Raja Hindustani

*** contains some spoilers

It all started with a kiss. Well, at least that's what lead me to this '96 film by Dharmesh Darshan starring Karishma Kapoor and Aamir Khan. Raja Hindustani, Darshan's only real feather al a cap, definitly has it's moments, least of all that infamous scene in the rain under the tree, both good and bad. Overall, I enjoyed the film, at least enough to keep clicking "next" on youtube.

The film starts out with Aarti and her father celebrating their birthdays in upper class style and, right off the hop you sense that Aarti's "maa" doesn't necessarily possess fuzzy warm matronly feelings for the girl, but that could be because she is, indeed, the evil stepmother whose intentions become clear very early into the film. Oh well, that's okay because she is the apple of her father's eye and when she asks to go to Palankhet, the place where her parents met, he abides without blinking an eye. It is here where she meets Raja, the under-educated, unsophisticated, short tempered cab driver who is smitten for Aarti the very instant he sets eyes on her. Raja does his best to woo the upper class ladki, but unfortunately she can't see past the confines of friendship, even when Raja attempts to class it up in an attempt to show her just how urban he can be by donning some very, shall we say, colorful clothing. It's quite heartbreaking really, Aarti's reaction, when you know that Raja just wants to desparately to show her that he can be the man she wants. Even Raja's concern for her safety and reputation garners him nothing but a scolding.

Then, finally, we are rewarded with that kiss. Usually we get the illusion of a kiss. Shadowy, heads tilted at such an angle, camera break away at just the right time, but Darshan lets us in on the couple's first romantic moment with abandon. And what a moment it is! Raja's hesitation, Aarti's complete surrender, it's all just culminates into the perfect few minutes of film. Finallly, Raja seemingly has won the girl, but his hopes are dashed by a serious case of bad timing, when Aarti's dad shows up to take her back home, and, ironically, they need someone to drive them back to the city. Thankfully, the trip to the airport is interrupted by some (un)fortunate traffic, and the group becomes guests at a musical interlude. It is here where Raja's pain and passion come forth so predominately that even Aarti can not keep from throwing herself at him, no consideration to her father's wishes.

What follows is a relationship that is riddled with misunderstandings, scheming, fighting and one helluva crazy finale that had me rolling my eyes back into my head and simultaneously laughing at the audacity of Hindi filmmakers. There are plenty of wtf moments, but through it all I was captivated by the continued deterioration of Raja's ability to use a straight blade. However, that wasn't enough to deter me from the reason I enjoyed this film, which can pretty much be summed up in two words. Aamir Khan.

Even though I would classify this film as a typical boy/girl romance, I think you see the roots of Aamir's dramatic tree in his Raja character. He is so expressive with his eyes, whether he is yearning for the girl or mad with rage. I wanted him to win the girl, even if I thought he could do better, and I felt his pain when he was hurting. A finer actor Aamir couldn't be, and I am constantly surprised by how accomplished he was even in his early films.

Karishma Kapoor, however, is an actor that, although I haven't seen many of her films, I can take or leave. I was extremely grateful that she'd had some eyebrow threading for this film though (because honestly, the girl's had some serious catepillars above her eyes and I'm sometimes shallow that way). As an actress, I think she played Aarti well. She was self-absorbed enough to make us believe she doesn't see Raja's intentions and self-delusional enough to make us think she loves him enough to make it work. What I really liked about her character though was that she wasn't afraid to stand up for herself against her father's wishes. I found that quite refreshing.

A small shout out to the supporting players. Aarti is accompanied to Palankhet with her two gender confused chaperones (played by Navneet Nishan and Veeru Krishnan)who were instrumental in providing some of the comic relief, along with an almost toned down and thus completely bareable Johnny Lever. We even see Johnny, who plays sikh Balvant Singh, in a small side-plot where he pursues a love interest of his very own. Archana Puran Singh was devilishly evil as the wicked step-mother and it was a wonderfully nice surprise to see Farida Jalal, who is perhaps my very favorite filmi character actress!

Though this film did okay business at the box office, I think it was the music that propelled its popularity. Pardesi Pardesi is a beautiful song sung by Sapna Awasthi, Alka Yagnik, and Udit Narayan, and serves as the backdrop of the couple's relationship throughout the film. Kitna Pyaara Tuhje is another delightful song that's featured in the film before it gets all heavy handed.

At any rate, I liked this film. It definitly had it's share of surprises. I am certainly enjoying delving into Aamir's older work.

Until next time...

4 Response to "Raja Hindustani"

  1. Lime(tte) says:
    March 29, 2011 at 5:50 AM

    This is also one my recent views, and I think it was good - perhaps because I didn't expect much.
    But despite all the entertainment, I can't understand it won Filmfare Best Film and Best Actress... I mean, it wasn't exactly THAT good.
    "Pardesi" was in my ears a long time after watching... I also knew it before, but I don't know from where.

  2. Shell says:
    March 29, 2011 at 7:41 AM

    I love going into a movie with zero expectations. You are almost always surprised.

    I haven't seen the other films that were nominated beside Raja, so I can't comment on which one I thought should have won, however, Karishma was up against Tabu and THAT I find hard to believe that she took the trophy.

  3. kal ho na ho says:
    April 1, 2011 at 4:09 AM

    one of my childhood's movies..I used to hate Arti's stebmother..

    really really love "aaye ho mere zidagi mein tum bahar banke" it's remind me special moments :(
    GOD! I can remember that smill!!

    sugary movie..thanks for the post :)


  4. Shell says:
    April 5, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    You are welcome! And I agree, she was horrible!

    As always, thanks for stopping by!