If there was ever a director after the likes of Prakash Mehra, Ramesh Sippy and Yash Chopra who fully understood Amitabh Bachchan, and his “angry young man” legacy it was none other than the Late Mukul ANand. Anand made a trilogy with Bachchan which started with AGNEEPATH (1990), then came HUM, and finally KHUDA GAWAH (1992). While AGNEEPATH is undeniably the better film, HUM is one that quiet easily remains my personal favourite though I liked the film considerably less on this watch as the flaws are more glaringly evident than ever.
The movie revolves around Bhaktawar (Danny Denzongpa); a criminal mastermind, whose most active territory is the dockyard. He constantly gets irritated by the dockyard's union leader, Tiger (Amitabh Bachchan), and only tolerates him because Tiger's dad (Deepak Shirke) is his trusted and loyal bodyguard. When Tiger’s best friend Goinsalves (Romesh Sharma) is killed by Bhaktawar Tiger leads a revolt against Bhaktawar entering his house with the intent to kill, however a conniving and cunning cop Giridhar (Anupam Kher) tells Tiger to run for his life. Giridhar in the meantime has Bhaktawar arrested, burns his house, murders his wife and daughters and blames Tiger. Tiger runs for his life even abandoning his lady love Jumalina Gonsalves (Kimi Katkar). Years later, Tiger surfaces as a bespectacled mild-mannered man who now goes by the name of Shekhar, with two younger brothers Kumar (Rajnilkanth) and Vijay (Govinda). As fate would have it, the past catches up with Shekhar who is once again reminded of his dark past….and once again he becomes Tiger and returns to the old Mumbai dockyard…once again for his family.
Just the other week when watching TASHAN I described masala cinema as …”the kind of cinema which makes you want to travel to the single screen theatres, whistle, clap, make noise and throw coins at the screen. The kind of cinema which ultimately makes you want to go wild, makes your heart thump in excitement and whether you realise it or not you’re sitting there with a big stupid grin on your face, the “masala” cinema of Bombay which is only seen in brief flickers these days…” and folks, the first 1 hour of HUM is exactly that cinema in it’s truest and bluest form. The story by Ravi Kapoor and Mohan Kaul is superb to say the least. The age old themes of family, love, honour and revenge are repackaged in the most entertaining of masala pot-boilers with HUM. The idea of a man escaping from his dark and tainted past only for it to come back and haunt him is one that has been superbly written.
However the biggest let-down here is Ravi Kapoor and Mohan Kaul’s screenplay. The first hour of the movie is pure masala gold, however from the point we’re introduced to a older and “retired” Tiger the movie stagnates considerably. The scenes of the “loving family” have been well depicted, however there have been too many unnecessary sub-plots added which hinder the films pace considerably. The entire plot-line about duplicate Kader Khan and also Captain Zattack stand out like a sore thumb now more than ever. The pace does pick up again at the moment Deepa Sahi is kidnapped right up to the very end.
As a director Mukul.S.Anand to my mind is one of the biggest losses ever to the Hindi film industry. Much like Santoshi, he was a authentic masala film-maker who understood the legacy of Amitabh Bachchan; the superstar, and Amitabh Bachchan; the actor all too well and managed to merge the two together in to one in the most spell-binding manner across three fantastic (and note diametrically different) films. The best film of the lot will always be AGNEEPATH, however I have a great weakness for the persona of Tiger that Anand creates in HUM. Anand knows all too well the kind of mass hysteria and superstardom associated with Amitabh, and Tiger is a character that in essence symbolises Bachchan’s entire persona, the crowd-pleasing man of the masses, Tiger is a lowly slum dwelling “goonda” with a heart of gold. A “man’s man”….saviour for the poor and a death-wish to the rich. Thing with Anand was that he knew all too well that this persona would only work, but to a certain extent as by 1991 age was slowly catching up to Bachchan, and it was time to add a new facet to the age old Bachchan persona (he couldn’t continue playing the “angry young man” for too much longer), hence showing him as a “angry young man” in the first hour, and then having him re-appear as a mild-mannered and lovable family man is not only a spectacular re-working on the superstars image, but also one that offers the viewer the rare insight as to what would happen IF the “angry young man” ran away from the world and decided to lead a normal life only to have his past catch up with him? And again, in the finale, having Tiger re-enter the docks as his old-self shows Anand’s grasp over the realm of Bachchan’s legacy. The thing with HUM is, unlike AGNEEPATH and KHUDA GAWAH, it’s a less serious film. HUM is a all out, no holds-barred masala entertainer, and while the first hour has enough gritty, raw Bachchan action for those who wanted another AGNEEPATH-esque film, the film however does shift gears in to a more traditional film. The portions in the middle are even forgettable in some cases, whilst the family sequences have been well canned with plenty of heart, the forced comic sequences and extended love story of Govinda seems jarring. The drama however does pick up considerably once Amitabh’s past catches up with him right up to action-packed finale. Anand’s work in both AGNEEPATH and KHUDA GAWAH proves that he was a director of pure class, a cut above the rest with his seamless direction and larger-than-life story-telling. With HUM he gets it right most of the time, though with a tighter screenplay it could’ve been much better. Even technically, the first hour of HUM is simply unbeatable, the entire ambience and atmosphere that Anand creates with the dock setting is so vivid and enticing it’s hard for one to take their eyes of the screen. As a director, on the whole HUM wasn’t Anand’s best film, however on the whole, I would argue that this was quiet easily Anand’s “massiest” film with moments of golden masala. Such was the hype of HUM at the time it came out, whether you were Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Afghani or Iraqi…you knew “Jhumma Chumma De De”!
The background score……the angry roar of a tiger…..the flying kicks and power-house punches….right from his “seeti-taali” entry Bachchan was at his massiest best as Tiger. Infact, I would say that Bachchan in the first hour of HUM is quiet easily one of the best “masala” performances of the 90’s. Everything that made the audience fall in love with Amitabh Bachchan; the legend; in the first place can be seen in that first hour. The anger, the “street” appeal, the “mass” appeal, the rugged charm, the swagger, the delivery, and the fight scenes. The persona of Tiger allowed Bachchan to play to the gallery and he is simply outstanding here. However what I liked about HUM was the re-emergence of Tiger as Shekhar. Bachchan as the mild-mannered family man was equally brilliant here and he perfectly underplays his character. Sequences like when Govinda asks him “bhaiyya aapne kabhi kisi ko laat, ghussa ya punch maara hai” and he has a flashback to his younger self is simply priceless. One of my favourite moments in HUM as far as Bachchan’s acting goes, is actually a much quieter scene. It’s the sequence where someone rings and asks for Tiger years later, and we get a momentary glimpse of a blank-faced Bachchan sitting there as he realises that his worst nightmares are finally coming true…..and that his past has finally come back to haunt him. If ever one facial expression could delivery a 1000 words then this is it! After AGNEEPATH, this to my mind is Bachchan’s finest performance from the 90’s (though I have a great weakness for AKAYLA and INDRAJEET as well, but that’s for another day).
HUM is also a feat because it managed to bring in to one frame three of India’s “massiest” stars, Bachchan, Rajnikanth and Govinda who all shared magnificent chemistry with each other.
Rajnikanth is great here in a supporting role, he plays his part efficiently and what really stands out is his warm and natural chemistry with Bachchan. His “clash” sequence with Amitabh would have to be one of my favorites in the movie and he does a splendid job. Surprisingly, Rajnikanth did HUM at a time where he was featuring in Hindi films more frequently. HUM aside, he had FARISHTAY, PHOOL BANE ANGAARAY, THALAPATHI(dubbed in to Hindi as DAL-PATY) and Mukul.S.Anand’s other little gem KHOON KA KARZ. Rajni from what I have read in past interviews, left such a thunderous affect on Govinda, whom later did a film titled HATHKADI where for the entire movie Govinda mimics and imitates Rajni’s style! Incidentially Rajnikanth himself did a remake of Bachchan’s HUM with himself taking on Bachchan’s role titled BAADSHA in 1995!
Govinda was in fine form himself here and left his mark. His comic scenes were great and despite the towering presence of Bachchan and the presence of another super-star with Rajni he didn’t get completely over-shadowed.
This was no doubt Kimi Katkar’s finest performance to date, and her one true claim to fame. She reached dizzying heights globally as “Jumma” after which she disappeared off the face of the earth. She plays her part well, and surprisingly made a good match opposite Bachchan too. Their scenes together in the first half are a lot of fun.
Deepa Sahi is an actress I had a huge crush on. She not only looks gorgeous, she acts gracefully and is a complete natural. However unfortunately, with the exception of HUM, MAYA MEMSAAB, OH DARLING YEH HAI INDIA and AAR YA PAAR the actress was never to be seen again.
Shilpa Shriodkor is just aboutOK here and fails to leave much of a mark.
Danny Denzgopa is remarkably as Bhaktawar and his ranks as the second best performance in the movie after Bachchan’s. As the money hungry businessman, or the disturbed and revenge-seeking jail-bird Denzgopa is just perfect and shines with his electric presence and menacing delivery. One of my favourite Denzgopa performances ever.
AnupamKher is annoying here and hams it to a hilt. Granted his chemistry with Annu Kapoor is natural, and the two seem to be having a lot of fun, however after a point Kher fails to evoke any scares and ends up coming across as a buffoon.
Deepak Shirke is good as Bachchan’s dad. Romesh Sharma is apt as Gonsalves. Shiva is painful as Captain Zattack.
Mukul.S.Anand was no doubt technically one of the finest directors India had., A visionary who knew how to handle a huge budget and make a true “blockbuster” film, and HUM was no different. W.B Rao’s camerawork has aged a little, however the spellbinding shots of Mumbai dock-yards in the first half alone are applaud-worthy. R. Verman’s art-work is magnicient. Ravi Dewan’s action sequences are top-notch too.
Which finally brings me to Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s music……JHUMMA CHUMMA DE DE created global mass hysteria….the song, it’s picturisaton, Bachchan’s dancing, everything about it was legendary and to this date the song remains a landmark event of the 90’s! The other track which is the title track is also splendid, and cements the central theme of the movie well.
All up HUM hasn’t aged that well overall as a movie. Like I said right at the start, the flaws stand out now more than ever, however if there is one thing that only gets better with time it’s Bachchan’s performance, the flawless first hour, and the dramatic last hour; which alone leaves the viewer more than satisfied.
Overall Rating: 8.0/10.0