25 Years of Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! The film that gave Salman Khan that ‘Prem’ tag
Prem became a yardstick all Indian men would be judged by hereon. Interestingly, that includes Salman Khan.
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Prem, a name that comes with some baggage, was born in Maine Pyar Kiya.
Sooraj Barjatya and Salman Khan created him — a man so good at heart that it pained us to see something terrible befall him.
That was in 1989.
Five years later, in 1994, with Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! Prem was reinvented.
If Maine Pyar Kiya’s Prem was golden at heart, he seemed to have a bad boy streak too — something he consciously fought, stopping himself from becoming anything like Mohnish Behl, who played his antithesis, Jeevan, a sadist who found pleasure in torture. To counter this evil, Prem had to have nerves of steel. A trait that helped him win over Alok Nath, his love interest Suman’s (Bhagyashree) father, when he put him through the test of life.
But in Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, there was no such evil Prem needed to battle.
He was the youngest of two motherless sons, pampered by both his father, Alok Nath, and his older brother, Rajesh (Mohnish, graduating now to a pious kind of role).
Being Prem: No other hero has been able to play good like Salman Khan in HAHK. (Photo: Rajshri Productions/YouTube screengrab)
This gave him ample opportunity to be himself. He was still figuring out life, he was naughty, he was playful, he was everything a boy his age ought to be. But he was a good man at heart — a trait revered in the universe Sooraj Barjatya so carefully creates.
Perhaps even too good at times.
His sheer goodness can be mistaken as a lack of agency. He sacrifices love but not just his share of it — his beloved, Nisha’s (Madhuri Dixit), too. For his family, and for the greater good. He does what he thinks is expected of him — even at the risk of being called a coward.
But then, goodness is not conditional or a thing of convenience. It is a choice we’re often forced to make when times are especially tough.
And in Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, despite tough times, Prem emerges victorious.
Before and After: How Prem evolved over the span of a decade. (Photo: Rajshri Productions/YouTube screengrab)
Another five years later, in 1999, a still newer version of Prem was seen in Hum Saath Saath Hain.
One who carries in him the goodness of Prem of Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! and the sharp edges of Prem of Maine Pyar Kiya. Albeit the sharp edges were a tad smoothened out — he needn’t fight an antithesis, for instance, but he still did need to stand up for himself and what's right eventually.
It is safe to say that for Salman Khan, a man who embodied Prem over the decades, Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! was like wind beneath his wings. For an entire generation, it became a film ‘family time’ was made of, and for some, an expression of sweet first love.
And Prem, in particular, became a yardstick all Indian men would be judged by hereon.
Which, interestingly, includes Salman Khan.