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5 reasons why Raja Hindustani is not the blockbuster you remember

The Aamir Khan-Karisma Kapoor starrer won five Filmfare Awards including Best Film, but time has not been kind to the Dharmesh Darshan film. On its 20th anniversary, we examine why the film has lost its lustre.

Sonal Pandya

Nanda and Shashi Kapoor in Jab Jab Phool Khile / Karisma Kapoor and Aamir Khan in Raja Hindustani

 1. The hit film was a copy of another blockbuster Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965).

Starring Shashi Kapoor and Nanda, Suraj Prakash’s Jab Jab Phool Khile was the story of a rich girl Rita who falls for a boatman Raja while on holiday in Kashmir. When Rita’s father objects to their union, saying it won’t be a marriage of equals, the two persist and try to make it work.

Rehashing a 1960s film worked for Dharmesh Darshan in the 1990s as his remake, 31 years later, was pretty much followed the same template. They even retained the same character name for Khan. Khan’s Raja Hindustani is a tourist taxi driver in Palankhet, northern India who develops feelings for Karisma Kapoor’s Aarti who is visiting the area. Like Jab Jab Phool Khile, Aarti’s father intervenes to keep the two apart. Revisiting the film shows that the story had nothing new to offer its audience.


2. The Aamir Khan-Karisma Kapoor pairing, while unique, didn’t really work with audiences.

The two acted together in the cult classic Andaz Apna Apna (1994) before being paired together in Raja Hindustani. The one-of-a-kind pairing definitely contributed to the success of the film, but the two never worked together in any film afterwards. Much of this can be attributed to Khan’s choice of films. After 1996, Khan started his rule of appearing in only one or two films a year. That left little option for the co-stars who wanted to work with him, including Kapoor.

Raja Hindustani, is, however, remembered for Kapoor’s stunning makeover by Manish Malhotra. Malhotra was responsible for giving new life to Urmila Matondkar’s career in Rangeela (1995) and he did the same for Kapoor with her sleek and stylish new avatar. He dressed her elegant saris and colourful kurtis, but her previously unruly curls were covered up with an obvious wig showing shiny, straight hair. The film was instrumental in turning her in one of the sought after actresses of the time.  

3. The much-touted kiss between Aamir and Karisma is quite awkward.

Supposedly, the longest onscreen kiss (at around a minute) in Hindi cinema at the time, the scene faced no objection from the censors who gave the film a ‘U’ certificate. The kiss, and the actors, Khan and Kapoor, attracted a lot of attention at the time but since then, it rates at the lower end of the scale when thinking back of the great romantic moments onscreen. The chemistry between the two wasn’t that evident and at the end of the kiss, Kapoor as Aarti runs away horrified from the encounter. That’s one way to keep it memorable!

4. Nadeem-Shravan’s chart-busting music sounds dated.

Music composers Nadeem-Shravan burst onto the Hindi film scene in 1990 with Aashiqui and reigned much throughout the 1990s with their tunes. Their compositions for Raja Hindustani from the melodramatic ‘Pardesi Pardesi’ to the romantic number ‘Poocho Zara Poocho’ were hits that year. But compare the same to Jatin-Lalit’s score for Khamoshi: The Musical and those number still  are easy on the ears. The music and its picturisation from Raja Hindustani are very much the product of the times and what worked then. But looking back, Khan seems very much out of place in certain song sequences. Hardly anyone recalls that the most popular song off the soundtrack, 'Pardesi Pardesi' was also picturised on Pratibha Sinha and Kalpana Iyer.

5. The film won five Filmfare awards including Best Picture beating out Bandit Queen, Maachis and Khamoshi.

Raja Hindustani had slim competition in terms of the films released that same year. There were also duds like English Babu Desi Mem (Shah Rukh Khan and Sonali Bendre) and Prem Granth (Rishi Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit) that got released. Deepa Mehta’s Fire, Gulzar’s Maachis and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s debut film Khamoshi: The Musical all released to compete against Darshan’s film. Even Shekhar Kapur’s critically-acclaimed Bandit Queen finally made its way to the Indian audience after much controversy for its subject matter and censor issues.

Kapur won the best director trophy, while Khamoshi picked up the Critics’ award for Best Film. But the chatter that night was all around Khan winning his first Best Actor trophy after seven nominations. The actor has stayed away from awards shows since 1995 when he famously lost out at the Filmfare Awards to Shah Rukh Khan for Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Khan was nominated for his performance in Ram Gopal Varma’s Rangeela. In 1996, no film of Shah Rukh Khan was nominated.

After that, he won the Filmfare Best Actor award for Lagaan (2001) and the Critics’ award for Rang De Basanti (2006), but he was a no-show at the ceremonies.