My Guilty Pleasure Hum Saath Saath Hain

Her father makes it a point to bring about the fact that although they have lived in the US since Sadhna’s childhood the girl is all-ready to take up the responsibility as the perfect Indian daughter-in-law. Her sanskaars are Indian enough and so are morals.

I have often heard the words “guilty pleasure”. This essentially means, for some deeds that we perform, we are guilty about them, but it gives us some sort of pleasure and so we continue to perform that action. For some people it is some food substance they eat, for some, it is a book they read, and for some like me, it is watching a movie.

The movie which is my guilty pleasure is “Hum Sath Sath Hai”. Well, I mean it is pleasurable for obvious reasons, the classic shy Salman Khan character, which we don’t see in his movies today.

I think the reason why it gives me pleasure is that it is something that has been a part of my childhood. It was a ritual that was to be followed every Sunday, it was Hum Sath Sath Hai day. And I enjoyed it. Those Sundays were like having an ice cream on a cold winter night. Those Sundays were my family’s reset days from all the week’s hustle. And so, keeping the tradition up I still watch Hum Sath Sath Hai every Sunday, even when I am away from home.

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As much as the sun ray this movie is to me, growing up taught me how problematic the movie is. Although that hasn’t deterred me from following my family’s tradition. But I know for a fact that the movie isn’t all rainbow. And that is how it has become a guilty pleasure rather than just a pleasurable movie. The movie came out in 1999, two years before I was even born. For it is my understanding that the movie is as orthodox as it could have been. The movie glorifies the perfect Indian family, or rather, the perfect patriarchal rich high-class joint family. The family is the kind of one that we do not see every day in the house across the street but the one that should be there in the streets of India. Although if you take the rich, high class, and perfect words out, you will find a patriarchal, joint family next door.

The movie is set up in a city near Rampur. I have seen the movie over 100 times and yet I don’t know what city the movie is set in. But I do know that the old haveli is in Rampur and that Raghuveer is the caretaker of it. But if you ask me what city this starry sky-like family lives in, I wouldn’t know. So, the head of the family is Ram Kishan, who though is from a village but knows the computer. And this was the time when computers were just entering the scene of business and our Ram Kishan ji was smart to include them in developing his industries. Again, the nature of the business is unknown, just as we never got to know what kind of doctor Preeti is. Moving on, Ram is married to Mamta. The epitome of a woman, she is the perfect wife, sister, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, and even top-notch stepmother. For the unversed, Mamta is Ram Kishan ji’s second wife and Vivek is the kid of his first wife.

This couple has four kids, in particular order, Vivek, Prem, Sangeeta, and Vinod. The characters of these four are very easy to follow. Just have a look at their names and you will know what their personalities are. So, Sangeeta is married and has one daughter, while the three brothers still haven’t found their right matches. Here is the first problem, how is it that this sister of theirs is married and even has a kid who is no less than 5 to 6 six years of age even though she is the second youngest? The old practise where the girls were to be married as soon as they gain adulthood is showcased here very ambitiously. When Karishma Kapoor’s character, Sapna is introduced, she is still in college and it is only more or less a year after that she is married to Saif Ali Khan’s character Vinod.

The couple is all set to find a perfect wife for their eldest. Enter, Taboo, Sadhna. She is a US return, single daughter of one of the business clients of Ram Kishan Ji. Her father makes it a point to bring about the fact that although they have lived in the US since Sadhna’s childhood the girl is all-ready to take up the responsibility as the perfect Indian daughter-in-law. Her Sanskars are Indian enough and so are morals. The only weakness that this Greek God kind of son, Vivek has is that his right hand doesn’t work. But what better way to judge the character of this potential Bahu than to know her stand on Vivek’s hand disability?

And of course, she passes it. And now this NRI has suddenly become the Badi Bahu, of the perfect household. And so, the search for the other two Bahus begins. And enter Sonali Bendre’s Character, Preeti. She is a doctor; she is assisting a homeopathy doctor but when Sadhna gets pregnant, she is suddenly a gynaecologist. But above all of this, her father is very confident that a doctor is a great daughter but isn’t very sure if she would become a very good housewife. Why does a doctor after years of hard work need to become a housewife after she is married?  If Suraj Barjatya dictates that this confused doctor has to speak in a low voice, has to have a mute character, and leave all that she likes in favour of her long-distance, ignorant, ungrateful, and very unromantic (until his brother instructs him to grow up) future husband, Preeti does it.

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The first half of the movie is very cotton candy-like, it is the second half that brings the hidden Kangana Raut out in Mamta. She is suddenly offended by the fact that her eldest (and step) son is the managing director. The story builds on that it is the three best of friends of Mamta who instigate her against her son, with very little involvement of Sapna’s father’s character. The three butterflies (as they are even called in the movie), are the “bad girls”. They are not married, they have no “womanly” duties to perform, they lounge around, they smoke, they play poker and if you feel it isn’t spicy enough, they flirt. And they talk about how the world is changing and it is better to separate kids after they have been married.

These butterflies are roaming around everywhere and do no business, but rather intrude on the personal lives of not only their friend but even her children. This stereotypical representation of bad girls is enough to call this film misogynistic. As in the beginning, it was screaming to establish the point that a family is perfect only when the women are in the kitchen. For it was Wakeel Sahab’s character who say, “jis ghar me khane ke table pe hassi thitholi hoti ho, jahan ghar ki aurate or betiya hume apne hatho se khana khilaye, vahi ghar, ghar hai.” and this dialogue doesn’t lose its essence even till the end of the film. For even though Sadhna is on her honeymoon (rather a family trip she wanted, for that what good bahus do, keep the family together, literally, even on the honeymoon?). When the three brothers are off for a walk, she and her other two counterparts have to stay and cook, so maybe doctors are eligible for holidays but Bahus or homemakers aren’t?

If I have to summarise the storyline, if you have watched Ramayana, you have watched this too. For all those people who have already watched this movie, they know what I am talking about, and if you never found this chameleon of a storyline you need a better understanding of movies. If you happen to have watched this movie, you could understand better what I mean to say and point out in this article. But if you have not watched it, go watch it and come back and read it. You will fall in love with Taboo’s expressing eyes, Sonali Bendre’s simplicity, Karishma Kapoor’s version of Geet, Mohnish Bahl’s smile, Salman Khan’s  shyness (and pretty much everything), and if you want you can like, tits and bits of Saif Ali Khan’s acting and adore Neelam’s beauty. And then read about the problems the movie not only has but even advertises it. Because what is a perfect family if not patriarchal?

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Drishti Choudhary

Just another reader with a will to write a story not to remember but to live. read more...

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