#ThrowbackThursday: Hum Aapke Hain Koun’s Wife Replacement Program And Definition Of Ideal Bahu Made Me Retch
Hum Aapke Hain Koun was the first movie I watched in the theatre. Okay, not so much as watched as slept through. I was three and the movie felt as long as the amount of time I lived on earth. Having said that, these family entertainers were all we had while growing up. The shelf life of our interest in a single movie back then was longer because options were fewer and you just had to learn to love your cable operator’s fav films.
As I grew up, I found the whole wife exchange program a bit off in the film but I was too young to understand the existence of misogyny. I just thought it was stupidity. But then I grew some brains and I just found the glorified clichés rather cringeworthy. Hum Aapke Hain Koun promotes a twisted sense of sexism-laced sanskaars while distracting you with power-packed performances, comedy, style, and an adorable fluffball.
Right at the start of the film, you notice how the film makes a clear distinction between men and women, and it kinda continues throughout those precious hours of your life. In the opening scene, Prem (Salman Khan) and Lallu Prasad (Laxmikant Berde) are playing cricket, wearing a cap with “boy” written on it. When Rita (Sahila Chadha) says she wants to do batting too and not just sit on the bench fielding, the boys’ club bullies her out of it.
You move deeper into the film and it clearly states what kind of a woman is eligible to marry into their very sanskaari family. No, she cannot have “naye khayalaat” and should be someone who takes care of their house with “sneh” and “mamta”. I mean mamta or maternal instincts are for our children, not for every manchild in the house. Can we stop expecting women to nod their way into marriage and then proceed to become nurturers?
Rajesh (Mohnish Bahl) and Prem are into business, and Pooja (Renuka Shahane) the rishta they got for Rajesh is BA pass with Ph.D. in “meetha swabhav”. They have their meet-cute where they realise they both are soft-spoken and sanskaari and nothing else matters. The families get them engaged after the first meeting and start preparing for their wedding. Meanwhile, Prem is smitten by Pooja’s sister Nisha (Madhuri Dixit Nene), who is vivacious and chirpy, just like Prem if he subdued his obnoxious enthusiasm a bit.
The wedding turns out to be a roller coaster of emotions, filled with fun and mischievous flirting between Prem and Nisha, where he ends up really falling for her. With a chaste, goddess-like Pooja in the house, you begin to see slight changes in the misogynistic attitudes of the men. For instance, they let a woman play cricket after dissing Rita all this while. But don’t get too comfortable with it, for misogyny is more inherent than anything ever.
In Dhiktana (which btw, was Barjatya’s fav number and was going to be the title of the movie) they sum up how Pooja is such a nice woman because she keeps cooking and cleaning all the time. The lyrics praise her for waking up with the sunrise and doing household duties until sunset. No wonder, Prem never saw Rita as a potential partner she didn’t know to cook, neither was she filled with the so-called “mamta”.
Pooja delivers a baby, Prem and Nisha are bonding and Pooja finds out. She promises to get them married and gives her a necklace. But soon after, she falls down the stairs and dies, survived by a husband with no paternal instincts and a motherless child. So what do they do? Ship Nisha and Rajesh together because the baby needs a mother. It’s not like there are several women in the world who could marry him. It’s not like he was her “brother” in law. It’s not like his wife had died just a while ago. It’s not like Nisha deserves a chance at love.
For the sake of mamta, women are sold and bought like cattle. Oh, we lost one cow, let’s get another. Did anyone tell them women are meant for much more than this? Even Nisha and Prem are willing to let this fuckery happen but thankfully the umpire of the fam, Tuffy sees how stupid everyone is and fixes things. Nisha could still have helped raise the baby without having to marry Rajesh. It’s kinda gross! Wow, what can you say when a dog has more sense than the entire family combined?
Honestly, I kinda liked Prem and Nisha’s chemistry. Nisha wasn’t the typical, voiceless, opinion-less woman everyone wanted as bahu. Her flirting game was strong and she knew how to keep Prem on his toes. Plus, I kinda love the song Yeh Mausam Ka Jadu Hai Mitwa and her pretty red dress in it. Also, Pehla Pehla Pyaar Hai and her pastel pink silk gown in that. I love how picturesque each scene is and how stylish Madhuri is in this film. Those vintage, high waist light blue jeans, colourful jackets and the body-flattering fit and flare gowns, as well as her collection of sarees and lehengas, make me wanna watch the film. Only if the plot wasn’t so cringe-worthy. To tell you the truth, whenever I watch it, I do only till the scene where Pooja trips and passes away.
ALSO READ: Throwback Thursday: Karisma Kapoor’s Zubeidaa Is A Thought-Provoking Tale Of A Woman In Her Pursuit Of Freedom And Love
If you must know, Hum Aapke Hain Koun is an adaptation of Nadiya Ke Paar (1982) by Rajshri as well. Sooraj Barjatya’s father advised him to make an adaptation of that movie. And as misogynistic as the plot is, Madhuri actually got paid more than Salman for this film, which seems like a dream for those fighting against the gender pay gap. While it was rejected by Aamir Khan and several critics predicted it to be a flop, it turned out to be a huge success. I agree, it entertained but at what cost?