Despite being dismissed as a glossy marriage video masquerading as cinema, India’s favourite family film, Hum Aapke Hain Koun...!, which celebrates 25 years of its release this week, continues to make money. When it was released in August 1994, the Sooraj Barjatya-directed musical, romantic comedy starring Madhuri Dixit and Salman Khan had grossed ₹72.46 crore at the box office, running for nearly two-and-a-half years in some theatres, while celebrating either a golden or silver jubilee in most others.
Adjusted for inflation, today, the family drama would have grossed around ₹973 crore, to emerge as the highest grossing film in the history of Indian cinema, considering that the Hindi version of Baahubali 2: The Conclusion had raked in ₹708.99 crore.
Even now, the film is much loved on television, and has most recently found acceptance on video streaming platforms. Industry experts said Rajshri Productions should be making anywhere between ₹3-5 crore per year from the sale of these various ancillary rights that are not purchased for perpetuity, but renegotiated every few years.
“Hum Aapke Hain Koun...! has been the most successful Hindi movie on Indian television ever with its viewership surpassing the likes of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Sholay and even recent hits like 3 Idiots and PK," said Ruchir Tiwari, business head, Hindi movies cluster, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. The Zee network owns satellite rights to the film.
“Airing consistently for 25 years, it has managed to grasp the attention and interest of the viewers every time due to its strong storyline, simple plot and relatable characters that resonate highly with audiences across age groups. It is a movie about family, sacrifice, duty and, most of all, love—all the elements that make for perfect family viewing," Tiwari added.
The other big platform where it has been a clear winner is the mobile ringtone and caller tune segment, especially in the Hindi heartland, where the melodies of the 1990s still reign. “Broadly about 40% of our consumption is in Hindi, around 7-8% of which comes from 90s’ music," said Sameer Batra, chief executive officer, content and apps, Bharti Airtel Ltd, which owns music streaming app Wynk. While the north and west are obvious markets for this genre, the east and south, including Bihar, West Bengal, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, are surprisingly big on the 1990s’ music too, he added.
As far as hello tunes go, a double-digit user percentage goes for the music of the 1990s across big and small towns. Top 1990s albums include hits such as Hum Aapke Hain Koun...!, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, Saajan, 1942: A Love Story, Dil Se.., Dil Toh Pagal Hai and Mohra, while Udit Narayan, Alka Yagnik and Kumar Sanu are the top artistes.
“As an album, Hum Aapke Hai Koun...! continues to have about 25,000-30,000 daily users and the top four songs are Pehla Pehla Pyaar, Mujhse Juda Hokar, the title track and Didi Tera Dewar Deewana," Batra added. “For the 35-40 age group that was young in the 1990s, these hold a lot of nostalgic appeal."
Released on 5 August 1994, the film, which was indeed a remake of Rajshri’s own 1982 production Nadiya Ke Paar, ranks No.1 in the list of all-time Hindi blockbusters. It was essentially a love story centered on strong family ethics. The Barjatyas had taken it slow, releasing in only 26 cinemas across the country to begin with. By the 21st week, however, it was being screened across 522 cinemas, only to peak with 730 screens by the 25th week.
“We were very confident of the project and had gone for very limited release," said Ramanathan P.S., head of sales, Rajshri Productions, adding that it was recorded in the optical stereo sound system, which not too many theatres had the infrastructure to play in those days.
Rajshri sold the film only to cinema halls that had the sound system and even went to the extent of installing the system at their own cost in a few theatres, one in Jaipur and the other in Hyderabad.
Initially playing for 3 hours 35 minutes, the makers chopped a couple of the 14 songs to bring the running time to 3 hours 13 minutes.
“The film was going very steady. In the beginning, every show was houseful. But we didn’t want to increase the number of theatres. By the eighth or ninth week, we started giving it to other good theatres. Our condition was that theatre should be well-maintained. And No.2, we wanted the film to have a long run. In Mumbai’s Liberty Cinemas, for example, it ran for two-and-a-half years." Ramanathan recalled.
There were other big challenges, too. In the 1980s, people from respectable families had stopped visiting cinema halls because most were dilapidated and shoddily maintained. The boom in the use of video cassette recorders (VCRs) also let families watch movies from within the comforts of their homes. There was huge entertainment tax levied and theatres were shutting down left, right and centre. “But films like Hum Aapke Hain Koun ...! and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge helped the exhibition business to bounce back. The trend (of going to theatres) started again," Ramanathan said.