Well here’s the thing. I was in junior high.
And Salman Khan looked like this:
Really. I never stood a chance.
Maine Pyar Kiya is a tough phenomenon to describe. If you were there when it hit, you know there was no escaping the universal swoonage over Salman. Beyond that though, the film has so many strange & cheesy quirks (like the creepy “I Love You” background score, a pigeon named “Handsome” and er, Huma Khan) that it becomes difficult to convey to the modern viewer how or why we found Laxmikant Berde so impossibly funny.
Of course, Laxmikant Berde was not the point of MPK by a long stretch. But he added a lot to it – the point being that he wasn’t just a character we tolerated but one that we loved.
Maine Pyar Kiya is a film with a great big golden heart. It is Sooraj Barjatya on a platter – with all the innocence, goodness, chivalry, old world charm and sanskaars that his name conjures up.
Unlike QSQT, which was your classic Romeo & Juliet tale and therefore had a more theatrical feel to it, Maine Pyar Kiya was a very homegrown, very Indian story. Suman was basically the girl my mom wanted me to be and somehow Bhagyashree made being Ms. Goody-Two-Shoes seem incredibly appealing.
Sadly, I ended up more like her nemesis Seema, rat-bitten hair and all.
And Prem was basically the the stuff of every teenage fantasy – rich, good-looking, chivalrous and ready to do anything and everything for love.
(Sidenote: MEN, Y U NO BE LIKE PREM?)
But let’s back up. When did I first hear about Maine Pyar Kiya? Well it was 1989 and I lived in Bangkok and believe it or not, the internet didn’t exist (impossible, I know). So my first encounter with Maine Pyar Kiya came the same way all things Bollywood came to me back then, via pirated video cassette.
It was a trailer that popped up in the middle of some movie and it started by just showing Salman & Bhagyashree’s silhouette against a screen (basically, the scene where he’s trying to get her to say I Love You). That’s what sticks out in my brain. I can’t remember what the rest of the trailer was like but I remember my first impression was that he kind of looked like Sanjay Dutt.
Strangely I can’t remember the first time I saw the movie in full and the reason for that is probably because I saw it so many times. So, so, so, so many times. And then, because this was before the days of cell phones and texting, my friends and I would write each other notes, long, hand-written notes of nothing but dialogs from the film, along with our very serious plans to marry either Salman himself or someone who looked EXACTLY like him.
HAND-WRITTEN 5-6 PAGE LONG NOTES. SEVERAL TIMES A DAY. NO, WE WERE NOT PAYING ATTENTION IN CLASS.
Now. Where was I?
So what makes Maine Pyar Kiya such an enduring classic, despite the large doses of cheesiness? I mean, lyrics like “Tum ladki ho, main ladka hoon” or the entire “Kabootar ja ja ja” scenario would really sink any other movie. But this is Barjatya’s world. And in Barjatya’s world, you do not second-guess the pets, the servants or the songs.
I could go into a whole thesis here about the strange but lovable universe Barjatya creates in his films, paragons of virtue and traditions and relationships of every shape and color that endure, but to be very honest, the reason I return to this movie on a regular basis is because it’s one long and delicious excuse to ogle Salman Khan at his most magnificent.
I mean, just look at this. One frame after another where he just melts your heart.
I could go on. Should I?
This was a very different Salman from the one we know today, and there was something so thrilling about someone so heart-breakingly handsome, about whom we knew nothing and were therefore free to weave endless fantasies around. I can’t imagine what it’s like to watch MPK for the first time now, after Salman’s had so much history, so many controversies and he’s changed so very much.
Back then, there was nothing, absolutely nothing, to separate Salman from Prem – and there was just something magical about the fresh vigor and enthusiasm of youth that made our 3 Khans so instantly lovable. I honestly still think this is Salman’s best performance to date. He took Prem a million notches above what the character was, even though the character was already pretty great.
So Reason # 1 is Ogling Salman Khan. Very important.
This could be enough, but then there’s Reason #2: The Love Story.
When I huff and puff and complain about the state of romantic comedies and love stories today, Maine Pyar Kiya is the reason why. Here is a movie where so much love and passion is conveyed between the two leads and it’s done through the simplest of scenes and dialogs.
See how the love story unfolds – it starts with a friendship (“dekhte hi lage, that’s my friend!”), which begins to hint at something more as they bond over table tennis and a twisted ankle.
Then comes the EPIC party scene where first she keeps teasing him in the car, asking him why he won’t go to the party without her (kyun?) and he refuses to answer (kyun ka kya matlab kyun? nahin jaoonga). And later, when he gets upset after Seema insults Suman because of her crazy pigeon-terrorizing brother, Suman asks him why he was so upset on her behalf-
“Tumhe bura laga?” (You felt bad?)
And he says, “Aur nahin toh kya? Aur iss baar mat poonchna – kyun.” (Of course I did. And this time don’t ask me – why.)
And she asks him anyway.
THAT is romance. Bolly-style. And I just don’t get why they can’t do it like that anymore. It’s such a subtle scene but it conveys oodles of passion in such a simple way, with none of the smart-alecky nonsense that seems to be a mandatory ingredient in all of the current romances.
There are so many little scenes like that peppered throughout – and hidden in between the big set piece scenes we all know like:
- Ek ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahin hote followed by the most epically sexy saxophone playing ever witnessed anywhere ever
- Abhi mood nahin hai (one-armed pushups!!)
- The Antakshari song (at least 15 re-watches were for this parody alone, we’d never seen anything like it)
- Chalegi kya? Tu bol na. Daudegi, daudegi maa. (best marriage proposal ever!!)
- The picturization of Mere Rang Mein – and lessons on how to convey explosive sexual tension that is way sexier than any actual sex scene (let’s just ignore Final Countdown, this is SP Balasubraminiam + Salman and a million times better)
And of course, bheege hue note.
In fact Bheege hue note alone is worth the price of the ticket. Here Prem fights with Jeevan and his goons to save the money he’s worked so hard to earn, so that he can legitimately ask for Suman’s hand in marriage. The fight doesn’t have a big action-oriented background score, but just the sad notes of a woman’s voice against the rain (genius). Salman is both vulnerable and lethal in this. And of course, afterwards, Alok Nath tells him that his money is useless because it’s all wet and torn…
DIES DIES DIES DIES DIES
…when Suman says, “Baba, agar in rupaiyon ka koi mol nahin, toh duniya mein kissi cheez ka koi mol nahin” (If this money has no value, then nothing in this whole entire world has any value)
Does Prem complain and go Oh COME ON, WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU OLD MAN?
No. He asks for one more chance. To prove himself one more time.
And I can hear all the men’s voices in my head going, dude this is way too much work just to get laid. Won’t dinner and a movie do?
And there you have it. Why romance is dead in Bollywood.
So therefore, this is a movie to be worshipped because it was a whole different era, a completeley different sensibility, a VERY different Salman, a completely innocent and untainted view of love and what it could possibly endure and accomplish if we were all in Sooraj Barjatya’s world.
Would that the world could ever be such an innocent and noble place. But at least, we’ll always have Maine Pyar Kiya.