My God is this a cute movie! It’s the kind of movie that you just want to pinch it’s cheeks and toss it in the air and dress in novelty clothing. SO CUTE!
You know what is cute? Small people. Tiny little Aamir and tiny little Juhi are like perfect miniatures of a real grown up people. And that is what the plot uses them as, little tiny people pretending to be adults. It’s adorable.
This is what made Aamir and Juhi into stars. Their little love story of children trying to be adults in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, this time expanded to include parenthood. Hum Hain Rahe Pyaar Ki is not as good a film as QSQT, it doesn’t have the depth. But it is a heck of a lot happier! This is one of those films where no one is really bad, all motivations come from a place of trying their best, and the only conflict is that it takes the hero and heroine a while to figure out what is the best they should be trying to be.
But then, that’s growing up, isn’t it? Growing up means no longer taking the simple easy way, but thinking for yourself and finding the best way. And growing up is also fun! That’s one of the best things this film shows, Juhi and Aamir start out very immature in different ways, and as they grow up and age into their responsibilities, life gets easier and better. Growing up isn’t something to fear, it is something to welcome, to enjoy, to look forward to.
That’s the little light underlying theme of the Juhi-Aamir romance here. Aamir is a little boy trying to be older than his years, and Juhi is a little girl trying to be younger. But they end up meeting in the middle, Juhi gets Aamir to loosen up and embrace his youthful side and Aamir forces Juhi to acknowledge that she isn’t a child any more, not really. Their minor initial conflict comes from that, and is resolved easily enough.
This is an Aamir-Juhi movie, but also a Mahesh Bhatt movie. Which means there’s a kind of honesty and openness that is distinctly Bhatty. For example, childlike Juhi is initially attracted to Aamir because she is hiding under his bed while he is changing. She may be childish and immature, but she is still a woman with needs, and she recognizes that Aamir is far more enticing than the effeminate man her father has chosen for her. In fact, Aamir is objectified through out the film, his female factory workers don’t respect him either and would rather flirt and gaze. And Navneet Nishan is downright predatory towards him. It is female desire that drives most of the plot, while Aamir is more focused on childcare and responsibility. But it isn’t a gender flip, or a statement, or anything like that. Bhatt took the story and let it develop naturally following his characters. Aamir is a cute young man trying to be a grown up, it’s funny to see him struggle with all these people who don’t respect him, and the easiest way for that to happen is if it is older women who desire him. Juhi is so childish that a romance between her and Aamir has to come from her initiative, therefore it is her desire that is stronger than his.
Overall, this is just a delightful film! It bounces along effortlessly, the romance is an original delight, the setting is so real it feels like you could move into their house (no mansions or glitzy offices here), and even the child actors are good! Including future Mr. Soha Ali Khan, Kunal Khemu.
Oh, and I feel obligated to say that I did actually watch the original version of this, Houseboat, back when I was in my “any Cary Grant movie at all” phase. This movie is far FAR better.
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It’s a really simple plot. Aamir’s sister and brother-in-law died and now he is responsible for their three children, and their small shirt factory with which he has to support their children. Juhi is the daughter of a very wealthy man who wants to marry her off to an effeminate classical dancer. Juhi runs away from home and meets Aamir’s nephews and niece who have also run away. They take her home with them and she hides in the house. Eventually Aamir discovers her, she lies that she is an orphan with nowhere to go and he takes pity on her and hires her as a maid. Juhi is a terrible maid, can’t cook and sleeps in, but the kids love her and she helps Aamir connect with them. Aamir and Juhi fall into unspoken love. But then Aamir learns he will lose the shirt factory if they can’t fulfill an order for Dalip Tahil. Dalip offers that if Aamir agrees to marry his daughter Navneet Nishan then the contract can be ignored. Aamir agrees, until Juhi makes a scene at the engagement party and he realizes he loves her. Juhi suggests that they can borrow money from her father, but when they approach him, he will only give the money if Aamir promises to never see Juhi again. Aamir refuses and Juhi leaves with him. They inspire the factory workers to fulfill the order, and make the delivery just in time to save the factory and the house. And then Juhi’s father is won over and it ends with a wedding between Juhi and Aamir.
The set up is more complex than it appears. For instance, Aamir is the brother of the children’s mother, not father. He is their closest living relative, but he was never involved in the running of the factory before, or living in their house. He is trying to find his way in the role as parent, and also in his job, as a complete outsider. Someone had to think that through.
And from Juhi’s side, we have to see her as confident but not spoiled, childish but not stupid. A lot of that is in Juhi’s performance of course, but also again it is in the writing. She is the only child of a rich man and he wants to marry her to a classical dancer. He isn’t going to marry her off for money, or to someone unkind, he isn’t even going to put her out of the house, he just wants her to marry someone of their same caste. This isn’t the same authoritarian cruel figure we see in other films, but Juhi is also still justified in running away (it isn’t just a spoiled tantrum). And when she first meets the kids, they are all having fun at the fair together. But it is Juhi who figures out how to trick the carny, and how to hide from the police. She enjoys childish things, but she is smarter than a child.
Finally we get the two of them together. Juhi falls in love with him because he is hot, but also because he is kind to the children, kind of responsible. He just doesn’t know how to have fun with them. And Juhi for him is the opposite, the one who teaches him how to be young again without losing his authority. Aamir goes from being ignored and resented by both the children and the employees, to connecting to them honestly as an equal and earning their respect. And Juhi goes from someone who runs away and plays tricks, to someone who wants to make sure everyone around her is happy, that everything works out for the best for everyone.
There are just so many things done well in this movie! For instance, Aamir is so kind and is truly trying with the children. That’s not how the “evil uncle” is usually in these kind of stories. Or, Juhi’s costumes! She is big on the large skirt and puffed sleeves look. Visually, it makes her seem more closely connected to the children than to the adult world. It explains why Aamir first sees her as a friend for the children and not a woman, and why Juhi herself identifies with the children first.
Or even the north-south divide! The ethnicity jokes are so gentle, never quite going into stereotypes. Juhi and her father speak Tamil to each other, and the Bharat Natyam male classical dancer might be gay. And my favorite bit, the south Indian wedding over the end credits where we get to see Aamir being gently confused by the whole thing.
It is such a light happy movie that you assume it was made casually and easily. But movies this light and sweet aren’t accidents. Mahesh Bhatt as director, Robin Bhatt as writer, and even Aamir as the dialogue writer all helped make it work. But you know what? It’s really Juhi that makes it all happen. Put an actress less charming, less good at comedy, less capable of showing tender sadness, and the whole film falls apart. She is, once again, the secret ingredient that makes it all come together.