This post is a part of a series that chronicles my personal journey with the movies, the origin of the love affair when I was a kid and its growth into the obsession it is today. Click here and read from down upward for the entire series.
"When we're in love we experience pleasure, and extreme pain." - Paul Thomas Anderson's 'The Master' (2012)
The first favorite film of my life, 'Hum Aapke Hain Koun!', was released exactly 23 years ago. It went on to change a lot of things. Made by a 28-year old, it changed the perception of movie business by becoming the first film to gross 100 crores. With its songs and dance and games, it changed how the weddings in most of North India were conducted - with increased popularity of the ritual of groom's shoes being stolen by bride's sisters, to be returned only after extorting a good sum of money. And it changed the film-buff in me, as evident by this previous post on it.
Five years later, Sooraj Barjatya returned with his next. I still remember seeing its first look one afternoon in a newspaper outside the library of my boarding school. During the Durga Puja holidays that followed, my Mom, my brother and I would spend hours listening to its songs and discussing its lyrics and finding clues in it about the story. I remember Kunal Kohli's very favorable review of its music in his show 'Chalo Cinema'. I remember reading its preview in the newspaper and wondering how it could be, as mentioned there, a modern-day adaptation of the Ramayana. Would it involve the kidnapping of Sita by Raavan and the war that follows? And I remember the deep sorrow I had felt on realizing that it won't be released in my home-town on the very first day, Diwali of 1999, and I'll have to wait for the Winter Vacation to watch it. 'Hum Saath Saath Hain' was the first film I had truly, madly, obsessively waited for. The movie-lover in me had now turned a fanatic.
And as it happens with obsessive love, I was to soon receive immense pain when, back at my hostel, a friend who was a big fan of 'HAHK!' mentioned his disappointment with 'HSSH' to me. Others were even more critical of it, 14-15 year olds who, obviously, had started preferring more realistic movies, like 'Shool', released the same day, and loved openly lambasting the saccharine idealism of Barjatya.
Like all heartbreaks, I went through all five stages of grief, while dealing with the underwhelming response to the film. But when, in the next vacation, I watched it in Lucknow, my brother and I laughed and cried and absolutely loved it. Like all fanatics we decided to keep our faith in the filmmaker we most revered. We watched it again, in Patna, and I memorized all its dialogues, hoping to narrate it to my friends when I meet them next and slowly spread the cult of this movie!
Well, 'Hum Saath Saath Hain' did end up as the biggest grosser of the year, but its business was a let-down for the market. As Januray 2000 arrived, the phenomenon of Hrithik Roshan redefined the Hindi film hero, and the ideals of Sooraj Barjatya rapidly became a thing of the past. Today, I am aware of all the flaws of 'HSSH', and its very convenient plot-points embarrass me, but I still watch and love and get sentimental about it as often as I can, including humming its songs which have lost their magic on me.
But then, there is something more to this story. Recently, my family and I made a trip to Dehradun to meet my to-be in laws and I got engaged. As I thanked God for making this happen, finding the right life-partner and seeing my parents happier than ever, I realized one more thing as we laughed and ate and traveled together. That joy we felt and the respect and warmth my parents received took me back to several moments from the cinema of Sooraj Barjatya. Weddings and family values continue to be such important parts of our society and the film-maker who led to its documentation is him. Life is not as saccharin sweet as his films, but these joys are as pure. Time and again, Sooraj Barjatya has brought me closer to my brother and my parents, and I hope he will continue to inspire me as I become a part of a new family. And for this reason alone, he continues to remain the most revered film-maker for me, despite all his bad movies and heartbreaks that followed 'Hum Saath Saath Hain!'