‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ Recast Masculinity

And we’re here for it.

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Still from 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam' (1999)

Snigdha Sur


June 18, 2024


8 min

“Why aren’t you eating?” Amrita (Smita Jaykar), the matriarch of an extended Gujarati family, asks Sameer (Salman Khan), who has arrived from Italy to learn Indian classical music from her husband, the great Pandit Darbar (Vikram Gokhale). Sameer begrudgingly admits the food is too spicy for him, only for Nandini (Aishwarya Rai), who has had to vacate her palatial room for this unwanted guest, to retort, “Teekha khana teekhi ladkiyon ke liye hai, meethe buddhoyon ke liye nahin.” Spicy food is for spicy women, not for sweet idiots. 

And that’s how Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam demarcates the differences between men and women, while recasting existing notions of masculinity altogether. Sameer is a sensitive man. He sweet-talks the women and men of the house alike, cries when he’s sad, and — unlike other men showing off their “masculine” prowess — can’t eat a lot of spice. Even after a show of eating several green chilies successively, he ultimately suffers and has to accept the honey Nandini offers as an apology.

In this film, about a woman choosing between her young love and her husband, Vanraj (Ajay Devgn), Bhansali gives us not one, but two sensitive men. During this period in Hindi cinema, Bhansali dares to show us that love need not be forceful or controlling, a message that resonates over 25 years later.

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