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Spotlight on Film: Bollywood

We Have compiled a list of what we think
some of the greatest films of Bollywood cinema.

click on the image below to move to the next film in the series.
Further information about each film is contained below the images.

Tell us your favorites by leaving a comment.

Black (2005) Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Black’ is made with astounding sensitivity and enthralling quest for perfection. It tells the story of a deaf and blind girl, Michelle McNally and her teacher, Debraj Sahai. They together embark on a journey to get Michelle out of an animalistic existence to reach a common goal; of knowledge and respectability. ‘Black’ is inspired by the life of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan. Bhansali has extracted mind-blowing performances out of his actors, whether it’s Ayesha Kapoor as a boorish young Michelle or a full-o-beans adult Michelle played by Rani Mukerji or even the alcoholic teacher superbly enacted by Amitabh Bachchan. ‘Black’ is bi-lingual set against an Anglo-Indian family living in the picturesque Shimla. The filmmaker and his actors have bettered their previous best to create a luminous piece of work called ‘Black.’

Lagaan (2001) Lagaan’ was the most volatile combo of the two things that makes Indians tick- cricket and Bollywood. The result no doubt was exhilarating. The film was three hours long, but it passed in front of you in a jiffy, each ball being cheered, each shot being egged on. It’s a complete entertainer with songs that became instant hits. The film is a period drama set in the 19th century British-ruled India. Set in a small village called Champaner it tells the story of the simple village-folk struggling to pay off the annual debts (Lagaan) to the British. It had all the trappings of a blockbuster; Aamir Khan, great songs, humour, good-over evil storyline and to top it all, cricket. ‘Lagaan’ went on to be nominated as one of the five entries at the Oscars, the only film after ‘Mother India’ and ‘Salaam Bombay’. It won eight Filmfare awards in all the major categories.

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) The film that may soon make an entry into the Guinness Book Of World Records, ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ has run in Mumbai’s Maratha Mandir for 500 weeks. It completed 500 weeks on May 13 and will complete 10 years in October 2005. The film has won ten Filmfare awards - a record for a Hindi film. A complete entertainer, ‘DDLJ’ was a sweet love story in an NRI backdrop. Directed by Yash Chopra's eldest son, Aditya Chopra in 1995 at the age of 23, it was a trendsetter of sorts with the lead couple being second generation Indians living in England with deep Indian values. The music of the film was superhit and so were the ‘great Indian wedding’ preparation scenes portrayed in the film. Shah Rukh - Kajol chemistry crackled on screen and they achieved the numero uno spot in Bollywood post ‘DDLJ’.

Mr. India (1987) Shekhar Kapoor’s ‘Mr. India’ had all the ingredients required for the superhit status that it acquired. A superhero like protagonist, great plot, Sridevi at her sexiest best, catchy songs and Hindi cinema’s most adorable villain, ‘Mogambo’. Anil Kapoor as the guy who had the power to go invisible was just awesome in the film. Amrish Puri’s menacing act as Mogambo was not just a turning point in his career but also the most memorable comic-book-villain-acts in Hindi cinema. The audiences were thrilled every time Amrish Puri glared down at them with his fiercely bulbous eyes sporting an atrocious blond wig and garish knee high silver heeled boots. They came back again and again to hear him mouth possibly the most repeated line of Hindi cinema (post 80s), ‘Mogambo khush hua’. Children loved the film for its special effects and the kiddie brigade taking on the villain. The grown ups couldn’t get enough of Sridevi in one of the most erotic 'wet saree’ (blue clingy chiffon) songs ever in Hindi films, ‘ Kaate Nahin kat te’.

Jane Bhi Do Yaaron (1983) You just can’t not watch this film and then once you have watched it you can’t stop talking about it. One of the most brilliant satires coming out of Hindi cinema, ‘Jane Bhi Do Yaaron’ has some of the brightest actors of Hindi cinema. The film is about two simple and honest photographer friends, Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Vaswani. By chance they witness a murder and are dragged into the corrupt real estate deals with politicians and bureaucrats. Actors like Pankaj Kapoor, Om Puri, Satish Shah and Satish Kaushik shared some incredibly funny scenes in the film. Like Sholay people remember the outrageously funny dialogues of the film. Naseeruddin Shah’s "Thoda khao, thoda phenko”, Om Puri’s "Oye DMello, Tu to gaya" are some of the most memorable lines from the film. Some of the funniest scenes include a drunk Om Puri trying to help Satish Shah’s dead body start his ‘car’ (coffin) and the famous Ramlila scene are side-splitting.

Sholay (1975) It’s a tad difficult to fit ‘Sholay’ into a single paragraph. Arguably the most complete and entertaining film of all times, the film boasts of some of the biggest stars of its time-Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjeev Kumar, Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Jaya Bhaduri. It also made a star out of a character called Gabbar Singh -the most imitated character of Hindi cinema. The legendary Gabbar’s dialogues are now folk-lore ( Pachas pachas kos door gaon mein jab bachcha raat ko rota hai to maa kahti hai beta soja ..soja nahin to Gabbar Singh aa jaayega ) peppered with his quirky vicious laughter showing his tobacco-stained teeth or the trademark ferocity ( Yeh haath mujhe de de Thakur ), Amjad Khan as Gabbar Singh is a true blue cult-figure. Each and every character of Sholay is a part of the cinematic folklore, but apart from Gabbar the other most popular characters are Hindi cinema’s best-known buddies, Jai- Veeru and Veeru’s blabbermouth love interest, Basanti. The two friends singing ‘ Yeh dosti hum nahin chhodenge’ makes the most enduring image of screen friendship. Hema Malini as the chatterbox Basanti was a laugh riot. The three share some of the most memorable scenes in the film. Sholay is a classic to be watched again and again.

Bobby (1973) This was the launch vehicle of Raj Kapoor’s son Rishi Kapoor and a 14 year old girl who became a teen-sensation-Dimple Kapadia. One of the sweetest love stories in Hindi cinema ‘Bobby’ is about a school going girl who falls in love with a lonely, rich young boy. It’s the rich-poor formula but the freshness of the lead pair was the clincher for ‘Bobby’. The music of the film was a smash hit with songs like ‘ Hum tum ik kamre mein band ho’ and ‘Jhooth bole’ becoming anthems for the youth. Dimple Kapadia with her short dresses and knotted teeny weeny tops became the darling of the nation. The screen chemistry of the hero and heroine was so amazing that when Dimple made a comeback more than a decade after ‘Booby’, Rishi Kapoor was signed opposite her.

Garam Hawa (1973) ’Garam Hawa’ is one of the most sensitively made films on the Indo-Pak partition. It doesn’t have the usual melodrama and Pak bashing. ‘Garam Hawa’ was based on an unpublished story by Ismat Chughtai and adapted for the film by Kaifi Azmi. Director M.S. Sathyu strayed away from the mainstream formula of the 70s to recreate the agonizing past that nobody had dared to touch. The film was about a Muslim family that decides to remain in India post-partition. It explores how partition affects them socially, emotionally and economically. The main protagonist, a middle aged shoe manufacturer in Agra was played by Balraj Sahni, one of the finest actors to have graced the Indian silver screen so far. Ustad Bahadur Khan evocative music helps lift the film even more. The film not only won accolades from the critics but was also lapped up by the common man. It also won the National Award that year.

Pakeezah (1972) Kamal Amrohi’s ’Pakeezah’ acquired a legendary status soon after its heroine, the ‘Tragedy Queen’ Meena Kumari passed away. The film has a larger than life feel and is grand is appearance. The story of a courtesan played by Meena Kumari in arguably her best role ever, ‘Pakeezah’ was made by her husband Amrohi and took a long time to make. The film showcases the elegant past of the privileged class of Uttar Pradesh; their refined culture and grandeur yet at the same time their hypocrisy and decadence of the bourgeois society. Ashok Kumar and Raj ‘Jaani’ Kumar play the suitors of Meena Kumari who has a double role in the film. The incredibly lyrical songs or mujras in the film are breathtaking. The costumes and sets are gorgeous. As the film took long years to make due to the differences between the husband –wife team of Meena Kumari and Kamal Amrohi, Meena looks young and fresh in some scenes and in some painfully haggard and sad. But she covers it all up with her stunning histrionics and dialogue delivery.

Anand (1970) Rajesh Khanna was the first official superstar of Hindi cinema. He gave a slew of hits in the late 60s and 70s, ’Anand’ being the most important one of them. It was a lighthearted melodramatic tale with deeply tragic undertones. Rajesh Khanna plays Anand, a man suffering from cancer, yet never seen unhappy or crying. Ironically the character is shown to be full of life and laughter. Amitabh Bachchan played his doctor in the film with whom he spends his last days. The film made by Hrishikesh Mukherjee who gave us delightful films like Gol Maal, Chupke Chupke, Mili, Abhimaan and Bawarchi is a true masterpiece. Many dialogues and scenes from the film became popular specially the way Rajesh Khanna said ‘ Babumoshai ’ . Add to all this some beautiful songs and you have a film that stays with you forever. ‘Anand’ won the Filmfare Award in 1972.

Padosan (1968) Arguably the best Hindi comedy of all times, the mere mention of ‘Padosan’ makes you guffaw. The two uncrowned ‘Kings of Comedy’, Kishore Kumar and Mehmood are at their best. Add to this an excellent performance by Sunil Dutt as a harebrained young man and you have a super entertainer. Bhola (Sunil Dutt) falls in love with a lovely girl, Bindu (Saira Banu), his ‘padosan’ whom he admires from his window every day. Bindu flirts with her music teacher, Master Pillai (Mehmood). Bhola, with the help of his friends Vidyapathi (Kishore Kumar) and his cronies plans to win her over. Vidyapathi runs an acting school and is a singer as well. He turns into a ‘Dr. Love’ persona for Bhola and Bindu ultimately falls for Bhola. It has some hilarious numbers like ‘ Ik chatur naar karke singaar’ and ‘Mere saamne waali khidki mein’ . Kishore Kumar with paan dripping from the side of his mouth, his hair parted at the center with the edge of his dhoti in one hand and a paan box in the other is an enduring image from the film. His impeccable comic timing and the ability to generate fun even from a simple gesture and a word, is remarkable. One simple “Bhole” uttered by him sends you rolling with laughter. If this wasn’t enough there is Mehmood too as a south Indian music teacher with a choti hanging on his clean-shaven head. The scenes where the two suitors of Bindu are competing against each other are riotous. A true masterpiece!

Guide (1965) A true classic based on R.K. Narayan's novel ‘The Guide’, Vijay Anand’s ‘Guide’ starred Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman. The film was pretty bold for its time as it showed a guide and a married woman in love and even living together. Rosie played by Waheeda is a dancer who is forced to get married to a middle aged man. She meets an interesting man, Raju who is a guide by profession. The two fall in love and Raju gives Rosie the life that she always craved for. Things don’t work out between them and in a cheating case Raju lands up in jail. When years later he is released he is mistaken as a holy man. He tells the villagers a story of a holy man who had kept a fast for twelve days to bring rain to a drought-hit village. Unfortunately, a drought hits the village soon after. He keeps the fast and slowly grows week and listless. The rains come on the last day of his fast and while the villagers rejoice he dies quietly. ’Guide’ is a landmark films of Indian cinema, way ahead of its time. Dev Anand gives a remarkable performance, perhaps his best winning the Filmfare Award for Best Actor that year. But, its Waheeda who brings life to the film, specially in the first half as a free-spirited young woman who doesn’t mind a live-in relationship. She also won the Filmfare Award for Best Actress that year. Another plus-point of ‘Guide’ was S.D Burman’s music with songs like, “ Piya Tose Naina Lage Re”, ”Aaj Phir Jeene ki Tamanna Hai”, “Din Dhal Jaaye”, “Gaata Rahe Mera Dil”, ““Tere Mere Sapne Ab Ek Rang Hai”, “Kya se Kya Ho Gaya” and “Wahaan Kaun Hai Tera”.

Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam (1962) According to some, ‘Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam’ was ghost directed by Guru Dutt. The film was set in late 19th century against a feudal backdrop. Meena Kumari has never looked as sensuous as the Chhoti Bahu in ‘Sahib, Biwi aur Ghulam’ with a stray lovelock peeping out of her head covered with a silk saree pallu and falling on her forehead adorned by a big bindi. She plays the respectable bahu from an upper class Bengali household, yet when she starts a slurred “ Na jao saiyaan ”, the contrast is striking. The unshed tears in Meena’s eyes make her worthy of her ‘Tragedy Queen’ title. Undoubtedly, Chhoti Bahu is the most spectacular character in tragedienne Meena Kumari’s career; a role that was uncannily similar to her own life. Chhoti Bahu dares to question the system and tries to reclaim her errant husband. Unlike the other women in the house, she is not submissive instead she wants his adoration and time. When in her desperation she turns to alcohol, one is stunned by her passion and desire to win over her husband. Her most forceful dialogue from the film is when she dares to argue with her husband who equates her to the wives of other landowners, " Hindu ghar ki bahu hokar, kya sharab pee hai kissine ?” Meena Kumari, like the miraculous sindoor she yearns for in the film mesmerizes you with her acting skills. The role of Jaba was played by Waheeda Rehman and of Bhootnath by Guru Dutt himself. The film remains with you forever simply because of the splendid performance of Meena Kumari.

Mughal-e-Azam (1960) 'Mughal-e-Azam’, a historical, had the grandeur of a Mughal court and a heady defiant note. Each and every scene in the film is a masterpiece moving in front of your eyes. The film took almost fifteen years in the making and cost Rs 1.5 crores in those days. The cast had the superstars of that time including Dilip Kumar, Madhubala and Prithviraj Kapoor. People from all over the country were brought to Bombay to work on the elaborate costumes, props. and sets. It had a grand premiere held simultaneously in 150 theatres all over the country. The filmmaker K. Asif left no stone unturned to make sure that his film becomes a part of the cinematic folklore. Its a classic tale of rebellious love between Prince Salim and the courtesan Anarkali. Their love is opposed by the powerful king Akbar leading to a father-son rift. Naushad’s music is spell binding specially “ Prem Joga”, ”Pyaar Kiya to darna kya ” and “ Mohe panghat . The recreation of the Sheesh mahal and the shots where the reflection of Madhubala in a giddy twirl is captured in loads of glittering glass pieces is fascinating. The humungous set for this legendary song took all the lights available (even 500 truck beams) and about 100 reflectors to bounce off the light. An intoxicated Madhubala declaring her love with bold lyrics like ‘ Parda nahin jab koi khuda se, bandon se parda karna kya ’ in front of the whole world and the powerful King himself is awe-inspiring. ‘Mughal-e-Azam’, has one of the most talked about erotic scenes in Hindi cinema. Dilip Kumar teasingly caresses an impassioned Madhubala’s radiant face with a long white feather. She shuts her eyes slowly with her lips turned towards her lover and there is a suggestion of a kiss when the two go behind the veil of the feather. The classical notes of ‘ Prem Jogan Banke’ sung by Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan add a timeless quality to the moment. It goes without saying that the film was a blockbuster.

Pyaasa (1957) Guru Dutt was one of the most brilliant filmmakers of India and ‘Pyaasa’ his most evocative work. Guru Dutt did the lead role of a suffering poet Vijay when it was rejected by Dilip Kumar. Mala Sinha plays his girlfriend, Johnny Walker his masseuse pal and Waheeda Rehman his admirer and a prostitute. The film is replete with symbolism, Guru Dutt’s forte. Whether it’s the powerful crushing the feeble or the hypocrisy of the society there is no parallel to the way it’s handled in ‘Pyaasa’. As an unsuccessful poet he is shunned by all and sundry from his own brothers to even the prostitutes. In bizarre circumstances he is believed to be dead and as luck would have it his work gets published and famous. The same people who ridiculed him attempt to cash in on his ‘posthumous’ glory. In a Christ-like manner the poet ‘resurrects in a function in his memory. The poignancy of the moment leaves you stunned. ‘Pyaasa’ is utterly bitter at times and painfully ironic at others. Its not the kind of film that one forgets in a hurry, it forces you to contemplate over matters that one usually shoves at the back of one’s mind. S. D. Burman music is brilliant as usual but the crowning glory of the film is the lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi. Songs like “Jaane woh kaise log the”, “Jinhe naaz hai Hind par who kahan hain” and the heartrending “ Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai ” are true classics. The film is an absolute must see for all film buffs!

Mother India (1957) Mehboob’s magnum opus ‘Mother India’ is a tribute to the Indian woman! The only film before ‘Lagaan’ to get a nomination in the Best Foreign Film Category at the Oscars, ‘Mother India’ is an epic. Nargis as Radha, a ‘Mother Courage’ like character was spectacular in the film. It was a performance of a lifetime, a role to die for. It won her the Best actress award at the prestigious Karlovy Vary festival. The film is emotionally charged as Radha represents millions of women across the country struggling to preserve their dignity while bringing up their children single-handedly. She works like a beast to feed her children and pay off the moneylender. Her sons played by Rajendra Kumar and Sunil Dutt help her in getting back their land from the vile clutches of the local moneylender. Sunil Dutt as the rebel son whom she shoots in the end is brilliant. While shooting for the film Sunil Dutt had rescued Nargis from a fire that had broken out on the sets. The two later married spinning a romantic folklore around the film.

Do Aankhen Barah Haath (1957) The renowned filmmaker V Shantaram made a stirring ‘Do Aankhen Barah Haath’; a film about social reforms. It’s a stark black-and-white film about a jailor who believes that love and trust can turn even the most hardened criminals into God fearing responsible citizens. V Shantaram played the lead character of an idealistic jailor himself and his real life wife Sandhya plays a toy seller. The jailor takes six murderers out of jail and takes their responsibility to reform them. He gives them freedom and trust and gradually are reformed. Shantaram makes the film believable as the change is gradual and thankfully there is no melodrama in the film. The prisoners keep going back to their old ways but the jailors faith and psychologically handled situations make him a winner in the end.

Devdas (1955) One of the most accomplished filmmakers of Hindi cinema, Bimal Roy made many films that fit the classics list, but Dilip Kumar starrer ‘Devdas’ is an absolute must see. We have seen many versions of ‘Devdas’ based on the novel by Saratchandra Chattopadhyay but this black-and-white version remains the best. It is tragic tale of lost love and a complex mish-mash of human relationships. Dilip Kumar as the self-destructive doomed lover, Devdas gives a remarkable performance. His drunken scenes are understated and that coupled with his inimitable style of dialogue delivery is a deadly combo. Its dialogue " Kaun kambakht bardasht karne ke liye peeta hai ?” was oft repeated by Dilip Kumar fans. Vyjayanthimala as Chandramukhi and Suchitra Sen as Paro give sensitive performances. Motilal as Chunnibabu is a treat to watch. ‘Devdas’ won Dilip Kumar the Best Actor award and a Best Supporting Actress award for Vyjayanthimala.

Do Bigha Zameen (1953) Another Bimal Roy classic ’Do Bigha Zameen’ is one of the most unforgettable films of Indian cinema. The protagonist Shambhu brilliantly played by Balraj Sahni migrates to Calcutta from a small village where he owns two acres of land. He needs to earn money desperately to pay the debt as the moneylender wants his plot of land. His son joins him in the city and becomes a shoeshine boy. Balraj Sahni becomes a rickshaw puller. The scenes with him pulling people in his rickshaw were so compelling that you felt the anguish and the urgency with which he enacts them. To get into the skin of the character, Balraj Sahni, a well educated westernized actor practiced rickshaw pulling on the streets of Calcutta and mingled with other rickshaw pullers without telling them who he was. The film explores the cruelty that is meted out to the poor in villages and cities alike. The film wasn’t a big hit but it won major awards at the Cannes film festival, Karlovy Vary film festivals and Filmfare Awards.

Awara (1951) The USP of ‘Awara’ was the now famous Raj-Nargis pairing. Whenever Raj Kapoor and Nargis came together on screen, sparks flew. Their chemistry was electrifying and it crackles with raw passion in Raj Kapoor’s ‘Awara’. Nargis’s wild and carefree sensuality pulsates and Raj Kapoor’s scruffy hair-rebellious persona only adds fuel to the fire. The film was a runaway success not just in India but also in the erstwhile USSR and China. Raj Kapoor plays Raju an aimless youth turned into a criminal living in the slums who is loved by a respectable lawyer played by Nargis. The film established Raj Kapoor as the Chaplin-like ‘tramp’ of Hindi cinema. The music of the film was on the lips of not just Indians but people from all over the world especially Russians. The songs specially “ Awaara hoon”, “Ghar aaya mera pardesi ” and “ Dum bhar jo udhar muhn phere ” are remembered even today. The first ever dream sequence to be filmed in Hindi cinema where a gorgeous Nargis wafts through the clouds in search of her lover, Raj Kapoor took three months to shoot. It is a symbolic picturisation of the turbulence in the mind of the hero, he escapes the hell that the villain has created and climbs up to the angelic heroine. This song was a big attraction in its time and it spawned numerous dream-sequences.

Text coutesy India Times

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