Friday Classics: Hum Aapke Hain Koun, A Movie that is Not Related to Any Other Movie

It’s been pointed out that I might appear to undervalue this film and that is why I haven’t spoken much about it.  Truly, I don’t undervalue it!  It’s just such an unusual film that it doesn’t fit easily with a discussion of anything else.  Nothing else is really like it, and therefore available for comparison with it.  And it didn’t start a particular trend in filmmaking (beyond the general “Family Films” trend), because it would be so hard to imitate.  But yes, I do know about this movie, I know all sorts of things about it and I am aware of it’s place in film history.

This movie is made by Rajshri, which is as unusual a film company as HAHK is as a film.  It was the first and for a long time the only studio which also served as a distributor.  This meant it was able to make films that no one else believed in and give them a release that let them find an audience.

Image result for rajshri films

In 1975, Sholay was the top film at the box office.  Violent, angry, about society breaking down and so on and so on.  And the second top film was Jai Santoshi Maa, which was completely different.  And a Rajshri film.

Jai Santoshi Maa was a film about women, about families, and about religion.  3 things that were not remembered in the Amitabh era of films.  And it had no big name stars.  No one would have thought that it would sell tickets in this era.  But it did!

Jai Santoshi Maa tells the story of a young woman, played by Kanan Kaushal a Marathi actress, who worships the Goddess Santoshi.  Santoshi is a “new” goddess.  That is, she is vaguely referenced in older texts, but her worship really began and spread rapidly through word of mouth and popular pamphlets in the 1960s.  She is a daughter of the god Ganesh, and worshiping her is supposed to bring happiness and success to the devotee.  Most importantly, the worship practices popularized for her were very very simple.  They involved a fast for 16 Fridays, and offerings of flowers, chickpeas, and sugar to your personal altar to the Goddess.

This is the kind of worship that an overworked housewife without much money can accomplish.  Many of the higher levels of worship in Hinduism involve expensive ingredients, travel to temples, elaborate time and space consuming rituals-all of which restrict these devotions to only the leisure classes.  Santoshi Maa’s popularity, in its own way, was part of the same revolution of the underclass as Amitabh’s Angry Young Man films.  But a quiet revolution, of poor housewives flocking to worship a Goddess that respected their desires, not just the older Gods who seemed cut off and only available to the elites.  The plot of the film reflects that, as a revolution is happening in heaven at the same time as on earth, Santoshi Maa demanding her rightful place and the efforts of her devotees helping her increase her power.  A call for collective action for social justice as the best way to effect change in higher levels of power.

Rajshri wrapped this rebellion in “traditional” messages.  Our young heroine leads her own worship, but what she wants from that worship is a husband.  And her methods of getting, and keeping, that husband are through worship within the home, not through anything more radical.  For instance, fighting a battle to maintain her place amongst her many in-laws, rather than fighting a battle to move out of the combined household and into her own home, questioning the very underpinnings of society.

Jai Santoshi Maa is the most successful Rajshri film (until Hum Aapke Hain Koun), but the issues it raises are also representative of the issues in most Rajshri films.  A turning towards “tradition”, but in an untraditional way.  Breaking some rules but upholding others.  And not just in content, but in style.

Rajshri films are one of the few to keep the original song styles of Indian film.  Way way back at the beginning of the industry, “songs” were not a moment to stop dead for 5 minutes and then pick the plot up again.  They were more like the Parsi theater tradition, or light Opera in the West.  Songs as sung dialogue, or leitmotifs.  Woven in and out of the film.  And they are not fantasy, they are the real actors and actresses dancing in elaborate costumes, in temples or gardens or other beautiful sets.

(the original version of this song, a man walking down the street singing, very different from the elaborate complex version we saw in the title version from the recent Ae Dil Hai Mushkil)

With all of this to be recorded by the camera, it is perhaps forgivable that the actual camera work in these films is fairly unremarkable.  Framing is static, lighting is basic (day, night, and twilight is about it).  There is minimal use of shadows, camera movements, anything imaginative.  Instead, that imagination is lavished on the movement of the people in front of the camera.  Heads tilted just so, eyes meeting, the flow of a skirt as it runs across the frame, the flicker of a hand.

Rajshri films brought in a new era of rebellion-without-rebellion in 1988 with Maine Pyar Kiya.  A romance that takes place almost entirely within the home, where Mother’s permission is required before a couple can truly fall in love, where our heroine dreams only of being a wife, and is ashamed to even show her ankles before marriage.

But it is still a rebellious romance.  A couple in love across class boundaries and without the permission of their fathers.  A couple in love at all, that is still a rebellion.  And in some ways that rebellion is heightened by the perfection surrounding it.  Even these two, these total innocents, can be “guilty” of love.  Which begs the question, is love a sin at all?  If two such sinless ones can feel it?  Not to mention that the culmination of their love song occurs inside a temple, the power of God bringing them together.

Maine Pyar Kiya introduced a young director, Sooraj Barjatya (grandson of the founder of Rajshri films) and brought a young star, Salman Khan, to superstardom.  This team came back together again 5 years later for Hum Aapke Hain Koun.  The film which would make all other hits, going all the way back to Sholay and Jai Santoshi Maa, look like also-rans.


Before moving on, I am going to give the entire plot of the film.  It is a very simple plot.  Mohnish Behl and Salman are brothers raised by their bachelor uncle Alok Nath.  Alok Nath arranges an engagement for Mohnish Behl with Renuka Shahane, daughter of his old friends Anupam Kher and Reema Lagoo.  At the engagement, Salman meets Renuka’s younger sister Madhuri.  Through the engagement, marriage, and then preparations for the birth of Renuka and Mohnish’s first child, Salman and Madhuri secretly flirt and become closer and closer.  Finally, they reveal their love to Renuka who immediately approves and declares her plan to arrange their engagement (in her role as the oldest female in Salman’s family).  But before she can tell anyone else, she dies after a tragic fall, leaving her son motherless.  In an effort to provide a mother for the baby, Alok suggests to Anupam and Reema that Mohnish should marry Madhuri.  Madhuri at first misunderstands them to mean Salman.  However, even when she learns the truth, she decides not to say anything as it has brought so much joy to everyone to plan this wedding.  Salman understands and accepts her decision.  At the last moment, the truth is revealed, the families understand immediately the purpose of their sacrifice and applaud them for making it, but insist that it is purposeless, Madhuri can move into the household as an aunt rather than a mother to this orphaned baby.  Happy Ending with another wedding.

Hum Aapke Hain Koun is not an original plot.  The older siblings marrying and younger siblings falling in love plot is a regular through out time and space.  After all, Ram and Lashman married sisters.  And the second half of the plot is not unusual either, it appeared in an Isreali film Fill the Void in 2012, and in real life with the engagement of Mary of Teck to King George V after the death of her previous fiance, his brother Victor.  More specifically, Hum Aapke Hain Koun was based on a Bhojpuri language film that Rajshri had previously produced in 1982.

Image result for mary of teck

(I don’t know about the Isreali movie, I never saw it, but it worked out well for Mary of Teck and George V.  He comforted her in her grief, she came to love the younger brother as much as she had loved the older)

Bhojpuri films gained a minor popularity in the 80s and early 90s.  While the Hindi films became increasingly urban, the audience turned to smaller language industries to fulfill the need for something that felt “Indian”.  Rajshri was good at these films, making them in multiple languages and doing targeted releases.  But the story of Hum Aapke Hain Koun was something that Sooraj Barjatya discovered could be massaged into not just an All India hit, but an All World hit.  A story line based on simple joys of family, food, religion, songs, dogs, babies, and love which would give people the India they wanted to remember, to believe in.

Hum Aapke Hain Koun is a fascinating mixture of old and new.  Our heroine wears elaborate traditional garb, made out of old silks with hand embroidery, not the simple chiffon westernized styles.  But she also wears blue jeans.  Our hero lives in a combined family and reveres his older brother.  But he also has a snazzy modern car and telephone and billiard table.

Essentially (and I am not the first person to say this), this film embraces the consumer aspects of modernity without the underlying philosophies.  Cute hats and cool cars and big hair, but arranged marriages, long family games of Antakshari, engagements solemnized in temples.  Everything happening based on rituals and practices so ancient as to make this film almost timeless, remove the telephone in the background or the electric light, and any scene of the film could come from any era of history.

This is what has been so hard, in fact impossible, to replicate.  The message of family and love and so on, that was picked up quickly.  The long loving scenes of the Punjabi farmhouse in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, the elaborate multi-generation love story of Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, the family friendly humor and excessive emotion of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, that was all inspired by Hum Aapke Hain Koun.  Aditya Chopra himself said, when congratulated on the success of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, “We are all just chasing Sooraj.”  But those films couldn’t help but put in something that made them of a particular time a place.  A sweater with Gap branding, an obvious discussion of the NRI experience as of the 1990s, a scene in a mall.  Even Maine Pyar Kiya, before Hum Aapke Hain Koun, ran into those issues, scenes at a factory launch, at a party, which told us exactly what period of Indian development it existed within.

The trick of Hum Aapke Hain Koun is really remarkably simple.  It never leaves the home.  And the home is always the same.  We have the engagement in the temple, a brief drive through the countryside, and otherwise everything occurs within a home.  And most of it occurs within familiar rituals that take place inside those homes.  It is a soothing safe place, one where nothing seems strange, threatening, unfamiliar.

And it isn’t threatening.  Even the threat of a love marriage is contained within the home, within family approval, there is no moment of actual rebellion from our lovers.  In fact, their love serves to make them less rebellious, more accepting of their socially defined roles, the man as the worker and the woman as the homemaker.  The peak of their love occurs at night when she has stayed up late to serve him food after he has returned from working at the office.

The rebellion, the conflict, takes place almost invisibly under the surface.  It is there in little dropped phrases and moments.  In “traditional” ways.  The most iconic moment of the film is the “Didi Tera Deewar Deewana” song.  Which is about women making fun of men, talking about their helplessness, piercing the perceived power of the patriarchy.  But it is done within a non-transgressive space, the space that was set aside for this behavior, the all female baby shower.  And so it is invisible to the audience.  As is the conclusion of the song, in which our hero accepts female rule over him.

Female rule is what rules the day in this film.  Our heroine, Madhuri, is the most “active” character, the driving force of the film.  She makes the decision at every turning point in the plot.  But again, it is not obvious.  Because this is a plot that takes place within the home, not in public.  Madhuri is not going out into the streets and demanding her rights, or even into an office or a school.  She is staying safely in the kitchen, the bedroom, the private areas of the home.

It’s a complicated message.  Women are all powerful, but only within their carefully defined sphere.  Obviously it resonated with the audience, women flocked to this film, it brought them back into the theaters after years of the VHS market eating away at the female audience.  But did it resonate because it inspired rebellion in them, a desire to make decisions for their own life, or did it resonate because it made them feel as though they had made those decisions, that a life lived within the boundaries of the four walls of the home was all they could hope for?

At least women appear in this film.  This is a movie that showed a forgotten part of Indian culture, the happy life of a family at home traditions and worship and so on that was often ignored by films in preference for public culture, violence and glamour and so on.  But in the process, this film left behind other groups.  Religions besides Hinduism are invisible, laborers are invisible, the rest of the world outside India is invisible, the rest of the world outside this house is invisible, the whole surging mass of angry unhappy humanity is invisible.

That’s what I mean by “The India people want to remember”.  For the NRI audience in particular, this was a fantasy they craved.  The idea that an India existed somewhere, waiting for them, filled with happy singing people.  An India they could cling to as what they were “really” about, where they “really” belonged.


And for the Indians in India, this is a fantasy they could try to achieve, they could build towards.  Huge families living together, happy times shared, the pleasures of Western consumer objects without the pressure of changing lifestyles.  Everything joyful, everything peaceful.

It’s a fantasy, and the style of filmmaking invites us to enter it.  The pace of Hum Aapke Hain Koun is so slow as to become hypnotic.  The songs flow one to the other, the colors blend into a gorgeous kaleidoscope, the sets become familiar to us as we move in and out of the same rooms and up and down the same halls over and over again.  It is a very small world that is shown, but it is a world that increasingly feels like the “real” world as the film goes on, like it is more real than the world we are sitting in as we watch it.

When MF Hussain watched this film, he declared that Madhuri was his new muse, his new Goddess.  Because she is the Goddess of this small world in which we live while watching the film, the presiding goddess whose joy gives us joy and whose sorrow brings us sorrow.  Rajshri was the company that first found Madhuri, back in the mid-80s, and unsuccessfully launched her.  But in this film, they were able to bring to full fire that spark they had first seen when she was just a teenager.  She is effortlessly magnetic, real, both human and superhuman somehow.

And Salman, Salman was another Rajshri discovery.  Given his star making part in Maine Pyar Kiya which used the youthful energy bursting out of him to give us a young hero that we could believe in.  In this, that same energy made him the most human of humans to Madhuri’s Goddess.  While she is strong and sure and bright, he is surprisingly sweet and sensitive.  He is the one to bring his new sister-in-law out of her shell, to intuit without Madhuri needing to say the words why she is marrying Mohnish, to notice Madhuri’s tears as her sister is married.  He spends a lot of time watching her, often positioned below her and looking up.  That moment at the end of “Didi Tera” when he kneels before, that is foreshadowed through out their relationship, and is followed through in the remainder of their relationship.  Salman has the energy and the physical power and the big heart, but he puts it all in service to her.

From a star studies perspective, this film is the peak of the star image for all of it’s players.  Fatherly and funny Anupam Kher will never be more fatherly or funny.  Sweet sincere Alok Nath will never be sweeter or more sincere.  Heck, even Tuffy the dog will never be more doglike!  But it is most apparent with Salman and Madhuri.  Madhuri is sometimes called “sexy” or “glamorous”, but that’s not her appeal, not quite.  She is more than that, she is beyond sex and beyond glamour, she is not the retiring shy heroine, but she also isn’t the broken vamp, she is something in between, something with the purity of a heroine and the power of a vamp.  And that is what this film tapped in to, a woman who accepts her role in the world, who is self-sacrificing and loving, but who does it all with the kind of vibrancy that makes even these small things glow.

The thing about Madhuri is that her glow is so bright, it will always be visible.  It’s hard to put her in a film where she will not dominate, will not force the role she has taken into a “Madhuri” part.  But Salman is more difficult.  He can bend to his character, to his role, more easily.  His sweetness, his heart, his beauty, his unique Salman-ness, it only comes out in brief flashes.  But this film somehow carved out the excess so that only the Salman at the heart remained.  A sweet little brother who wants everyone to be happy, who can feel the hurt of everyone in his household and would rather take it all into himself (giving up the woman he loved) if it would take it away from everyone else (giving them the marriage they want).  This is a movie of Salman with the almond shaped eyes, the young breathtakingly handsome Salman who just wants someone to love him. This is the Salman that is always there in his greatest roles, the one who sacrifices his love in Saajan, who does everything for love in Bajrangi Bhaijaan, who gives it all up for love in Ek Tha Tiger.

That’s really what made this film special.  It’s a big family ensemble piece with tons of songs and tons of costumes and tons of festivities.  But nestled within it is the central love story which glows like a diamond among glass just thanks to the actors that are portraying it.

That is the magic that was never quite recaptured.  The later film, Hum Saath Saath Hain, Salman’s sweetness was still there, but there was no heroine to match him.  The heroine’s were equally split, Tabu’s dignity and Sonali’s shyness and Karisma’s pep all making their own mark.  And so the story split in 3 as well, with Salman as the hero, but of 3 separate storylines.  Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon, that was a failure straight through.  A hero without Salman’s impossible sweetness, and a heroine without Madhuri’s impossible charms, they could not pull off the story they were given.  Vivah came closest to recapturing the magic, but that was only because the removed some of the glass pieces around the edge, made the cast smaller, the songs fewer, the costumes smaller, and therefore our hero and heroine were able to shine in their own more modest way.  And then there was Prem Ratan Dhan Payo.  A new kind of film, one where Salman is not just the hero but the head of the family, the one around which everything revolves.  His love story is only part of his responsibilities.

But all those variations, they didn’t come close to capturing the magic of Hum Aapke Hain Koun.  And nor did Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham or Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge or Raja Hindustani or Mujshe Dosti Karoge or Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam or any of the hundreds of others that came after.  It’s still true what Aditya said, they are all “just chasing Sooraj”.


27 thoughts on “Friday Classics: Hum Aapke Hain Koun, A Movie that is Not Related to Any Other Movie

  1. “And for the Indians in India, this is a fantasy they could try to achieve, they could build towards.”

    honestly, HAHK, before the tragedy, is exactly middle class india of the time. That’s how people found “love” and that’s how families arranged marriages. Aunties even today, actively look for eligible girls for their boys at weddings, mehndi functions and sangeet functions.

    a few years before this film arrived, my family was made up of- mom, dad, me, my little brother, my father’s two brothers and two sisters and father’s kid cousin sister plus servant boy who was also from our village. My grandfather and grandmother had to stay behind in our village to manage the agricultural holdings though they visited often. My parents were close to thirty at the time, my older uncle was in his mid 20’s, then there was an aunt who was around 18, then the other bua who was around 16, then the younger uncle who was around 13-14 and then the cousin bua who was around 12, then me aged 7-8 and my brother aged 4-5. the servant boy must have been around 16.

    this is just the permanent members. over holidays, my mother’s family came to visit–my oldest masi- in her mid-20s, the middle masi around 22, then my mama, around 16, and my youngest masi, around 14 and my maternal grandmother.

    This isnt even the final list. We also had my father’s older sister’s kids visit us over holidays: Her oldest was the same age as my youngest “real” bua- 16, the brother after that was 14, the sister after that was 12, and my youngest cousin brother at around 10-12.

    The list doesnt even end here!
    Occasionally, a family friends’ families joined us. One of these family friends ended up selecting my second oldest bua (the 22 year old) as her bahu.

    The situation went like- my father was posted in Meerut, first as a taxman, and a few years later, as an IAS officer. His boss from the tax office, had a house in the city and since the IAS colony didnt have spacious enough homes to accommodate our large family, the former boss offered his empty house for us. I dont think we ever paid rent for that. We had the entire house to ourselves, just the one-room unit at the back was to be occupied by the guy’s sons and nephews who were studying to become civil servants. Since all civil servants are expected to guide aspirants in their studies and since we were living in “their” house, the sons and nephews became familial. The former boss asked for my bua’s hand in marriage, she was a shy, nearly Sridevi in Chandni but shier around strangers, kinda girl. Long story short- she lives in the very same house even today married to the son and has two sons of her own! After their marriage, whenever she visited us, her husband’s siblings and cousins who were the same age as my parents’ younger siblings and my cousins, also came with them.

    that’s what summer vacations looked like– a population of 20+ in the house for three months, the older girls helping my mom in her chores–AS A RULE- the younger ones taking care of me and my brother- we got slapped by them all for making trouble and we got treated like precious toys also! there were picnics, outings, late night antakshari (antakshari was the game of choice for the whole family to participate in every time the power went out in the evenings– it used to be a few hours at the time– and every family played antakshari at home!), playing ludo, chess, dancing, chinese checkers, cards, carrom, badminton, etc.

    Point being, Rajshri isn’t presenting an ideal to aspire to for that generation– it was merely capturing what the public already knew to be true. It was a slice of life picture. The gadgets and brands and clothes– even the middle class businessmen and upper level civil servants had those. it wasn’t just the NRI-connection that got people GAP sweaters. You had outlets in the metros carrying them and everything else was relatively cheap so you could splurge. Plus there was plenty of corruption money going around so even if you didn’t accept bribes or didn’t have an agricultural background giving you food for free, you could still get a lot of the trendiest things as “gifts” for people that wanted favours or just for Diwali, to make an impression on officers.

    even if you take the consumerism out of it, the family set up in Rajshri’s HAHK and MPK are exactly what the middle class had then.


    • Although the massive success of HAHK says that it wasn’t just people living that middle-class life who watched it, but also their servants and others who would be aware of that life without being able to live it themselves. Similar to how I feel watching a lot of American sitcoms. They show a life very similar to my childhood (owned our house, Dad went to work and Mom stayed home, no divorces, neighborhood kids running in and out, etc.), but I was also aware that for a lot of people this was a fantasy.

      I wonder if we could say that it caught a specific transitional period? When India was global enough to make those international brands and consumer fantasies available, but before the arrival of the tech boom that scattered these combined families into separate units in urban areas?

      On Fri, Dec 22, 2017 at 8:36 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • Not tech boom so much as people having fewer kids and people moving away from family businesses to pursue other careers. My parents had two kids. their parents had 5 and six respectively. The oldest boy always had to bring the rest of them up as a rule so they stayed in his house till the girls were married off and the boys brought in wives after which they would have had their own six kids and the house stayed “lush”.

        People miss joint families. Having nuclear setups and family drama communicated via a device isnt the same as watching it in front of your eyes and participating in it. the closest thing to it in recent times is Dil Dhadakne Do


      • Just talking to my mom about this and I think she’s right in saying that Nadiya Ke Par shows that the same stories happen across economic classes.

        Also explains, again, why Bahubali worked. People could imagine the family feud happening in their own house.

        I guess that’s why people the British Royal Family. Why people loved Diana.


  2. Oh and Santoshi Mata is a minor north Indian local deity. Like they have “pirs” whose dargahs become famous for granting wishes or Sai Baba of Shirdi. Santoshi literally means “the content one”. The woven legends differ from the ones in lore. Apparently, if you pray to Santoshi Ma and keep her fasts, you will become more eligible for marriage. The logic being if you’re an ambitious or demanding girl, you’ll have problems adjusting in your sasural so you do these fasts and ask the ma to make you a more easily contented person. That’s it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent, Margaret. You have vindicated yourself with this write up and answered my complaints. (Was I the only one?) Thank you.

    Just a couple of quibbles, though: 1. “No religion except Hinduism is shown?” Sometimes I think people need to remember that India is called a “Hindu majority” country because, you know, that’s what most of the people are! But aside from that, in all the Rajshri films of the Sooraj Barjatya era (I don’t know their earlier films), they always have Muslim and Hindu characters shown as close friends and as part of the family. Here, it is the doctor and her husband. 2. “No labor is shown?” Again, the laborers are shown as an integral part of the family. Both the servants Laloo and Chameli are there doing the work of the house, but they are also treated as family members. Maybe that’s why they didn’t strike you as “laborers.”

    I think Asmita has summarized perfectly why this film is just a reflection of real life, and not a fantasy ideal. I am surprised by the references to “consumerism” in this film. I don’t remember any (the way I do in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, where the Gap logos were very jarringly obtrusive). Yes, the families are well to do, but not super rich (as in K3G), not were their surroundings as plush as those shown for SRK’s family in DDLJ, or again in K3G. So I don’t know where this is coming from.

    But anyway, I think you have captured the appeal and the importance of this film perfectly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The consumerism interpretation is a fairly common one in the academic writings on the film. It’s hidden, but it is definitely there. The new kitchen appliances, the cars, all the toys in the nursery. Just the “stuff” that is everywhere. It’s part of the joy of watching the film, seeing all the things in the household and thinking “ooo, I like that toy/stove/phone/dish that she is using”. You could also see it as a sign of the added care on the part of the filmmakers, a different director might have just put the bare minimum thought into sets and props, used some dull standard bedroom set that you don’t even notice. But Rajshri/Sooraj made a point of searching out interesting small things, of the kind that you might find in an upper middle-class household, and placing them around.

      (and yes, you were the only one. It’s part of the reason I never bothered to write about this film, the English language internet audience just isn’t as likely to be interested in Rajshri films and their direct descendants. So I’ve been holding off on writing about this, since it seemed a waste to write something no one would read. But you gave me an excuse!)

      On Fri, Dec 22, 2017 at 9:55 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

    • I found that odd too. But I thought it was just a non-indian looking at a classic film and identifying brands familiar to them and getting a sense of being able to relate to these people in this film. Like how when we see a random Geeta or a hindu icon in a western film.

      What Margaret wouldn’t know is that the biggest fashion memory from the film is Madhuri’s blouse from the song!

      I literally didn’t even remember if they wore any specific western brands in that film- that blouse was the big story, wasn’t it?

      I really don’t know at what point “things that would be in a regular house” can be identified as consumerism in a specific manner.


  4. Oh, btw, about the Santoshi Maa thing — there are no “higher levels of worship” in Hinduism. Sure, you can do elaborate kinds of rituals if you like, and have the means (and want to show off), but they are no “higher” than the simplest worship done with a pure intention — praying, meditation, etc. It is always the worshipper’s purity that is important, not any material offerings. And while pilgrimages are nice if you can afford them, the lesson to be drawn from them is that you need to find god in your own heart, so actually you don’t need to go anywhere to do so, except to look inward into yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Happy Tiger Zinda Hai Day! And 5 Days to Salman’s Birthday! Let’s Look at Some Salman Songs | dontcallitbollywood

  6. I’m not Desi but I did grow up in an extended household with grandparents, aunts, cousins and family friends. And I think HAHK definitely qualifies as a fantasy simply because there’s no conflict. Everyone gets along, everyone is loving, everyone enjoys spending time together. No one is jealous or competitive. No one has a drinking problem, no one is depressed, none of the women are envious or resentful, the husbands are all respectful of their wives. The one glimpse of conflict comes after the sister’s death when the flashy and offensive aunt tries to get her daughter married to the widower instead of Madhuri but she’s quickly put down by her husband and starts wearing more traditional clothing.

    My family was close and loving but it wasn’t all happy happy sunshine. My paternal grandmother treated my mother horribly in the early years of her marriage, insulting her cooking and housekeeping, and also making comments about her family being too dark (colorism is a problem with Puerto Ricans too). My experience as a smart little girl who preferred to be alone with a book is that the pressure to conform to social conventions, especially for girls and women, can be suffocating in an extended family. Everyone is in your business at all times, everyone has an opinion on your life. A friend of mine had a household where her brothers lived in the same house with their wives, and the one wife who was an introvert and wanted to spend time along got bullied and insulted by the other women in the family.

    We idealize the old days when everyone lived together and forget what it was like to have no autonomy or independence.

    Having said all that, I love this movie! It’s my comfort food watching. This is my go-to when I feel sick or depressed and just need a lot of pretty without a lot of emotional challenge. And good God, Madhuri and Salman are beautiful.


    • You know how every culture has a standard for the “good old days”? The period this film is from would be that for us. Mostly because the heads of the household were my then very young parents. They assumed the responsibility and inherited the kids at around 25 years of age (my mom has literally raised my youngest uncle who was 5 when she married into the family and in turn my father assumed the role of the man of the house for her family since my maternal grandfather passed away before they were married; her youngest sister was also around 4-5 at the time)

      And my mom is a positive, optimistic person and a real 90s girl. She has a masters, she was studying for the civil services but my brother came along so she couldn’t do that anymore, she had the latest fashions, the latest hairstyles, she did the yoga and aerobics classes, she was a brilliant hostess, she wrote as a hobby, read a lot, and yet she was also the perfect Rajshri bahu- she remains real diplomatic to date and courses through family politics with such grace. Those were the girls that were making the Rajshri ideal happen on the ground before the films.

      I guess back then girls looked forward to setting up their household and being friends with their young in laws and young in laws also looked up to the new bhabhi as someone who would be their friend and less strict that the previous home management- their mom or grandmother.

      Maybe the no-booze culture also helped the cause.

      Or maybe the film captures those brilliant moments that every joint family has before everyone grows up and real life pressures take the fizz out of the house party!


      • I grew up in a joint family and I wouldn’t go back to it as an adult.My grandparents lived in a university town and we always had a revolving door.No sooner would one batch leave than another arrive.It’s heaven for children and the system teaches you how to compromise,adapt and share.There’s no concept of privacy which becomes a huge thing once you’re in your teens.And women had the luxury of enjoying their children without getting being pulled in all directions with the demands of a career and housework.There’s no dearth of babysitters either.But there’s a constant jockeying for power,position and respect.Gossiping and backbiting are a standard.There’s the male head of the household and the female head of the household.And you constantly need to stay on their good side.It is hell for anybody not willing to play the game ie the sweet,innocent,sensitive types.


        • That’s where Indian values make all the difference don’t they? The entire system is complicated but it works. It’s not designed to keep everyone in peak happiness, it’s designed to minimise conflict. I wonder if there’s a study on this system somewhere? Just the power structure alone is complicated isn’t it?

          A friend’s father had the most creative answer to privacy demands by the younger lot living in their extended family. He used to tell them “privacy comes with the costs of rent, bills, food and taxes. When you can afford to pay those yourself, you can have all the privacy you want” 😂


          • That’s one of the things I found fascinating about Bangalore Days, because it essentially answered that challenge. These were young people who actually could move to the city and support themselves, there was no financial requirement for the joint family household system. And without the financial requirement, the social drifted away as well, the younger generation served as their own “elders”, arranging each other’s marriages and supporting each other emotionally and all of that. Which is similar to what happened in America in the 1950s, thanks to the GI Bill there was a whole generation that could have their own households from a young age, and the concept of family shrunk down to just parents and children.

            On Fri, Dec 22, 2017 at 9:31 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



          • I think the experience was different in the south when compared to the north simply because of the population growth pattern. The north had a boom of sorts and it was very common for people of my parents’ generation to have more than 5 siblings (blame the craze for a son) and more than 20 first cousins of the same age.

            the south already had their population under control and plus they leaned heavily towards technical education (as opposed to the huge arts leanings in the north) and their overall education and employment level was always better than the north and they went into the nuclear/urban setup at least a decade earlier than the north. Bangalore Days is representative of the southern youth experience than a pan-Indian youth experience at the time. I find that film more in the “appealing to our fantasy” category than a slice of life because let’s face it, the bum bike racer boy with an anger issue and rich separated parents is like one dude you’ve heard about at your school rather than every other kid you know, anywhere in india.

            Or maybe the better educated, career and stability driven nuclear setups of the south are what made southern people so polite and shy. They didn’t grow up competing for attention and things with a whole bunch of cousins and siblings??


          • I like what your friend’s father said about privacy.Of course being the contrary people that we are,we’ll immediately miss the good old joint family and the nosy neighbours the moment we live on our own.There’s nothing that equips you to life, than the joint family system.And whenever there’s a crisis -illness,money problems,quarrel with someone outside- the whole family gangs up together.Another advantage is that you don’t need to network to build up your contacts.There was a huge pool of resources,contacts,favors owed that you could use at your will.


          • Totally! It went like you had a problem and the first family member you told about it listed down a whole bunch of people within the family itself and their contacts who could help you with it!

            Of course, neighbourhood aunties, friends’ mothers and older friends/older office pals take up the space left vacant by extended families so we never really grow out of that cocoon and then we get married and it’s back to the extended family setup! And your entire extended family takes your wedding as an invitation to the affairs of your personal life all over again! LOL


        • I’ve always thought, looking from the outside, that the joint family system is wonderful for children (lots of adults to spoil them, lots of kids to play with) and for the elders (lots of people to take care of them, lots of kids to play with), but probably pretty horrible for the group in the middle who have all the responsibilities and none of the benefits.

          On Fri, Dec 22, 2017 at 9:20 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



    • Yes, the part that always disturbs me is when they tear of the plane tickets so the family has to stay longer. I understand it was a good thing in this film, but it would have been a terrible thing for me! When I am ready to go home from spending time with family, I am READY. Even if it was a wonderful visit, I still need my own space and my own place.

      On Fri, Dec 22, 2017 at 7:36 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



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