Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani

Director: Aziz Mirza
Music: Jatin Lalit; Lyrics: Javed Akhtar
Year: 2000
Running Time: 150 minutes

As one quickly learns after watching only a few Bollywood films, the way an Indian film begins is rarely how it ends. Films often go through a mind-bending array of emotions and moods and often veer wildly between comedy and melodrama with the viewer often thrown for a loop. Films that have all these elements plus action and musical numbers are generally stuck with the term “masala” around their necks – meaning a little bit of everything is thrown into the pot and stirred with reckless abandon. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Here it sort of works, but not as well as it could have as the sudden turn into serious melodrama never reaches the delightful heights of the first sparkling hour. This is an instance in which one really wishes the filmmakers had stuck with the insouciant mood and bright comedy for the entirety of the story and left the melodrama on the editing floor.  Wrapped around a rivalry/romance between two TV journalists, the film sardonically skewers the mass media, political parties, the justice system and corporate sponsorship. Rarely subtle – an executioner stopping to promote a product on his way to perform his work on the gallows – it nevertheless hits its targets with mud splattered relish. Photographed in bright MTV colors by Santosh Sivan (Dil Se), the film’s palette is lush and lively and constantly entertaining.
The viewer is immediately immersed into the initial fun vibes of the film during the opening credits which play over a splashy video of Shahrukh Khan simply acting up to the incredible catchy title song. I found myself stopping the DVD and replaying the song some five times before even getting to the film itself! It also bounced around in my head for days afterwards like a red rubber ball. Shahrukh is the star reporter for K-TV and more full of himself than an overstuffed piñata. His self absorption reaches pure giddy art form when he and the entire newsroom staff (and his boss, Satish Shah) break into the wonderful “I’m the Best” number that has Shahrukh being idolized by one and all, pawed by multitudes of fawning beautiful female extras and doing a fabulous Elvis impersonation. It is a tour de force of comic ego from Shahrukh and I ended up having to play this song a number of times as well before I could go on!
Across town the rival owner (Dalip Tahil) of Galaxee TV hires Juhi Chawla and gives her marching orders to depose Shahrukh as the king of TV news. They meet and send off sparks immediately and do their best to out do one another by any means they can. Juhi sidetracks Shahrukh with a host of ex-jilted-girlfriends while she out scoops him on a story that sends the head of the ruling political party (Govind Namdeo) into a tizzy. The film paints a very sleazy picture of the very under the table relationship between the media and politicians. After her big story, Juhi bangs out her own energetic version of “I’m the Best” which is a treat as well. The two of them joust in work and love until they band together over the fate of a man.
Satish Shan and Dilip Tahil
A politician is assassinated and the killer (Paresh Rawal) is immediately branded as a foreign terrorist and sentenced to die, but the real story falls into their laps and they surprise themselves by honorably and dangerously pushing for the truth against the wishes of all the powers that be. Much of this part of the film falls a bit flat - at least in comparison to the first half of the film, but as corny as it is the second playing of the title song with the populace filling the streets in protest has a certain awkward Capraesque pleasure. Johnny Lever performs his usual out of place shenanigans as a wanne be Don and Shakti Kapoor plays the odious rival politician.
Shahrukh, Juhi and Paresh Rawal
The music for the film is fairly good with Phi Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani being a real charmer that will have you on your feet and doing some sort of bad Hindi dance moves – but what really sets them apart are the very clever and enjoyable visuals – or picturizing – of the songs. Both Shahrukh and Juhi look to be having an enormously good time in the songs and they play off one another to good effect.

My rating for this film: 7.0

Song 1

Song 2

Song 3