1996 / produced by Aly & Bunty Morani / directed by Dharmesh Dharshan / starring Aamir Khan & Karisma Kapoor / music by Nadeem-Shravan / lyrics by Sameer

     It all starts going downhill when Aamir stops shaving. That’s the rule to remember when watching ‘Raja Hindustani,’ the film that swept India’s Filmfare awards in 1996 with Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress. It’s not perfect, especially as the second half caves toward a preposterous ending, but until then it’s a pleasure to watch – and hear.

    Aamir Khan, a rather serious actor for Bollywood, might not put this movie among his best. But ‘Raja Hindustani’ is a great introduction to the range of emotions he plays so well, from dippy to downright cruel. There’s also a surprisingly good performance from the actress who rubs many fans of BollyWHAT the wrong way, Karisma Kapoor. We’re not completely free from the stricken-eyed scenes that mark her more recent roles, but here she has a haughty/flirty presence that can be fun to watch. In fact, this role as the Bombay rich girl who falls for a rural taxi driver helped Kapoor break out of her slapstick comedy rut.

    Despite the awards, ‘Raja Hindustani’ is still pure Bollywood formula – two lovers against a disapproving family. But it’s good formula saved by good music and its two delightful stars. And it has no love triangle, which is refreshing. The movie’s challenge, though, is filling its final hour and a half. The first half ends on an upbeat note that in most films means it’s time to roll the credits. Maybe they should have done so here.

    Kapoor plays a rich girl who decides to take a holiday in the rural town where her parents fell in love. Once they arrive, she and her two gender-confused assistants bump into the good-hearted but short-tempered Raja Hindustani, the taxi driver played by Khan. As Bollywood dictates, Raja immediately falls in love with the Memsahib and spends his time mooning and fighting over her. To his dismay, he also ends up fighting with Memsahib as the movie light-foots its way around the topic of class differences. The makers of the movie also pull punches by making both characters a wee bit dim. Their blossoming love is sweet but shallow, based on Memsahib’s teasing and Raja’s clumsy good intentions. Raja’s also a charming singer, however, and apparently he can kiss.

    Ah, that kiss. There are none of the usual feints and shadowplay when it comes to getting it on here. The rain-soaked kiss between Raja and Memsahib, gaspingly long by Bollywood terms, certainly helped propel ‘Raja Hindustani’ at the box office and into history. (To those new to Indian movies, though, it’s going to look like a whole lot of nothing. Or nibbling.)

    The rest of the plot is simple: Girl’s family disapproves. Girl’s wicked stepmother schemes to break them up. Misunderstandings, fighting, a big sloppy finish. Be prepared to suspend your disbelief as the movie wears on, much as Raja suspends his shaving routine. By the end, he looks and acts like a caveman, and it’s hard to see why ... oh, never mind. See it for yourself.

    ‘Raja Hindustani’ has a limited number of songs, but they’re great stuff, especially when a heartbroken Raja expresses his love at a gypsy-like gathering. And Johnny Lever, so irritating in many movies as the comic relief, has a very funny appearance as a Sikh, of all things. He also is given a love interest and a bit of serious singing, which seems to be a rare chance for him to be more than a doofus. Overall: If you’re looking for a nice, warm muffin of a movie, something that pleases without giving you gas, you can’t go wrong with this one.

- reviewed by Kaya


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This review was written by Kaya. BollyWHAT? invites you to send your own reviews, along with a brief bio. Check out the reviewer's guide for more info.

Aamir Khan as Raja and Karisma Kapoor as Aarti



"Aaye Ho Meri Zindagi Mein..."



No, that's not the kiss Kaya's talking about.

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