Friday, March 11, 2011

Mini Hiatus Review #1: Raja Hindustani

This is a review I wrote ages ago - I'm mainly reposting for the screencaps. I didn't want to leave you completely on your own, even if I can't really post anything new for a couple days.

Just a warning - there are a couple plot spoilers but nothing more than what you would read in a (good) newspaper review.


Raja Hindustani (1996) was a difficult film to wrap my brain around. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I also had some issues with Karishma Kapoor’s character, Aarti, that kept me from enjoying it as much as I would have done otherwise – considering the fantastic score, direction, and megawatt performance by Aamir Khan; the film is titled Raja Hindustani and Raja Hindustani, played by Aamir Khan, is who this film is all about.

We start off in an upper-class home, where Aarti and her father are celebrating their joint birthday. Swiftly follows the crucial information that Aarti’s “mother” is really her STEP-mother and her stepmother is about as sweet and kind as Aruna Irani in
Beta - that is to say, she’s neither.

Aarti decides that for her birthday trip, instead of going to someplace fancy where she would run into
Phir Milenge NRI, she decides to go someplace meaningful – the same small hill station town where her parents met.

Aarti is picked up at the airport by taxi driver RAJA HINDUSTANI, who immediately fell in love (or rather lust) with her.

(Raja’s helper is played by a young and totally adorable Kunal Khemu.)

When Memsaab’s hotel reservations fall through, she is left at the mercy of Raja, who takes her to his auntie and uncle’s house to stay as their guest.

(And that’s Farida Jalal as Raja’s aunty!)

Raja is crushing
hard on Aarti and tries everything to impress her. He attempts English, beats up some guys who are eve-teasing her, and even dresses up in his idea of city clothes in order to get her to take him seriously.

The song that goes with this is really kind of heartbreaking – actually the whole spectacle is heartbreaking, but in a good way. You can laugh at poor Raja’s village ignorance but you feel empathy for him, too – or at least I did. Aarti, on the other hand… does not. In fact, she treats him like a servant. She’s indulgent, to a point, and kind, but she does not see him as an equal or as a romantic partner.

He does a lot of fantasizing; she sees him as a nonentity.

It all changes when the two are caught in a rainstorm one afternoon while sightseeing… they shelter under a tree.

Raja can barely control himself around her…

finally acknowledges that he’s a man and not just hired help…and check out Lolo’s green Kapoor eyes – just like her Uncle Shammi.

And they kiss! They really kiss, too, which was very shocking and unexpected – for me as well as for the characters, who totally freak out.

Coincidentally, Aarti’s father has come to fetch her
that same day and unable to face her feelings, she goes. Naturally, the only taxi driver available to take them to the airport is RAJA.

What follows is the most effective sequence in the film – a song I’ve been listening to on repeat since watching the movie – “Pardesi Pardesi.” (The lyrics translate to something like “Traveler traveler don’t leave.”)

On the way back to the airport, the taxi gets into a traffic jam and Aarti, her father, Raja, and the rest of the comic relief characters stop at a small camp, where some gypsies are playing. Kalpana Iyer and Pratibha Sinha sing and dance the plaintive song.

Raja joins in – and the yearning in his voice and pain in his eyes are too much even for the spoiled and unobservant Aarti. She races over to join him, in open defiance of her father, and the rest of the movie unfolds from here.

Much like in the earlier
Dil, the two young lovers attempt to live in poverty away from the girl’s wealthy father. But while in Dil, not only did Madhuri’s character have, you know, character, Madhuri and Aamir had actual romantic chemistry. Karisma does her usual thing, but she can’t match the intensity in Aamir’s performance – making it seem to me that Raja was head-over-heels for Aarti but Aarti was a flighty, spoiled rich girl who enjoyed the attention but didn’t reciprocate the love.

In many ways, the trials and tribulations the two face through the next two hours or so of the movie demonstrate why one
should not have a love match. Aarti is clearly unsuited to living in even a middle-class home and she doesn’t understand Raja’s pride for what he has earned nor the actual value of a rupee.

She eventually invites Raja back to her father’s house for a big party and doesn’t realize that he’s in over his head.

Raja gets drunk and lets lose a furious tirade/another amazing song and the couple seems finished forever. I won’t give away anything else, except the ending is completely insane in a 1960s masala way. If you’re looking for realism, keep on going looking.

Keeping all of this in mind, the film definitely works as a whole – but only if you understand that Aarti is a flighty and self-centered and Raja is a man carried away by his lust. This isn’t a sweet couple kept apart by parents, even after marriage – like
Dil or Beta - it’s a broken relationship, like Kora Kagaz.

And no mention of
Raja Hindustanti is complete without bringing up the supporting cast.

Johnny Lever was surprisingly tolerable, as the beardless Sikh. Much more entertaining were Aarti’s cross-dressing servants, whom I didn’t recognize. Anyone know who they are?

And Archana Puran Singh, was hilariously campy as Aarti’s stepmother.

Overall, I really did enjoy
Raja Hindustani, just perhaps not quite as a romantic love story…


Lime(tte) said...

"Young" Aamir - love him as much as the "old" one.

Just exaggerating with the adjectives.

never-evil said...

I love the songs from this film. Especially Pardesi Pardesi!

Are you wondering who the lady on the extreme right of your 2nd last pic is? She is Navneet Nishan, who used to play significant roles in hindi serials back in the 90s when I was growing up. She is especially famous for her character Tara (

Not sure who the guy in the white in that picture is, sorry.

nayika said...

The one in white is Veeru Krishnan, my favourite role of his is a small but hilarious role he has in Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke

rugged said...

Great Review, the Lady who cross dresses is Navneet Nishan, she is known to India via her famous 90s show on Zee TV Tara,where she plays the title character
She is also seen in My Name is Khan as Kajol's colleague from the Salon
peace out

luscious-words said...

Good review of this movie. I think you caught the not-so-subtle undertones of Aarti's character.

~ Layla

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