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20 years of Main Hoon Na! Shah Rukh Khan and Farah Khan's triumph in spreading love over hate

Two decades later, Shah Rukh Khan's Main Hoon Na still champions love over conflict.

20 years of Main Hoon Na! Shah Rukh Khan and Farah Khan's triumph in spreading love over hate
Shah Rukh Khan in a still from Main Hoon Na

Last Updated: 01.42 PM, Apr 30, 2024


Main Hoon Na is a film that I missed watching on the big screen. I vividly remember that my parents planned a vacation to North-East India and Nepal, which began on April 30, 2004 and went on for 15 days. When I saw the dates, the first thing I said to my mom was that I was going to miss watching Main Hoon Na in theatres. Of course, it didn't matter to my parents, as it wasn't a big deal, but for a 10-year-old, it's still a regret, even after 20 years.  

I watched it months after its release on a local cable channel and, of course, loved it. To be honest, it's an unmissable film for me, and I make it a point to watch it every year. This year is definitely special as the film completes two decades of its release, as does Farah Khan Kunder as a filmmaker. When I was revisiting the film last week, all I could think was, What should I write on its anniversary? It is a masala spectacle for Bollywood aficionados, with meta-moments to die for!


Main Hoon Na’s unique take on heroism and villainy

But what stuck in my mind was Project Milap! The concept of releasing Pakistani prisoners who have been in India for years allows them to return to their country and reunite with their families. Well, why wouldn't that come as a novel concept in today's times? Every other month, a new film emerges in which a terrorist villainizes Pakistan and plots to destroy India with a single missile. Then come heroes, flexing their muscles and making sure that they save the country. In all of these films, "Maqsad pura hona chahiye" is a constant dialogue that we see.

However, as I was jotting down the points for Main Hoon Na, I couldn't help but notice that the film's hero, Ram Prasad Sharma (Shah Rukh Khan), never speaks these dialogues. Instead, the villain, Raghavan (Suneil Shetty), an Indian Army official himself, faces court martial for killing innocent civilians and openly declares his hatred for Pakistan.

Recalling Main Hoon Na, Film Companion shares a video where Anupama Chopra and Rahul Desai discuss the evolution of the narrative. The dialogue that Shetty delivers as the main antagonist in the film is similar to what today's heroes openly declare as they embark on a mission to save their country. Yes, saving the country is definitely important, and that's the oath the Indian Army takes. However, the story shifts to India being in danger, and that becomes the focal point until the very end, when the heroes come and save them. 

The impact of major national events on film narratives

The plot of Main Hoon Na revolves around the reunion of half-brothers and the return of an older Army Major to college on a mission to protect a girl (Amrita Rao) whose father is a general in the Indian Army (Kabir Bedi). Amid all that, there's another mission: the Indian Army wants to maintain peace with the neighbouring country, while there are a few Indians who are against this and think it makes our country weak.

Around two decades ago, Aman Ki Asha was something that became hugely popular. There were singers from across borders collaborating with each other and crooning songs of peace and love. However, those moments have faded, and all we witness, particularly in movies, are the world's "maqsads" and "kahers."

Yes, it's a known fact that we cannot forget the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the 2019 Pulwama attack, which shook the entire nation and world. However, our army officials are capable enough to fight back, and they have. When it comes to movies, some filmmakers choose to narrate a story that delves deeply into propaganda, not only celebrating the success of the Indian Army's retaliation but also highlighting the pervasiveness of hatred.

Main Hoon Na: A call for love over hatred

No matter how bad the world is, it's difficult to survive without goodness, be it within or in our surroundings. Apart from Project Milap in Main Hoon Na, where Shetty's character constantly talks about being in war with Pakistan since 1947, SRK as Ram only walks on the path of goodness.

Even when his own brother, Laxman, aka Lucky (Zayed Khan), bullies him, he chooses the non-violent path. Similarly, when Sanjana (Amrita Rao) expresses how her father desired a son but never maintained a cordial relationship with her, Ram assists her in demonstrating how important she is and always will be.

Around two decades ago, Abbas Tyrewala wrote the hard-hitting dialogues for Main Hoon Na, and it had a similar impact back then like it had last year with Pathaan. Siddharth Anand's 2023 film mirrored the characterization of Main Hoon Na, featuring an Indian villain. Rest; the mission of hatred starts with Pakistan General itself. 

But Tyrewala's dialogue in Main Hoon Na, such as "Zindagi nikalti jaati hai aur hum sab pyaar ke bina jeena seekh lete hai... kyun pyaar ko mauka nahi dete, kyun apno par vishwas nahi karte? (Life keeps passing by, and we all learn to live without love. Why don’t we give love a chance? Why don’t we trust our loved ones?)"

He also wrote about how hatred has no place, as SRK says in the film: "Nafrat bohut soch samajhkar karni chahiye... kyun ki ek din hum bhi wahi ban jaate hai, jise hum nafrat karte hai. (We should hate thoughtfully, as one day we will become what we hate.)"

And one of my favourite dialogues from the film, aside from many quirky ones, is definitely this: "Yeh zindagi nafrat ke liye bahut choti hai. (Life is too short for hatred.)"

A legacy of love and tolerance

Over the past five years, social media has witnessed a significant surge in animosity towards minorities and neighbouring countries, to the point where numerous celebrities have also faced criticism. I mean, who can forget Deepika receiving threats for wearing an orange outfit in Pathaan's Besharam Rang song?

But even in the pool of propaganda films, get on a lighter note to learn how love wins all by watching Main Hoon Na. And don't forget, the film brought back Qawwali in Bollywood with the Tumse Milke song, and it has stayed here even after 20 years.