Deconstructing A Teenage Favourite

We don’t talk about it enough today, but Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai was a national phenomenon.

It’s not an evergreen movie, in the sense that if you watch it today, it won’t really thrill you to bits. This is true of many movies of the time. I don’t know, for instance, how we consumed Kuch Kuch Hota Hai in such droves and made it such a huge hit.

Kaho Naa… is the archetype of a bad 90s film. A poor guy, a rich and loud girl, and them falling in love. Some baddies from the girl’s camp, and a reincarnation. Picturesque locales and songs.

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But what set it apart from its contemporaries? Was it that the hero was actually good-looking, in a conventional sense of the term? And to add to it, This guy danced well. Like well. Finally, someone had made the Bollywood dance look like an art form, as opposed to what passed off as dance starting from the 80s (the Jeetendra + Jayaprada category of prancings in parks) and degrading through the 90s (the Suneil Shettys and Akshay Kumars in one category and Govinda in another. Then, of course, there were the Raveena Tandons in the rainy sets).

And the guy had acting chops. There can be little debate that Hrithik Roshan changed the game of the hero, right at his debut.

Were the songs such brilliant tunes that show the brain of a musical genius at work? Honestly, no. But then, the most memorable music in our playlists is not as much about the extraordinariness of the tune as much as it is about the memories it evokes. Rajesh Roshan’s music in this film works in pretty much the same way for the KNPH (Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai) fan cohort. I’d classify a few of them as strictly average tunes. But let’s talk about Ek Pal Ka Jeena. There was a big film reveal during the song, and we were seeing Hrithik’s exceptional dance moves for the first time – somehow, the fact that you and the people you saw it with or the people you raved about it with (especially if you are a woman, the girls in your class) were collectively sharing this entire cinematic experience, makes this song what it is today.

Kyun Chalti Hai Pavan has a similar resonance. While I am a Shah Rukh Khan fan today, the Shah Rukh Khan of the late 90s had fans who were girls slightly elder to us. Perhaps our elder sisters, or cousins, or our friends’ sisters. For me (and hopefully there are others like me out there), who was starting to admire SRK but didn’t really have a “perfect hero” to declare our undying fan-love for, Hrithik was a breath of minty fresh air.

Kyun Chalti Hai Pavan is tied to the fact that my friends and I, in our teenage exuberance, started collectively drooling over what was going to be our definition of the “perfect” on-screen man. In this song, which is in the second half of the film, the character that Hrithik plays is suave and well-spoken, in addition to the Greek God looks that were already established throughout the film until that point. And he wears glasses. If that didn’t cement his position as a “thinking woman’s” hero, our teenage selves didn’t know what else would.

We had a lot of expectations from Ameesha Patel after this movie but we all know how that went. Also, I am no longer a Hrithik fan, since I started disliking his acting style after a few movies. But that said, KNPH still changed something. It’s one of those films that succeed because of intangible factors that affect certain other parameters (Magadheera, Baahubali, I am looking at you).

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