Akele Hum Akele Tum (1995): A well-crafted narrative

The answer to this question may surprise you. From the Nasir Hussain-Mansoor Khan think tank is a well-written and splendidly executed Akele Hum Akele Tum (I am lonely, so are you). Two factors contribute most to its effectiveness. The first is the narrative, which affords the cast several opportunities to succeed at some obviously difficult (from an acting standpoint) moments:

  1. The initial state of equilibrium is achieved when an aspiring playback singer Rohit Kumar (Aamir Khan) meets Kiran (Manisha Koirala), a student of classical music. They face and overcome parental opposition to marry.

  2. The disruption of equilibrium is achieved in good time. Rohit is selfish and unwilling to afford his wife the freedom to pursue her career ambitions. She leaves him and their son Sonu (Master Adil), and succeeds in her quest for stardom. Meanwhile, Rohit's unwillingness to compromise artistic quality for popularity results in his downfall. He returns to singing at a restaurant to make ends meet. Through this process, he transforms to a loving and caring father. Kiran, on the other hand, is possessive and lures their son through her wealth and status.

  3. There might not be a restoration of the equilibrium, but attempts at that restoration are presented through a legal dispute between Kiran and Rohit, involving the custody of their child. Will the court side with the transformed Rohit, or will the powerful and resourceful Kiran have her way? And will Sonu's wishes matter?

The second big strength is clearly the presence of Aamir Khan, in what I think is easily among his best performances of all time. The disruption of equilibrium mentioned above is almost always accompanied by a character transformation of some sort. For Rohit to undergo that transformation in the film is one thing, and for the audience to feel him undergo it quite another. Watch him as he goes from joyful, single, and loving to an aggressive and unaccommodating (almost abusive) husband, and a father who cares for little else but his son. Then there is a scene involving confrontation with a music director, in which he is superb. It is the relentless injection of emotion in each stage that is easy to relate to, and it works.

The narrative is hardly restricted to Rohit, though. We see the events unfold from around the space occupied by Kiran and Sonu as well (although there are very few visuals that create a sense of character possession, as with Ishaan Awasthi in Taare Zameen Par (2007), for instance). Consequently, while there is no mystery, a fairly strong element of suspense is retained through the second half, and especially through fantastic courtroom sequences leading to the climax.

The pace of the film complements these factors. The initial love story and its tribulations last for not more than 30 minutes at most, which is enough for us to see the fantastic chemistry Aamir and Manisha share. She has a role atypical of women in Hindi film in the 1990s. She's bold, confident, and not afraid to go against the norm. The question is, at what price?

The focus almost immediately shifts to a turbulent marriage, an empowered woman who is justified in only seeking her right, a careless mother, and a father who struggles to raise his child on his own. I am no psychology expert, but the parent-child relationships portrayed are easy to relate to and only add more realism (hence emotion) within the scope of the film. I wonder why we didn't see much of child artist Adil, he is excellent here.

A discussion on Akele Hum would be incomplete without mention of its supporting cast, who are brilliant, save for Kiran's friend Sunita (Navneet Nishant; remember her from the TV show circuit?). Paresh Rawal and Mushtaq Khan are fantastic as the lawyers for the prosecution and defense respectively. So is Neeraj Vora as Moolchand the grocer. There is Farida (Tanvi Azmi, sister-in-law of Shabana Azmi), a neighbor of the Kumars, friend to Kiran, and a confidant of Rohit. If I were to change one thing in the film, the outcome of this discussion would be it.

Kiran's parents Mr. and Mrs. Dayal are Anjan Srivastav and Rohini Hatangadi. One would think lovers of classical music would be more considerate, but NO.

We do remember Deven Verma from Andaz Apna Apna (1994)!

Rakesh Roshan in a guest appearance. Given the framework to this film involved the film industry and music, there's naturally room for related commentary. It's not exploited much, though, because that would have taken the focus away from the central theme. Besides, there's Rangeela (1995) from the same year for that. :)

A big part of the struggle the parents face has to do with (surprise, surprise) ego. Lessons learned include the fundamental requirement of discussing roles before tying the knot. This exchange in particular had me thinking of the great Amitabh Bachchan's entry to film, not the great Abhimaan (1973). (It's also what you do once you get the opportunity, Rohit!)

This angle is a complement to narrative, because the couple's decision to wed was always impulsive. There's also a scene which you must discover on your own, in which the poet in Rohit reminds of another favorite, Guru Dutt in Pyaasa (1957).

The music (Anu Malik) is fairly good. The background score is powerful, and the songs work more on the strength of the accompanying lyrics (Majrooh Sultanpuri), which make the pehli mulaaqaat (first meeting) song what it is in Aisa Zakhm Diya Hai ((The heart's) Been injured such), sung by the voice of Aamir, Udit Narayan. The interludes could surely have been better, but it's good nevertheless.

There's a fantastic (and gut-wrenching) tribute picturized on Aamir to the classic song Chalte Chalte...Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna from Chalte Chalte (1976), also by Udit Narayan. Narayan and his son Aditya team for a heartwarming title song. Dil Kehta Hai (The Heart says) by Kumar Sanu and Alka Yagnik is another beautiful tune.

By far the most popular (and rightfully so) is the beautifully worded Raja Ko Rani Se Pyaar Ho Gaya (The King Fell in Love with the Queen), by Narayan and Alka Yagnik. Here is its introduction (Manisha gets a lot better and fast, trust me), and here it is in its entirety (there's also a version by Yagnik and Sanu):

I'd definitely recommend Akele Hum Akele Tum if you're up for real cinema that addresses relationships at multiple levels and from multiple angles. Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay to it is a confession that I found it more testing (read: tear-inducing) to sit through than Taare Zameen Par. If you liked TZP, check this out, and compare teacher and student there to father and son here. Four stars for a job well done -- it's manipulative, emotional cinema at its core, and deserves to be appreciated for the many tangible issues it addresses without ever getting preachy.

Movie rating: 4/5 (Excellent!)
I am aware it is partly adapted from an English film, which is why this must stop at 4. It's all effectively done, and the product speaks for itself.

Music rating: 3.5/5 (Good!)
It's Anu Malik, and of course there's a 'remake' somewhere in his soundtrack. Haven't included the track above, but it's adapted from a really good Christmas classic, and carries a similar theme (but not over Christmas). And please don't ask me how I know this ;)

My classification: PG

And finally...
Look no further to appreciate commitment to art and diversity. Aamir's other 1995 projects: 1) Baazi; 2) Aatank Hi Aatank (a Godfather remake); and 3) Rangeela.


Darshit said...

Bringing back my childhood memories, one by one. tBF. Thanx.
This is one of few movies, where Aamir is a Family Guy. And I love this for that fact. The dad-son song, I love that one. Also sung by dad-son behind camera !!

Yes, this movie was based loosely on an English movie and as you said, Abhimaan. So much of negative publicity was around at that time about this, and that made this movie fail at box office. But still it is remembered for music.

And Aisa zakham diya hai ...!! Wah wah...crazy song for Aamirians !!

Anonymous said...

I will see this! It sounds great. As you write, "Look no further to appreciate commitment to art and diversity." Hats off to Aamir for this effort. Thanks theBollywoodFan!
All the best!

Anonymous said...

Its adapted from Kramer vs Kramer which i haven't seen, but i did enjoy Akele hum akele Tum, however it falls into the category of movies i'd watch once but not again, although i'll listen to 'Raja ko rani se' over and over again, such a beautiful song.

theBollywoodFan said...

Darshit: It's definitely not one of the easier roles to play -- the transformation phase was remarkable, so full of contradictory forces influencing the husband and father. Remember we were discussing the scene in Rang De Basanti in which he broke down? I think he did better here.

I'd moved away from India by the time this released, and never understood the negative publicity. You're right about the music, though. Aisa Zakhm is a fun song. I have this theory that the Kolkata Knight Riders have adapted their team colors from its cheerleaders' outfits! <|:o)

Adab Sita-ji: I think you'll enjoy it. He's gotten into this mode now for quite a while, of averaging less than one film a year for almost a decade, which I have mixed feelings for, obviously. Much of it is for personal reasons, so it's acceptable :)

Anonymous: It's certainly not the easiest to see more than once. I haven't seen Kramer v Kramer either. And ditto to the Raja Ko Rani Se comment!

Thank you all for stopping by.

Bhargav Saikia said...

I loved this movie when I watched it as a kid. lol. Manisha Koirala was my favourite actress then, I didn't miss a single Koirala movie back then. It's sad to see her ruined career now :( I hope she makes a strong comeback sometime soon.

Last Christmas (Dil Mera Churaya Kyon)! Anu Malik ki jai ho!!!

ajnabi said...

I think I'd really like to see this one. I read its synopsis on BollyWHAT ages ago, but didn't know the cast at the time. It'd be worth a viewing for sure.

theBollywoodFan said...

Bhargav: This is true. I'd turned 13 when this film released, and remember thinking at the time that there were many lessons to derive from it, and for its applicability, I loved it. (This is probably stating the obvious, but I have always had a strong liking of films with social relevance, even for a commercial film as this...but that's a subject for later, LOL.)

As for Manisha Koirala, I really liked her in Khamoshi and Mann as well. She was a 1990s favorite, alongside Raveena Tandon, Juhi, and Madhuri (and the list goes on)! She hasn't done much since Company (in which she was awesome too). And I must say, I have a renewed sense of appreciation for Anu Malik now that Pritam puts him to shame =)

Ajnabi: I hope you do check it out. The theme is universal, and the performances are great, and for them alone it's worth watching. Not sure if you read all of the synopsis at BollyWHAT, I just realized it gives away the end!

bollyviewer said...

As a re-working of Kramer vs Kramer, I felt this one fell too far short. Aamir didnt have Hoffmann's gravitas, then, and Manisha never had the same acting chops as Meryl Streep. Plus, I was fed-up of abusive husbands that one is supposed to sympathise with just because they embrace the pig-headed variety of idealism (the - people will say that I've succeeded... screencap illustrates it pretty well). So, though I tried, I couldnt feel for Aamir's character or sympathise with Manisha's, and the film just failed to engage. Perhaps I should re-visit though, just for the sake of seeing the once cute Aamir again, if nothing else!

Anonymous said...

Bollywood fan ji

Pls do see the original Kramer vs Kramer - a beautiful movie. Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep were superb and so was the kid who acted as their son.

After seeing the original, you will realise how pale the desi version is. I have seen both ie the original first and then the desi version on the big screen when it released yrs ago

theBollywoodFan said...

Bollyviewer: As someone who hasn't seen Kramer vs Kramer, I thought Akele Hum was rather good as a standalone product of film. Besides, and playing devil's advocate for a moment, I'm not sure a comparison with its Hollywood counterpart is entirely warranted. They cater to remarkably different markets (the gap was only wider all those years ago), and everything (the casting, acting, dialogue, music) was geared to a very different audience (maybe like me; the ratio of Hindi:English films I consume is about 25:1!). It worked well for me, honestly...so very full of emotion! :')

Oh, I agree about the abusive husband and the 'pig-headed variety of idealism' bit. It was intelligent on the part of the filmmakers to toy around with sympathy and hatred for the same character in such quick time. To me, that particular scene only confirmed how Aamir's character had evolved in some respects and not so much in others, which is why he continued to suffer professionally (and financially). I also enjoyed that the focus was to hammer away at that the couple seldom communicated rationally (which was why their relationship suffered), and I think Aamir and Manisha pulled off that bit rather well. It only added to the narrative.

Again, I'm not saying one isn't better than the other, all I'm saying is, maybe that was never the goal for the remake to begin with (the merits, or lack thereof, is another discussion)! And Hoffman in the late 1970s was, of course, twice as experienced as Aamir in 1995, so one would hope he were great. I like your use of 'then' ;)

Anonymous-ji: Thank you for stopping by! I think it's really cool that you saw both on the big screen! Since I deliberately restrict myself to mostly Hindi films, I'll have to try to make it to Kramer vs Kramer, you all have me curious. Please also see comment to Bollyviewer above :)


Darshit said...

One thing I forgot to mention. Tanvi Aazmi was so adorable as 'Farida'. I liked her character and her act very much.

theBollywoodFan said...

Tanvi Azmi was really good in this, yes. Especially in the climax. In some ways, she even reminded me of a favorite filmy mom in Reema Lagoo. She did Mela and a film titled 'Raja Ko Rani Se Pyaar Ho Gaya', but I don't recall her in more solid roles (e.g. her filmography includes Kisna, but I don't remember her in it!). Do you know if she is doing more TV work?

Pitu said...

Love love love this film! Aamir-Manisha were awesome! I especially love Manisha's scene where she says that dialog about 'ye ghar ki chaaviyan hain' etc. So understated yet gut-wrenching. And I love the 'Raja ko Rani song' :-D

TBF: Tanvi was also in Darr as Anupam's wife and Juhi's bhabhi. I actually bumped into her once at Bandra Reclamation :-D She is the daughter of a fabulous Marathi actress called Usha Kiran, whose most notable performance was as the mom in the Balraj Sahni film 'Kabuliwala'.

Anonymous said...

Yeh Ghar ki chaaviyan hain - scene - see the original movie when Meryl Streep says that to Dustin Hoffman in K vs K !

Darshit said...

Reema is not working much these days. Yes she was fav filmi maa. Because of Rajshri, na?
She is doing only one series. 'main kab saas banoongi' a sequel to 'tu tu main main'.
Another movie i recommend of Tanvi, is 'DUSHMAN' starring Kajol. She was fab in it.
Last nite i watched A.H.A.T. by chance(it feels gr8 when suddenly you find movies playing on TV which you want to see. More fun then putting in DVD :-) ]
And enjoyed it more after ur review.

Anonymous said...

I agree with an above comment that it's hard to watch more than once. I wasn't a very big fan of the movie, but I loved (and still do love) the songs... especially Aisa Zakhm.

Related to Aamir... have you seen Dil Chahta Hai (one of my favorite movies of all time) or Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar yet? I'm a huge Aamir fan too, and loved both of those.

Oh, and also (unrelated), link swap maybe? My blog/journal doesn't compare to yours, but it is out there...

theBollywoodFan said...

Pitu: I so agree! Manisha at the outset was about all right, she really got going after the initial romance. I really enjoyed it all. And I obviously need to see Darr again! N-n-n-n-n-no? Thanks for that info on Tanvi and her mom, Kabuliwala sounds like something I should definitely see!

Anonymous: I hear you! I don't think that takes anything away from a couple of fine performances here, though.

Darshit: Reema for Rajshri, absolutely! Tanvi and Kajol in the same movie?! And what a coincidence with AHAT! Glad you enjoyed it!

bwood-fan: I enjoyed the film a lot more than the songs (except for Raja Ko Rani Se, and Aisa Zakhm, agreed). Oh, I absolutely love Jo Jeeta and Dil Chahta Hai -- I've lost count of how many times I've seen the former, which I saw first at a theater in Bombay! :)


pitu said...

Y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-es ;-)

BB said...

This one's been on my list for a while, so I'm glad it gets good reviews! Can't wait to watch it.

theBollywoodFan said...

Pitu: Got it! I do remember when I first saw Darr way back when, part of me was hoping SRK would succeed (I was wrong, no one messes with Juhi and gets away with it, LOL). It's like how I feel bad for Tom in Tom and Jerry sometimes. Obviously, I enjoyed that Tom and Jerry wala scene in Don (2006) :)

Nae: I hope you like it. As you can tell from the comments, the positive reaction isn't unanimous, but it worked for several of us, so I'd be curious to know what you think!


Pitu said...

Here's a Darr blooper for you (I have a phenomenal memory for bloopers :_)

1) When Sunny-Juhi get married and are off for their honeymoon, Juhi is wearing a bright orange and hot pink sari.

2) In the boat scene where SRK is terrorizing her, he tells her to wear 'mere maa ki sadi', and he throws the same bright orange-hot pink bundle towards her :-)

Someone at Yash Raj forgot to bring a spare 'maa ke shaadi ka joda' or else didn't realize eagle-eyed Pitu would watch it ;-)

theBollywoodFan said...

That's phenomenal indeed! You're sure you took into account hidden twists, right? Maybe Sunny and SRK were step brothers (and didn't know it, of course), and their maa had silaaoefied two similar sarees! =)

And speaking of Yash uncle, there is this buzz involving Aamir Khan and Preity Zinta. I like the idea of 'two strangers who meet and share deep love in old age too', and they were great in Dil Chahta Hai, but Aamir's conquered the love story genre two decades ago (and could probably sleep walk through this for a box office success), and I've never been much of a Yash fan.

theBollywoodFan said...

All: If this is true, I'm somewhat relieved (see previous comment). :)