Friday Classics: Main Hoon Na, It May Not Be a Classic But It Will Always Be a Favorite Because it Just Makes You HAPPY

Happy Friday!  Finally got to the end of the week!  Phew.  And as a reward, a completely fun and silly movie and a completely fun and silly review.

When this was made, Farah Khan was the top choreographer in Indian film.  She wasn’t known for her brilliant intricate dance moves, but instead for her brilliant intricate concepts.  Her first break out song was “Pehla Nasha” from Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander.  It wasn’t noticed for anything special in the dancing, it was the way it was filmed.  To get the dreamy feel of first love, she played the song and had them perform to it at double time, and then slowed it all down to halfspeed.  It was cheap and clever and very effective.  That was Farah’s trademark, cheap and clever and effective.  And this movie was just an extension of one of her songs, the plot was a mash-up of stories that had been done before, but mashed together in a clever effective way.  And of course what really makes it soar, the clever cheap effective original way it was filmed, Farah got every idea that had been noodling around in her brilliant brain which no director had let her use and just left it all on the floor.

Image result for main hoon na poster

 

This is a movie that is not going to be on a “greatest films” list.  Or be one of those classics you find yourself tearing up as you remember.  But it is going to have a long long life as a movie you just enjoy watching.

That’s what Farah wanted to make, a small fun movie of the kind she used to love when she was a little girl.  Unlike Om Shanti Om, it’s not a conscious homage, you don’t have inside jokes and dozens of cameos or anything like that.  It just feels the right way, that fun happy feeling.

The characters are right too.  Back in the 60s and 70s, the “mature” romance and the “teenage” romance was the standard part of most films.  But now, somehow, that has fallen away.  Even in films like Hum Saath Saath Hain there isn’t the glaring difference between the brothers and their love interests that you saw in, for instance, Shashi and Neetu versus Amitabh and Parveen Babi in Deewar.  But in Main Hoon Na the 4 leads and the two couples are distinctly appropriately different.  Shahrukh and Sushmita are allowed to be clearly obviously mature and experienced and calm in their relationship, and Amrita and Zayed are obviously clearly young and impulsive.  To put it bluntly, Sushmita and Shahrukh are allowed to have sex like grown-ups do and Amrita and Zayed are allowed to be just kids in love without getting married.  Instead of the odd combination of the two that you get stuck with now, people who are old enough to get married but too young to have sex, or old enough to plan their own marriages but still not have sex.  Shahid and Amrita in Vivah versus Shahrukh and Rani in Chalte Chalte.

The romances are right, and there is still time for all the other relationships too!  I just watched Thugs of Hindostan which was so frustrating for how it felt like none of the relationships had time to breathe.  But in this movie, there’s Shahrukh and Sushmita, Shahrukh and Zayed, Shahrukh and Kirron Kher, even Shahrukh and Boman Irani (in his first movie!).  And it’s not just Shahrukh, Zayed and Kirron, Zayed and Amrita.  Boman and Bindu, Shahrukh and Suniel Shetty, even Percy (PERCY!) the random character who wasn’t supposed to have such a large role has a special relationship to Shahrukh, to Amrita, to Zayed.

(See?  Everybody gets their moment)

Maybe the reason it all feels so right and fun and different is because it was so improvised.  Farah conveyed to her cast the mood she wanted and they just went from there.  Percy got to take center stage and even got his own little background romance, Shahrukh got to throw in all the fun little action moves he wanted in his first action movie in a long time, Amrita’s costumes got radically changed last minute, Tabu stopped by the set just to chat and was thrown in the background of a scene, whatever seemed fun and right and good, they just did it.  Nothing locked in and nothing that can’t get be made better if someone has an idea for it.

 

 

 

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

 

 

 

 

It starts with Mausam.  Mausam, the classic film of the 1980s, has a revelation that Naseeruddin Shah, loving father and head of household, has an illegitimate son who is now orphaned after the death of his mother.  This movie starts in the same place, but brings it to a rapid conclusion with Naseerji’s wife Kirron taking their own small son away with her, leaving Naseerji and Shahrukh to make do on their own.  A heartbreaking opening, a family torn apart with no clear right or wrong to it, Naseerji has to take responsibility for Shahrukh now that he has no one else, and Kirron is well within her rights to say she cannot live with this.

And then we are in the present day.  Well actually we started in the present day, Shahrukh’s father the important army officer is on a talk show while Shahrukh does security, as a group of armed terrorists break in and Shahrukh impressively kills them all, except of course the one that shoots Naseerji, leading to a dying confession of the whole Mausam backstory and asking Shahrukh to find his brother and stepmother.

Right in that first series of scenes, the perfect tone is struck.  Yes, the action sequence is ridiculous, complete with jumping through ceilings and all that.  But the death of Naseerji is real and truly felt, his death scene is not played for laughs or whistles, but for sincere emotions and tears.  And yet, not too many tears.  We don’t linger on Shahrukh’s grief, we don’t have a sense that this is something he will never get over.  No, we are sad for a bit and then happy again.  The perfect Masala.

Which brings us to Amrita and Zayed, our Young couple.  Going to college together, Zayed is Shahrukh’s naughty younger brother, Amrita is the General’s rebellious daughter.  Shahrukh is charged with protecting Amrita, and finding his brother, simultaneously.  A simple clear plot situation with various emotional complications, and humorous situations, built right into it.  Again, the perfect Masala, you can bring up multiple emotions without needing to break the plot to do it.

(See the way Farah puts in that bit of black screen to bring us into the riotous different feel of the campus silliness after the serious army action drama?)

It’s the little Farah touches that make it so wonderful.  Shahrukh being seen as boring and uncool and old by the students, Zayed being the “cool dude” on campus but also a bit of a coward (flirting with the hot girl but afraid of her boyfriend).  Bindu as the flirty older English teacher, Boman Irani as the sincere principal who has a terrible time remembering that Shahrukh is supposed to be under cover, Satish Shah as the silly ascot wearing professor, everything is fun and funny and happy and original at the same time.

But what really makes it work is the sincere emotion underpinning it all.  The title song is the perfect balance, Shahrukh has saved Zayed’s life in the middle of another campus prank, and now is part of the group of friends.  And in a variety of ways, they all sing about how they are “here” for each other, sincerely and kindly and with love.  Shahrukh is here for his little brother, his lost family, ready to spoil him and care for him and keep him always safe and happy.  Zayed is here for Amrita, his best friend, he may not be in love with her but he does love her and wants her to be happy.  Shahrukh is here for Amrita, who he can tell is heartbroken because she is in love with Zayed and he doesn’t see her that way.  And even Percy gets a chorus, here for Amrita because he is in love with her already.  It’s not tongue in cheek or ironic or kitschy or anything else, it’s Farah and the actors really truly putting their heart into these feelings.

(Percy!  As my friends and I agree every time we watch this movie, it’s really Percy’s film.  Oh, also, isn’t it sweet seeing how Shahrukh the wise elder throws himself into helping the “kids”?  there’s a little message there about the value he gets from having this time as a civilian making human connections)

It really shouldn’t work, the way the real emotions keep dancing through the silliness in this film, and yet it does.  Shahrukh and Sushmita’s love story, for instance.  It starts very silly, Shahrukh can’t stop singing when he sees her and even has fantasy violinists that appear.  But by the end, when he is going to her after being injured and she is tending to him and then they laugh and embrace, it feels more mature and realistic than almost any other romance he has been in.  Kirron and Shahrukh and Zayed’s little family, after Shahrukh starts renting a room in their house, that feels sincere too.  Shahrukh is a lonely little boy who always wanted a mother, Kirron is a natural mother who can sense his loneliness, and Zayed (without knowing why) starts to look up to Shahrukh and follow his guidance in how to be a better son and a better person.

This is a film that feels casual and fun but only feels that way because of a lot of work that went into it.  The plot conflicts were thought out carefully, nothing just happens because people are stupid. Kirron knew about Shahrukh but Zayed did not, just knew that his father had left them.  Kirron had years of guilt and confusion over this innocent little boy that all came out when she learned the truth.  Sushmita resisted Shahrukh’s advances not because she wasn’t interested but because he was a student, once the truth was revealed their romance reached a natural conclusion.  Amrita was conflicted about her feelings for Zayed and not sure how to express them because of her messed up feelings around her father, the same reason Shahrukh had to be sent in undercover to protect her.

Even Amrita’s make-over was carefully thought out.  She is truly more sexual looking pre-makeover than after.  But before the make-over she is missing the common signs of femininity.  It’s not that she wasn’t attractive before, it’s that she didn’t look “like a girl” before.  How can I say this right?  Zayed wasn’t attracted to her because there wasn’t a thing in his head that triggered “girl” when he saw her.  Once she wore modest feminine clothing one time, it all fell into place.  And then she went back to something more like what she use to wear in every other scene.  In the director’s commentary, Farah walked us through this whole thought process, how in most movies it goes from modest to sexy in the makeover, she wanted to go the other way around.

(Zayed’s shirt is hideous)

And then, my favorite, the “bad guys”.  They aren’t your standard issue “Muslim Terrorists” that I HATE.  They are bad guys with actual motivation (which just makes for a better movie, giving them motivation instead of making them bad for no reason).  And they are not religious.  The leader is Hindu, his second in command (who eventually turns on him and decides he is immoral) is Muslim.  They are former army, who want to keep the war going because only that will justify their sacrifices.  We never have bad guys like this!!!!  This plot alone makes this film special, and it is definitely not something that happened by accident, you have to think hard to come up with this kind of a motive and this kind of a team.

All of this comes together in the finale.  The kids at the college are being held hostage, and all those little emotions under the comedy come up.  Sushmita isn’t just a “sexy teacher”, she is a sincere teacher trying to help and comfort them.  Boman isn’t just a “funny principal”, he really does want to take care of his kids.  Zayed and Amrita are holding each other, so are the other kids whose little lives we saw int he background, the comedy is (mostly) stripped away.  If the movie had been less carefully built, this section would feel like a shock.  But instead it feels like bringing out a background flavor that had always been there and just taking it to the surface.

One of the best (although slightly) frustrating parts of the film is that after the fighting is over, the romances don’t really get a conclusion.  Instead, it is the two brothers who embrace.  But then, the romances don’t NEED a conclusion.  They aren’t that kind of romances, the usually filmi kind.  Amrita and Zayed, they are college sweethearts now, we see them together enough to know that, and that’s enough for now.  Sushmita and Shahrukh, they are “grown-ups” and grown-ups don’t need to agonize over their feelings like that.  Once Sush learns he isn’t her student, they are together.  Maybe he has to leave and go on another mission, but she’ll be waiting when he comes back.  You don’t have to rush into marriage when you are only in college, and you don’t have to rush to get married if you both have demanding challenging jobs either.  You can just be happy, together, and see how things go.

So, that’s our happy ending.  Zayed and Kirron and Shahrukh have resolved their issues and are happy together, Zayed and Amrita are in love and happy together, Shahrukh and Sushmita are in love and happy together, even Percy is happy.  That’s why this movie is such a beloved favorite, and always will be: it’s just HAPPY.

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36 thoughts on “Friday Classics: Main Hoon Na, It May Not Be a Classic But It Will Always Be a Favorite Because it Just Makes You HAPPY

  1. I watched the Farah/SRK movies out of order, because of when they were available on Netflix, and Main Hoon Na came last. It feels so fresh and happy, compared to OSO (which I love) and HNY (which I tolerate for the sake of the soundtrack).

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    • Yes! Main Hoon Na kind of has the feel of “I don’t know if I will ever be able to make another movie, so I am just going to put all my ideas in this one and enjoy the ride.

      On Fri, Nov 9, 2018 at 10:00 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. Amen to everything you said. I haven’t seen this in a while, but I remember being so fond of it around the time it released. It’s perfect masala with just the right amount each emotion.
    I thought Munnabhai MBBS was Boman Irani’s debut. That definitely released first. Was he cast in this first?

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    • He must have been cast in this first, because Farah in her commentary talks about how amazing Boman was in just his first movie.

      On Fri, Nov 9, 2018 at 10:36 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. When is a movie a classic? I’d say MHN is a classic, for this reason… MHN imo is the first (successful) Hindi movie with an obviously western comedic sense. Before MHN, I’d never seen an Indian comedy where I “got” the jokes. The comedic tropes and spoofs, the Matrix jokes only a year after Matrix came out, even the flavor of both the younger and older romantic comedy stories, all more western than Indian. Farah clearly had been watching a lot of Hollywood comedies and rom coms, though she purports to be fully Masala. MHN is the intro movie I show to ppl who’ve never seen BW but enjoy romcoms and light comedies and spoofs.

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    • I’d add on that MHN is part of the tradition from Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro and Andaz Apna Apna as well. But managed to take those comic styles, graft them on to more western ideas, and keep the Masala heart to it.

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  4. I have only managed to watch this movie all the way through twice. Though I think Farah is awesome as a person, and as a choreographer, I have to admit I’m not crazy about her as a screenplay writer or director. She’s great at moments, but not stories. Of the three movies she’s done, Om Shanti Om is my favorite and the one I re-watch. I also like the songs in Happy New Year. And I love all three of their end credits songs/sequences.

    I get why people enjoy Main Hoon Na, but for me the cringy-ness and bits I don’t like outweigh the positives. Part of it is that I’ve never been into “college scene” kind of movies, and part is that I find the two young leads as dull as dishwater. The parts I really like of MNH are the over the top action scenes (but WHY does the villain’s lair have 2 feet of water on the floor?), every scene with Kirron Kher, the silly bit with Shah Rukh not being able to not sing when Sushmita’s around, and the nice chemistry between them. A couple of the songs are fun–the first big number with Shah Rukh and Sushmita, and the song at the Dance (love the Grease homages in this and the end credits).

    I like most of Farah’s supporting/secondary characters, but I can’t stand Bindu’s character. Manages to be misogynist, ageist, and totally unfunny. A trifecta of crap! I mean I’m glad Farah has roles for older women in her movies (except Happy New Year), but yuk. I especially hate seeing Shah Rukh’s character buying into the idea that Ms. Kakkad is some kind of horrific/pathetic freak to be avoided, when the real Shah Rukh seems to genuinely connect with all types of women, even old, fat, and silly ones. And I get why Satish’s character is supposed to be funny, but the thing is I really like him as an actor (love him in Chalte Chalte), so it makes me sad to see him just playing one dimensional cartoon characters (see also his role in Ra.One).

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    • Oh oh! I can answer the Villains Lair question! Thanks to having watched with the director’s commentary, which is super fun. They didn’t have time to paint the floor, is why. So they realized they could just flood it two inches and use lights to reflect off the water and get the effect they wanted.

      The director’s commentary for this film is fascinating, the whole thing was put together on a shoestring with lots of work arounds like that. For instance, the scene where the car has to catch on fire, they couldn’t afford to destroy the car, so they just used a little bit of burning material around the edges, then wiped it off and washed it and took it back to the rental company. The moment at the beginning of the love song when Shahrukh is following Sush and suddenly imagines they are in a tropical paradise? A parrot flies by and the boring white hallway walls turn slowly pink? It was too expensive to do that in CGI, so they just hired people to paint the walls pink, shot the song, and then painted them white again. All the actors except for the leads were just dancers from Farah’s troupe. Shahrukh (no surprise) did the little CGI there was himself, and also did all the action directing.

      On Fri, Nov 9, 2018 at 11:25 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. I am huge fan of this movie and Farah because of it ( and her choreography). But the most interesting part about the movie was that there were a lot of people expecting it to be bad and found it wasn’t. A friend of mine who is into only HW movies once came in when another girl and I were watching this movie on TV and he was greatly fascinated by it. He loved the spoofy feel it brought out while keeping real emotions in place. Also what a great idea for a villain. He was almost always smarter than the hero too.
    Percy is such an important character in this film so much so that I may have forgotten zayed (well no, i know he is lucky aka lakshman) and Amrita’s names but not Percy. Though I’ll never forget Sush was Ms. Chandini because of the song that SRK sings Chand mera dil.. chandini ho tum. What a hilarious yet rich in detail movie. I listen to its title track so often.

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    • One of my favorite moments is when Shahrukh has to explain to the teachers about singing to Sushmita and gestures to the imaginary violinists to back him up again. And the way it switches between the perfect playback voice and his real terrible singing voice.

      On Fri, Nov 9, 2018 at 12:30 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  6. I’m in procrastinatrix team when it comes to MHN.
    MHN was, if I remember well, the second indian movie in polish cinemas. After seeing K3G few month earlier I was totally mesmerized by bollywood films. I was watching everything I could find in internet, and loved almost everything. So when this movie released I was super excited. But then I watched it and was disappointed. It was a big surprise and I wasn’t expecting it at all. How can I dislike Shah Rukh movie? Till today I don’t have nice memories about this film.
    Good things – SRK in a uniform, Sush and Sunil Shetty (it was my first movie with him)
    Bad things- Zayed, Amrita, and the style of the movie

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    • Oh poor Angie! Although you did get to meet Suniel Shetty. I was just re-watching A Gentleman thinking “my goodness, he is hot as a smart villain!” Which I already figured out from MHN.

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      • Now I’m thinking about it, and , from the same period I have warm memories of Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon. LOL I have no taste in movies at all 😉

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  7. I remember watching this film for the first time and 30 minutes into the film thinking it was really stupid…then started realizing it’s an elaborate parody. Once I had that revelation I remember loving it! The part of the song”Tumse milke Dil ka haal” where the camera swoops into shahrukh with his fairy lights vest and his qawwali group gives me so much joy every time. I didn’t know then that Farah and srk were such thick friends. I remember seeing the behind the scenes for this movie. Srk and Farah sitting together and sharing cigarettes, him giving her a.shoulder massage and she mockingly moaning “harder harder” makes me laugh everytime. 😀

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    • This and Om Shanti Om are movies where I have had a hard time getting “newbies” to enjoy them, because of this exact problem! They always want to make fun of them for being stupid and I have to try to explain “no, they KNOW they are stupid! That’s why they are so smart!”

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This(2004) was one of his best years I think. 3 very different films, successful in different ways. Swades, MNH and Veer Zaara.

    As an aside, I wonder how come you haven’t reviewed Veer Zaara?

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    • I don’t actually like/have spent much time thinking about Veer-Zaara. And I don’t like writing reviews of movies I don’t like because then I hurt people’s feelings.

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  9. I absolutely LOVE this movie. It was the first Shahrukh film I saw in entirety and I couldn’t stop talking about it to my bemused colleagues “And then he chases these terrorists on a cycle rickshaw!!!……”

    It’s a brilliant spoof, so dense in detail and every part fits together. The humour is spot on and adds to making almost every character rich and memorable – Ram’s naivety, the principal’s absent-mindedness, Mrs Kaka. And then the emotional scenes balance the silliness and give it heart too.

    I love that the hero is naive, a little self-important and is even beaten by the villain in the fight scene, but he is still the ultimate hero due to the goodness of his heart and his strong values. Shahrukh is perfect in this film.

    I also love that it takes the basic premise of Grease, turning the girl from ‘undesireable’ to ‘sexy’ for the boy’s benefit, but then gives it an extra twist when she throws it back in his face and says “love me for who I am, not my clothes.” That was a little feminist stand I wasn’t expecting.

    I have seen MHN many times and always find I am smiling through it from end to end (at appropriate times).

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    • I also like in MHN how (like in KKHH) we can see that he really did love her all along, just didn’t connect his feelings with romance because he didn’t think of her as a girl. There’s enough clues that it doesn’t feel completely unexpected when Zayed finally falls.

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  10. This is definitely my ultimate feel-good movie. On the day Trump won the presidency I immediately went home and fired up this movie to postpone reality for a bit. (And I was afraid that would sort of kill the movie because of the association, but it hasn’t).

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  11. I enjoyed Main Hoon Na when I watched it but I didn’t think it was as good as I expected it to be. I always felt like there was something missing in Main Hoon Na and I didn’t have that feeling when I watched Om Shanti Om. But I still love the songs in this movie. Almost all of them are really good and also fun to watch!

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    • I didn’t really like the songs the first time I saw them, they all seemed kind of similar. But then it became one of my favorite soundtracks and music video collection!

      On Fri, Nov 9, 2018 at 6:38 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  12. I love Main Hoon Na and almost everything about it- Srk, Sushi and her saris and matching folders, the songs.the slapstick comedy with Boman Irani, Bindu and even the ones with Rakhi Sawant 😂.
    I was 10 I guess when it released and remember watching it in the theatre and then on DVD multiple times. I remember watching the director’s cut as well. Also I thought that’s how college is going to be 😂
    It’s such a fun movie. I love the part when SRK is searching for Zayed and they play Jaane Ja and when Tabu is standing randomly.
    Percy is so sweet. And ye fizayein is the best end credits song from Farah’s movies.

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    • I forgot about Sush and her matching folders! There are so many clever little visual touches, especially when you compare it with later Farah movies where everything seemed just thrown together.

      On Sat, Nov 10, 2018 at 1:48 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  13. Nice write-up :). You succeeded at making me feel less conflicted about liking this movie. The family conflicts, especially the Kirron-Shah Rukh-Zayed-Naseeruddin plot, and the genuine heart there that you describe are what made me connect with it the first time and what pull me in on rewatches. That gets me past the bits that are just so over the top they make wobbly my willing suspension of disbelief – the violins, the spitting, the final rooftop confrontation. The sweater vest! I know he’s supposed to be a dork but I do dislike the sweater vest. This is a movie I like kind of in spite of myself.

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  14. Main Hoon Naa is also something ShahRukh says very often in real life…
    I watched the movie repeatedly…at various stages on my way to get to know ShahRukh and the Hindi Filmindustry.
    The movie had my appreciation from the get-go because of the humour, heart and honesty…it wanted to be a happy-making masala movie with certain messages shining through…and it is just that.
    Thank for your review (again a real pleasure to read)…now I have to look for a DVD with Farah’s comment in the extras 🙂

    Like

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