Hum Aapke Hain Koun...!: Pluralizing Pleasures of Viewership
One evening in December 1994 I was having dinner with some friends who had come from the USA. We were discussing popular cinema and I asked whether they had seen Hum Aapke Hain Koun...? that was showing at the theatre next door... "Oh, I liked the film", said one of them excitedly, "It's very erotic".
"Really?" I exclaimed, "Why do you say that?"
"I don't know", he said "but there seemed to be all kinds of erotic tension between various dislocated people."
At the turn of 1994, Hum Aapke Hain Koun...! (HAHK) had turned out to be the biggest ever box-office success. With this film, the young Sooraj Barjatya broke his own box office record set by Maine Pyar Kiya (1989). Unlike say, Sholay,the success of HAHK was less obvious. The film has neither plot nor story. Nothing really happens apart from fourteen songs. (The film has been aptly described as fourteen songs and a funeral!) Quite often the script falters and drags. Yet audiences have been returning to see the film more than once, humming the songs and discussing the film ad nauseum. What makes HAHK a runaway hit? It is difficult (if not impossible) to precisely determine what constitutes a hit but work through several transecting possibilities.
For one, the film marks the triumph of an excellent marketing strategy. Not a single (pirated) video copy of the film was available in the market and all the songs that appeared on TV had been specially edited for publicity and did not represent the sequences from the film. So in order to see the visualization of the most popular song of 1994, Didi TeraDevar Deewana (Sister, your brother-in-law is crazy),
* Reader, Department of Video/TV Production, Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.
Social Scientist, Vol.28, Nos. 3-4, March-April 2000