When this movie was released in the 80s, I was 13. I was beginning to watch movies which were not of the cartoon or kiddie film variety. Bollywood was bravely experimenting with romantic movies, with 20-year-old heroes, playing 20-year-old heroes. There was a lot of debate on which was a better movie – ‘Qayamat se Qayamat Tak’ or ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ ? I always aligned with the supporters of the latter. The main reason I guess was that the heroine Suman was my idea of a perfect romantic heroine. She looked sweet, stood her ground (watch her rescue the pigeon in the face of thick opposition) and was decent at repartee. Most of all, unlike Juhi in QSQT, she did not choose to go and cook in a forest to prove her love but sat at home comfortably waiting for the hero to do all the hard work. Salman Khan was also quite sweet in those days. No one knew then that he would grow up to be an irresponsible, steroid - pumped, bare - chested, pedestrian - killing jerk. As for the movie itself…ah those were the days of black and white, rich and poor, good and evil, everyone so loving, so naïve and so simple.
Recently I watched this movie again, and realised that it is not as simple as it was made out to be. Indeed, it is a very powerful lesson on human relationships, social settings, business moves and animal welfare. In case any of you missed this movie, here is my retelling of the tale.
The movie starts off with Suman (Bhagyashree) teaching her father and a bunch of students in her idyllic village. Having passed her school exams with excellent marks, she does not want to be a doctor or an engineer or any other such fancy thing. Instead she chooses to improve her father’s English and cool her heels while her father earns enough money for her dowry. The one thing about Sooraj Barjatya’s movies is that they are social barometers of what is ‘acceptable’ education in an average North Indian family. Years later, Nisha in ‘Hum Apke Hain Kaun’ would be doing ‘computers’. I would not have been surprised if she also went for baking classes in her free time. Still more years later, one of the female leads in that imbecilic marriage fest, ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’, would actually be a doctor ! I jumped with joy - Women in India had finally Arrived !
Coming back to Suman. Daddy dearest (a.k.a Karan) decides to go to Dubai to earn Suman’s dowry, and leaves Suman in the house of his old friends, Kishen and Bhabi. Kishen has made it big in life and is the owner of many factories and a good house. But like all rich men in Hindi movies, he has forgotten his roots and is not too nice to Karan. A fact which naïve Karan luckily does not notice at that point, giving Suman ample time to start off her romance. Enter Manohar, an orphan being brought up by Kishen and Bhabi. One quick look at his average mug, boring personality and poverty and Suman promptly requests him to be her Bhaiya, thus eliminating any ideas Manohar may have had about romancing her. Enter Prem (Salman Khan), the heir of the house, back after getting his degree in the U.S. Suman does not broach the topic of brotherhood, instead promptly proceeds to fall in love. This is achieved by a general combination of
(a) looking vulnerable – weeping gently when her father’s letter arrives
(b) mocking him without making him look like a complete fool
(c) being the damsel in distress – oh man, who can resist falling in love with a girl whom you have snatched from the evil clutches of the villain trying to rape her; and
(d) being bashful – taking 15 minutes and one entire Antakshari sequence to say ‘I love you’. (It is ironical how in Hindi movies heroines take ages to hold hands but three months after the marriage they announce they are pregnant)
Meanwhile, the evil Ranjit is plotting to be…er…. the villain. Till the end, you are not quite sure what his objective is. He is Kishen’s business partner. Kishen and Ranjit are setting up a joint venture. Ranjit, to create sympathy also cleverly pretends to be lame, when he actually is not. In line with her father’s evil plans, his career oriented, educated, productive-citizen-of-the-country daughter, Seema woos Prem. Prem, being an average Hindi hero, is however not going to marry a Class A bitch like Seema. Class A bitch defined by the fact she smokes, wears western clothes, has short hair and works as a manager, thus increasing the likelihood of making him look incompetent in the Boardroom. (I must say one would not judge Prem so harshly if one considered Seema’s terrible perm.) Evil Ranjit’s nephew, Jeevan, is also there – the chappie who tries to rape Suman. Prem does not quite let that incident get in the way of his being civil to Jeevan.
There is one more important character in the proceedings – The Pigeon (Huma Khan). Suman rescues the pigeon from being shot at Seema’s party. The pigeon does not forget this and becomes the couple’s Man Friday – delivering letters, rescuing the couple from the villains when they are hanging from a branch and so on and so forth. All the while with a glint in it’s eye which comes with having been at the brink of death. Maneka Gandhi would have been proud to endorse Sooraj Barjatya movies where an animal always plays a key role in the proceedings.
Suman and Prem realise they are in love and Bhabi endorses the scheme of things. But evil Ranjit brainwashes Kishen into believing that Suman’s intentions are not pure and she is in it for the money. So on Suman’s birthday, Kishen sends Prem off on some work and accuses her of being a gold digger. Ranjit joins this round of accusations. Karan arrives just then and not sensing the mood goes about distributing gifts to all in his naïve manner. When Kishen finally brings his attention to the discussion on hand, Karan erupts angrily and opens his suitcase to reveal bundles upon bundles of hard cash – his earnings from Dubai which he carries about with him for just such a moment. After throwing a few lousy bundles on Kishen as payment for the boarding and lodging provided to Suman, he leaves the house with Suman in tow.
Prem comes back home, learns the truth and sets off to find Suman. And then sings ‘Dil Deewana’ while doing the moonwalking step (Is it a coincidence that right after this Michael Jackson’s popularity reached its peak in India?). Suman joins in by hopping like a rabbit with him. Karan, unable to bear the dance, puts a stop to it by asking Prem to prove his worth by earning money on his own individual merit.
Now some of you may have heard of the fabulous salaries that educated kids with fancy degrees get today. Back in the 80s, well-educated people just did not have those opportunities. If you opted out of campus placements, then it better be because you had Papa warming the MD’s chair for you in the family business. If you decided to part ways with Papa, then the only option left to you was breaking rocks in a quarry. So Prem decides to break rocks in the quarry while enterprisingly moonlighting as a truck driver. Within a month, he earns enough money.
However, realising that things are going nowhere and that the movie has to end, Jeevan decides to kill Prem. Kishen, Bhabi, Manohar and Ranjit also land up since the official bugle to announce the beginning of the climax has been sounded. Prem, after being beaten to pulp by Jeevan, sees that an audience has accumulated and decides to put up another good fight. Notwithstanding the constant interruptions from Suman running hither and thither, he still manages to do a decent job.
Meanwhile, Ranjit reveals to Kishen that he is not lame. Kishen is stunned by the turn of events – How could he have selected so silly a business partner that the only thing he could think of was acting lame? At the very least, he should have carried the JV agreements with him and threatened to kill Prem if Kishen did not give him 100% control of the company. Disgusted, he also joins the fray by beating up Ranjit. Bhabi and Manohar handle the henchmen. Finally Jeevan falls down the quarry, thanks to the Pigeon (I would rather not reveal the exact sequence of events since it is best seen). Ranjit and Seema leave before they can follow Jeevan down the quarry. And end up in the hands of the waiting police (But of course) and are arrested for causing mental trauma – Ranjit for pretending to be lame and Seema for perming her hair.
Kishen sees the error of his ways and decides no more JVs, only sole control. Also, no smart daughter-in-law, only Suman, the diesel mechanic’s daughter. A lesson, which would have been very useful to T.P.G Nambiar, when he chose a smart son-in-law for his daughter who would later fight for the Group’s shares.
Suman gets married to Prem. Manohar Bhaiya settles for the only woman who will marry him – the milkmaid. The Pigeon marries another pigeon. To clarify that our heroic Pigeon is not gay, its mate has a ladylike red ribbon tied to her neck.
All is well that ends well.