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20 years of Hera Pheri: An uncertain venture that became a cult classic

Over the years, the film went on to be huge on the satellite circuit too and has impressed the current generation as well after arriving on the digital platform.

March 31, 2020 / 03:42 PM IST
A still from Hera Pheri (Image: Twitter)

A still from Hera Pheri (Image: Twitter)

Today, Bollywood is known for its comedy franchises like the Housefull, Golmaal and Dhamaal series. While Housefull and Golmaal has seen four installments already, Dhamaal has seen three of its installments hitting the screens.

As for Hera Pheri, the most loved comedy of them all over the years, it has but one sequel – Phir Hera Pheri – and is waiting for a green signal for the third installment.

Ironically, when Hera Pheri had released about 20 years back, experts weren't sure if the film would even survive.

Hera Pheri had released exactly 20 years ago on March 31, 2000. It was the start of the millennium and Bollywood was trying to figure out what would the new generation actually want.

This is when Priyadarshan decided to create an adaptation of the 1989 Malayalam film Ramji Rao Speaking. The film was about three broke men trying to live off each other and make some quick money. A comedy of errors, it was set in Mumbai and by design, it was meant to be a film that would be made on a limited budget, considering it was set in the slums.

However, this is where producer Firoz Nadiadwala came on his own and ensured that Hera Pheri turned out to be a real, big-screen experience. For this, a couple of action sequences were designed, especially towards the climax, which gave a grand appeal to the film.

As an afterthought, he also included a couple of songs – Jab Bhi Koi Haseena and Tun Tunak Tun – both featuring Akshay Kumar. That was the time when special song-n-dance numbers were not in vogue but Kaykasshan Patel and Namrata Shirodkar stepped in for the respective songs.

Still, the film couldn't really take a major start and worked only in Mumbai and Bangalore to begin with. It was only after the first week that word of mouth started spreading around the film and unlike Andaz Apna Apna –another comedy which is considered a cult classic today – but couldn't do well theatrically, Hera Pheri ultimately managed to find an audience.

Akshay Kumar's smart alec role was loved by all as he nailed the performance. Suniel Shetty, known for his 'tough-man' image, surprised one and all with his deadpan humor. On the other hand, Paresh Rawal was simply a riot and made sure that his Baburao Ganpatrao Apte is remembered till date.

Made at a budget of Rs 8 crore, Hera Pheri sustained well to net Rs 12 crore. In today's scenario, theatrical returns like these would qualify a film to be a super hit.

Back then, since there was no digital medium and satellite returns were quite meagre too, a film needed to maximise its returns from the theatrical revenue in order to be considered hugely successful.

Moreover, since the film had worked well in select pockets, it wasn't an all-India hit. Yet, its CD and DVD sales were huge when they hit the shelves and it was also a hot pick in the piracy market.

Over the years, the film went on to be huge on the satellite circuit too and has impressed the current generation as well after arriving on the digital platform.

Meme makers have been using Hera Pheri as well as Phir Hera Pheri for their fodder. The wait is now on for Hera Pheri 3, and rest assured, the film will be huge as and when it opens.

Joginder Tuteja
first published: Mar 31, 2020 03:42 pm