India’s Transition: From Joint Families to Nuclear Units

An architectural review of Hum Saath Saath Hain-Sheet1
Hum Saath Saath Hain Cover _©Rajshri Productions

Hum Saath Saath Hain (here referred to as HSSH in the article) is an old Bollywood movie that was released in 1999. As was the pattern at the time – the movie was based on family values and sibling relationships. HSSH was a movie that revolved around a joint family from Rajasthan with three brothers and a sister in the family. The brothers are all adults and on the verge of getting married. And the movie revolves around the obstacles they face among each other and from society.

What’s interesting about this movie is that the protagonists come from a rural background and are first-generation city dwellers. Considering the setting of the movie is in Rajasthan this becomes even more relevant. 

The 2000s saw a large change in family structures in Rajasthan and a lot of states in India. There was a significant shift in households from a joint family to a nuclear family. HSSH’s story delves into people’s responses and changes that occur with this shift

Impact on Architectural Trends

This change in household structures played a significant difference in the architecture of our country. Instead of larger havelis and bungalows, we shifted to broken-up modules of the same. And more recently we’ve stacked these modules vertically as well as horizontally – giving us more and more apartments. This has been a trend through time. 

Similar to the Ramkishan Chaturvedi’s family in HSSH with the migration of people from the villages to the city.And then in the town from a joint family to smaller nuclear families. When we talk about the rural crowd moving to more and more urban cities we have this idea of people of a lower income group looking to make it in the city. 

The reality however is that similar to cities, rural spaces too have a diverse range of income groups and families. And there are people from all communities migrating to the cities. And their impact is seen in the architecture in the cities. 

For example, in HSSH we see the similarity in the bungalow built in the city and their haveli in the village

An architectural review of Hum Saath Saath Hain-Sheet2
City Bungalow _©Rajshri Productions
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Village Haveli _©Rajshri Productions

The overall language of the architecture is very similar, it’s just a change of materiality and context that gives each space their individual character. 

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Architecure and colour palette of the house _©Rajshri Productions

Even the material and colour palette seen in the interiors has a slight shift from rural Marvandi haveli’s while retaining the richness and vibrancy in colours that is their signature style. 

These small details help build up the backstory of the characters without any need for narration or dialogue. It is these small nuances through architecture and colour palettes that bring a sense of realness to movies. 

Symbolism in Set Design: Reflecting Social Dynamics

In the movie HSSH, the mother is misguided by peers into cutting off her stepson from the family business, creating a rift in the once tightly-knit family. This mood of divide and dilemma is very interesting played with the set. 

The frames are much more binary and symmetrical implying a split in emotions and opinions. The set’s architecture helps play a major role in the same.

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Symmetrical frames _©Rajshri Productions

This pattern of a binary system with an apparent divide between two aspects is a large part of HSSH. Anyone watching it for the first time in the 2020s will justifiably find it quite problematic in the way it portrays women’s regressive roles given to women in families. But as with architecture, context must always be considered. For the time at which this movie was released, this unfortunately was normal in society.

Just as architecture has grown and evolved with time so has society. And movies and other media are the best examples of that.

The Musical Extravaganza: Architectural Implications

For anyone who has seen this movie, they’ll release the sheer volume of dance numbers and songs in the movie. This movie is more musical than the movie. And with music and dance comes a set that can cater to it.

In the span of three hours, there are three engagements, three marriages, and a whole lot of family drama. And with Indian weddings there is always dance and music, especially in a movie. What we don’t realise however is how important the architecture is for dance and music numbers in a movie. It has to make people going into random songs seem organic and not well idiotic.

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elevated landings and grand backdrops _©Rajshri Productions
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Magestic entry experience caters to wedding songs _©Rajshri Productions

I feel the set in HSSH has achieved that transition quite smoothly. While the movie is far from realistic it is wholesome.

Resonating Unity: Cinematic Reflections on Family and Society

Though far from a cinematic masterpiece, Hum Saath Saath Hain remains a comfortable movie. With its portrayal of love and unity within a family, it gives us all something to hope for. This shift in unity is seen not just in modern families. But also in our architecture and the society as a whole.

But watching HSSH makes you feel that maybe there is hope still – after all as the name translates We are One.

Author

Aiman Ansari is an architect currently working and residing in Bombay. She completed her B.Arch 2021 and has gone on to work on projects varying from low-cost housing, to educational institutes and in the hospitality industry. She’s fascinated by the power architecture has to not only tell a story but also create them. She draws inspiration from the idea that the spaces we occupy guide a large part of our individual stories Social responsibility plays a large part in her life. Aiman co-authored the publication ‘Rising Beyond the Ceiling – Karnataka’. A book that looks to break the stereotype of Indian Muslim Women.