V Kumar has been writing on Bollywood movies and music for several years, highlighting perspectives that are often missed out or ignored.
Best movies of Bollywood
Bollywood is arguably the second most popular film industry in the world. Since the 1930s, it has produced classics that continue to regale and entertain millions even today. These movies are not just tales of fairy tale fantasies, they are a reflection of both the Indian society and the tradition of organised arts in modern era.
What makes Bollywood movies, especially the best ones, a real treasure for mankind is not just the manner in which they entertain its audiences... which they definitely do... and as much as any movie in any language or genre can do. What makes these movies more than mere audio-visual-stories is the manner in which they depict human aspirations, emotions, relationships, interactions, challenges, resilience, adaptability and achievements in a way perhaps little else can !! There depiction of us in a time frame that has either passed already or will pass with time very soon makes them a tale of our existence ... actually our real history that the archaeological remnants can never tell!
Here is a list of ten of the best movies ever produced in Bollywood.
Scene from Deewar
Released in 1975, when India was reeling under the onslaught of the Oil Shock, it reflected the mood of the whole country, still young and consisting of mostly young Indians, who were just beginning to rebel against every norm and order of the age old society. Surrounded by injustices, drowned in poverty and still loyal to the family, the young protagonist, Vijay is a rebel from the days when some goons forcefully make a tattoo on his hand that reads, "My father is a thief" as a revenge against his father. He grows up only to find that it is brute power and courage that wins the day. His frustration is against the whole universe including the god. Amidst the melodrama expected from a Bollywood movie, Amitabh Bachchan finds a unique style that catapults him to super stardom for the next decade. It is his acting as the angry young man that stands out over everything else. The movie was directed by Yash Chopra, and written by Saleem-Javed. Shashi Kapoor, Neetu Singh, Nirupa Roy and Parveen Babi form the rest of the cast.
A Great Song from Amar Prem
AMAR PREM (1971)
If there is a Bollywood movie that remains with you for the rest of your life, it is Amar Prem. Released in 1970, it is a tale of a young and married Anand Babu (played by Rajesh Khanna) who is starved of love and understanding and the beautiful Pushpa (played by Sharmila Tagore) who has been ousted by his alcoholic husband after he married another woman, and finds herself in the red light area of Kolkata. They develop a bond of love that transgresses beyond labelled relationships of the time
Their relationship is not physical, has an intensity that touches the audience and gives way to accommodate the society. Pushpa's motherly love for Nandu, son of her village neighbour, is another beautiful depiction of how emotional ambitions of an Indian woman of the times revolved around motherhood. Based on the story written by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, and directed by Shakti Samantha, it also has some great music composed by R D Burman.
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Mother India: A Touching Scene
MOTHER INDIA (1957)
Arguably, the most critically acclaimed Boolywood Movie. It is a tale of a woman in a typical Indian village and her struggle to bring her two kids after her husband loses both his hands in an accident. The protagonist, played by Nargis, is the mother that one could see in every family in terms of her unflinching devotion to the family, an unsurpassable resolve to struggle for her children and an incredible bottomless pit of patience that lets her absorb everything that the society, nature and destiny can do to uproot and upset her, and yet, in the face of all adversities, she neither compromises her mission to raise her kids honourably, nor gives up her Indian family values.
A very realistic story, inspite of all the drama, it also introduced the angry young man on Indian stage for the first time in the form of Birju (played by Sunil Datt). Written and produced by Mehboob Khan, this is one of the most honored and acclaimed movie outside India.
A Great Song from Do Ankhein Baarah Haath
DO ANKHEIN BARAH HAATH (1957)
A Great Movie made by V Shantaram, in his own unique style, the greatest assets of which are simplicity, innocence, idealism and reality. It is a story of a revolutionary Jail Warden (played by V Shantaram) who wants to reform six hardcore criminals, convicted for murder, by putting them on supervised parole in an extraordinary experiment for which he has got permission by staking his own job and freedom. He tries to reform their ways without any force, using his simplicity, firmness and goodwill to control them, and ends up achieving considerable success, before he succumbs to death in an accident while trying to protect them. His staring eyes cannot be forgotten by the six convicts whose twelve praying hands make the title of this story.
This movie won many awards in its time, including National Film Award, Golden Globe Award and Awards in Berlin Film Festival.
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An Immortal Classic from Pyaasa
Pyaasa is not just a movie, it is a very sophisticated philosophy, that spreads itself in the form of social drama that takes its course through a mutitude of trivial and not so trivial events. It is the story of a poet, Vijay (played by Guru Dutt), who finds no taker for his poetry, and is discrded by his own brothers for his inability to earn a decent livelihood. Shunned by his love, Meena, who in his words, ".. loves for fun and trades it for comfort", Vijay finds true love in the form of a prostitute (played by Waheeda Rahman), who pays all her wealth to get his poems printed when it is presumed that he is dead. His poems become a rage and Vijay finds that people are more interested in his legacy after his death that him as a live person. This movie is one of the great classics made by Guru Dutt, the unparalleled genius of Bolywood. His Genius was complemented in every aspect of his movies, from photography, dialogues, acting and lyrics to dancing and choreography. The songs are sheer poetry, written by Kaifi Azmi, with music composed by the legendary S D Burman.
A Beautiful Number from Awaara
This movie can be considered the earliest of the great Movies produced in Bollywood, and it remains immortal, thanks largely to its subject, its treatment of characters and the great direction of Raj Kapoor, the greatest showman of Bollywood. The protagonist is Raj (played by Raj Kapoor) who is son of a Judge, but doesn't know it, as he was born after his mother who was kidnapped by some goons, was discarded by her husband. Raj grows up in poverty and is influenced by the ways of his surroundings to become a wagabond. He falls in love with Rita (played by Nargis) a young lawyer, whose guardian, his own father, doesn't like him. Finally accused of murder, he is tried in the court of his father, where an intense emotional and ethical conflict is played out in the form of these characters. In more ways than one, it is the story of the dignity of a human being whose only fault is poverty, thereby reflecting the aspirations of millions who experienced life in India of those times. The typical Bollywood melodrama finds its peak in this movie, under the great direction of an original Raj Kapoor. It has great music too.
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The Most Comic Dialogue of Bollywood from Sholay
Sholay can be considered the Game Changer when it comes to the history of Bollywood. It combined a Hollywood style action with the nuances, sensitivities and colourful melodrama that characterises a Bollywood movie. What makes it great is the perfection with which it was able get this mix. It is a story of two petty criminals in Jai and Viroo (played by Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan), who are hired by an ex-cop Thakur (played by Sanjeev Kumar, arguably the best ever actor in the history of Bollywood), whose soel objective is to avenge the killing of his family by Gabbar Singh (played by Amjad Khan), a Chambal Gang Lord, who was once nabbed by him. Gabbar has also cut off both his arms and left him to suffer as a revenge for nabbing him. This simple unsophisticated story attains greatness largely by the multitude of sub-plots that go on simultaneously, in the process, making each and every character and the actors who played them virtually immortal in Bollywood History. Never before or afterwards have the dialogues of a movie been repeated in every stage of entertainment as happened with this movie. The contrast between the two female protagonists, Radha and Basanti (played by Jaya Bhaduri and Hema Malini) adds just enough colour to its action packed plot. The movie was made by Ramesh Sippy and written by Saleem-Javed.
An Immortal Number from Saheb, Bibi Aur Ghulam
SAHEB, BIBI AUR GHULAM (1962)
Another Guru Dutt classic, this movie is a tale set in early twentieth century, of Chhoti Baahu (meaning younger Bride of the household, played by Meena Kumari) who is married to a landlord. Neglected by him, she starves for his attention, and is even ready to compete with the courtroom dancers and prostitutes whom he is addicted to. She is ready to drink alcohol with him, something unthinkable for an honorable Indian lady of the times. In spite of all her efforts, she fails to sustain his attention, and tries to drown her frustration in alcohol. A witness to all these happenings is his confidante, Bhootnath, a young domestic assistant (played by Guru Dutt) in whom she confides her voes and with whom she develops a strange bond - a relationship that is difficult to define, but is yet intense enough to be felt by the audience. It is the nature of this relationship between two human beings, and the story of a typical high society bride that gives the movie its extraordinary dimension. The characterisation of Chhoti Baahu leaves a haunting memory that is sweet, extraordinary beautiful and tragic. It has the signatures of a maverick genius and his emotional stamp that is lasting, and yet, not too dramatic. It is based on a story written by Bimal Mitra and directed by Abrar Alvi, but the signatures of Guru Dutt, the director, are all too apparent.
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An Immortal Song from Guide
This movie, based on a classic by R K Narayan, is the tale of a guide Raju (played by Dev Anand), who falls in love with a young dancer, Rosie (played by Waheeda Rahman) who has a shortlived marriage. In the Indian society of the times, where divorce is yet to be accepted, Raju's support of Rosie makes him a social outcaste, but he continues to support her against all odds while she begins to climb the steps of success and soon becomes very famous. In a misunderstanding, Raju is accused of forgery and ends up in jail, with even Rosie blaming him. On his release, while wandering through a village,Raju is mistaken as a Saint by the villagers, and the villagefolk begin to rely on him for ending the draught prevailing in the region. They want him to fast, and so he does to satisfy them, but the argument that he keeps having with himself is the one that ascends the plot to a spiritual plane. It is an argument between rationality and faith, and what gives it credibility is the human context in which it is played out. Guide is an extraordinary story of human nature, its obsessions, its weaknesses and the strange ways in which human destiny is often rearranged. Great acting, great direction and great music seal its greatness.
A Soft Number from Do Beegha Zameen
DO BEEGHA ZAMEEN (1953)
This immortal tale, literally meaning 'two acres of land' depicts the plight of farmers who have to suffer from the vagaries of nature and the local moneylenders once they get indebted. It is the story of Shambhu Mehto (played by Balraaj Sahni) and his family, consisting of wife, Paro (played by Nirupa Roy) and son Kanhaiya, who survive by tilling their land, till they are faced by a scheming landlord who wants to buy their land for bringing up a mill. The landlord uses the debts taken by Shambhoo, and in collusion with the money-lender, manipulates and exaggerates it so as to evict him from his land. To save his land, Shambhoo goes to Calcutta where he works as a Hand Rikshaw puller, while his son tries to help by polishing shoes on the roadside. This tale of the desperate family clinging on to its hope amidst all adversities was written by Salikl Chaudhary and has been immortalized by the direction of one of the all time greats of Bollywood, Bimal Roy and great acting by Balraaj Saahni. It also depicts the life of millions who migrate from villages to towns every year. This movie was nominated for the Grand Prize for the best film in 7th Cannes Film Festival, where it eventually won the best International Film award, apart from several other awards elsewhere.
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© 2011 V Kumar