dory and happy shape, Neelam and Mahesh are thrown out of their house and family business by Mahesh's elder brother. At which point, Hum Saath-Saath Hain metamorphoses into a modern-day Ramayana, complete with Manthara, Kaikeyi, Dasharath, Ram, Sita, Lakshman and Bharat-Shatrughan.
But no Barjatya film can leave you feeling unhappy so, in the end, it's all's well that ends well. When I came out, I was smiling. But let me warn you, this is meant for only all those of you who loved/liked Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! The rest of you are going to dislike it as much as you disliked the earlier one, because Hum Saath-Saath Hain most definitely seems like a sequel.
There is a sense of continuity, both in terms of the cinematography and the actors. At which mention, I must add that most of them have given good performances. Especially Salman, whose footage in the film is much less than that of Mohnish and Saif. The film is pure escapism, very feel-good. While you are ensconced with the moving images, you smile, laugh, feel sad, maybe even a little angry...
But it is later, when you are battling the noise and black exhaust that's etched itself into Bombay's skin, that the film's little discrepancies begin to bother you. Like the songs, for one. It is definitely time for Barjatya to look out for a new music director. Even the lyrics -- barring Maare hidwa ma naache mor and Mayya Yashoda -- are banal. At times, even the actors seem to strain under the burden of be-good, be-beautiful, be-happy. Matters are not helped by the fact that none of the characters are particularly well etched. Nor is the script which leaves many unanswered questions.
Bollywood's blue-eyed boy could definitely have done better, but he seems to be reluctant to let go the Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! magic. Which is why he does not deviate from the formula -- right down to the credits rolling across the title song -- so firmly patented with the former. Barjatya has made a safe decision, but only time will tell if it was a good one.
Yet, it is, by itself, an enjoyable experience, especially if you contain yourself from comparing it to Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! At this point, I think it is only fair to let you know that -- much to the disgust of my more polished colleagues -- I thoroughly enjoyed Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! And I've also watched Maine Pyar Kiya on a scene-by-scene basis, simply because I liked the film. To which adequate warning, I will add a few more words of caution -- proceed at your own risk!
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