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The 100 best Bollywood movies: the list

Explore our list of the best Hindi movies ever made, as picked by leading Bollywood critics and experts

A scene from Bunty Aur Babli, one of the best Bollywood movies of all time
By Time Out editors |
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Here, we celebrate mainstream Hindi movies – the big films that have been wowing audiences in India and beyond for more than 60 years. To find the top 100 Bollywood movies, we picked a select bunch of Bollywood experts and asked them for their favourite Hindi movies. From there, we discovered these 100 great Bollywood movies – superb films that feature the best Bollywood songs and dances. Explore, and have fun!

RECOMMENDED: The 100 best Bollywood movies

The 100 best Bollywood movies: 100-91

100
Bollywood movie: Bobby
Film, Bollywood

Bobby (1973)

Director: Raj Kapoor

Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia

Genre: romance

Rich Hindu adolescent lad Raja (Kapoor) falls for Bobby (Kapadia), the 16-year-old granddaughter of his Goan Catholic nanny. When his snobbish parents object to their ‘friendship’, the young lovers decide to elope. This landmark film was a resounding success as Indian audiences had rarely ever seen teenage love expressed so sensuously on screen. The lead duo was believable too, and Kapadia became a national sensation with her mini-skirts and halter tops – an exposing bikini sequence was especially eye-grabbing. Laxmikant Pyarelal’s fresh soundtrack added to the appeal of this sweet film, with every song remaining a hit to this day.

The big scene
When the top screen villain of the time Prem Chopra makes a cameo as himself.

Anil Sinanan

99
Hindi movie: Hum Aapke Hain Koun…!
Film, Bollywood

Hum Aapke Hain Koun…! (1994)

Director: Sooraj R Barjatya

Cast: Madhuri Dixit, Salman Khan, Tuffy

Genre: musical, romance

This 1990s blockbuster was directly responsible for audiences in India and elsewhere returning to Bollywood after a drastic drop in attendance in the 1980s due to video piracy and disillusionment with the crude action films of that era. Expect 14 songs, two weddings and a cremation. Nothing else really happens, yet its shameless lavish depiction of every celebration of a perfect north Indian family, and especially their elaborate colourful Hindu wedding rituals, sucked audiences into cinemas again and again. ‘HAHK’, as it is known, is the film which kickstarted the global awareness of modern Bollywood.

The big scene
When wonder dog Tuffy has to decide whether to reunite the lovers or not.

Anil Sinanan

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98
Bollywood movie: Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani
Film, Bollywood

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013)

Director: Ayan Mukherjee

Cast: Deepika Padukone, Ranbir Kapoor, Kalki Koechlin, Aditya Roy Kapoor

Genre: romance, comedy

This romantic comedy fits the Bollywood template perfectly: it boasts flamboyant colours, songs and dance and, more importantly, a big fat Indian wedding. It tells of two characters, Bunny (Kapoor) and Naina (Padukone), and their group of friends, who we first meet as they leave university before the film flashes forward to the end of their twenties. What made the film doubly successful was that its two stars were former lovers in real life, lending them a special chemistry onscreen.

The big scene
After the big song ‘Balam Pichkari’, Bunny’s friends discover a letter congratulating him for landing a job in America. The four friends go their separate ways, leaving Naina’s love for Bunny unspoken.

Anushka Arora

97
Bollywood movie: Veer Zaara
Film, Bollywood

Veer-Zaara (2004)

Director: Yash Chopra

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Rani Mukherji

Genre: romance

Yash Chopra, Bollywood’s most successful and respected director, delivers a groundbreaking musical romance on an epic scale. Will the love that Indian Hindu Veer (Khan) and Pakistani Muslim Zaara (Zinta) feel for each other be able to overcome cross-cultural, emotional and physical borders? Chopra employs his trademark ‘chiffon sari in the Swiss Alps’ style while including progressive political and social messages about Indo-Pak unity, women’s rights, inept justice and hope for the future. The late composer Madan Mohan and Lata Mangeshkar’s tunes achieve lyrical perfection. The result is an uplifting, colourful and soulful gem.

The big scene
When the lovers reunite in a Pakistani courtroom after being apart for over two decades.

Anil Sinanan

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96
Hindi movie: Umrao Jaan
Film, Drama

Umrao Jaan (1981)

Director: Muzaffar Ali

Cast: Rekha, Farouque Shaikh, Naseeruddin Shah

Genre: drama

This is an adaptation of Mirza Hadi Ruswa’s well-known 1899 novel about a Lucknow courtesan called Umrao Jaan (Rekha) who fights to escape the profession she was kidnapped into by following the path of true love. The carefully crafted period setting captivated viewers and critics on its release, and the story was told again in 2006, this time with Aishwarya Rai in the title role.

The big scene
The song ‘Dil cheez kya hai’ sees Rekha, wearing a now-legendary red outfit, dancing with iconic choreography to the music of Khayyam.

Ashanti Omkar

95
Bollywood movie: Swades
Film, Drama

Swades (2004)

Director: Ashutosh Gowariker

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Gayatri Joshi, Kishori Balal

Genre: drama, romance, musical

Pleasing audiences with a film so soon after the Oscar-nominated ‘Lagaan’ was always going to be tough for director Ashutosh Gowariker. And while ‘Swades’ underwhelmed those who compared it to ‘Lagaan’, it was still a solid film, and even better in some ways. Mohan Bhargav (Khan, in one of his best performances) is on a short break from his job at Nasa in the States and visits his hometown in India. The film focuses on Bhargav’s struggles with his country of birth, its inhabitants and his own identity.

The big scene
A poor farmer explains the difficulties faced by him because of the oppressive nature of the people he deals with, which moves Bhargav to tears.

Aniruddha Guha

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94
Bollywood movie: Salaam Bombay!
Film, Drama

Salaam Bombay! (1998)

Director: Mira Nair

Cast: Shafiq Syed, Raghuvir Yadav, Nana Patekar

Genre: drama

This story of kids living on the streets of Bombay isn’t Bollywood in the traditional sense. Writer-director Mira Nair had lived and studied in the US for several years by the time she returned to India to make her eye-opening drama about a young boy, Krishna (Syed) falling deeper and deeper into trouble in the big city. But this is still one of the most stark, realistic films to emerge from India in recent times. Nair cast real street children, something that Danny Boyle would later do for ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, and the film’s strength is that it observes and illuminates but does not judge – we’re given more than enough room to make up our own minds on the issues raised by the film.

The big scene
The now-famous Irrfan Khan pops up briefly as a professional letter writer.

Ashanti Omkar

93
Hindi movie: Mujhse Dosti Karoge!
Film, Bollywood

Mujhse Dosti Karoge! (2002)

Director: Kunal Kohli

Cast: Rani Mukerji, Kareena Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan

Genre: romance

The title of this sweeping love-triangle romance translates as ‘Will you be my friend?’, and there’s something a little soft and cartoon-like about ‘Mujhse Dosti Karoge!’ as there was with a number of turn-of-the-millennium, mainstream Hindi movies. But there’s also something unavoidably charming about the young leads and the film’s satisfying device of having characters fall in love through long-distance letters. The film’s reputation is also bolstered by its pedigree: it was produced under the venerable Yash Raj banner and all four of its romantic leads came from established film families (including the producer’s son, Uday Chopra).

The big scene
A 12-minute medley of songs from other films.

Beth Watkins

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92
Hindi movie: Lage Raho Munna Bhai
Film, Bollywood

Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006)

Director: Rajkumar Hirani

Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Vidya Balan, Boman Irani

Genre: comedy, drama, musical

Three years after making his debut with the sleeper hit, ‘Munna Bhai MBBS’, director Rajkumar Hirani brought back the lovable gangster Munna Bhai (Dutt) – for the best sequel ever made by Bollywood. Munna starts brushing up on his knowledge about Gandhi in order to impress a radio host. Soon, Gandhi materialises before Munna and starts having conversations with him, leading everyone to believe he’s lost his mind. Theatre actor Dilip Prabhavalkar made a rare Hindi film appearance as Gandhi, and nailed a character that’s always been tough to portray on screen.

The big scene
An elderly man who’s been pushed around by a government official for far too long resorts to ‘Gandhigiri’ (Gandhiism) to achieve his means – he publicly shames the corrupt official by stripping off his clothes.

Aniruddha Guha

91
Bollywood movie: Ardh Satya
Film, Bollywood

Ardh Satya (1983)

Director: Govind Nihalani

Cast: Om Puri, Smita Patil, Amrish Puri

Genre: crime, drama

Here, Govind Nihalani’s trademark ‘law and order’ political cinema exposes police brutality in the Bombay force. Anant (Puri) is a no-nonsense cop who is thwarted at every level by the system in his effort to arrest a crooked politician. When he kills a small-time thief, he is forced to seek protection from the same politician he loathes. A surprise hit as it had no major stars or hit songs, ‘Ardh Satya’ remains a realistic, caustic comment on the worrying nexus between corrupt politicians and bent cops in India then and now. Om Puri’s explosive performance is enthralling.

The big scene
When Anant comes face-to-face with the politician he hates, he has to make a decision…

Anil Sinanan

The 100 best Bollywood movies: 90-81

90
Hindi movie: Hera Pheri
Film, Bollywood

Hera Pheri (2000)

Director: Priyadarshan

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Sunil Shetty, Paresh Rawal

Genre: comedy, drama, musical

In this popular comedy, a nonsensical plot about a botched kidnapping and phone calls going to the wrong number is balanced by some fine acting from lead actors Kumar, Shetty and Rawal. The latter became an overnight star on the back of ‘Hera Pheri’ after being on the sidelines as a supporting actor for many years. His portrayal of an alcoholic, naïve, half-blind garage owner, who rents his home out to two young boys, brought the house down. The film remains enjoyable even after repeat viewings.

The big scene
While demanding a ransom from the rich grandfather of a kidnapped girl, Baburao makes a rough calculation of all his expenses and asks for ‘paune bara’ (Rs11.75 lakh, or about £12,000).

Aniruddha Guha

89
Hindi movie: Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
Film, Drama

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013)

Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Sonam Kapoor

Genre: biopic, drama, sports

Milkha Singh – known as The Flying Sikh – was a world-champion Olympic runner in the 1950s and 1960s, who infamously lost the most important race of his life. ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ shows us how he came to be one of India’s greatest runners, and how he overcame the demons of witnessing the massacre of his family during India’s partition. The success of the film comes from its strong attention to detail, a superb performance from Farhan Akhtar as Singh and an inspiring story.

The big scene
When amateur runner Milkha is stripped for trying on the ‘India’ jacket only worn by champions and goes on to beat the bully in a race.

Shai Hussain

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88
Bollywood movie: Dhobi Ghat
Film, Drama

Dhobi Ghat (2011)

Director: Kiran Rao

Cast: Aamir Khan, Monica Dogra, Prateik Babbar

Genre: romance, drama, musical

Kiran Rao broke into filmmaking with this film about five characters, the fifth being the city of Mumbai (the title translates as ‘Mumbai Diaries’). Arun (Khan) is a reclusive painter who moves into a new apartment and finds video diaries left by the previous tenant, Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra). Shai (Dogra) is a photographer who befriends Munna (Babbar), a slum boy who hopes to break into Bollywood. Tushar Kanti Ray’s cinematography and Gustavo Santaolalla’s background score both beautifully complement this story about different classes of people co-existing in Mumbai.

The big scene
While Shai takes pictures in the middle of the night, she spots Munna, who moonlights as a rat killer. Embarrassed about being found out by Shai, Munna flees.

Aniruddha Guha

87
Bollywood movie: Kati Patang
Film, Bollywood

Kati Patang (1970)

Director: Shakti Samanta

Cast: Rajesh Khanna, Asha Parekh, Prem Chopra

Genre: romance, musical, drama

Inspired by the Hollywood weepie ‘No Man of Her Own’ (1950), Shakti Samanta’s film addresses the still-taboo theme of widows remarrying. The film goes out of its way to proclaim the untainted virgin status of its female lead, as Madhu (Parekh) only pretends to be a widow in order to assume a new identity. Complications follow when she is attracted to her ‘dead’ husband’s best mate (Khanna). The real superstar of this melodramatic film is RD Burman’s classic score: every track remains popular to this day.

The big scene
The first 15 minutes include an escape from an arranged marriage, a romantic betrayal, a death, a reunion and a fatal train crash.

Anil Sinanan

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86
Bollywood movie: Black Friday
Film, Bollywood

Black Friday (2004)

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Cast: Aditya Srivastava, Kay Kay Menon, Pavan Malhotra

Genre: drama, thriller

Long before director Anurag Kashyap broke on to the international scene with films like 2012’s ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’, he struggled to release this controversial real-life drama about the infamous 1993 bomb blasts in Mumbai – arguably his best film to date. Kashyap stuck to investigative journalist Hussain Zaidi’s version of the planning, execution and aftermath of the explosions and extracted great performances from his ensemble cast. ‘Black Friday’ is a rare thing: an engaging Hindi film based on a true story.

The big scene
Kashyap shot one of the best chase sequences on film when a suspect runs from policemen in the Dharavi slum. The six-minute scene is said to have inspired Danny Boyle when he made ‘Slumdog Millionaire’.

Aniruddha Guha

85
Hindi movie: Gangs of Wasseypur: Part One
Film, Action and adventure

Gangs of Wasseypur: Part One (2012)

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Cast: Manoj Bajpai, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Richa Chadda

Genre: action, thriller

Anurag Kashyap is Hindi cinema’s Quentin Tarantino, and this is his ‘Reservoir Dogs’, a bloody, brutal and visually arresting gangster film which centres on feuding families and a coal-mining racket. Menacing mafia don Sardar Khan (Bajpai), and his Bollywood-loving, stoner son Faizal (Siddiqui), are both compelling screen presences. Kashyap rips to shreds Bollywood’s tradition of shooting airbrushed heroes and heroines in pristine locations. Instead this oozes blood and black humour. Kashyap made ‘Part Two’ at the same time.

The big scene
Sardar Khan’s pregnant, no-nonsense wife Nagma (Chadda) discovers him in a brothel and pulls out a knife – the sight of the terrifying hard man cowering and fleeing is gold.

Rahul Verma

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84
Hindi movie: Arth
Film, Bollywood

Arth (1982)

Director: Mahesh Bhatt

Cast: Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil

Genre: romance, drama

This is truly mature cinema. Mahesh Bhatt’s breakout film ‘Arth’ was partly autobiographical, giving it a sense of intimacy still rare in Hindi cinema. Pooja (Azmi) finds the bubble of her happy marriage starting to burst when she discovers that her filmmaker husband, Inder (Kharbanda), is having an affair with Kavita (Patil). Pooja’s search for her own identity leads her to many revelations, while Inder is ultimately left alone.

The big scene
Drunken Pooja and Kavita finally meet in person, and chauvinist Inder has no option but to see exactly what’s happening in his life as the film takes a feminist turn.

Varun Grover

83
Bollywood movie: Dhoom
Film, Bollywood

Dhoom (2004)

Director: Sanjay Gadhvi

Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Uday Chopra, John Abraham

Genre: action

Bollywood’s most successful modern franchise features stylish villains on the run from a lovable yet inept duo: policeman Dixit (Bachchan) and Ali (Chopra), a thief whose help he seeks out. So far there have been three ‘Dhoom’ movies, and in this first one the villain was Kabir (Abraham), the head of a motorbike gang. The series is heavily defined by its stunt action set pieces and owes a big debt to the likes of ‘The Fast and the Furious’ and ‘Ocean’s Eleven’.

The big scene
The bike chase scene, with the duo jumping over a moving train while dodging bullets.

Ashanti Omkar

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82
Bollywood movie: Kahaani
Film, Bollywood

Kahaani (2012)

Director: Sujoy Ghosh

Cast: Vidya Balan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Parambrata Chatterjee

Genre: thriller, drama

Director Sujoy Ghosh and writers Suresh Nair, Ritesh Shah, Advaita Kala and Nikhil Vyas crafted the near-perfect thriller with ‘Kahaani’ – straightforward, fast-moving and intelligent. Vidya Balan’s image, that of the rare female actor who could deliver hits on the strength of her reputation, got a further boost after the film’s release. She plays a pregnant woman, Vidya, who head to Kolkata in search of her missing husband. Great supporting acts by Siddiqui and Chatterjee and a late twist make ‘Kahaani’ extremely watchable.

The big scene
Rana (Chatterjee), a cop, pieces together Vidya’s real identity in a series of flashbacks, while she completes her mission.

Aniruddha Guha

81
Hindi movie: Dabangg
Film, Action and adventure

Dabangg (2010)

Director: Abhinav Kashyap

Cast: Salman Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Sonu Sood

Genre: action, drama, musical

Writer-director Abhinav Kashyap paid tribute to 1970s Hindi cinema with this entertaining action movie that gave actor Salman Khan’s stardom a boost, and revived the masala genre in a major way (not entirely a good thing). Khan plays the iconic Chulbul Pandey, a corrupt cop in north India who goes after politicians and gangsters and refers to himself as ‘Robin Hood’ Pandey. There are several plot holes, but the film rides on a breezy script, Khan’s charm and some well-choreographed action scenes.

The big scene
The musical number ‘Munni Badnaam Hui’ (‘Munni was defamed’) brought back the ‘item song’ (a crude term to describe a song featuring scantily dressed women) in a big way.

Aniruddha Guha

The 100 best Bollywood movies: 80-71

80
Hindi movie: Black
Film, Bollywood

Black (2005)

Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Cast: Rani Mukerji, Amitabh Bachchan

Genre: drama

This drama about a deaf-mute woman, Michelle (Mukerji), and her struggle through education was loosely inspired by the true story of Helen Keller. Like most films directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali (‘Guzaarish’), ‘Black’ is at times uncomfortably manipulative and awkward in its attempt to inspire. But there’s no denying that Bhansali conjures up gorgeous worlds. Strong heroines and stories of female ambition are still fairly rare in Hindi movies, and it’s impossible not to cheer for the determined Michelle as she stumbles in the shadows.

The big scene
Michelle gains her university degree and makes a moving speech to the graduating class.

Beth Watkins

79
Bollywood movie: Gangster
Film, Bollywood

Gangster (2006)

Director: Anurag Basu

Cast: Emran Hashmi, Kangana Ranaut, Shiney Ahuja

Genre: musical, thriller

This spicy film is allegedly based on the life of one of India’s most notorious wanted men and his stormy relationship with a wannabe actress. Simran (Ranaut) meets Akash (Hashmi) in an Indian restaurant in Seoul, and they fall in love. Akash is oblivious not only to Simran’s shady past as a ‘dance girl’ in sordid Mumbai bars but also to the fact that she is the girlfriend of Daya (Ahuja) a dangerous criminal. Anurag Basu’s efficient storytelling lacks emotional and moral depth, yet the result is still an enjoyably trashy experience. Ranaut impresses with a sassy but vulnerable performance.

The big scene
Pritam’s score was hugely derivative but proved massively popular.

Anil Sinanan

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78
Hindi movie: Bandit Queen
Film, Drama

Bandit Queen (1994)

Director: Shekhar Kapur

Cast: Seema Biswas

Genre: drama

The novelist Arundhati Roy criticised Shekhar Kapur’s version of the life of Phoolan Devi (Biswas) for simplifying the criminal-turned-politician’s experiences to fit a typical rape-revenge story. Devi was a bandit who was jailed for acts of revenge against people who abused her as a child and who later became a politician. But ‘Bandit Queen’ remains a harrowing depiction of fearful and unforgiving lives in rural Uttar Pradesh. The film succeeds in making us all witnesses to its horrors – and complicit in them when, like so many of the characters, we say nothing.

The big scene
Devi and her gang attack a wedding party in search of recompense for the horrors she suffered in her youth.

Beth Watkins

77
Bollywood movie: Kabhie Kabhie
Film, Bollywood

Kabhie Kabhie (1976)

Director: Yash Chopra

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Rakhee Gulzar, Shashi Kapoor

Genre: romance, drama

Yash Chopra’s most romantic movie is a superior Bollywood soap dealing with intergenerational love, personal sacrifices and secrets and lies in the lives of two middle-class Delhi families. College sweethearts Amit (Bachchan) and Pooja (Gulzar) separate when Pooja announces that her parents have arranged her marriage to Vijay (Kapoor). Years later, the respective adults and their teenage kids meet… The film’s strong social messages – that the past is the past and that the younger generation will marry the partners of their choice – hold true today.

The big scene
If there is only one Bollywood soundtrack you ever listen to, it has to be this one, with the title track widely considered to be the best Bollywood song ever.

Anil Sinanan

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76
Hindi movie: Udaan
Film, Bollywood

Udaan (2010)

Director: Vikramaditya Motwane

Cast: Rajat Barmecha, Sanjay Gandhi

Genre: drama

After spending eight years at a boarding school, 16-year-old Rohan (Barmecha) is expelled and returns home to Jamshedpur to discover that his father has remarried and been widowed a second time in his absence. Rohan also has a young stepbrother he knew nothing about. He dreams of becoming a writer, but instead he’s forced to work in the family business and later to attend engineering school. ‘Udaan’ offers a realistic set-up, a simple story familiar to many Indians and some superb, understated performances. This isn’t the classic idea of Bollywood, but it’s a strong film nevertheless.

The big scene
Rohan and his father jog together each morning: one day Rohan finally outruns his father, metaphorically and literally.

Shai Hussain

75
Hindi movie: Zubeidaa
Film, Bollywood

Zubeidaa (2001)

Director: Shyam Benegal

Cast: Karisma Kapoor, Rekha, Manoj Bajpayee

Genre: romance

The voice of Bollywood’s nightingale Lata Mangeshkar and the music of composer AR Rahman sweep through this poignant period tale about Zubeida, the beautiful mistress to a king. Karisma Kapoor plays the doe-eyed princess to perfection, and Khalid Mohamed, son of actress Zubeida Begum, wrote the script, based on the tragic life story of his own mother.

The big scene
During a ritual in Zubeida’s first marriage, she runs out, saying she’s ‘not a bride but a goat about to be sacrificed’, before trying to shoot herself with her father’s pistol.

Ashanti Omkar

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74
Bollywood movie: Teesri Kasam
Film, Bollywood

Teesri Kasam (1966)

Director: Basu Bhattacharya

Cast: Raj Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman

Genre: romance

Bullock-cart driver Hiraman (Kapoor) takes a mysterious female passenger, Hirabai (Rehman), to a faraway fair. En route, they bond over some meaningful songs and food. She reveals that she is a dancer. They arrive at their destination and the villagers speculate that Hirabai may actually be a whore. Hiraman appears oblivious; he is smitten. Pure star power, frequent songs, and scenic black-and-white cinematography of rural Bihar (the monochrome was a deliberate choice, as India’s first colour film was in 1964) combine to sustain interest in this progressive culture-class-clash love story.

The big scene
The title translates as ‘three vows’, and it’s the final vow that brings on the tears.

Anil Sinanan

73
Hindi movie: Naseeb
Film, Bollywood

Naseeb (1981)

Director: Manmohan Desai

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Shatrughan Sinha, Rishi Kapoor

Genre: drama

Manmohan Desai’s star-filled film repeats his customary ‘lost and found’ formula of villains separating a young family who in adulthood reunite to seek revenge. Desai’s frequent use of two-second shots and close-ups whips the proceedings along. Like his earlier classic ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ (1977), this is Bollywood kitsch at its best.

The big scene
The entire film is a series of highlights, including a boxing match, a glass mansion on fire and a climactic song with the three heroes and their girls dressed as characters including matadors, Cossacks and Chaplin.

Anil Sinanan

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72
Bollywood movie: Zanjeer
Film, Action and adventure

Zanjeer (1973)

Director: Prakash Mehra

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bhaduri, Ajit, Pran

Genre: action, drama

The action-packed ‘Zanjeer’ was an early masterpiece from the writing duo Salim-Javed, giving Amitabh Bachchan his first major role and cementing his ‘Angry Young Man’ status. It’s an unapologetically bitter and stylish revenge story about an honest cop, Vijay (Bachchan), who has been haunted since childhood by nightmares about his father’s murder by a stranger – but all that’s known about the killer is that he wore a bracelet with a white stallion charm. As an adult, Vijay’s path crosses the gangster responsible, Teja (Ajit), and the stage is set for a final showdown.

The big scene
Vijay’s first couple of interactions with Sher Khan (Pran), the goon with a golden heart, see the script hitting the sweet spot.

Varun Grover

71
Hindi movie: Omkara
Film, Drama

Omkara (2006)

Director: Vishal Bhardwaj

Cast: Ajay Devgn, Kareena Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan

Genre: drama

Vishal Bhardwaj’s modern ‘Othello’, set in northern India’s Uttar Pradesh, sidesteps Bollywood bombast and keeps its emotions in check. Bhardwaj extracts surprising performances from actors previously associated with more populist work: his cast display real torment and depth, particularly Saif Ali Khan as a deformed, scheming ‘Iago’ (called Langda here). ‘Omkara’ is one of Bhardwaj’s three adaptations of Shakespeare for Hindi cinema: 2003’s ‘Maqbool’ interpreted ‘Macbeth’, while 2014’s ‘Haider’ did the same for ‘Hamlet’.

The big scene
The climax when the fate of Omkara’s lover, Dolly (Kapoor) – falsely accused of having an affair – is finally sealed.

Beth Watkins

The 100 best Bollywood movies: 70-61

70
Hindi movie: Chhoti Si Baat
Film, Bollywood

Chhoti Si Baat (1975)

Director: Basu Chatterjee

Cast: Amol Palekar, Vidya Sinha, Ashok Kumar

Genre: romance, comedy, musical

An expert at depicting the urban middle class, director Basu Chatterjee’s protagonist in ‘Chhoti Si Baat’ is once again a simple man (played expertly by Palekar) faced with simple problems and finding simple solutions to deal with them. Arun is an unconfident man who fantasises about wooing Prabha (Sinha). He is taken under the wing of a fun-loving colonel (Kumar), who helps young men overcome their shortcomings. An adaptation of ‘School for Scoundrels’, the film is best remembered for its portrayal of 1970s Bombay and its quirky humour.

The big scene
A montage of the colonel training Arun, and telling him that the world is divided between winners and losers. ‘In the cricket of life, there’s no draw.’

Aniruddha Guha

69
Hindi movie: Jewel Thief
Film, Bollywood

Jewel Thief (1967)

Director: Vijay Anand

Cast: Dev Anand, Ashok Kumar, Vyjayanthimala, Tanuja

Genre: thriller

This spy thriller tells of Vinay (Anand), an ordinary young man with a striking resemblance to a jewel thief, Amar (also Anand). It’s three hours of decadence, with loose gems, fast women and a hero on the run. Its staying power comes not just from its extraordinary visual indulgences – the film is candy-coloured, classy and sexy – but also from a brilliant script that carefully reveals layer after layer and eventually turns one of Hindi cinema’s favourite tropes on its head. Almost 50 years later, watching the details unfold is still a breathtaking experience.

The big scene
The songs are all knockouts, but ‘Baithe Hain Kya Uske Paas’, with the actress Helen shimmying on a bar in feathers, zebra print and spangled red fishnets, proves that more is indeed more.

Beth Watkins

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68
Hindi movie: Devdas
Film, Drama

Devdas (2002)

Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Madhuri Dixit, Jackie Shroff

Genre: drama, romance

Extravagant yet still full of heart: Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s opulent adaptation of Sarat Chandra’s simplistic novel marked a move into excessive theatricality for the director, whose films since include ‘Guzaarish’ and ‘Saawariya’. His style was at its most organic and daring in ‘Devdas’. Its main characters, Devdas (Khan) and Paro (Rai), are childhood lovers, but class differences and difficult parents cause them to separate. Full of spite, Devdas goes on a drinking binge and ends up in the arms of a dancing girl, Chandramukhi (Dixit). Chandramukhi falls in love with a broken Devdas, but he can’t think of anything beyond Paro, alcohol and death.

The big scene
A drunk Devdas expresses his anger at his father by jumping into a pond and performing his own last rites.

Varun Grover

67
Bollywood movie: Gunga Jumna
Film, Bollywood

Gunga Jumna (1961)

Director: Nitin Bose

Cast: Dilip Kumar, Nasir Khan

Genre: action, drama

This 1961 drama helped to set the template for what would become a Bollywood staple: stories of brothers on opposite sides of the law. Poverty-stricken villager Gunga (Kumar) scrapes together just enough money to fund an education for his younger brother Jumna (Khan). Jumna becomes a police officer, while Gunga joins a group of bandits after heroically defending his love against a powerful landowner. The brothers head towards an unavoidable face-off.

The big scene
When Jumna’s fellow police officers open fire on Ganga’s bandits, and the two men remember that, despite everything that’s happened, they’re still brothers.

Shai Hussain

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66
Hindi movie: Madhumati
Film

Madhumati (1958)

Director: Bimal Roy

Cast: Dilip Kumar, Vyjayantimala, Pran

Genre: romance, thriller, musical

Director Bimal Roy’s rare foray into commercial cinema was a heady cocktail of revenge, romance and reincarnation, with a supernatural element thrown in. City-bred Anand (Kumar) moves to a village to manage the estate of the evil Ugaranarayan (the legendary Pran), who rapes and murders Anand’s lover, Madhumati (Vyjayantimala). A grief-stricken Anand finds a lookalike of Madhumati and talks her into luring Ugaranayaran to confess his crime. The film boasts a brilliant score by Salil Choudhury.

The big scene
Anand thinks that Madhumati’s lookalike is extracting a confession from Ugaranarayan and then realises it’s actually her ghost.

Aniruddha Guha

65
Bollywood movie: Chandni
Film, Drama

Chandni (1989)

Director: Yash Chopra

Cast: Sridevi, Rishi Kapoor, Vinod Khanna

Genre: romance, drama

It’s the ultimate love triangle: Rohit (Kapoor) and Chandni (Sridevi) meet at a wedding and fall in love. But just before they get married, an accident takes away Rohit’s legs and self-esteem, forcing Chandni to exit the relationship. She meets Lalit (Khanna), who himself is nursing a broken heart, and things get complicated. Director Yash Chopra’s clever handling of the story, which offers a distinctly female perspective on troubled love, makes ‘Chandni’ rise way above the pack.

The big scene
When a recuperating Rohit meets Lalit and they talk about the girls they love, unaware that both are talking about the same person.

Varun Grover

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64
Bollywood movie: Jagte Raho
Film, Comedy

Jagte Raho (1956)

Director: Amit Maitra, Sombhu Mitra

Cast: Raj Kapoor, Nargis, Motilal

Genre: drama, satire, musical

This experimental film by directing duo Amit Maitra and Sombhu Mitra sees Raj Kapoor playing a thirsty villager stuck in a city apartment block after being mistaken for a thief. Kapoor’s unnamed character moves from one part of the building to another, coming across several people, all of whom hide murky secrets. This largely single-character-driven film features several cameo appearances by well-known Hindi film actors, each playing various urban folk who Kapoor is first scared of, and later comes to despise.

The big scene
The great actor Motilal appears in one scene of the film, drunkenly singing the song ‘Zindagi Khwab Hai’ (‘Life is a dream’).

Aniruddha Guha

63
Hindi movie: Bunty Aur Babli
Film, Action and adventure

Bunty Aur Babli (2005)

Director: Shaad Ali

Cast: Rani Mukerji, Abhishek Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan

Genre: comedy, drama

The American dream, Bollywood-style, as two kids from nowhere leave home in search of their fortune and a new identity. Family and community slip into the background as the title characters, Bunty (Abhishek Bachchan) and Babli (Mukerji) – the new names they give themselves – exercise the freedom to make their own mistakes. Rani Mukerji and Abhishek Bachchan give top-notch comic performances.

The big scene
The film’s hit song, ‘Kajra Re’, feels slightly awkward now that the young woman singing it, Aishwarya Rai, is married to Abhishek Bachchan, the son of the actor (Amitabh Bachchan) she chases in the song. But this episode remains a masterclass in music, dance, and storytelling.

Beth Watkins

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62
Bollywood movie: Sharmeelee
Film, Drama

Sharmeelee (1971)

Director: Samir Ganguli

Cast: Shashi Kapoor, Raakhee

Genre: romance, thriller

‘Sharmeelee’ is a typical example of that Bollywood storytelling staple: good twin versus bad twin. Ajit (Kapoor) marries the shy Kanchan (Raakhee), thinking she is the vivacious Kamini (also Raakhee), not realising they are identical twins. Kamini spots the couple at a nightclub and decides she can have the domestic bliss she craves by eradicating her meek sister and taking her place. The outlandish plot is played straight as it clumsily examines the nature of surface beauty and inner goodness. The film’s main selling point today is SD Burman’s soundtrack, especially the undervalued Lata Mangeshkar solo ‘Megha Chhaye Aadhi Raat’ (‘Dark clouds have covered the skies’).

The big scene
An exploitative and dated rape sequence in which the baddie manhandles the leading lady and exposes her underwear.

Anil Sinanan

61
Bollywood movie: Parineeta
Film, Bollywood

Parineeta (1953)

Director: Bimal Roy

Cast: Ashok Kumar, Meena Kumari

Genre: romance, drama

Understated elegance is the order of the day in this adaptation of a Bengali novel. As brought to life by director Bimal Roy, it’s a nuanced tale of true love lost and found, with astute performances from celebrated actors Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari. The 2005 remake was similarly well received, and made Vidya Balan an overnight star in India.

The big scene
The show-stopping theatrical dance piece ‘Ae Bandi Tum’, performed by Gopi Krishna and Roshan Kumari and sung by Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar.

Ashanti Omkar

The 100 best Bollywood movies: 60-51

60
Bollywood movie: Lootera
Film, Drama

Lootera (2013)

Director: Vikramaditya Motwane

Cast: Ranveer Singh, Sonakshi Sinha, Adil Hussain

Genre: romance, thriller, musical

Vikramaditya Motwane re-imagined O Henry’s short story ‘The Last Leaf’ for this film about a simple girl, Pakhi (Sinha), who falls in love with a robber, Varun (Singh), when he arrives in her town pretending to be an archaeologist. Effectively recreating the 1950s era, complete with Dev Anand film songs playing on the radio, ‘Lootera’ brought together an ace technical team made up of production designer Aditya Kanwar and cinematographer Mahendra Shetty, who gave the film a distinct, lush period look.

The big scene
A sick Pakhi steadily rejects Varun’s advances while he seeks refuge in her house after running away from the police.

Aniruddha Guha

59
Hindi movie: Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke
Film, Family and kids

Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke (1993)

Director: Mahesh Bhatt

Cast: Aamir Khan, Juhi Chawla

Genre: romance, comedy

In this remake of Cary Grant’s ‘Houseboat’ (1958), Vyjayanti (Chawla), the bubbly daughter of a conservative Tamil family, escapes from an upcoming forced marriage and finds kindred spirits in three children who decide to hide her at their home, under the nose of their guardian Rahul (Khan). When Rahul discovers her, she becomes the children’s governess and what follows is a story of love between opposites. A wonderfully sweet soundtrack accompanies this delightful, light and entertaining family comedy.

The big scene
When Rahul finally stands up for Vyjayanti’s honour in defiance of his boss.

Shai Hussain

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58
Hindi movie: Garam Hawa
Film, Drama

Garam Hawa (1973)

Director: MS Sathyu

Cast: Balraj Sahni, Farooque Shaikh, AK Hangal

Genre: history, drama

Also known as ‘Scorching Winds’, this is perhaps the most important and accurate Indian film to depict the plight of minority Muslims in northern India following Partition in 1947. Set in the late 1940s, Salim (Sahni), an elderly Muslim shoemaker must decide whether or not to leave his ancestral home in Agra and migrate across the border to newly-created Pakistan. Meanwhile, Hindu-Muslim tensions at home threaten to rip apart his family. Director MS Sathyu, a Marxist activist, created a heart-wrenching tale of innocent lives torn apart by hatred and suspicion. Balraj Sahni’s noble performance will move you to tears, and the issues are equally relevant to India today.

The big scene
When the grandmother hides away in order to stay in her ‘home’.

Anil Sinanan

57
Bollywood movie: Mr & Mrs ’55
Film, Comedy

Mr & Mrs ’55 (1955)

Director: Guru Dutt

Cast: Guru Dutt, Madhubala, Johnny Walker

Genre: comedy

Director Guru Dutt uses a familiar plot to hilarious effect in this satire of India’s urban upper class in the post-independence period. Anita (Madhubala) can only inherit her father’s wealth if she gets married – leading her feminist aunt to suggest that she goes through a ‘fake’ marriage with cartoonist Preetam (Dutt) and then ‘divorce’ as soon as possible afterwards. But, of course, both Anita and Preetam fall in love… Dutt’s unique directing style is put to inventive use during the songs: the camera appears never to sit still. The film is best remembered today for the tunes sung by Geeta Dutt (the director’s wife) and for being truly funny. It’s an irresistible and impeccably cast film.

The big scene
The heroine’s swimming-pool song – which comes complete with charming chorus girls twirling umbrellas.

Anil Sinanan

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56
Hindi movie: Aiyyaa
Film, Comedy

Aiyyaa (2012)

Director: Sachin Kundalkar

Cast: Rani Mukerji, Prithviraj, Anita Date

Genre: romance, comedy, musical

Filmmaker Sachin Kundalkar took one of three parallel stories he previously told in the 2009 Marathi-language film ‘Gandha’ and turned it into a madcap Hindi comedy with fantasy elements. Meenakshi (Mukerji) falls in love with Tamil boy Surya (Prithviraj) after she’s drawn to his smell. The bizarre characters around Meenakshi include her father, who smokes four cigarettes at once; a grandmother with gold teeth; and her friend Mynah (a superb Date), who has a weird Lady Gaga obsession.

The big scene
Meenakshi finds herself fantasising about romancing with Surya while dancing to an archetypal Tamil cinema-inspired song that’s garish, vulgar and full of pelvic thrusts.

Aniruddha Guha

55
Bollywood movie: Satyam Shivam Sundaram
Film, Drama

Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978)

Director: Raj Kapoor

Cast: Shashi Kapoor, Zeenat Aman

Genre: romance

Raj Kapoor’s attempt to portray the conflict between the sacred and the profane, and to show that beauty is only skin deep, is an admittedly patchy affair. When engineer Ranjeev (Shashi Kapoor) hears the religious songs sung by ‘ugly’ village belle Rupa (Aman), he is convinced her face will be as beautiful as her voice. He marries her without seeing her, so the shallow groom is understandably upset on his wedding night. It’s a flawed masterpiece that is guilty of exactly of what it purports to criticise. But it’s also groundbreaking for its sexual explicitness, including wet kisses. Excellent soundtrack, too.

The big scene
Any scene with lead actress Zeenat Aman: she is practically topless for most of the film.

Anil Sinanan

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54
Hindi movie: Tashan
Film, Action and adventure

Tashan (2008)

Director: Vijay Krishna Acharya

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor

Genre: action, romance, musical

Director Vijay Krishna Acharya subverted the mainstream Bollywood formula by experimenting with a spaghetti-western-meets-masala mishmash. The film’s box-office fate was disastrous, but it has since found a niche audience via television and online. Gangster Bhaiyaji (Anil Kapoor) sends the ruthless Bachchan Pandey (Kumar) to hunt down Pooja (Kapoor) and call-centre employee Jimmy (Khan). All four characters, each vastly different from the other, are united by one common emotion – greed.

The big scene
All four characters meet at a rundown Jaipur palace to hand over some cash, but the cops arrive and a shootout ensues.

Aniruddha Guha

53
Hindi movie: Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam
Film, Drama

Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962)

Director: Abrar Alvi

Cast: Meena Kumari, Rehman, Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman

Genre: drama

‘Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam’ is a period film about the end of an era. Abrar Alvi’s adaptation of a Bengali novel by Bimal Mitra is about the stormy relationship between a rich, decadent business owner (Rehman), his lovelorn wife (Meena Kumari) and their young servant (Guru Dutt). It’s all told against the backdrop of the last days of the old system of zamindari (a way of collecting tax) in colonial, nineteenth-century Bengal. Shot with great sensitivity and innovation by Guru Dutt’s main man VK Murthy, ‘Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam’ is a more romantic twin to Satyajit Ray’s ‘Jalsaghar’.

The big scene
A drunk Kumari pleads with her arrogant husband to stay and make love to her via the song ‘Na jao saiyan’ – a bold scene back then.

Varun Grover

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52
Bollywood movie: Tezaab
Film, Drama

Tezaab (1988)

Director: N Chandra

Cast: Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Anupam Kher

Genre: romance, drama

Actor Anil Kapoor followed his 1987 super-hit ‘Mr India’ with this film (the title means ‘Acid’) that gave actress Madhuri Dixit her breakout role, swept the box office and won four Filmfare awards (Bollywood’s equivalent to the Oscars). It tells of a criminal, Munna (Kapoor), trying to get himself back on the right side of the law while also attempting to rescue his love, Mohini (Dixit), from the grasp of her villainous father. It’s passionate and violent.

The big scene
The song and video for ‘Ek Do Teen’ (‘One Two Three’) by composer duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal put actress and dance queen Dixit firmly on the Bollywood map.

Ashanti Omkar

51
Hindi movie: Sangam
Film, Drama

Sangam (1964)

Director: Raj Kapoor

Cast: Raj Kapoor, Vyjayanthimala, Rajendra Kumar

Genre: drama, romance

This is cinema as love song. Two best friends from childhood, Sunder (Kapoor) and Gopal (Kumar) love the same girl, Radha (Vyjayanthimala). She marries Sunder, the one she doesn’t love, but then he goes missing at war. When Sunder returns, the discovery of an old love letter sows seeds of suspicion and friendships are tested. The standard love-triangle template is made exotic by Shankar-Jaikishan’s timeless music and Raj Kapoor’s love for foreign locales.

The big scene
The accusatory song on piano – ‘Dost dost na raha’ (‘Friend did not remain a friend’) – is one of a kind in Hindi cinema (a man berating another man for trying to steal his woman), and the most intense point of the film.

Varun Grover

The 100 best Bollywood movies: 50-41

50
Hindi movie: Rockstar
Film, Bollywood

Rockstar (2011)

Director: Imtiaz Ali

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Nargis Fakhri, Aditi Rao Hydari

Genre: musical, romance, drama

Bollywood often lacks performers who are both box-office draws and good actors, but ‘Rockstar’ gave India a young artist to root for: Ranbir Kapoor. His portrayal of Janardan Jakhar, a self-destructive musician, didn’t just propel him to stardom; it also won him recognition for a masterful, nuanced performance. Director Imtiaz Ali collaborated with maestro AR Rahman to deliver a credible soundtrack that reflects the musician’s state of mind at several points in his life.

The big scene
After being thrown out of his home, a young Janardan experiences a spiritual and musical awakening at a dargah (shrine) as the song ‘Kun Faya Kun’ (‘Be, and it is’) plays in the background.

Aniruddha Guha

49
Hindi movie: Main Hoon Na
Film, Bollywood

Main Hoon Na (2004)

Director: Farah Khan

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Sushmita Sen, Sunil Shetty

Genre: comedy, drama

Military man Ram (Khan) goes undercover as a university student in the name of peace between India and Pakistan. While stalking the villain, Ram also loses his heart to a chemistry professor. ‘Main Hoon Na’ exists in a knowingly meta world where global superstar Shah Rukh Khan involuntarily bursts into song every time Miss Universe (Sen) glides by. The film dances that fine line between parody and celebration like no mainstream Hindi film before or since. It’s a celebration of all things filmi – family reunions, the redemptive power of love, fantasies played out in song – while also reveling in how ridiculous it can all be.

The big scene
In front of a huge crowd, Ram saves the life of his younger brother, who’s about to fall to his death from the roof of the university. One onlooker nicknames him ‘Rambo’.

Beth Watkins

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48
Hindi movie: Queen
Film, Bollywood

Queen (2014)

Director: Vikas Bahl

Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Rajkummar Rao, Lisa Haydon

Genre: drama, musical

A fiercely original filmmaking style and a novel plot made ‘Queen’ stand apart from all other 2014 releases, helping it to emerge as a critical and box-office hit. In a career-altering performance, Kangana Ranaut plays Rani, a sheltered small-town girl who decides to go on her honeymoon to Europe alone after she’s jilted at the altar. Writer-director Vikas Bahl displays a strong flair for capturing human behaviour and peppers a simple story with lovable characters and witty lines.

The big scene
Rani’s ex-lover begs her to return, but she simply thanks him for cancelling their wedding and thereby allowing her to discover herself.

Aniruddha Guha

47
Hindi movie: Mera Naam Joker
Film, Bollywood

Mera Naam Joker (1970)

Director: Raj Kapoor

Cast: Raj Kapoor, Simi Garewal, Rishi Kapoor

Genre: romance, biopic

Director-star Raj Kapoor’s semi-autobiographical magnum opus is four hours of self-loathing angst, which crashed at the box office and almost bankrupted the director-actor. A sad clown, Raju (Kapoor), invites the women he loved and lost in his life to his last ever performance. Told in three ‘chapters’, this overlong film is awash with iffy symbolism about the meaning of life, exhibits a questionable attitude towards women and is burdened with a mother-fixation subplot. But for all its flaws, this is no-holds-barred epic filmmaking with a moving soundtrack.

The big scene
Raju’s mother collapses and dies just as he’s about to perform – but the show must go on.

Anil Sinanan

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46
Bollywood movie: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
Film, Bollywood

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)

Director: Karan Johar

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Rani Mukerji

Genre: romance, musical

Director Karan Johar began his association with Shah Rukh Khan with this romantic drama partly inspired by the Archie-Veronica-Betty trio in the American Archie comics. Rahul (Khan) and Anjali (Kajol) are best friends studying in the same college, but the tomboyish Anjali is threatened by the arrival of Tina (Mukerji). Years later, widower Rahul reconnects with Anjali. The film was a runaway hit, best remembered for Khan and Kajol’s sizzling chemistry and Jatin-Lalit’s music.

The big scene
Anjali is unaware that one of her students, also named Anjali, is actually Rahul and Tina’s daughter. Then she watches Rahul on TV, who sends out a message about how much he misses ‘Anjali’.

Aniruddha Guha

45
Hindi movie: Velu Nayakan
Film, Bollywood

Velu Nayakan (1999)

Director: Mani Ratnam

Cast: Kamal Haasan, Saranya, Nasser

Genre: crime, thriller

‘Nayakan’, the original, 1987 Tamil version of this film, was dubbed into Hindi in 1999 to become ‘Velu Nayakan’. An epic crime movie, it’s loosely based on the life of Varadarajan Mudaliar (here becoming Velu Nayakan, played by Haasan), a real mafia slumlord in Bombay, and also explores the struggle of south Indians living in the city. It drew inspiration from Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Godfather’. The song ‘Thenpandi cheemaiyile’ tops a much-admired soundtrack by veteran Indian film composer Ilaiyaraaja, who has now scored over 1000 films in his career.

The big scene
You’re bound to feel an emotional tug every time you hear the song ‘Sitam Ki Andhi’ (‘Who has hit you?’) sung by Bollywood stalwart Hariharan.

Ashanti Omkar

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44
Hindi movie: Parvarish
Film, Bollywood

Parvarish (1977)

Director: Manmohan Desai

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna, Neetu Singh, Shabana Azmi

Genre: comedy, drama

Often overshadowed by ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ (same director, same year), ‘Parvarish’ is the quintessential masala movie: a populist film with a little bit of something for everyone. Manmohan Desai’s favourite star Bachchan is for once matched in swagger by his brother on the other side of the law (the sparky, delicious Khanna). The brothers are complemented by the film’s romantic interest: a pair of sisters (Singh, Azmi) with distinct motivations and plotlines of their own.

The big scene
Well-meaning pickpocketing; a submarine; the nature-versus-nurture debate; and a villain’s lair with its own lava pit… ‘Parvarish’ has it all.

Beth Watkins

43
Bollywood movie: Maine Pyar Kiya
Film, Bollywood

Maine Pyar Kiya (1989)

Director: Sooraj Barjatya

Cast: Salman Khan, Bhagyashree, Alok Nath

Genre: romance, drama

Prem (Khan), a boy from a wealthy family, pursues forbidden love with working-class girl Suman (Bhagyashree). So far, so Bollywood, but ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ managed simultaneously to kickstart megastar Salman Khan’s career, cement director Sooraj Barjatya’s box-office clout and redefine romance and friendship in Bollywood in a way that wasn’t bettered for years. Released in a decade signified by violent masala flicks, this family-friendly film with an evergreen soundtrack and iconic dialogue was immediately and widely admired.

The big scene
When Prem and Suman attend a party and their boy-girl friendship is mocked, Prem stands up for Suman’s honour and they fall in love. Obviously.

Shai Hussain

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42
Hindi movie: Khakee
Film

Khakee (2004)

Director: Rajkumar Santoshi

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn

Genre: drama, action, thriller

Amitabh Bachchan broke on to the scene with the role of angst-ridden cop Vijay in ‘Zanjeer’ (1973). ‘Khakee’ explores what would have happened to the character 30 years later. Vijay is an honest policeman who gets entangled in an operation that involves transferring a terrorist from a small village to the city. But as the ageing officer and his team go about their mission, they realise there are influential people who want the terrorist dead – so their lives are in danger too.

The big scene
Bachchan berates another cop for being a puppet of the establishment – it’s exactly the kind of monologue we’ve come to associate with the actor over the years.

Aniruddha Guha

41
Bollywood movie: The Lunchbox
Film, Bollywood

The Lunchbox (2013)

Director: Ritesh Batra

Cast: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui

Genre: romance, drama, comedy

Ritesh Batra’s debut film turned out to be India’s most popular export in recent times, with rave reviews at Cannes followed by a wide release in the US, where the film ended up among the highest-grossing foreign-language films of the year. Simply structured yet purposeful, ‘The Lunchbox’ focuses on the lives of two lonely individuals, Saajan (Khan) and Ila (Kaur). Both jostle for some peace and happiness amid the buzz and mayhem of Mumbai, as they share notes through a tiffin box delivered back and forth.

The big scene
Saajan is invited to dinner by his lowly colleague Shaikh (Siddiqui), and he bonds with Shaikh and his girlfriend.

Aniruddha Guha

The 100 best Bollywood movies: 40-31

40
Bollywood movie: Dil Se..
Film, Drama

Dil Se.. (1998)

Director: Mani Ratnam

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Manisha Koirala, Preity Zinta

Genre: romance, drama, musical

‘Dil Se..’ was acclaimed south Indian filmmaker Mani Ratnam’s big plunge into Bollywood, achieved by teaming up with superstar Shah Rukh Khan. A box-office failure at the time, this story of a Delhi journalist falling in love with a terrorist has gained popularity in the years since. Ratnam’s interest in political issues may have clashed with Khan’s lover-boy image at the time, but at least the actor has one solid drama in his otherwise monotonous filmography.

The big scene
Ace cinematographer Santosh Sivan shot Khan and Malaika Arora on top of a moving train dancing to AR Rahman’s ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’, a song that would go on to become a national hit.

Aniruddha Guha

39
Hindi movie: Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham...
Film, Drama

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… (2001)

Director: Karan Johar

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan

Genre: melodrama, romance, musical

‘It’s all about loving your parents,’ screamed the trailer for ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham…’, a film that piled on the mush in true Karan Johar (‘My Name is Khan’) style. Here, Johar brought together a dream cast to play a fractured family. Billionaire Yashvardhan (Bachchan) is an authoritarian who banishes his adopted son Rahul (Khan) for marrying a woman against his wishes. Years later, Raj’s brother Rohan (Roshan) strives to bring the family together. Boasting opulent production design, lavish musical set pieces and an orgy of superstars, ‘K3G’ (as the film came to be known) is guilty-pleasure Bollywood at its best.

The big scene
Rahul and Rohan reunite after several years. Sat on a park bench, Rahul asks Rohan questions about things they had talked about when Rohan was just a kid.

Aniruddha Guha

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38
Hindi movie: Jodhaa Akbar
Film, Action and adventure

Jodhaa Akbar (2008)

Director: Ashutosh Gowariker

Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Sonu Sood

Genre: historical, romance, drama

This story of real-life Mughal emperor Akbar (Roshan) and his Hindu wife Jodhaa (Bachchan) doesn’t exactly follow the facts. But when artistic license is exercised so beautifully, who cares? Ashutosh Gowariker, director of the Oscar-nominated ‘Lagaan’, executes a perfect balance of spectacle, performances, ideas and story, never sacrificing the entertainment factor and allowing us to bask in the costumes and production design. He drenches his always-timely message of respect for all faiths in immeasurable imperial pomp.

The big scene
A sizzling sword fight between the emperor and the princess, a woman with serious physical presence who refuses to bow her head.

Beth Watkins

37
Bollywood movie: Ghajini
Film, Drama

Ghajini (2008)

Director: AR Murugadoss

Cast: Aamir Khan, Asin, Jiah Khan

Genre: romance, thriller

Bearing many similarities to Christopher Nolan’s ‘Memento’, this way-over-the-top thriller leans heavily on its main character’s short-term-memory loss. Sanjay (Aamir Khan) is a leading Indian businessman, while Kalpana (Asin), a model, brags to everyone that she is Sanjay’s girl even though they’ve never met. When Sanjay discovers this, he decides to confront her but soon falls in love. However, Kalpana falls foul of a local crime lord and Sanjay is determined to avenge her death… ‘Ghajini’ was an enormous hit in India.

The big scene
Sanjay is attacked by gangsters and suffers short-term amnesia. He tattoos memory prompts all over his body. Heard that somewhere before?

Anushka Arora

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36
Hindi movie: Kaala Patthar
Film, Action and adventure

Kaala Patthar (1979)

Director: Yash Chopra

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Shatrugan Sinha

Genre: action, crime, thriller, historical

The common man’s exploitation by greedy industrialists is the theme of ‘Kaala Patthar’, which loosely references the 1975 Chasnala disaster in which 375 miners drowned. Amitabh Bachchan plays sullen loner Vijay, a disgraced naval officer who abandoned a sinking ship; Shashi Kapoor is clean-cut engineer Ravi; and Shatrugan Sinha is escaped convict Mangal. Despite Ravi’s protests, the mine owner sacrifices safety for profit, but when the mine is flooded the trio unites. ‘Kaala Patthar’ wears its proletarian heart on its sleeve.

The big scene
When the mine siren sounds, the entire workforce and surrounding village rush to help. It’s a striking symbol of the power of the collective over the individual.

Rahul Verma

35
Bollywood movie: Chak De! India
Film, Drama

Chak De! India (2007)

Director: Shimit Amin

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Shilpa Shukla, Vidya Malvade

Genre: sports, drama, musical

Between clever gangster movie ‘Ab Tak Chhappan’ (2004) and the grossly underrated ‘Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year’ (2009), director Shimit Amin teamed up with writer Jaideep Sahni to give us this quintessential sports drama. The film narrates the story of a tainted ex-India hockey player (Khan) who coaches the women’s team to World Cup glory. While sticking to the underdog-overcomes-obstacles template, Amin and Sahni deftly weave in themes of cultural diversity, religious difference and feminism.

The big scene
The girls’ team goes up against the boys’ national team, winning the respect of the opposing team and the selectors.

Aniruddha Guha

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34
Bollywood movie: Ek Tha Tiger
Film

Ek Tha Tiger (2012)

Director: Kabir Khan

Cast: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Ranvir Shorey

Genre: action, romance

Salman Khan adds a dash of cosmopolitan sophistication to his special brand of machismo with this story involving espionage and a love affair with an enemy agent (Kaif). As Tiger, Khan adheres to the muscle-man template, but he also struggles over questions of loyalty to his lady or his country – a complexity not always afforded to India’s defenders. This same dilemma is mirrored in Tiger’s colleague, Gopi (Shorey), who may have to rat out his friend.

The big scene
Tiger crashes through Dublin’s public transport system – a proud addition to the tradition of Bollywood heroes wreaking havoc in foreign locales.

Beth Watkins

33
Bollywood movie: Ankur
Film, Drama

Ankur (1974)

Director: Shyam Benegal

Cast: Shabana Azmi, Anant Nag

Genre: drama

‘Ankur’ is the film that kickstarted an ‘arty-indie’ parallel film movement in Hindi cinema in the 1970s and early ’80s. Shyam Benegal’s directorial debut introduces Shabana Azmi (‘India’s Meryl Streep’) as Laxmi, the servant-wife of a deaf and dumb untouchable potter. Laxmi falls pregnant by bored middle-class student Surya (Nag) at his family’s holiday farmhouse. The rest of this admirable and realistic film explores the fallout from these events and bravely adopts a strong feminist stance. Gritty and political, this is an elegiac and essential rural melodrama.

The big scene
The film’s final sequence: a young boy throws a brick at the landlord’s house, suggesting that the unfair social order may soon change, even violently.

Anil Sinanan

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32
Hindi movie: Gol Maal
Film, Comedy

Gol Maal (1979)

Director: Hrishikesh Mukherjee

Cast: Amol Palekar, Utpal Dutt, Bindiya Goswami, Dina Pathak

Genre: comedy

Where it all started. At least two generations of Indians will count this as the best homegrown comedy ever made, and with good reason. Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s immensely well-crafted comedy of double identities has Ramprasad (Amol Palekar) doubling up as his non-existent twin brother and wearing a fake moustache, just to convince his new boss Bhavani (Utpal Dutt) that it wasn’t him at a sports match. Throw in a couple of fake mums, the boss’s daughter who is in love with the other ‘brother’, a drunk Keshto Mukherjee and screenwriter Rahi Masoom Raza’s memorable lines, and this is a comedy for all seasons.

The big scene
The moment when Bhavani finally realises Ramprasad’s lie while he is gorging on parathas approaches comedy nirvana.

Varun Grover

31
Bollywood movie: Barfi!
Film, Drama

Barfi! (2012)

Director: Anurag Basu

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra

Genre: adventure, comedy, romance

A success driven by word of mouth, ‘Barfi!’ observes the magical relationship between an autistic woman, Jhilmil (Chopra), and a deaf-mute guy, Barfi (Kapoor). The film has the air of a fairytale, and Kapoor’s twinkly-eyed, vividly expressive performance as the title character evokes Charlie Chaplin as well as his own grandfather, Raj Kapoor. ‘Barfi!’ announced Kapoor as a credible actor and rising superstar rather than just a pretty boy. He is the fourth generation of the Kapoor family to star in Hindi movies.

The big scene
The song ‘Kyon’ sees a gentle acoustic guitar accompany Barfi’s attempts to move on from the fairytale world of the film. However, wherever Barfi turns, Jhilmil follows and as it dawns on him that she’s the one, the lush green landscape glows in approval.

Rahul Verma

The 100 best Bollywood movies: 30-21

30
Bollywood movie: Prem Rog
Film, Bollywood

Prem Rog (1982)

Director: Raj Kapoor

Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Padmini Kolhapure

Genre: drama

Raj Kapoor tackles the controversial subject of widows remarrying with this stark critique of old-fashioned family and tenancy structures, all framed within a big, commercial movie. It’s held together by teenage actress Padmini Kolhapure, who is utterly convincing and sympathetic as the unlucky bride who discovers the true meaning of love. There are rough edges to ‘Prem Rog’ and some hammy acting, but ultimately its liberal and progressive stance wins you over.

The big scene
A climax sees a widow who dared to love about to be executed by being burnt alive on a cross.

Anil Sinanan

29
Hindi movie: Anand
Film, Bollywood

Anand (1971)

Director: Hrishikesh Mukherjee

Cast: Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Johnny Walker

Genre: drama, tragedy, musical

Reigning superstar Rajesh Khanna plays the title character, whose days are numbered after he’s diagnosed with cancer. The film explores his relationship with his doctor, Bhaskar, played by a young Amitabh Bachchan (who would famously oust Khanna from the box-office top spot a few years later). Anand’s positive outlook on life and his playful demeanour is a lesson for those around him, even as Bhaskar, a more serious man, struggles with his inability to reverse Anand’s medical condition. Apart from the performances, the film is memorable for Salil Chowdhury’s score.

The big scene
Bhaskar cries over Anand’s body, hysterically demanding that his dead friend speak again, when a voice recording left behind by Anand starts to play…

Aniruddha Guha

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28
Hindi movie: Silsila
Film, Bollywood

Silsila (1981)

Director: Yash Chopra

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Rekha

Genre: romance

Yash Chopra’s most infamous film is based on the alleged real-life affair between Bollywood’s biggest star, Amitabh Bachchan, and the ultimate diva, actress Rekha. Outrageously, Bachchan persuaded his actress wife, Jaya, to come out of retirement to play his screen wife and his alleged mistress, Rekha, to act in this silly film as his screen mistress. Chopra’s attempt to romanticise adultery via tuneful songs results in a somewhat sleazy film with a traditional cop-out ending. Today, it’s regarded as a flawed cult classic due to its controversial casting and tuneful soundtrack.

The big scene
When real/reel wife and real/reel mistress meet in a highly-charged confrontational scene and both agree to fight for their man.

Anil Sinanan

27
Hindi movie: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
Film, Bollywood

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011)

Director: Zoya Akhtar

Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Abhay Deol, Farhan Akhtar

Genre: comedy, adventure, drama, road movie

Translated as ‘You only live once’, this buddy-meets-mid-life-crisis movie sees three friends take a road trip in Spain: Arjun (Roshan) is a workaholic; Imraan (Farhan Akhtar) wants to track down his biological father; and Kabir (Deol) is unsure about his upcoming wedding. ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ had a message for middle-class Indians living the new liberal dream with well-paid jobs: it’s okay not to conform or to have a happily-ever-after romance.

The big scene
As the friends do Pamplona’s bull run – in slow motion – there’s a voiceover of Akhtar’s character, Imraan, reciting a poem about being free. The poem is written by Akhtar’s screenwriter father, Javed (‘Sholay’, ‘Deewar’). How meta is that?

Rahul Verma

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26
Hindi movie: Shaan
Film, Bollywood

Shaan (1980)

Director: Ramesh Sippy

Cast: Amitabh Bachhan, Shashi Kapoor, Kulbhushan Kharbanda

Genre: action, comedy, thriller

Underrated excellence: Ramesh Sippy’s follow-up to his career-defining ‘Sholay’ (1975) rode in on high expectations and left many viewers underwhelmed. But this story of two conmen (Bachhan and Kapoor) mending their ways and collaborating with a sharpshooter (Shatrughan Sinha) to avenge the death of their cop brother at the hands of the dreaded Shakaal (Kharbanda, in a stunning debut) has aged very well. The cons are very original and the scale of the film extravagantly ambitious.

The big scene
The first image of Shakaal with his shiny, bald head and his punishment aquarium full of crocodiles and sharks sticks long in the memory.

Varun Grover

25
Bollywood movie: Parinda
Film, Bollywood

Parinda (1989)

Director: Vidhu Vinod Chopra

Cast: Jackie Shroff, Anil Kapoor, Nana Patekar

Genre: crime, drama, romance

The quintessential Bollywood crime film, ‘Parinda’ tells of street-kid brothers Kishen (Shroff) and Karan (Kapoor). When Karan returns after completing his education abroad, he realises his brother has become a gangster working for Anna (Patekar). Boasting of some fine editing by the late Renu Saluja and stellar sound design, the film came to be known for director Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s noir treatment, and all round brilliant acting.

The big scene
Karan meets his childhood buddy, police officer Prakash, at Kabutarkhana (pigeon house), where the latter is gunned down by Anna’s henchmen. A shattered Karan is left holding his best friend’s lifeless, bullet-ridden body.

Aniruddha Guha

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24
Bollywood movie: Jab We Met
Film, Bollywood

Jab We Met (2007)

Director: Imtiaz Ali

Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Dara Singh

Genre: romance, musical, comedy

With only one previous film (‘Socha Na Tha’) behind him, director Imtiaz Ali announced his arrival on the big stage with a movie starring real-life lovers Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor. ‘Jab We Met’ established Imtiaz’s trademark filmmaking style, which includes conversational romance and travel. Suicidal businessman Aditya (Shahid Kapoor) bumps into feisty Geet (Kareena Kapoor, in a career-defining performance), who’s on the run from her family. They go from being unlikely travel companions to friends to, eventually, lovers.

The big scene
Aditya and Geet are stranded at a desolate railway station after missing their train and go looking for accommodation for the night. Geet won’t stop talking, and Aditya wants nothing more than to be left alone.

Aniruddha Guha

23
Bollywood movie: Shree 420
Film, Bollywood

Shree 420 (1955)

Director: Raj Kapoor

Cast: Raj Kapoor, Nargis, Nadira, Nemo

Genre: drama, romance, musical

Lead actor and director Raj Kapoor modelled his on-screen persona in ‘Shree 420’ and other films after Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp. Here he plays Raj, who comes to Bombay to earn a living and falls in love with Vidya (Nargis). However, Raj’s need to make quick money leads him to collaborate with corrupt businessman Dharmanand (Nemo) and his associate, the temptress Maya (Nadira). The film reflected a general state of unrest among unemployed youth and an increasing class divide in the country at the time.

The big scene
Raj is lured to a party by Maya (which means desire), with the song ‘Mudh Mudh Ke Na Dekh’ (‘Don’t Look Back’), as Vidya (which means education) cries outside the venue.

Aniruddha Guha

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22
Hindi movie: Om Shanti Om
Film, Bollywood

Om Shanti Om (2007)

Director: Farah Khan

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Arjun Rampal

Genre: satire, romance, musical

A runaway hit on release, ‘Om Shanti Om’ achieved what other similar films before it had tried and largely failed to do – to satirise the idiosyncrasies of the Hindi film industry. ‘Om Shanti Om’ manages this while wearing the garb of a clichéd reincarnation story. Om (Khan) is a junior artist in love with superstar Shanti (Padukone) in the 1970s. Shanti, though, is in love with a wily producer, Mukesh Mehra (Rampal), who has her killed. In the present day, Om is now a superstar out to exact revenge on Mehra, now settled in Hollywood.

The big scene
The film’s climactic scene borrowed from Bimal Roy’s 1958 classic, ‘Madhumati’, and sees Shanti’s spirit return to help Om complete his revenge against Mehra.

Aniruddha Guha

21
Bollywood movie: Dil To Pagal Hai
Film, Bollywood

Dil To Pagal Hai (1997)

Director: Yash Chopra

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Karisma Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Akshay Kumar

Genre: romance, musical

This musical romance and box-office hit explores the love lives of dancers in a musical troupe. There’s Rahul (Khan), who does not understand how two people can fall in love. Pooja (Dixit) believes in the idea of soulmates and lives by the statement that ‘someone, somewhere is made for you’. Lastly, we have Nisha and her belief that love starts as friendship and two good friends have the potential to love one another right to the end. ‘Dil To Pagal Hai’ is remembered as one of the late Yash Chopra’s best.

The big scene
Rahul and Pooja finally confess their feelings for each other in front of a large audience in a climactic scene guaranteed to bring audiences to tears. After all, ‘dil to pagal hai’ (‘the heart is crazy’), right?

Anushka Arora

The 100 best Bollywood movies: 20-11

20
Hindi movie: Awaara
Film, Bollywood

Awaara (1951)

Director: Raj Kapoor

Cast: Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor, Nargis

Genre: family courtroom drama

Known as The Show Man, Raj Kapoor’s most famous film is a grand Oedipal melodrama exploring the nature-versus-nurture debate. Will a bandit’s son always end up a criminal? ‘Awara’ explores class division in newly independent India, which excludes the film’s lowly ‘tramp’ hero, Raj (Raj Kapoor), at every point. Its surprise success outside India – especially in the USSR, Africa, China, Greece and the West Indies – was directly responsible for introducing the world to mainstream Hindi cinema.

The big scene
The nine-minute dance number, ‘Ghar Aya Mera Pardesi’ (‘My lover has come home’), sung by Lata Mangeshkar, is a dream sequence famous for its elaborate sets.

Anil Sinanan

19
Hindi movie: Andaz Apna Apna
Film, Bollywood

Andaz Apna Apna (1994)

Director: Rajkumar Santoshi

Cast: Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Raveena Tandon

Genre: comedy, romance, musical

Rajkumar Santoshi’s ‘Andaz Apna Apna’ brought together two young, up-and-coming superstars, but the resulting film was a box-office failure. Its cult has grown over the years, spawning fan clubs and websites and ensuring record television ratings time after time. Amar (Aamir Khan) and Prem (Salman Khan) are wastrels who both want to marry a rich heiress, but they become involved in a feud involving warring twin brothers and a buffoonish villain, Crime Master Gogo (Shakti Kapoor).

The big scene
The film’s extended climax, during which all the characters fight over a bag of diamonds in a warehouse, boasts immense repeat value.

Aniruddha Guha

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18
Bollywood movie: Dil Chahta Hai
Film, Bollywood

Dil Chahta Hai (2001)

Director: Farhan Akhtar

Cast: Aamir Khan, Akshaye Khanna, Saif Ali Khan

Genre: coming-of-age, drama, romance

Before the dawn of India’s urban multiplex culture in the mid-2000s, director Farhan Akhtar made his debut with this coming-of-age tale about three Mumbai boys whose language reflected how regular people talked – a refreshing change from other Bollywood films of the time. Akhtar has never been able to better his first film, but with ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ he ushered in a style of storytelling that was new to Indian audiences, where everything from the dialogue and design to the music was subtle and realistic.

The big scene
During the song ‘Tanhayee’, the Melbourne skyline whizzes by Aamir Khan, who is far from home and desolate after learning about the marriage of his lover to another man.

Aniruddha Guha

17
Hindi movie: Satya
Film, Bollywood

Satya (1998)

Director: Ram Gopal Varma

Cast: JD Chakravarty, Urmila Matondkar, Manoj Bajpai

Genre: crime, drama, romance

‘Satya’ was among a slew of gangster films that hit screens in the late ’90s, and director Ram Gopal Varma has lately come to be associated with the genre. The film tells of Satya (Chakravarty), who is unwittingly sucked into the world of Mumbai crime. What sets ‘Satya’ apart from other gangster films is the realistic portrayal of the criminals’ daily lives and Varma’s unrestrained, gloomy treatment of the subject. It’s considered one of his best films.

The big scene
Satya pleads with his lover to open her door, while outside the police are trying to kill him. There’s love and escape on one side of the door; violence and despair on the other.

Aniruddha Guha

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16
Hindi movie: Mr India
Film, Bollywood

Mr India (1987)

Director: Shekhar Kapur

Cast: Anil Kapoor, Sridevi, Amrish Puri

Genre: sci-fi, action, romcom

Shekhar ‘Elizabeth’ Kapur’s most famous Bollywood film. Arun (Kapoor) becomes the invisible superhero Mr India, who uses his power to fight the evil Mogambo (Puri) who is intent on taking over the world. Stuffed with as many masala ingredients as possible, this is pure camp nonsense. But it’s told in such a cheeky kitsch way that the viewer surrenders to its sheer energy. ‘Mr India’ is huge fun, especially Mogambo’s catchphrase ‘Mogambo Khush Hua’ (‘Mogambo is happy’) which became a national craze.

The big scene
The ‘Kaate Nahin Kat Te’ song is regarded as perhaps the definitive sexy ‘wet sari’ song sequence in the history of Bollywood.

Anil Sinanan

15
Bollywood movie: Bombay
Film, Bollywood

Bombay (1995)

Director: Mani Ratnam

Cast: Arvind Swamy, Manisha Koirala

Genre: romance, drama, tragedy

Rarely has music, storytelling and imagery dovetailed so movingly and brilliantly. ‘Bombay’ tells the story of a Hindu man and a Muslim woman who fall in love and defy their parents to marry in Bombay, where they start a family and find themselves caught up in an outbreak of religious violence. Based on real-life riots that tore through Bombay in late 1992 and early 1993, ‘Bombay’ is a powerful lament over the human cost of politicians’ exploitation of religion.

The big scene
‘Mozart of Madras’ AR Rahman’s ‘Bombay Theme’ is a haunting, spine-tingling instrumental piece. Rahman composed the entire soundtrack, including hit songs ‘Tu Hi Re’ and ‘Kehna Hi Kya’, which remains a bestseller.

Rahul Verma

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14
Bollywood movie: Kaagaz Ke Phool
Film, Bollywood

Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)

Director: Guru Dutt

Cast: Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman, Johnny Walker

Genre: drama, romance, tragedy

In a bizarre case of life imitating the movies, actor-director Guru Dutt died in an apartment in 1964 after allegedly consuming a concoction of sleeping pills and alcohol: his unsuccessful relationship with actor Waheeda Rehman was said to be one of the things that caused him to fall into depression. Six years earlier, Dutt made ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’, in which he played a director who falls in love with a film actress (played by Rehman). The film ended with Dutt’s character – a dejected filmmaker – dying in his chair at a film studio.

The big scene
The song sequence ‘Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam’, stunningly shot by cinematographer VK Murthy, sees Dutt and Rehman’s characters regretting the decisions they’ve made in life.

Aniruddha Guha

13
Bollywood movie: 3 Idiots
Film, Bollywood

3 Idiots (2009)

Director: Rajkumar Hirani

Cast: Aamir Khan, Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, Kareena Kapoor

Genre: Comedy, drama, family

‘3 Idiots’ charts the japes and scrapes of three students at India’s top engineering university (the film was shot in Bangalore). Along the way, this coming-of-age comedy addresses ‘ragging’ (initiation rituals), the intense pressure to excel in education, student suicide and the tension between the ambitions of students and their parents. ‘3 Idiots’ was a huge hit and confirmed Aamir Khan as the master of balancing good old-fashioned family entertainment with meaningful messages.

The big scene
The film’s catchphrase, ‘All is well’, is still part of everyday language in India.

Rahul Verma

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12
Hindi movie: Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro
Film, Bollywood

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983)

Director: Kundan Shah

Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Ravi Baswani, Pankaj Kapur

Genre: satire, comedy, drama

Loosely inspired by Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film ‘Blow-Up’, ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ (‘Who Pays the Piper’) tells of two Mumbai photographers, Vinod (Shah) and Sudhir (Baswani), who unwittingly take a picture of a corrupt businessman (Kapur) killing a government official. The two discover the dead body and fight to ensure that it doesn’t end up in the hands of a motley group – the killer, his competitor, his two associates and a journalist, all of whom have vested interests in the case.

The big scene
The epic climax, in which all the characters become part of a staging of Mahabharata, is widely considered to be the best comic scene ever shot in a Hindi film.

Aniruddha Guha

11
Bollywood movie: Do Bigha Zamin
Film, Bollywood

Do Bigha Zamin (1953)

Director: Bimal Roy

Cast: Balraj Sahni, Nirupa Roy, Nazir Hussain

Genre: drama, tragedy, musical

Bimal Roy’s classic touches on themes relating to the rural-urban divide and class division, but at its core it’s about a man’s quest to reclaim the land that rightfully belongs to him. Shambhu (Sahni) is a villager whose ‘do bigha’ (two-thirds of an acre) of land sits in the way of a plan to build a new mill. The city is the big, bad villain of the piece – Shambhu migrates to Calcutta in order to earn money and save his land, but he’s sucked deeper into a pit of poverty and depression.

The big scene
Shambhu, now pulling a rickshaw in Calcutta, is urged by a stranger to chase down another rickshaw carrying the man’s girlfriend, in exchange for money. A race follows.

Aniruddha Guha

The 100 best Bollywood movies: top ten

10
Hindi movie: Amar Akbar Anthony
Film

Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)

Director: Manmohan Desai

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna, Rishi Kapoor

Genre: drama, comedy, musical

The escapist formula honed by director Manmohan Desai (‘Dharam Veer’, Roti’) peaked with this late 1970s film about three brothers – each named in the title – separated at birth. Brimming with clichés and implausible situations, ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ set the commercial template that many modern Bollywood filmmakers continue to follow. Thirty-five-year-old Amitabh Bachchan, the film’s star, defied his Angry Young Man image – created by a string of sombre action dramas – with his largely comical role.

The big scene
The three characters enter a villain’s den in disguise to rescue their respective loves, at the same time singing the film’s title track, each of their names signifying the religion in which each was raised – Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.

Aniruddha Guha

9
Hindi movie: Pakeezah
Film, Bollywood

Pakeezah (1972)

Director: Kamal Amrohi

Cast: Ashok Kumar, Meena Kumari, Raaj Kumar

Genre: historical romance

Lucknow, 1900. Sahibjaan (Kumari) is a ‘dancing girl’ who marries the respectable Salim (R Kumar), despite his dad’s disapproval. Sahibjaan soon considers herself unworthy of her husband and runs away. Will the lovers be reunited and will ‘respectable society’ accept them? Fifteen years in the making (not helped by personal differences between the director and his leading lady, also his wife), this has an evocative soundtrack which is weaved seamlessly into the story, creating perhaps the most magical, lyrical portrayal of idealised erotic romance seen on the Indian screen. The title means ‘Pure’.

The big scene
When Salim sees the exposed feet of the sleeping, covered Sahibjaan, he is immediately smitten.

Anil Sinanan

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8
Hindi movie: Lagaan
Film, Drama

Lagaan (2001)

Director: Ashutosh Gowariker

Cast: Aamir Khan, Gracy Singh

Genre: adventure, drama, sport, historical

Set in the nineteenth century, ‘Lagaan’ sees a drought-struck village unite, learn to play cricket and take on their cruel imperial rulers. Although the combination of cricket and colonialism seems like a no-brainer in retrospect, at first nobody would touch this script with a bat. Then star Aamir Khan took the lead role and its critical and box office success ushered in a new era of alternative subject matter and varied storytelling. ‘Lagaan’ is, thus far, the last mainstream Hindi film to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.

The big scene
The climactic cricket match saw audiences cheering on the villagers. The sports movie had arrived in Bollywood and ‘Chak De! India’, ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ and ‘Mary Kom’ later followed in the trailblazing wake of ‘Lagaan’.

Rahul Verma

7
Hindi movie: Deewaar
Film, Bollywood

Deewaar (1975)

Director: Yash Chopra

Cast: Shashi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Neetu Singh

Genre: Action, thriller, crime

Evoking ‘Mother India’ with its story of a good son pitched against a bad one and a mother caught between them, ‘Deewaar’ places an anti-hero centrestage. Amitabh Bachchan excels as the simmering Vijay, who turns to criminality to provide for his mum, while brother Ravi (Kapoor) becomes a cop. Inevitably, their paths must cross. ‘Deewaar’ was Bachchan’s first step on the road to mega-stardom and it epitomises his status as the bristling, angry young man railing against all around him.

The big scene
Inspector Ravi faces down gangster Vijay in his elder brother’s grand, ill-gotten house and declares that as long as Vijay is a criminal there is a ‘deewaar’ (wall) between them, and that their mum must choose between the two.

Rahul Verma

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6
Bollywood movie: Guide
Film, Bollywood

Guide (1965)

Director: Vijay Anand

Cast: Dev Anand, Waheeda Rehman, Leela Chitnis

Genre: romance, drama, musical

Director Vijay Anand adapts RK Narayan’s English-language novel into a sprawling drama. ‘Guide’ tells of a man, Raju, who transforms from a tour guide in his youth into a great holy man later in life. The film is considered ahead of its time for showing its protagonists, Raju (Anand) and Rosie (Rehman), having an extra-marital affair, and also for presenting its lead character as an unscrupulous scumbag. Both were deeply unusual in a Hindi film of the time.

The big scene
Raju has an epiphany on his deathbed – a spiritual awakening where he realises that even though the body dies, the soul will never fade away.

Aniruddha Guha

5
Bollywood movie: Pyaasa
Film, Bollywood

Pyaasa (1957)

Director: Guru Dutt

Cast: Guru Dutt, Mala Sinha, Waheeda Rehman

Genre: drama, romance, musical

Filmmaker Guru Dutt, known for bringing tragic stories to celluloid, plays Vijay, a struggling writer whose two best friends happen to be a streetwalker and a masseuse. Vijay tries unsuccessfully to get his book of poems published and is later believed to have died in a train accident. A cunning publisher prints the book and makes a killing. Maestro composer SD Burman provides a stellar soundtrack, memorable for Sahir Ludhianvi’s poetic verses. With ‘Pyaasa’, Dutt established himself as a filmmaker who could effectively depict the reality of the world around him.

The big scene
When Vijay ‘returns from the dead’ at his own memorial. Dutt’s silhouette, with the flash of light around him flooding the dark auditorium, sticks in the memory.

Aniruddha Guha

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4
Hindi movie: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jeyenge
Film, Bollywood

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)

Director: Aditya Chopra

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Amrish Puri

Genre: romance, comedy, family

Familiar themes of personal choice versus family responsibility, and of forbidden love, are remixed for the 1990s in this epic, era-defining romance. In London, Raj (Khan) is an immature young man, while straight-laced Simran (Kajol) is all set for a marriage arranged by her domineering father. She goes InterRailing in Europe, meets Raj and they fall in love against the backdrop of Swiss mountains. The popularity of the film (the title translates as ‘The brave-hearted will take away the bride’) is reflected in the fact that it has screened daily in Mumbai’s Maratha Mandir cinema for 19 years and counting. This ultimate romance also raised the bar impossibly high for guys chasing girls.

The big scene
The hit song ‘Tujhe Dekha To…’ sees Simran and Raj reunited in Punjab’s rolling fields, and its lingering gazes and passionate embraces are old school Bollywood at its finest. Raj’s line – ‘Senorita bade bade desho me aisi choti choti baatein hoti rehti’ (‘Senorita, don’t get stressed by the little things’) – has crossed into daily usage. Indeed, no less a figure than Barack Obama quoted it during his inaugural visit to India in 2015.

Rahul Verma

3
Bollywood movie: Mother India
Film, Drama

Mother India (1957)

Director: Mehboob Khan

Cast: Nargis, Rajendra Kumar, Sunil Dutt

Genre: drama

The first Hindi film to be nominated for Best Foreign-Language Film at the Oscars, this is a heartbreaking story of the complexities of rural farming in newly independent India and the exploitation of farmers by their feudal landlords. It follows the hardships faced by Radha (Nargis), a village mother of three sons who is abandoned by her husband and forced to toil the paddy fields to survive. The film entrenched the idea of the pure, self-sacrificing mother figure as synonymous with the notion of an idealised Indian (Hindu) nation.

The big scene
When Radha’s rebellious son Birju (Dutt) shoots the lecherous evil landlord and kidnaps his daughter, she must take matters into her own hands to restore order.

Anil Sinanan

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2
Bollywood movie: Mughal-e-Azam
Film, Bollywood

Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

Director: K Asif

Cast: Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Madhubala

Genre: historical romance

Translated as ‘Emperor of the Mughals’ and set in the late sixteenth century in India’s Mughal period, this is the doomed story of Prince Saleem (Kumar), son of the ruling Emperor Akbar (Kapoor), who falls in love with dancing slave girl Anarkali (Madhubala). This is true epic filmmaking, with magnificent sets, huge battle scenes with hundreds of real elephants, elaborate costumes, an evergreen score and naturalistic acting. It remains a gorgeous evocation of a bygone era, and was one of the rare occasions when a film of the ‘Muslim social’ genre (i.e. interested in Muslim people and culture) became a blockbuster in Hindu-centric India.

The big scene
This mostly black-and-white film suddenly bursts into colour when the classic ‘I have loved, so what is there to fear?’ confrontational dance number begins.

Anil Sinanan

1
Best Bollywood movie: Sholay
Film, Action and adventure

Sholay (1975)

Director: Ramesh Sippy

Cast: Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Amjad Khan

Genre: action, thriller, western

This cult masala western sees escaped convicts Veeru (Dharmendra) and Jai (Bachchan) defend a village terrorised by bandits led by the maniacal Gabbar Singh (Khan). ‘Sholay’ has it all – epic dishum-dishum fight scenes, bromance, humour, memorable songs, plot twists, thrilling dance sequences and sparkling performances. The haunting score and Bollywood’s baddest villain are the icing on a rollicking, all-action cake.

The big scene
Three bandits return from a raid empty-handed to face Gabbar’s ire: miraculously they survive trial by half-loaded gun (six chambers, three bullets) and Gabbar laughs hysterically. His men join in and there’s a collective relief-filled exhale – then Gabbar shoots them anyway. The threat of a visit from Gabbar Singh has been used by parents to get kids to bed on time ever since.

Rahul Verma

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