“What on earth is that?” I asked, my eyes as round as saucers. “Is that a videotape of Hum?”
I was at the home of an old friend and I might as well have found the Holy Grail. Technically, Hum isn’t the best of anything – not even Amitabh Bachchan’s flameout era, the short period that preceded his equally short retirement after which he came out to unleash horrors like Suryavansham and that weirdo flick with Manisha Koirala (?) on his unsuspecting public before finding his feet in the Noughties.
Co-starring Govinda in his pre-buffoon days and Rajnikanth in one of his last Hindi roles, Hum is like an orphan child. It’s not cool like the 70s flicks, it’s not hilarious like the 80s flicks, it’s not gut wrenchingly awful like the 90s flicks, nor is it interesting like the 00s flicks. It’s just one of those also-rans famous mainly for that song in which Kimi Katkar refused to kiss AB. I mean, there you go: it starred Kimi Katkar. Doesn’t that tell you everything you need to know?
And yet! Here was a zany masala movie that featured prominently in my childhood thanks to my cablewallah – a man, I’ve come to realize, who has affected my taste in cinema more than any other person in the world.
There was Danny Denzongpa as the tortured, once-vicious shipping tycoon who watched his wife and babies roast to death; Anupam Kher as a rather scary villain who Uriah Heeps his way into power; Kader Khan chewing everything in sight per usual; a very thin Shilpa Shirodkar; Deepa Sahi as Rajnikanth’s wife; Kimi Katkar and her fabulously plastic wardrobe; Govinda as romantic hero; and Rajnikanth playing straight man. And of course, AB as Tiger the Dockyard Toughie, who leaves his ladylove behind to give his baby half-brothers a better life.
Hum is one of those movies that you remember as being Story A until you watch it and remember, “Oh yeah! There was also Story B. And C. Damn, I totally forgot about D… What the hell? Where did E come from?”
And as far as I’m concerned, this is the overlooked classic from that movie. Observe:
The Love Revolution: Look! It’s a song in which young love literally snaps its fingers in the face of authority! Her father is even in an army uniform in case you missed the point.
The Glitz, the Glamor: Hey, remember when Hindi films recruited their party extras off the street or the local colleges or whatever? Look at those dumpy, frumpy chicks in their sad I-Can’t-Afford-the-90s outfits. And that’s after they rip their salwar kameezes off. Look at the boys in their Creepy-Ice-Cream-Seller-Will-Molest-You outfits. So fly!
Birds of a Feather: What did the baby ostrich say to Shilpa Shirodkar? “Mommy, you’re home!” Seriously, that is one 80s-fabulous dress – it has net, a feathers motif, gilt, a pouf, detachable bits…and her frilly hat isn’t one of them! She even accessorizes with a giant tika on her forehead. Somebody was cleaning out her closet in preparation for the 90s and I strongly suspect it was Shilpa’s designer.
Manly Men: In the age of Real Men, before Shahrukh Khan turned into a wedding planner for his unibrowed ladylove and bitched about missing his meals for karva chauth, lovers did things like put out fire with their bare hands and use lamps in highly symbolic ways. He might be wearing a pink jacket, but he’s all man. Yeah, baby!
Dance like You Mean it: Give the partygoers something to interpret by simulating sex right there on the dance floor. Once upon a time, Bollywood knew how to work it. Before all those fancy foreigners ruined their innocence.
Candle Light: Wherefore did thou go, candle wavers? I bet “Thama Thama Loge” used up all the candles in Bollytown, thus putting a small army of candle wavers out of business. Greedy pigs. How cruel.
Prior to that happy day when I discovered my old friend’s secret shame in his dusty stack of outdated media, I’d hardly ever given this movie a thought. I don’t even know if this thing is available on DVD but if it is, it’s a perfect bit of rented nostalgia.