Review: Raja Hindustani (1996)

Aamir Khan and Karisma Kapoor are paired in this romantic drama which surprisingly became a critical and commercial hit.

Inspired form the 1965 Bollywood film Jab Jab Phool Khile, Raja Hindustani is a love story dominated by class conflict. It is based on the daughter of a wealthy businessman named Aarti (Karisma Kapoor), who visits the Indian town of Palankhet in order to trace her dead mother’s memories. It is in Palankhet where she encounters Raja (Aamir Khan), a poor taxi driver who is working to make ends meet. Raja takes a huge liking to Aarti and she reciprocates soon after. Yet Aarti’s father Mr. Sehgal (Suresh Oberoi) does not approve of her relationship with Raja, given his poor status. Thus, Aarti marries Raja without her father or stepmother Shalini’s (Archana Puran Singh) blessings. However, it is when their relationship is finally accepted by Aarti’s father that the real drama unfolds, which makes you question if Raja and Aarti will stay together or drift apart.

Raja Hindustani may be considered by a number of people to be a typical boy-meets-girl love story with no uniqueness about it. However, the drama which unfolds in this film gives it that extra substance that will have a profound impact on you. It is the first Bollywood film to have an intense kissing scene between the leading actors and did stir-up controversy at the time. Yet in today’s Bollywood, kissing is considered to be mandatory and is no longer taboo.

Both Aamir Khan and Karisma Kapoor deliver amazing and realistic performances, especially the latter who handles the dramatic scenes superbly. Dharmesh Dharshan has directed this film efficiently by ensuring that each scene had a specific richness about it. In addition, he deserves praise for managing to brilliantly exemplify class divisions in this film. The soundtrack by renowned music composers Nadeem-Shravan was also phenomenal. Songs such as ‘Pardesi, Pardesi Jaana Nahin,’ ‘Aaye Ho Meri Zindagi’ and ‘Kitna Pyaara Tujhe’ were immensely popular with the Indian audience at the time, as well as with the diaspora. Both the film and its soundtrack is now considered to be an institutional classic and to some extent has been branded as ‘cheesy Bollywood.’

On the whole, Raja Hindustani is without doubt a must watch for any Bollywood lover. This film not only helped to consolidate the careers of Khan and Kapoor, but also showed us a warm story of how love can happen between any two people, regardless of any specific differences.

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