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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Revisiting Ajay Devgn’s debut Phool Aur Kaante on his birthday: Predictable, yet a perfect Bollywood potboiler

On Ajay Devgn's birthday today, we revisit his debut action-romance film, Phool Aur Kaante (1991). It was directed by Kuku Kohli and also starred Madhoo and Amrish Puri.

Written by Mimansa Shekhar | New Delhi |
April 2, 2021 10:16:04 am
ajay devgn madhoo in phool aur kaantePhool Aur Kaante released in 1991.

One mention of Phool Aur Kaante and we all think of Ajay Devgn split standing on two bikes, blowing kisses to girls while entering his college. Hands down, this still remains one of the best introduction scenes in Bollywood. Devgn might have showed us variations of the same in his later films (on cars and horses), but this was special. It was his launch pad, and that was his entry into prospective stardom.

Released in 1991, Phool Aur Kaante is a quintessential 90s Hindi film, and its blockbuster songs have been a part of every 90s kids’ growing-up years “Maine Pyaar Tumhi Se Kiya Hai”, “Tumse Milne Ko Dil Karta Hai” and “Dheere Dheere Pyar Ko Badhana Hai”. I am no exception, but as I revisited the movie on Ajay Devgn’s birthday today, I was in for a few surprises.

ajay devgn entry scene phool aur kaante Ajay Devgn walked into Bollywood in what can be listed as one of the most iconic entry scenes, in his debut film Phool Aur Kaante.

The film is filled with themes that we can easily categorise as repressive today. A college romance would always begin with stalking and scheming, with teachers encouraging you to give the “boy one chance”. After all, he’s cute! To re-watch Phool Aur Kaante in 2021 comes with a healthy side serving of cringe.

Phool Aur Kaante marked the debut of not just Devgn, but also Madhoo (who plays Pooja) in Hindi films. The movie’s first half revolved around Devgn forcing Madhoo to fall in love with him. For this, he follows her everywhere, paints her room with “Ajay loves Pooja” and even hijacks the college announcement microphone to express his ‘love’ for her. What should have got him a few years behind bars instead has the girl saying yes to him and happy matrimony follows.

In the second half, Devgn (Ajay) tries to turn around the crime empire of his don father (Amrish Puri) as his scion, because he wishes to lead a peaceful life. In the midst, there’s kidnapping of his and Madhoo’s son by a rival gang. Will Puri negotiate between his business and his family, or will Ajay end up walking the path of his father, forms the core of the story.

ajay devgn amrish puri madhoo phool aur kaante Ajay Devgan, Madhoo and Amrish Puri in a still from Phool Aur Kaante. (Photo: Express Archives)

The film is loaded with stereotypes and I did laugh at many. One of the villains’ name is Rocky. There’s a comic-romantic track between two college professors. The girl succumbs to the guy’s “love” after he threatens suicide. The gangster father spills dialogues straight out of a Bollywood book of dons. Madhoo’s typical bahu act post marriage is, well, hilarious.

Phool Aur Kaante’s plot is highly predictable. The film would have been another forgettable 90s masala mix if it wasn’t for its high octane action, a one of its kind back then.

Needless to say, Ajay Devgn’s father and veteran action director of Bollywood, Veeru Devgan saved the best stunts and punches for his son’s debut film. Phool Aur Kaante set the tone of Ajay Devgn’s career as an action star for several years, until he diversified his craft and tried hands at comedy, drama and romance with Golmaal, Ishq, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Raincoat, Raajneeti, Omkara and others.

Phool Aur Kaante is a very stylish film for its times. The outfits of actors perfectly fit the fashion of laces and skirts and high waist pants. Adding to the charm is Ajay Devgn and Madhoo’s innocent looks. I think they suited their characters, young, raw and charming, as the camera lavishly plays with the close-ups of their eyes and facial expressions.

Its music had the typical Nadeem-Shravan touch, with our favourite singers of the 90s, Kumar Sanu, Anuradha Paudwal, Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik, all coming together for its album. Growing up on its tracks was hence, expected.

Phool Aur Kaante completes 30 years in November this year. That surely makes us, me, feel tad old. But given its journey across three decades, Phool Aur Kaante doesn’t feel as dated as I expected it to be. It was just the perfect launch of an actor, with perfect songs, perfect action, and of course, perfect plot, at least for the year it released in.

I won’t be surprised if someone announces a remake of Phool Aur Kaante. Though I hope not. The original one is monotonous and predictable, yet special.

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