It is now 25 years to one of the biggest hits and an all-time classic, Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! In those days, there were factors due to which films had, what was called, repeat value.
In Sholay, the special effects and stereophonic sound as well as the film’s dialogue drew repeat footfalls; Deewaar because of Amitabh Bachchan’s fiery performance as well as dialogue. In the Rajesh Khanna starrer Dushman, one song, Vaada tera vaada, was enough the get the audience back again and again.
There have been many such examples. In fact, this surging popularity of filmy dialogue prompted the music company, Polydor India, to start a new trend of releasing dialogue tracks on cassettes and in the case of Sholay, which had weak music, dialogue cassettes sold many times more than the music album!
All this glory of repeat audience was lost to piracy when the films were overnight copied on pirated video cassettes and released into the market on the very day of a film’s release. There was also no stopping as the piracy moved from video cassettes to cable networks and fresh films were beamed right into the households. However, the Rajshris had the advantage of an all-India distribution network as well as sub-offices in distant parts.
Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! was inspired from Rajshri Productions’ earlier small budget home production, Nadiya Ke Paar (1982), a rural love story. Though the film went generally unnoticed in the rest of the country, it was a major hit in parts of UP, especially Eastern UP and Bihar. Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! was modernised to suit the prevailing tastes.
Piracy did not affect Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! The company made sure that each print of the film was in the possession of a company appointed security man and the print remained in his possession when not being screened. Also, by that time, the film’s accolades had reached a pinnacle and every film lover wanted to catch it at a cinema hall.
1980s and 90s films offered a varied fare. While Amitabh Bachchan films dominated till the mid-1980s, the field was also open to films with other stars. However, a new lot of actors made inroads in the 90s with Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and so on. Anil Kapoor, Sunny Deol, Sanjay Dutt, Sunny Deol and Jackie Shroff continued to have their following.
Among all these, it was in 1994 that Rajshris’ Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! released. It was like no other film seen so far. The film ran through three-and-a-half hours and contained as many as 14 songs! And, there was no solid script, so to say, to hold either the duration or the 14 songs. If at all the film had a story to tell, it was during the penultimate 40 minutes or so before it came up with a happy ending sending out a delighted and contented audience. (Most wanted to see the film again!)
The mainstay of Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! was its music and the way it was used in the film. After all, it was not easy to find slots for 14 songs in a film and, then, to justify them. Yet, the music set the tone for the film from the very onset with the title song Hum Aapke Hain Koun —
a slow but melodiously soothing number.
When it comes to the film fraternity, every other producer seems to know better than the one who made a film. So, there was criticism for the length of the film as well as the number of songs. A verdict of flop was passed even before the film could release! Going by various suggestions, the producers went on to reduce the length by one and a half songs from the 14 numbers. The film belied all predictions and went on to become a blockbuster like no other film so far. The deleted songs were added back and that did not deter the audience from coming again, and again.
Music played a very vital role in all Rajshri Productions yet, surprisingly, they never went after big named, established composers. When Rajshri Productions founder, Tarachand Barjatya, made his first film, Aarti in 1962, he assigned music composing to Roshan. But, thereafter, the production house signed budding composer duo, Laxmikant Pyarelal, for their next five films. Starting with Dosti, the music for all five films, Taqdeer, Jeevan Mrityu, Piya Ka Ghar and Uphaar, was hit, whatever the fate of the films.
The Rajshris continued to work with new or lesser known composers and, for Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! they repeated Raalaxman, who gave the hit music for director Sooraj Barjatya’s debut directorial venture, Maine Pyar Kiya (1989). Now, that was a gutsy move since, till then, Raamlaxman were known for composing music for mainly Marathi films! The result, the film boasted of a variety of songs, from melody to fun to the foot tapping kind. No song drove a viewer to a loo break (as was the norm in those days with boring songs).
Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! was way different from the kind of films being made around the time. During its 210-minute duration and 14 songs, most of the film was about a family gathered to prepare and celebrate a forthcoming wedding in the family. Mostly, the screen was kept full of characters generally having fun, singing and dancing. The story comes with a twist in the proceedings only much later. But, what still made the film tick was its very Indian-ness, the values, traditions and spirit of sacrifice for the family; feelings lying deep down in all Indians, still.
Rajshri Productions, which also had its in-house distribution network, Rajshri Pictures Private Limited, always experimented with their release strategy. Though a high-end production, Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! was given a limited screen with just a single screen to start with. As the film kept on generating more footfalls, the screens were increased. The film went onto celebrate 25 to 100 week run in almost all major cities.
At about Rs31 crore real time box office collection figures, it was the biggest hit of its time (not adjusted for inflation etc. since the take home of that time is what matters). And, that was the era of lakh and, only a few films, if at all, crossed the Rs1crore mark!
What is more, it inspired many big production houses to take to similar film themes appealing to universal audiences, as in family included. No action, no negative characters as in villains.
l Vinod Mirani is a veteran film writer and box office analyst
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