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-[Film Reviews]-, Bollywood, South Asian Cinema

‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun’ (1994): Three and a Half Hours of Colorful Filler

hum-aapke-hain-koun-poster (1)

Directed by: Sooraj R. Barjatya || Produced by: Ajit Kumar Barjatya, Kamal Kumar Barjatya, Rajkumar Barjatya

Screenplay by: Sooraj R. Barjatya || Starring: Salman Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Mohnish Bahl, Renuka Shahane, Anupam Kher, Reema Lagoo, Alok Nath

Music by: Raamlaxman || Cinematography: Rajan Kinagi || Editing by: Mukhtar Ahmed || Country: India || Language: Hindi

Running Time: 206 minutes

Aside from being one of the biggest Bollywood box office hits of the modern era, Hum Aapke Hain Koun belongs to a small, select group of culturally significant Hindi movies that are seen as defining pictures of the industry and are repeatedly watched throughout the country to this day. Hum Aapke Hain Koun (HAHK) is grouped with the likes of Mother India (1957), Mughal-e-Azam (1960), Sholay (1975), and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ, 1995) as key trendsetters in the evolution of the Bollywood film industry. The case of HAHK is interesting because its legacy is one that still influences Hindi cinema today. At the time it was released, most films released in India were reminiscent of the Amitabh Bachchan stories of old and contained violent, action-oriented plots. After Sooraj R. Barjatya’ smash success with HAHK, there was a shift in the industry toward non-violent love stories like DDLJ, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (KKHH, 1998), and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999).

Despite the continuing Hollywood-ifcation of Hindi films and the slow comeback of action movies in recent years, it’s interesting to see where much of the industry’s modern practices originate. You see movies like KKHH and DDLJ in their ancestral form in HAHK. Like most every Indian hit romance since, HAHK emphasizes its soundtrack and its stars. The song numbers, while not supported by dazzling dance choreography or showmanship, are diverse and catchy. What’s impressive is how amazingly consistent the music is from beginning to end, because there tons of songs in HAHK. It seems like there’s a song every fifteen or twenty minutes, and given the movie is a colossal 206 minutes and the soundtrack sports a whopping fourteen tracks, that calculation isn’t too far off. The score’s depth, range, and consistency go a long way toward making the movie fun and enjoyable. The music is ultimately the reason the pacing doesn’t cough, sputter, and die over the three hour, twenty-six minute running-time.

Top: Dixit and Khan dance, sing, fight, and flirt their way to predictable results in this lauded Bollywood romance. HAHK’s trendsetting formula has become a cliche in countless Hindi romances since. Bottom: Every character’s wardrobe is varied in HAHK. Dixit in particular gets opportunity to show off how good she looks in everything.

Leads Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit are critical ingredients in HAHK’s success. As unbearable as I found him in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Khan mercifully tones things down for this story and puts forth a competent performance in a role that’s interesting and whose arc is satisfactory. Dixit does her part as well, although like Khan, she doesn’t get much opportunity to expand upon her character’s limited persona or development.

As for the film’s pacing and length, I’m shocked at how smoothly the story unraveled and how often I didn’t feel like the movie was wasting my time. Either I’m getting more used to watching Bollywood movies, or the soundtrack is that effective at making this incredibly bloated narrative seem worthwhile. But let’s not kid ourselves too much here — HAHK’s romance could, in all fairness, probably be told in as little as 80 minutes; yet, the fact it remains as engaging as it is ballooned to over three hours is a testament to director Barjatya’s ability to walk a tricky tightrope between magnificent, sprawling excess and tiresome overindulgence.

Its massive influence aside, I don’t see what the big deal is with Hum Aapke Hain Koun beyond the fact that it is a serviceable Bollywood romance with charismatic stars and good music. I liked it, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t see much in the finished product to have warranted such a massive following. I guess Hum Aapke Hain Koun belongs in a group of films, much like many of the older James Bond films in the West, that are best respected as influential trendsetters rather than as objectively great movies. If you’re new to Bollywood films, Hum Aapke Hain Koun is a perfectly fine introduction to the industry, as it’s representative of the cliches and conventions of the national film culture that spawned it. Just be warned it probably won’t knock your socks off if you’re not already a true die hard for three-hour romantic musicals which, if this is your first introduction to Bollywood, you’re probably not.


SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Hum Aapk Hain Kouns reliable soundtrack is its biggest strength. There are a ton of songs in this movie, and all of them are good. Khan and Dixit are likable enough and have good chemistry with each other.

However… everyone else is forgettable, though. There’s little in the story that’s riveting beyond shallow melodrama.

—> ON THE FENCE: Honestly, I just absorbed this film and am not sure I ever formed any sort of opinion on it.

? I must have watched that cricket intro twenty times trying to get the damned subtitles right.

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