75 years of excellence in Indian cinema
1930s and 40s - the period of the pioneers and early icons.
1. Alam Ara (Ardeshir Irani, 1931): The first Indian 'talkie', a period fantasy starring Prithviraj Kapoor, Master Vithal and Zubeda. On the day of its release, surging crowds started gathering near the Majestic cinema in Bombay right from early morning. The booking office was literally stormed by jostling mobs to secure tickets and all traffic was jammed on the roads leading to the theatre. For weeks together the tickets were sold out and the mad rush to watch the first talking film continued till more movies came in. The Bombay Chronicle (April 2, 1931) noted that the film has shown that with due restraint and thoughtful direction, the players could by their significant acting and speech evolve dramatic values to which the silent cinema cannot possibly aspire. Inspired by Universal's Melody Of Love, the whole plot is a string to tie together the numerous songs and dances which became a mendatory feature of Hindi cinema. Alam Ara will always be remembered as the film that ushered in the era of sound films in India.
2. Chandidas (Nitin Bose, 1934): The film, first made by Debaki Bose in Bengali, is the story of the 15th century priest-poet of Bengal who fell in love with a low-caste washerwoman. The sensivity of the treatment and a highly innovative use of delightful music score set the tone of most of the New Theatres' films. The film had a stupendous run of 64 weeks in a Calcutta theatre and led a leading journal, Varieties, to call it the wonder film of the year. K. L. Saigal stars as Chandidas and Umasahi as Rami, the washerwoman, and features several of their popular duets - Prem Nagar Mein Banaongi Ghar Mein and other songs. The film has the distinction of being the debut film of K. L. Saigal, the greatest singing star of Hindi cinema.
3. Achhut Kanya (Franz Osten, 1936): Produced by Himanshu Rai, Achhut Kanya was a much talked about film that marked the emergence of committed social films in India. The innovative romantic melodrama of the unhappy love affair between Kasturi (Devika Rani), the Harijan (untouchable) girl and Pratap (Ashok Kumar), the Brahmin boy, made a potent comment on the rampant casteism and smugness prevalent in society at that time. The film made the spectacularly beautiful star Devika Rani achieve the reputation of one of the greatest actresses of India. The film also intruduced the young reluctant actor Ashok Kumar, who later became the legendary superstar of Hindi films.
4. Amar Jyoti (V. Shantaram, 1936): The adventure classic features Durga Khote in the most memorable role as the Pirate Queen. Faced with extreme patriarchel laws in an ancient seaport kingdom and denied the legal custody of her infant son, Saudamini (Durga Khote) becomes a pirate and declares war on the state. Shantaram directs this action-packed adventure film with an unusual feminist twist. It is a rare Prabhat film with stunts and action. Amar Jyoti has the distinction of being the first Indian film to be screened at the Venice Film Festival.
5. Sant Tukaram (Vishnupant Govind Damle, 1936): This movie has been acclaimed as the best to come from the prestigious production company, Prabhat Pictures. The classic film chronicles the life of Tukaram (17th century), Maharashtra's most popular saint poet. The central plot pits Tukaram (Vishnupant Pegnis) against the Brahmin supremo who pretends to be the true author of Tukaram's songs while calling for his ostrcization. In showing Tukaram's growing popularity and his willing acceptance of the suffering heaped on him and his family by his oppressors, the movie binds song, rhythm and camera together with the character and connection between the poet and the people. The film won the Special Recommendation Award at the Venice Film Festival (1937).
6. Devdas (P. C. Barua, 1936): One of the most famous titles ever, this Saratchandra novel was first brought to Hindi screen by P. C. Barua with legendary K. L. Saigal essaying the doomed lover. A very real tragedy in the classical sense of the term, Devdas' emotional impact remains as alive as ever. The story has since become one of the touchstones of popular Indian cinema. In 1955 came a remake, with Bimal Roy directing Dilip Kumar in the title role and in 2002 Sanjay Leela Bhansali made it with Shah Rukh Khan playing the lead. P. C. Barua's Hindi version of Devdas with cinematography by the young Bimal Roy, is one of the most remarkable films for using songs and voice cover dialogues that were innovative for early sound cinema. Saigal's evergreen songs have not lost their power and appeal.
7. Dunia Na Mane (V. Shantaram, 1937): A bold feminist film, its central character, reminiscent of Nora in Ibsen's A Doll House, outraged the orthodoxy. Nirmala (Shanta Apte) is trapped into marrying the old widower Kakasahib (Date). He is a lawyer with a son and a daughter of Nirmala's age. She refuses to consumate the union, claiming that while suffering can be borne, injustice cannot. Shantaram took up the project despite his partners' fear that the film would not only offend traditionalists but would also fail to attract audiences. Shantaram went ahead and was vindicated when the film was both a critical and commercial success. Shanta Apte's performance in the leading role established her as a 'rebel star', true to the combative song in English she sings in the film - 'Be not like dumb, driven cattle'.
8. Pukar (Sohrab Modi, 1939): This was the first film in the series of spectacular costume historicals produced by Sohrab Modi. In fact, the concept of period films started with Pukar. Mughal Emperor Jehangir's much valued retributive justice - 'an eye for an eye' - was put to the test when his queen, Noorjehan, accidentally kills a washerman and his widow demands justice. Steller performances by Naseem Banu and Chandramohan as Noorjehan and Jehangir, as also Kamal Amrohi's dialogues are the highlights of the film. Naseem Banu was a stunner and shot to fame with the film. Her song 'Zindagi ka saaz bhi kya saaz hei' was a big hit. The film got a huge response throughout the country.
9. Aadmi (V. Shantaram, 1939): Regarded as Shantaram's finest film, the film is a tragedy featuring a policeman, Ganpat (Shahu Modak) and a prostitute, Maina (Shanta Hublikar). Ganpat saves Maina from a police raid on a brothel. They fall in love. However, her reputation and sense of guilt resists his attempts to rehabilitate her. Feeling her past would always catch up with her, Maina leaves Ganpat. She is arrested for killing her wicked uncle and refuses Ganpat's offer of help to rellease her from prison. Aadmi is significant not only in terms of thematic content but also as a work of motion picture art, especially for technical innovations and artistic integrity. The key sequences highlighting Maina's dilema that she can neither come to terms with her past nor present, are strikingly handled.
10. Ek Hi Raasta (Mehboob Khan, 1939): Mehboob had specialized in making films which tackled a burning social problem of the time. The film Ek Hi Raasta gave the first indication of the road Mehboob was to take during his film-making career. Set in a city slum, the film is about a war veteran who having seen much death and destruction goes through a period of uneasy adjustment. Charged with killing a rapist, he is brought to trial. He mocks the system which lauds him for killing innocent people on the battle field and yet condemns him for killing a criminal. The film, produced in the year WWII started, was highly acclaimed for initiating a timely discussion on how to deal with war veterans when they return from the war.
11. Aurat (Mehboob Khan, 1940): The original version of Mehboob's classic Mother India (1957), this stark epic was much more realistic and has the earthiness its remake lacks. It is one of the most widely acclaimed films focussing on the voice of women. There are elements in the film which go deep into the Indian psyche and touch a chord which no one has touched before. Radha, the mother (Sardar Akhtar), is a full blooded woman and equal partner in her husband's labors. She upholds the 'dharma' which the good son, Ramu (Surendra), follows. When the other son, Birju (Yaqub), transgresses it, she shoots him. Sardar Akhtar's extraordinary performance is one highlight of the film. The other is Birju's charactrisation of the bad son, which has a different but equally important side. He does not suffer patiently the landlord's extortionism. There is a great scene in the film. Birju now grown into an illiterate decoit, raids the money-lander's house and destroys his account books saying, "This is the knowledge that has destroyed us." Birju speaks for those who cannot speak, the deprived millions. In Aurat, Mehboob, the untutored genius, saw India with a clear, even ruthless vision.
12. Sikandar (Sohrab Modi, 1941): The film is set in 326 B.C. when Alexander the Great aka Sikandar (Prithviraj Kapoor) having conquered Persia and the Kabul valley descends to the Indian border at Jhelum. The legendary encounter between Sikandar and King Porus (Sohrab Modi) forms the central plot of the film. Sikandar was the greatest success of Minerva Movietone, which specialised in historic spectacles. Its lavish mounting, huge sets and production values, particularly the spectacular battle scenes, equalled the greatest Hollywood movies of the genre. Its dramatic declamatory dialogues give both Prithviraj Kapoor and Sohrab Modi free reign to their histrionic excellence. It is Prithviraj's best known perfomance as the handsome, dashing Sikandar and the film highlights his enduring reputation for playing royalty, culminating in the role of Akbar in Mughal-E-Azam (1960).
13. Padosi (V. Shantaram, 1941): It is a moving film on the unfortunate antagonism between the Hindus and the Muslims. The protagonists are two old friends and neighbors in a village, Mirza (Gajanan Jagirdar), a Muslim, and Thakur (Mazhar Khan), a Hindu. Then a city builder arrives, to acquire land in order to build a dam. Though the villagers resist his overtones in the beginning, their resolve is broken when he successfully incites one community against the other, ultimately separating the close neighbors two. In the climax of the film, a tour de force of technical ingenuity, the two die together holding each other's hand, when the dam is blown up. Espousing the cause of communal harmony, Padosi boldly emphasises that people are not divided because of religious differences but because of power-play and profit making. Padosi remains one of the most celebrated social films ever.
14. Roti (Mehboob Khan, 1942): This classic film is a very hard hitting criticism of the impact of the capitalist ethos on India's poor. The film is set in an imaginary countryside where the economy functions without currency and barter is the rule. Mehboob contrasts the life of supposedly uncivilized tribals with the city people and their value system based on money. Towards the end the rich protagonist (Chandra Mohan) dies of thirst in the desert, his car full of gold ingots. The film is striking in its uncompromising stand, more so as it was mde within the framework of commercial Indian cinema. The point regarding the dehumanisation of industialisation with consequent loss of senuality, even humanity, is well brought out. Roti is surely among the all time greats of Indian films.
15. Ram Rajya (Vijay Bhatt, 1943): What makes the film truly unique is the human treatment given by Bhatt to a mythological tale. It won him great honors and adulations throughout the country and abroad. Cecil B Demelle, one of the greatest makers of historicals and mythologicals (Ten Commandments, Sampson and Delilah) wrote a personal note to Bhatt, after the film was premiered in U.S.A. in 1947 at the prestigious Museum of Modern Art in New York - "Greetings from one director who is still trying to make good pictures to another director who will make great ones long after I am gone." The film also has the distinction of being the only film seen by Mahatma Gandhi during his life time. It was eulogized as a torch bearer of our glorious past and cultural heritage. The performance of the lead pair, Prem Adib and Shobhana Samarth, who played Rama and Sita, was so evocative that they became the eternal Ram and Sita in the audiences' minds and were literally worshipped wherever they went. The film was also a huge commercial hit that ran for 100 weeks at one theatre alone in Bombay and over 50 weeks at various theatres elsewhere.
16. Prithvi Vallabh (Sohrab Modi, 1943): Adapted from K. M. Munshi's novel of the same name, this lavish period drama completed the triology of historical spectaculars made by Sohrab Modi, the other two being Pukar and Sikandar. The film's major highlight is the confrontation between Prithvi Vallabh (Sohrab Modi), the kind and just king of Avantipur, and the haughty queen Mrinalvati (Durga Khote) of another sovereign kingdome, who tries to humiliate him publicly but then falls in love with him. Modi makes the most of his gift for grand eloquence to capture all that is grand about Indian history in the film. In fact, the film is ever remembered for Modi's oratory.
17. Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (V. Shantaram, 1946): The film recounts the real-life story of Dr. Dwarkanath Kotnis (Shantaram), a member of a medical team sent by India to fight alongside the Chinese during the Japanese invasion of China in the WWII. During his stay there, he meets and marries a Chinese girl, Ching Lan (Jayshree). Events take a terrible turn when Kotnis goes into the battlefield whilst developing a cure against an epidemic and dies treating the wounded. The film is remarkable for its absolute abandonment of any pretence at cinematic realism and its powerful nationalistic rhetoric. This is undercut with documentary footage of Pundit Nehru at a mass meeting. Shantaram gives one of his most powerful performances in the movie and Jayshree looks extremely charming as his Chinese wife.
18. Neecha Nagar (Chetan Anand, 1946): The film, written by Khwaja Ahmed Abbas, is an expressionist look at social injustice in rural India. The story centers on a fantastically wealthy landlord who lives in a palatial estate high up on mountain while the poor toil and starve in the valley below. There is a serious and committed comment at the spirit displayed by a community of slum-dwellers as they protest against the toxic waste being dumped in their colony in connivance with corrupt municipal officers. A bold effort to expose the widening gap between the peoples' expectations and the determination of the rich not to recognise them made Chetan Anand the first Indian filmmaker to win an international award. Neecha Nagar won the coveted Grand Prix Prize at the Cannes Film Festival (1946). A highlight of the film was Pt. Ravi Shankar's debut as a film composer.
19. Mahal (Kamal Amrohi, 1949): A thriller with overtones of suspense, the film was startlingly different in its time. Hari Shankar (Ashok Kumar) comes to claim his inheritance - a palatial building known as Shabnam Mahal. He does not see any thing out of the normal until he sees his portait on the wall. The housekeeper tells him the background of the portrait and the tragic ending of two lovers. Later, he sees a beautiful woman (Madhubala) singing and swinging in the garden, but disappears when she approaches. Both the housekeeper and his lawyer friend warn Hari Shankar to stay away from the house. But he continues to be drawn deeper into the dark world of the ghostly apparition - Ayega, ayega aanewala - the key song which works as a leitmotif throughout the film. The film is known for its richly textured visuals, the imaginative use of sound and ofcourse, its haunting music by Khemchand Prakash. Mahal is held solidly together by its two central performances. Ashok Kumar plays the obsessed lover to perfection. Mahal finally made Madhubala a superstar. For the first time her famous looks came into focus as well as she began to blossom into the most beautiful Hindi film heroin ever.
20. Andaaz (Mehboob Khan, 1949): A masterpiece, the triangle to beat all triangles, Andaaz remains startlingly modern even by today's standards, even though it leans towards traditionalism. A film whose cult status was established right from the casting - Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor battling for Nargis, who became one of India's top stars with the success of the film. She claims she was just friends with Dilip Kumar and loves Raj Kapoor, whom she marries. However, the film goes deeper than that and as played by Nargis, looks at a woman who is genuinly torn between the two men. Consequently, what comes out is a highly charged and volatile love triangle. This classic film by Mehboob can be seen as a turning point in Hindi cinema as it examines with subtlety the changing relationship between men and women of modern India.
1950s and 60s - the Golden Age of Hindi Cinema
21. Awaara (Raj Kapoor, 1951): Raj Kapoor is often compared to Chaplin in his most famous movie Awaara. He assumes the persona of a tramp. The premise of the story is whether it is upbringing or birth that determines good character. The handsome petty criminal Raju (Raj Kapoor) does not know that he is the son of a reputed judge. Raju reforms because of love for Rita (Nargis) and is ultimately reunited with his father. The wonderful film is known for the chemistry between Raj Kapoor and Nargis. Awaara's dialogues, photography, songs and extraordinary dream sequence show the unique strength of Indian cinema. Raj Kapoor's cinema spoke the language of love. Its a pan-universal sentiment that led to this blockbuster classic sweeping people off their feet even in Russia and China. Awaara is, indeed, one of the most popular classics in Indian cinematic history.
22. Baiju Bawra (Vijay Bhatt, 1952): One of the greatest musical classics, Baiju Bawra is about the legendary rivalry between Tansen and Baiju during the reign of Emperor Akbar. The musical spectacle goes into the period specified for a series of joyful jugalbandis between the arrogant Tansen (Surendra) and the humble and exceptionally talented Baiju (Bahrat Bhushan). Their ongoing rivalry is fanned and fuelled when Baiju's father is killed in a scuffle with Tansen's guards and eventually, it reaches a crescendo when the two battle it down in the court of Emperor Akbar. The film's highlight is the classical jugalbandi between the two renowned raga maestros Ustad Amir Khan and Pandit D,V. Paluskar. The music by Naushad is regarded as his best ever. Baiju Bawra demonstrated Naushad's grasp of classical music. The film won him the Filmfare (1954) award for Best Music Director. Meena Kumari looked superbly sweet and pretty as Baiju's innocent and lovelorn sweetheart Gauri. This was Meena's first major screen role, played brilliantly. She won Filmfare Best Actress Award. Meena Kumari climbed to dizzling heights of fame after Baiju Bawra.
23. Do Bigha Zamin (Bimal Roy, 1953): Balraj Sahni and Bimal Roy join forces to make this the most moving and memorable film, with the mood, character and feel of the best work of the Italian neo-realist movement. Shambhu Mahato (Balraj Sahni) is a poor farmer who is obliged to go with his young son to Calcutta to make money in order to save his land from a greedy and dishonest landlord. Balraj Sahni's towering performance is the pivot around which the film moves. Brilliantly directed, beautifully photographed, most touchingly acted by the entire cast, the film was the recipient of a Special Mention at Cannes (1954), winner of the Special Progress Award at Karlovy Vary and Best Film and Best Director awards at the very first Filmfare awards.
24. Parineeta (Bimal Roy, 1953): Based on Sarat Chandra's novel, Parineeta is a sweet little love story of two neighbors. Meena Kumari and Ashok Kumar exude that restrained passion seen so often in Bollywood films of yester years. A touch, a chance meeting, a backward glance - and hearts melt. Its the type that starts slow, with a few sparks, and then stoked to create a fire that is difficult to extinguish. It works fabulously for the two. The story is narrated so naturally that it lets the viewers feel as if they are part of the story, may be living across the way watching the two families and events unfold. The film is a gentle look at conventional society, sacrifice and love. Meena Kumari essays one of the best roles of her career in the all-consuming, unswerving devotion to the man who had secretly married her. She won the Filmfare (1955) Best Actress award for the film, while Bimal Roy won the Best Director award for the classic.
25. Boot Polish (Prakash Arora, 1954): This R. K. Films production, directed by Raj Kapoor's assistant, ranks as one of the finest thought provoking dramas asking how we look at ourselves given the limited resources and chices and faced with overwhelming odds. Film's presentation of the humble lifestyle of two children who wish to overcome the obstacles of abject powerty shows the importance of the spirit of endurance and dedication in the face of adversity. The love of the children for each other in the film is very real, and their struggle for survival and social respectability is profoundly touching. The life affirming and rich cinematic experience, Boot Polish, won Special Mention at Cannes Film Festival (1955) and its director nominated for Golden Palm. The film also won Filmfare (1955) awards for Best Film, Best Cinematographer (Tara Dutt) and Best Supporting Actor (David).
26. Mirza Ghalib (Sohrab Modi, 1954): The film based on the life of the great Indian poet who lived during the reign of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last of the Mughal Emperors, won the President's Gold Medal for Best Feature Film of 1954. The film portrays once wealthy poet's trials and tribulations, his triamphs and ultimate descent to poverty, and then to prison; and his tragic ill-fated love with a beautiful courtesan, Chaudvin. The film beautifully captures the mood of the period, its hedonistic pursuits and the fading magnificence of the court of the last Mughal, where poets like Zauq, Momin, Tishna, Shafta and Ghalib assembled to recite their verse. Mirza Ghalib also saw Suraiya's finest dramatic performance as she made alive and vivid the role of Chaudvin. The film also highlights some of her finest singing.
27. Jagriti (Satyen Bose, 1954): One of the finest Hindi movies, Jagriti inspires people of all ages, though the film is produced with essentially children in mind. The film highlights the basic cultural ethos of India, in which the young pay respect to their teachers and elders. It teaches children to be brave in the face of hardship and brings out the rejuvinating effect of music, to motivate children towards patriotism and nobility. Jagrity works on a simple humane level and is at once simplistic, sensitive, thought provoking, humorous and engrossing. A good film doesn't need stars; if the content of the film is rich it overrides everything. Nothing proved this better than Jagriti, a small film with no stars, but such was the impact of this little gem that not only did it take the box-office by storm but also went on to win the Filmfare (1956) Award for Best Film and Best Supporting Actor (Abhi Bhattacharya).
28. Devdas (Bimal Roy, 1955): This best-known version of Saratchandra's Devdas is memorable for indelible performances by Dilip Kumar in the title role, Vijayantimala as Chandramukhi, Suchitra Sen as Paro and Motilal as Chunilal. Roy's version of the story seems subtle and naturalistic with affinities to the emerging Bengali art cinema of Satyajit Roy. The actors are restrained and convincing and often placed in realistic locations. Roy makes careful, meaningful use of his restlessly moving camera throughout the film. When the boy Devdas calls Paro from her room by tossing stones at her window, the graceful shot travels with her from an upper floor to the gate below where she meets Devdas. Years later, when Devdas has returned from Calcutta, the shot reciprocates itself exactly without much fuss, so that the film itself suggests a basic, enduring relationship despite the passing of years. This Bimal Roy classic was awarded Filmfare (1957) awards for Best Actor (Dilip Kumar), Best Supporting Actor (Motilal) and Best Supporting Actress (Vijayantimala).
29. Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje (V. Shantaram, 1955): Song and dance extravaganza, JJPB is one of India's premier classics. Despite being a dance musical with two non-stars, the film was a landmark hit. There couldn't have been a more befitting testimony of Shantaram's foresight nor a better reward for his spirit of adventure. There was a standing ovation for Shantaram in every show when the screening ended. The film earned him President's Gold Medal for Best Film, besides Filmfare awards (1957) for Best Film, Best Director, Best Art Director (Kanu Desai) and Best Sound Recordist (A. K. Parmar). Sandhya never bettered her performance in JJPB. The role of a keen learner and a dedicated disciple fitted her like a glove. Gopi Kishan holds you spellbound as a chareographer and dancer. In the climax, Gopi Kishan visibly revels in the Shiva's famous 'tandav' dance with the magnatism of the blend of energy, undiluted anger and immance grace that draws in not just the dance-literate but every genre of viewers.
30. Jagte Raho (Amit Moitra, Sombhu Mitra, 1956): A chillingly honest and stark Raj Kapoor film, Jagte Raho despairingly addressed the issue of social apathy. Set over a single night's events, the film is a brilliant comic yet critical survey of Calcutta's middle class life. It looks at the city as a nightmare. The movie narrates the naked truth of life's challenges in the city, especially for the unsophisticated, naive, innocent souls who land up to make it big there. Every second of your life is a struggle even if it is for a drop of drinking water. A great story and script and the deep message it sent to the society. The film sees one of Raj Kapoor's most remembered performances, as perhaps the best of his Chaplin inspired roles. However, the scene stealer has to be Motilal playing the role of a drunkard with relish. The other highlight of the film is undoubtedly Salil Chowdhary's musical score. Jagte Raho is one of those rare films which have stood the test of time and is, in fact, more relevant in today's times. The film won Karlovy Vary International Festival (1957) Crystal Globe award for its director, Shamhu Mitra.
31. Do Aankhen Barah Haath (V. Shantaram, 1957): One of the finest movies ever made, DABH won President's Gold Medal (1957), Silver Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival (1958) and Samuel Godwyn Award at the Golden Globes, USA (1959). The plot is about an idealist police officer who tries to rehabilitate six criminals and succeeds. The 'two eyes' belong to the officer, the 'twelve hands' are those of the six incarcerated murderers. The officer is of the opinion that there's no such thing as a truly bad man, and to prove his point he transports the six killers to a farm, where he puts them to useful work. Amazingly, the jailor's theory is valid one. The prisoners do indeed transform into worthwhile members of society. V. Shantaram was a genius and this movie is his masterpiece. It is an important film which endorses prison reforms and propounds the philosophy that even the most hardened, seemingly soul-dead criminals can be brought in contact with his higher self. The film makes you want to believe in the innate decency of all human beings. Despite being a message film, it remains cinematically alive throughout and played to excellent response at the box-office.
32. Mother India (Mehboob Khan, 1957): A gem in the Golden Age of Indian cinema, this remake of Mehboob Khan's earlier classic Aurat (1940) was the first Indian film to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1958, which it missed by a single vote. The film also has the distinction of winning five Filmfare awards in 1958 - Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress (Nargis), Best Cinematographer (Faredoon A. Irani) and Best Sound Recordist (R. Kaushik). Mother India is an epic tale of a mother's struggle against adversity and unscruplous moneylender to retain her farm and feed her children. Radha, played by screen queen Nargis, is a strong, passionate mother, tilling the soil with the plough on her back when there are no oxen, raising her children alone and exploited by the local moneylender. Her son conceives a fanatical hatred for this man; his obsession, coupled with Radha's need to live within the boundaries of the law and common decency, ends in classic tragedy. As the film's publicity said, "The grain of rice on your table does not tell the grim tale of the toil that grew it", the film portrays with astounding sucess a powerful view of rural life in a small India village, with raw emotions and cinematic fineness.
33. Pyaasa (Guru Dutt, 1957): A masterpiece, Pyaasa quenches the thirst that one has when there is a desire to view great cinema. This classic film with its haunting atmosphere has the effect of changing one's perceptions of Indian cinema forever. Vijay (Guru Dutt), an unemployed poet, discovers that the love of his life, Meena (Mala Sinha), has married a rich publisher (Rehman). The poet has little to live for besides his only friends, a messeur (Johny Walker) and a prostitute (Waheeda Rehman), who save him in more than one way. Aside from the enthralling screenplay and first rate performances, Pyaasa has also become famous for its extraordinary music by S. D. Burman. Sahir Ludhianvi's trnquil wisdom in the lyrics, beautifully rendered by Mohammad Rafi, adds a haunting dimension to the film. It is in Pyaasa, indeed, where we see Guru Dutt transcend way above the ordinary and succeed in totality.
34. Sujata (Bimal Roy, 1959): Looking at the plight of untouchability, Sujata remains one of the most humanistic films made on the subject. It is a sensitively directed film with the romantic scenes between Adhir (Sunil Dutt) and Sujata (Nutan) almost lyrical. The story is told in a series of deft, restrained episodes, never ever lapsing into self pity that could have easily marred the film. Sujata sees yet another stunning performance from Nutan in the central role. She enacts the role of the untouchable girl with extraordinary grace and is able to convey her hurt, her trauma with just a glance or a jesture. The film is shot handsomely with rich lyrical quality and evocative framing that brings out the human emotions of the story. And helping to lift the film several notches is its evergreen musical score by S. D. Burman. All in all, Sujata endures as one of Bimal Roy's masterpieces and one of Nutan's best ever performances. The film was nominated for Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival (1960) and won Filmfare awards (1960) for Best Film, Best Diractor, Best Actress (Nutan) and Best Story Writer (Subodh Ghosh).
35. Kagaz Ke Phool (Abrar Alvi, 1959): Guru Dutt's semi-autobiographical film, Kagaz Ke Phool is a cult classic through which he almost rehearsed his own death. Intensely personal film, though it was extremely well made, it was not well received by the Indian audiences who prefer happy endings. This film was made ahead of its time. But in today's time, the audiences have definitely realized and recognized its piercing brilliance beyond the pall of gloom. The film looks at the morbid movie industry and the people within it who are like 'flowers of paper'- beautiful to behold but artificial nevertheless and without fragrance. Guru Dutt as the genius filmmaker and Waheeda Rehman as his protegee act beautifully. This melancholic masterpiece is India's first cinemascopic film that boasts of breathtaking cinematography and memorable scenes of wrenching melodrama. The film won President's Silver Medal.
36. Parakh (Bimal Roy, 1960): Like any Hindi movie, this one too has a hero and heroin and a love story, but that is where the similarities end and the movie stops becoming stereotypical. It has lot more to offer - a beautiful love story wherein love, humor, drama and mystry are amazingly interwined. The characters have depth and the complexities of human behavior are explored in a truly entertaining manner. Parakh sees Bimal Roy venture into satire territory wherein he once again establishes what a fine and sensitive filmmaker he was. The film finds him truly enjoying himself as he blows the lid off so called respectable people and shows to what level people can stoop to for money. The film is based on story by Salil Chowdhury with dialogues by Shailendra. Motilal comes up with yet another impeccable and thoroughly natural performance winning the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor award for the role. The film also won Filmfare (1961) awards for Best Director (Bimal Roy) and Best Sound Recordist (George D'Cruz).
37. Kanoon (B. R. Chopra, 1960): One of the strongest things about Hindi films is that they are all musicals. Thrillers, comedies, even Hindi horror films have elaborate song-and-dance pieces. But a few determined directors have attempted to make commercial films without the usual song and dance formula. And while not all have succeeded, at least one remains a landmark. B. R. Chopra made a film that broke the mould. How did he manage to hold the audience interest for nearly three hours without songs, comic relief and without even the benefit of a strong love story track? The answer is, concentrating on the three vital ingredients of any great movie - script, script and script. The success of Kanoon rests largely on the shoulders of two men: Chopra himself and his script writer Akhtar-Ul-Imam. It would take two titans like them to make such a great songless film today, and even then it would be a great challenge. That makes the film's achievement even more impressive. Kanoon bagged the Filmfare awards (1962) for Best Director and Best Supporting Actor (Nana Palsikar).
8. Mughl-E-Azam (K. Asif, 1960): Set in the 16th century AD, the movie brings to life the tale of the doomed love affair between thr Mughal Prince Saleem and the beautiful, ill-fated court dancer, Anarkali. Mughal-E-Azam is a tribute to the imagination, hard work and lavishness of its maker for its grandeur, its beauty and the performances of the artistes. The breathtaking battle scenes, the splendor of the Mughal court, some of the most seductive song and dance ensembles ever filmed, the confrontation scenes between Akbar and Salim - the best of Mughal-E-Azam has never been surpassed and it is the finest testament to K. Asif's cinematic testament. A work of art is the only phrase to describe this historical whose grand palaces and fountains give it the feel of an epic. The heart- wrenching core of romance has the tenderness of a feather touch. The show belongs to Madhubala. Always beautiful, she has never looked this luminous. The film won Filmfare awards (1961) for Best Director, Best Dialogues and Best Cinematography.
39. Bandini (Bimal Roy, 1963): An apex of creativity, Bandini showcases the story of a girl Kalyani (Nutan) bound by love, through all its destructive and redemptive expressions. Set at a time when women had no choices, Kalyani had the courage to not only make choices in her life but to define her own freedom. Nutan displays an extraordinary ability to illuminate Kalyani's inner conflict. If one person is the life and soul of Bandini, it is Nutan. one just has to see the entire gamut of emotions fleeting across her face in the film's key sequence as she murders her lover's wife. It is her best performance ever, and certainly one of the greatest by any actress in Indian cinema. While the events in the story are highly melodramatic, Bimada takes great care to handle them with sensitivity, simplicity and subtlety. He beautifully uses imagery and sound to convey the various moods of the female prisoner, Kalyani. The music by S. D. Burman represents some of the finest work he has done in his entire career. The film won six Filmfare awards (1964): Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress (Nutan), Best Cinematographer (D. Bilimoria) and Best Story (Jarasandha).
40. Haqeeqat (Chetan Anand, 1964): India's first and the finest war film to date, Haqeeqat became a yardstick for subsequent Hindi films based on war. The film is a heroic portrayal of India's 1962 war with China over the disputed Ladakh border. Haqeeqat is the only film that depicts this war in all its reality. The director has brilliantly woven drama and history together on his cinematic canvas. The movie not only involves a sense of pride but also brings a tear to the dry eye as one goes through the termoils of soldiers as they fight with abandon to save their motherland. Kaifi Azmi pens some of his best lyrics for this movie. Madan Mohan is in his elements as he composes some of the gems of his legendary repertoir. The film is also boosted by an extremely well written screenplay that engrosses the viewer. Films like Haqeeqat are made but once in a life time.
41. Guide (Vijay Anand, 1965): Based on R. K. Narayan's novel, Guide is a celluloid poem which gently leads us through the story of a passionate soul, Raju Guide (Dev Anand). With his fair share of venalities, ambitions, insecurities and jealousies, Raju travels towards his eventual redemption. Dev Anand in what is probably his most famous role is neer less than convincing as the guide with all-too human feelings, but also blessed with a higher self. Even if film historians and movie buffs discuss Dev Anand a couple of decades from now, the name Guide will crop up almost instantly as a reference point for his six decades (and still counting) career. This bitter sweet fable that combines eternal love, sacrifice, opportunism, social meladies and spiritualism together is both uniquely singular and immensely satisfying at the same time. A high point of the movie is its soul-stirring music. Guide is one film that showcases the perfect example of integration of songs in the narrative. Guide swept all the main awards at the Filmfare Awards Night (1967): Best Film (Dev Anand), Best Director (Vijay Anand), Best Actor (Dev Anand), Best Actress (Waheeda Rehman), Best Story (R. K. Narayan) and Best Cinematography (Fali Mistry).
42. Teesri Kasam (Basu Bhattacharya, 1966): It is one of Indian cinema's tragic ironies that a sensitive and poetic films like Teesri Kasam sank without a trace, indirectly leading to its producer-lyricist Shalendra's death due to stress of financial problems caused by the film's failure. The greater irony is that today the film is recognized as one of the all-time great films of Indian cinema. It is considered by critics as Basu Bhattacharya's best film. He had worked under Bimal Roy earlier and it shows in the film. The rythm of the film is lyrical and ever so gentle. Rarely has rural ethos been captured so beautifully on the India screen. The film, refraining from conventional drama, flows like the song of Mahua in the film (Dunia Bananewale) - beautiful. eternal and moving. The blossoming of the bond between Hiraman (Raj Kapoor) and Hirabai (Waheeda Rehman) is warm, wistful and charming and is very delicately handled. Worlds apart, she a jaded nautanki dancer and he the simple cart driver, the duo come together, discover each other and then part ways again. Their relationship is like sheer poetry on celluloid.The film won President's award for Best Film and nomination for Grand Prix at the Moscow Film Festival (1967).
43. Upkar (Manoj Kumar, 1967): Upkar is the movie about a model Indian farmer and soldier. When the issue of Indo-Pak war was hot and the slogan 'Jai Jawan Jai Kisan' was making waves throughout the country, Manoj Kumar captured the idea and produced the unforgettable film Upkar. Bharat is a poor farmer who works hard in the farm and supports his widowed mother and step brother, Puran. Circumstances create conflict between the two brothers and force Bharat to leave his farms and go to war. The war brings a touching change in the entire family, bringing them closer to each other. Bharat becomes a symbol of every model Indian farmer and soldier by living up to the slogan of 'Jai Jawan Jai Kisan'. With this movie, in a way, Manoj Kumar institunalized himself as the ideal romantic-patriotic hero throughout sixties and seventies. Upkar won Filmfare (1968) Awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Pran) and Best Lyricist (Gulshan Bawra).
44. Aashirwad (Hrishikesh Mukherjee, 1968): Hrishikesh Mukherjee must be commended for daring to make Aashirwad revolving around Ashok Kumar when the actor was 55 years old and had long been doing character roles. Ashok Kumar made the most of the opportunity, winning both the National and Filmfare (1970) awards for Best Actor. He plays Shivnath, the zamindar who has major differences with his materialistic wife Leela (Veena). Their fragile marital bond is stopped from unravelling only bty their love for their daughter Nina. Hrishikesh Mukherjee shows a marked telent for establishing lasting relationships in brief screen time. This is evident in the easy comaraderie between Ashok Kumar and Harindernath Chattopadhyaya, the inexplicable bonding between Ashok Kumar and Sanjeev Kumar, and love that is constant despite the irreconciliable differences between the ill-matched couple Ashok Kumar and Veena. Mukherjee makes his points without underlining them. The director's faith in budding lyricist and dialogue writer Gulzar's ability to imbibe Ashok Kumar's character with much-needed sensibilities pays off. Its a treat to watch him recite Gulzar's poems with unequalled emotions.
1970s and 80s - Bollywood's tryst with the New Wave cinema
45. Bhuvan Shome (Mrinal Sen, 1970): Directed by master craftsman of indian films, Mrinal Sen, the film is a psychological drama on how life should be lived. Bhuvan Shome, a lonely widower, a proud old man and a disciplinarian, a thoroughly unenchanted man, takes a day off and walks into another world - a new world of simple uninhibited village folk. Off to duck shooting amidst the sand dunes, suddenly everything lights up, that changes his lifestyl and his philosophy of life. Utpal Dutt, a brilliant actor, portrays the role of Bhuvan Shome, to perfection. The location of the film is breathtaking. The film, with an austere style, sardonic humor and expressionist exploration of the politics of class, is a landmark in modern Indian cinema, and became highly influential for the New Wave Hindi cinema. Bhuvan Shome won National Award for Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor (Utpal Dutt).
46. Anand (Hrishikesh Mukherjee, 1970): The film was instantly hailed as a classic on its release. Anand is the story of a delightful character by that name (Rajesh Khanna), who disregards his imminent death due to blood cancer and spreads sunshine into everybody's life. The friend he is living with, Dr. Bannerjee Amitabh Bachchan), becomes extremely involved with Anand's life. The main narrative deals with the way Bannerjee comes to grip with Anand's life. Mukherjee's creation exudes an energy and warmth which has remained palpable despite the passage of years. Frank Capra's immortal observation - "Tragedy is not when the actor dies; tragedy is when the audience cries." - perfectly fits Anand. It is a film that keeps its protagonist dry-eyed but makes the stoniest blink with emotion. Anand won Filmfare awards for Best Film, Best Actor (Rajesh Khanna), Best Supporting Actor (Amitabh Bachchan), Best Story (Hrishikesh Mukherjee), Best Dialogue (Gulzar) and Best Editor (Hrishikesh Mukherjee).
47. Mera Naam Joker (Raj Kapoor, 1970): A memorable masterpiece, Raj Kapoor's magnum opus, Mera Naam Joker, loosely based on his own life, leaves a lasting impression. The film tells the story of a man searching for love, giving his heart and soul to entertain the world, even at the cost of his sorrows. His philosophy prevents him from showing the negative human emotions. As the Joker lives for the audience applause, he can only laugh at the hardships in life, never allowed to shed a tear in sadness. As the circus clown Raju, Raj Kapoor effectively pulls off the act of sheer desolation shielded by a veil of self-ridicule, to really give the impression of the inner torment that Raju eventually succumbs to. The film is a thoroughly consuming and invaluable insight into life and relationships of an actor few have surpassed in the Indian film industry. The film won Filmfare (1972) awards for Best Director, Best Music Director (Ravi Shankar). Best Playback Singer (Manna Dey) and Best Sound Recordist (Allaudin).
48. Pakeeza (Kamal Amrohi, 1971): Pakeeza is a stylizes, larger than life mythicization of the familiar tale of the prostirute with the heart of gold. In the film Amrohi turns to the millieu and culture he is product of - Uttar Pradesh's feudal elite, its life of ease and elegance, of romantic love, poetry and mujras. Its decandence is not without a touch of class and has sometimes resulted in much creative upsurge. Pakeeza inherits that legacy. There is grandeure in Amrohi's filmmaking - an epic magnitude of treatment. The evocative songs and the background music create the right period mood. Ghulam Mohammad's music is one of the all time great scores in Indian cinema. Pakeeza is perhaps Meena Kumari's best known film. The film released in February 1972 opened to lukewarm response but after the death of Meena Kumari on 31st March 1972 it went on to become a huge success at the box-office and has since acquired a cult status as well.
49. Garam Hawa (M. S. Sathyu, 1973): Nominated for Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival (1974), Garam Hawa remains today one of the most poignant films ever to be made on India's partition. This was the first Hindi film to tackle this sensitive subject in a direct and realistic manner. Sathyu attempted to portray a slice of our history that had effected evertone but had been swept under the carpet in an attempt to hide the pain and trauma of the Partition. The story revolves around Salim Mirza, brilliantly played by Balraj Sahni, who stays back in India after the Partition. Salim Mirza and his family has to fight to find identity and respect in the country they chose not to leave. The film brings home to the viewer not only the emotional trauma of loosing your roots but also the complete social and economic devastation that follows. The film won the National Award for its contribution to National Integration. Garam Hawa also won the Filmfare (1975) Awards for Best Story (Ismat Chugtai, Kaifi Azmi), Best Screenplay (Shama Zaidi, Kaifi Azmi) and Best Dialogue Writer (Kaifi Azmi).
50. Rajnigandha (Basu Chatterjee, 1974): The winner of Filmfare (1975) and Critics award for Best Film, Rajnigandha is a classic Basu Chatterjee film that set precedent for middle-of-the-road films. These films were made on low budget but were credible. The characters were not larger than life. There was no melodrama yet people loved them. Deepa Kapoor (Vidya Sinha) lives with her brother and sister-in-law in Delhi. She studies in college. One day she meets Sanjay (Amol Palekar) and after a series of meetings falls in love and they decide to get married after Sanjay gets promotion. Before this happens, Deepa goes to Bombay for a job interview and meets with an old boy friend Navin (Dinesh Thakur). This meeting rekindles her love for Navin, who is now well settled as a commercial film producer. Deepa has the task of choosing to live with either Sanjay or Navin. The film not only brings frailties of the subdued middle class to the screen but also gives it voice. Salil Chowdhury's immortal music is a highpoint of the movie.
51. Ankur (Shyam Benegal, 1974): Shyam Benegal's unforgettable debut in Hindi, Ankur, was nominated for Golden Beear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival (1974). Surya (Anant Naag), the young landlord, sent against his will from the city to look after the family fields, seems more bored than cruel. But his public humiliation of Kishtaya (Sadhu Mehr), his deaf mute servant, for a petty theft, shows by the manner of its casualness how the ownership of people is assumed as a birthright both by the oppressor and the oppressed. Later events, like his sexual relationship with Kishtata's wife (Shobhana Azmi), underline how deep the habit of subjugation has become; this is no tyrant imposing his will by force of personality, this is tyranny by inharitance. But at the end of the film, a little boy throws a defiant stone at the house of the landlord. This is 'the seedling' of the title, the first small expression of revolt by the oppressed. It may be a futile gesture, but it suggests that however deeply entranched the inequities, the process of change is about to begin. In her debut film, Shabhana Azmi's performance is moving and heart-wrenching, that won her the Silver Lotus Award of the National Film Awards (1975).
52. Nishant (Shyam Benegal, 1975): Shyam Benegal has a well-deserved reputation for making hard hitting social dramas which tell true Indian stories in a realistic manner. He seems to be ever pre-occupied in supporting the forces which are taking India from tradition to modernity, from a deeply conservative and rigidly hierarchical society to a more open, democratic and egalitarian one. In Nishant the oppressed revolt openly against the long reign of terror let loose by a family of landlords. Significantly, the revolt does not come from the land, it is brought about by the middle class - the school teacher and the priest- representing the potent combination of education and enlightened religion. The plot is brutal and compelling which reveals how people's lives play out in the many parts of the world where civilization is still primitive and brutal. Yet another brilliant film from Shyam Benegal, Nishant was nominated for Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival (1976).
53. Mrigaya (Mrinal Sen, 1976): One of the most artistically made movies, Mrigaya won the Golden Lotus - National award for the Best Film, was nominated for the Golden Prize at the Moscow International Film Festival (1977) and won Filmfare (Critics) award for Best Film. The film's lead artiste, Mithun Chakraborty, won the Best Actor (Silver Lotus) National award. He plays the role of a tribal boy Ghinua, whose job is hunting. It is an imaginative story set with the Santhal tribal rebellion (1857-58) as the backdrop. There is a Santhal couple and two white couples in the film, and Mrinal Sen juxtaposes their lives beautifully. It also brings out the political and social tensions of the time. Unarguably, it is Mrinal Sen's best movie ever.
54. Chitchor (Basu Chatterjee. 1976): A very sweet and sincere film, Chitchor is another example of Basu Chatterjee's dedication to the great Indian middle class. A realistic art film, with a short but captivating story, in which small incidents are colorfully picturised and amusingly narrated. Geeta (Zarina Wahab) lives with her parents and kid brother in a small town. Her sister writes to them from the city about a highly qualified engineer who is coming to work on a construction project in their town and asks her parents to seek his hand for Geeta. Accordingly the family goes all out to please Vinod (Amol Palkar), who in turn gets drawn towards Geeta and soon their interaction blossoms into a breezy romance. Then there is a twist in the story. Sunil (Vijayendra Ghatke), the handsome young engineer turns up. Actually, he is the man chosen by Geeta's sister, while Vinod is just his assistant. What's worse, Sunil too falls for Geeta. While the parents are more than ready to accept him as their son-in-law, Geeta rebels and claims she will marryVinod and none other. Both Amol Palekar and Wahida Rehman are brilliant in their roles, it was Master Raju who bagged the National Award for his role as Geeta's kid brother. A film which abounds in natural beauty, sweet and pleasing music coupled slick direction makes for an excellent movie.
55. Manthan (Shyam Benegal, 1976): Manthan is an extraordinarily powerful and intense depiction of social change. Set against the backdrop of Gujarat's fledging dairy industry, Benegal addressed the viewer in a strict cinematic language. The earnest youngman (Girish Karnad), prodding the local farmers into resistance, finds them overcoming their fatalism and fear because first, that it is possible, and second, thatthere is direct and gettable economic benefit to be obtained by putting up this resistance. In the end the forces for change may be defeated but you see that the society is changing and sooner or later, the oppressed will fight their own battles. Half a million farmers in the state, each of whom contributed Rs. 2, raised the then princely sum of rupees one million to produce the film. They came in truckloads to see 'their film' once released, thereby making it extremely successful at the box-office. Is there a parallel for this anywhere in the world?
56. Bhumika (Shyam Benegal, 1977): The success of New Wave cinema in India, enjoyed in the 1970s and 1980s, could be attributed to Shyam Benegal's classic quartret - Ankur (1973), Nishant (1975), Manthan (1976) and the last but not the least, Bhumika, the winner of Filmfare (1978) Award for Best Film.. Bhumika looks at individual's search for identity and self fulfilment. The film is broadly based on the life of the well-known Marathi stage and screen actress of the 1940s, Hansa Wadker, who led a flamboyant and unconventional life. What Benegal has done is to put a magnificent visual recreation of those extraordinary days and one that is also sensitive to the agonies and predicament of a talented woman whose need for security was only matched by her insistance on freedom. Excellent performance by Smita Patil energizes this story of a girl who is manipulated by almost every man she meets in the film industry. She won the well-deserved National Award - Silver Lotus - for her brilliant portrayal.
57. Junoon (Shyam Benegal, 1978): Based on Ruskin Bond's heartrending novel, Flight of the Pigeons, Shyam Benegal manages to recreate a flavor, a feeling of the life and times of the 1857 War of Independence against the British in India. Its a great love story of an English girl, Ruth (Nafisa Ali), her captor, Javed (Shashi Kapoor) against the crucial period backdrop. The director pulls every narrative device out of the hat to create an epic Shakespearian tragedy superbly grounded in the era. Both blood and love are dealt with masterfully in this overwhelmingly powerful film. The dialogues by the incomparable Satyadev Dubey are a marvel. The film is made magnificent by the universlly flawless performances, especially by Shaban Azmi as the scowling, nagging Firdaus, wife of Javed. One of the most memorable films, Junoon won five Filmfare (1980) awards: Best Film, Best Director, Best Cinematography (Govind Nihalani), Best Editor (Bhanudas Divakar) and Best Dialogues (Satyadev Dube).
58. Aakrosh (Govind Nihalani, 1980): Brilliantly directed and acted, Aakrosh is one of the best movies ever made in India. Govind Nihalani made a compelling debut as a serious filmmaker with this film and took the establishment head-on in his very first film. This unpretentious and inexpensive film is about a small tribal community - the exploitation they are subjected to and the hopelessness of their case. The film serves as a strong indictment of the administration as the custodians of law are shown to be complicit with the oppressors. The film delves right into the question of basic existance - exactly what should the poor, uneducated tribals do to live with dignity? Nearly all performances in the film are brilliant. Naseerudin Shah, as the idealist lawyer, is completely immersed in his character. Om Puri is remarkable as the tribal man framed in the murder of his wife (Smita Patil). The agony on his face is haunting. And Amrish Puri is extremely effective as the public prosecutor. The film won Filmfare (1981) awards for Best Director, Best Actor (Naseerudin Shah), Best Supporting Actor (Om Puri), Best Story and Best Screenplay (Vijay Tendulker) and Best Art Director (C. S. Bhatti).
59. Umrao Jaan (Muzaffar Ali, 1981): A poetic memoir of existential subtlety, Umrao Jaan is a classic of its own. Umrao, a true character of a highly sensitive female artist of the nineteenth century India, could write the wonderful lyrics of her songs, tune the classical melody herself, achieved a magical voice and presented the class of a dance style called Kathak. Though finally she came up on top of her fame and popularity in a wide region of India, she remained deserted by her relatives. Her love relations failed to acquire any meaningful social end. Only the audio-visual experience of the film can take one near the heart of the poetic portrayal, brilliantly done by Muzaffar Ali. Ali is able to get superb performances from the ensemble of actors. The effect is stunning. But good direction does not come merely in dealing with actors. Each and every shot of cameraman Pravin Bhatt has been superbly done. This is a film to be enjoyed by sight and sound - not merely at level of the story. The melancholy thread in the film is developed right up to the dried leaves in the final scenes, knitting together a very feminist tragedy by a male director. Rekha won the Best Actress (Silver Lotus) National Award for her portrayal of Umrao Jaan. Muzaffar Ali won the Best Director and Khayyam, the Best Music Director awards of Filmfare (1982).
60. Masoom (Shekhar Kapoor, 1983): One of the most sensitive films ever made in India, Masoom is the story of a family crisis that can affect anyone. G.K. Malhotra was on a business trip when he met a very attractive woman. She was tempting. He was married and had a baby on the way. But he could not resist the temptation. Years pass - GK has two little daughters. Then he receives the dreaded call. His-then mistress is dead. She has a young son, Rahul, that GK will have to care for. Rahul's presence is tearing his father's family apart. On paper the storyline doesn't sound incredibly exciting or original, but what is on screen is purely amazing. The basic theme of the film is the power of love. GK's love for Rahul battles against his love for his family. And it is his wife Indu's love for her husband, and her eventual love for Rahul that keeps the family from tearing apart. Naseerudin Shah is brilliant in his role as GK, perhaps his most sensitive performance till date. The kids also act beautifully. Jugal Hansraj is wonderful as Rahul. The film wins in the end, it seems, because of him. Masoom won Filmfare (1984) awards for: Best Film (Critics Award), Best Actor (Naseerudin Shah), Best Lyricist (Gulzar), Best Music Director (R. D. Burman) and Best Playback Singer - Female (Aarti Mukherjee).
61. Mandi (Shyam Benegal, 1983): Based on an Urdu short story 'Anandi' by Gulshan Abbas, Mandi is among Shyam Benegal's best work. A black comedy set in a Hyderabad's kotha (brothel), it is a rollicking drama of excess. This singing-dancing establishment is faced with a sad decline as its patronage withers in the face of changing times. The movie very subtly points out how the prostitutes, who seem more real and bound by morals than the respectable people, are ultimately forced to take the blame for moral degradation and are forced to leave the city. Benegal assembles an amazing cast of highly professional actors with Shabana Azmi excelling as the crude, selfish, yet likable 'Bai' (Madam), Smita Patil as the beautiful, gentle looking but rebellious prostitute, Zeenat. The movie rests on their strong performances as also on Naseerudin Shah's, whose character reveals a lot about the secrets and repressed passions of the brothel's inhabitants. The film also boasts of excellent music, sensuous interiors and is altogether a lot of fun.
62. Sadma (Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Balu Mahendra, 1983): One of the most heart-rending movies, Sadma is one of the greatest work of Indian cinema. The movie is all about a girl in her early twenties who after meeting an accident loses her memory and behaves like a six-year old. She runs away from the hospital unattended and ends up in a brothel. She is rescued from there by a young school teacher who brings her home. Now its all about how he treats her like a child, without getting diverted in terms of human instincte, considering the beauty she is. The climax is superb and most watchable part of the movie. One can't just come out of the theatre without being visibly moved and wiping drops from the eyes. Kamal Hassan and Sridevi excelled in this fabulous movie, laced with great soundtrack. Sridevi won Filmfare nomination for Best Actress for her superb acting in the film.
63. Ardh Satya (Govind Nihalani, 1983): Ardh Satya's commercial success showed that people were ready to accept New Wave cinema steeped with realism - dark film about rampant corruption, hooliganism and police atrocities. Anant Velankar (Om Puri), a sub-inspector in Mumbai is an honest cop. He tries his best to bust goons belonging to a local gang-leader Rama Shetty (Sadashiv Amrapulker) but comes up empty because of the latter's political influence. Frusted by the turn of events, he turns to alcohol, and there onwards has trouble connecting with anyone except his sympathetic boss Hyder Ali (Shafi Inamdar) and his girlfriend Jyotsana (Samita Patil). The crux of the story is Anant's quest for virilety. The highlight of the film is Nihalani depicting ordinary life in its complete richness, allowing us to be part of the experience. Ardh Satya is an example of a film that is real, somewhat dry and detached, but packs tremendous emotional resonance. It is richly layered and full of great performances. Om Puri plays a flawed and tragic hero with great verve and simplicity. There are moments of blistering intensity in his performance. Smita Patil is equally impressive in a supporting role. Sadashiv Amrapurker plays his role with a quiet menace. Its a measured performance that mirrors the characteristics of a scheming politician. Ardh Satya won Filmfare (1984) awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay (Vijay Tendulkar), Best Story (S. D. Panwalker) and Best Supporting Actor (Sadashiv Amrapurkar).
64. Sparsh (Sai Paranjape, 1984): A sensitive movie, Sparsh upholds an important principle that the disabled want to live independently, to be accorded dignity and respect othe sectors of the society are granted. They don't want sympathy, rather they want and need normal behavior towards them. The highlight of the movie is intense performance by Naseerudin Shah in the role of a self-respecting. visually-impaired principal of a blind school, who hates the society for pitying people like him. A method artiste, Shah studied the behavioral characteristics of the blind and came up with amazing performance, winning himself the National Award for Best Actor -Silver Lotus. Apart from critical acclaim, Sparsh also won 3 Filmfare (1985) Awards: Best Film, Best Director and Best Dialogues (Sai Paranjape).
65. Ek Din Achanak (Mrinal Sen, 1989): Based on the story by Rampada Chowdhury, Ek Din Achanak beautifully captures the vagaries of life in a typical middle-class home in a non-descript city of India. The story unfolds as the family reacts to the disappearance, first with shock, then sorrow, resignation and finally acceptance. No explanations are given, nor any analysis performed. The director tries to keep the movie focussed on the central theme, without degenerating the plot to a thriller. The film can be interpretted as a singular character study. The basic structure of the film and especially the climax is unlike anything on the Indian screen. The film was featured at the 12th International Film Festival (1988) and not unlikely, was a winner. It also got a special mention at the Venice International Film Festival (1989), where Mrinal Sen won the OCIC Award for the film.
1990s and onwards - getting ready to celebrate the glorious 75 years
66. Lamhe (Yash Chopra, 1991): Lamhe is once in a while beauty captivating the viewer with moments which enthral - moments of beauty, of love and all emotion connected to it. A bold and beautiful story, it showcases many relationships in a beautiful manner. Despite the otherwise serious story, it is loaded with the best comic sequences. Anupam Kher is brilliant in his comic timing. Sridevi looks stunningly beautiful with one of the best performances of her career. As the blend of tradition and modernity in Rajasthan and then as the sprightly and vivcious young woman in England, she inculcates a fabulous disparity to her two roles. She seldom had anothe chance to exhibit her acting skills so spaciously. Anil Kapoor can easily claim to be his best acted movie. The cinematography and direction are outstanding. Shot aesthatically in Rajasthan and England, the film truly takes you on a lovely journey and one enjoys every moment of it. Light spirited and enjoyable, it's almost like a picnic. Lamhe won the Filmfare (1992) Awards for Best Film, Best Story (Honey Irani). Best Actress (Sri Devi) and Best Comedian (Anupam Kher).
67. Bandit Queen (Shekhar Kapur, 1994): The need for brutal revenge was never so unambiguously laid out as it is in Bandit Queen, a graphic account of the revolutionary, victimized life of real-life Indian outlaw Phoolan Devi. A low-born Hindu woman becomes a folk heroin when she turns on her upper-caste abusers in this brutal biography by Mala Sen. In the rough and tumble world of bandiry, Phoolan's gradual transformation occured from a violated child to a tough and legendary Bandit Queen. Her fight back against repression is a personal obsession fuelled by the white-hot rage of human suffering. Seema Biswas excells in the title role. She gives a convincing performance of pain, humiliation and retribution. With her help, the film treads a fine line of controversy and emerges as sensitive rather than sleezy. Bandit Queen doesn't preach or judge, it lets events speak for themselves. Tightly paced, powerfully written and well acted, Bandit Queen is a first-rate adventure movie. Film manages to grip the audience in a way that no-preach commentary ever will. The film won Filmfare (1997) Awards for Best Film and Best Director. Seema Biswas won the National Award (Silver Lotus) for her brilliant portrayal of Bandit Queen.
68. Machis (Gulzar, 1996): A story to set your conscience afire, Machis is the tale of a wronged Punjabi youth who takes to arms and joins the league of terrorists to avenge the injustices heaped on to him by the corrupt political set up. The movie seeks to portray how the embittered yiuth of the strife torn state are dormant, yet volatile and could start a raging fire if provoked beyond their endurance. Machis is an attempt to flout some myths and look beyond the stereotype image of terrorists. They are shown as a mixture of opposites - compassionate and caring at one time, insensitive and brutal at the other. The film is set against the backdrop of the Operation Bluestar and the assasination of the then Prime Minister Indra Gandhi, but interwoven with the plot of the spine chilling drama is a tender love story that hopes to reach its culmination one day. The film bears the Gulzar hallmark of simplicity as well as sensitive handling. All the actors excel performing their difficult portrayals, including the new comer Chandrachud Singh. Tabu won the National Award - Silver Lotus - for Best Actress.
69. Border (J. P. Dutta, 1997): Rarely has an Indian movie depicted the personal traumas that confront soldiers and their families. J. P. Dutta's Border resurrects the glory of Haqeeqat as an extraordinary film on the subject. Border is much more than a war movie. It explores the lives, conditions, problems and aspirations of the soldiers of the armed forces, and pits their bonds to their loved ones against their bonds to their soil. The movie unfolds like a timeless epic - an inspiring story revolving around the Longewala post in West Rajasthan during the war of 1971 between India and Pakistan. A small Indian battalion , merely fifty in numbers, withstands the enemy's attack to capture it - a force of two thousand men with their tanks and other ammunition. A very well-researched script, the film is gripping in its narration. One of the most significant aspects of the film is that it was shot on actual locations amidst the vast deserts of Bikaner. The film won Filmfare (1998) Awards for: Best Director, Best New Comer (Akshay Khanna), Best Lyricist (Javed Akhtar), Best Sound Recording (Vinod Potdar) and Best Action (Bhiku Verma, Tinu Verma).
70. Bawandar (Jag Mundhra, 2000): Based on real events, Bawandar - Sandstorm - is made in the same spirit as Bandit Queen, Shekhar Kapur's tense drama about Phoolan Devi. In this film of substance and poignancy, Bhanwari Devi, a low-caste woman in India becomes an activist in her small village. She is raped by the men of upper caste because she protested child marriages, which the men supported. It is a film that provokes thought for a woman who laudably has sought justice despite horrible factors testing her faith. The best, absolutely spectacular aspect of this film is Nandita Das, who takes the challenge to portray that woman so successfully. While the rape scene is explicit and excruciating, Nandita doesn't scream loudly, her cries and her facial expressions seem much more real. The film is dominated by Das' compelling performance and the visually shining deserts of rural Rajasthan. The film won the Bermuda International Film Festival Award for Best Film. For raising conciousness about serious social and political problems, the Political Film Society (USA) nominate Bawandar for Best Film on Democracy, Best Film on Human Rights and Best Film on Peace (won).
71. Chandni Bar (Madhur Bhandarkar, 2001): Director Madhur Bhandarkar tells a very true story in Chandni Bar. He is to be lauded for choosing a chilling subject about bar dancers and sincerely trying to depict their trials and travails. And to do that, he has depicted the world just as it is - dark, depressing, violent and sleazy. He has not tried to dress it up and make it palatable. In the film, the bar dancers remain victims. Things happen to them. The film holds out no hope for them at the end. It is too real for reel. The film starts by introducing the main character's traumatic beginnings that locks her doing things she willingly doesn't want to do. Throughout the film, the "Changa Room" door in the bar signifies the actual life of helplessly trapped women on one side of the door, and the pretentious women on the other side of the door who make a living by selling themselves. Tabu gets under the skin of the character of Mumtaz, the bar dancer. She plays out her stoic acceptance of fate to perfection. Ananya Khare as one of the bar dancers and Tabu's confidente is quite outstanding too. The show stealer is Atul Kulkarni as Potya Kulkarni. His is a really charged performance. One has to give the young director credit for honesty and sincerety in making the film, that wins the day for Madhur. Chandni Bar won National Awards - Silver Lotus - for Best Actress (Tabu), Best Supporting Actor (Atul Kulkarni) and Best Supporting Actress (Ananya Khare). IIFA nominated the film for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Story and awarded the Popular Award to Tabu.
72. Lagaan (Ashutosh Gowariker, 2001): Lagaan is an enormously entertaining movie, like nothing we have ever seen before, and yet completely familiar. Set in India in 1893, it combines sports with political intrigue, romance with evil scheming, musical numbers with low comedy and high drama. An Indian modern classic, Lagaan lives up to its huge hype with a spirited and well crafted story that has become actor-cum-producer Amir Khan's magnum opus. Director Ashutosh Gowarker captures the beauty and simplicity of rural life in India at the turn of the nineteenth century. The vast landscapes and majestic palaces make for enchanting settings to tell the story. As a musical, the film also captivates with well choreographed dances. Lagaan is a movie that will have you laughing and crying, but leaving with a smile. The film has won the maximum number of awards any film has ever won: Academy Awards (USA) nomination for Oscar - Best Foreign Language Film, Filmfare (2002)Awards for Best Film, Best Director; Best Actor (Amir Khan), Best Lyricist (Javed Akhtar), Best Music Director (A. R. Rehman), Best Story (Ashutosh Gowariker), Best Playback Singer (Alka Yagnik) and Best Playback Singer (Udit Narayan); IIFA Awards in all the main categories; National Awards: Golden Lotus for the Best Popular Film Providing Wholsome Entertainment, Silver Lotus for Best Music Director (A. R. Rehman), Best Playback Singer (Udit Narayan), Best Lyricist (Javed Akhtar) and Best Audiography (H. Sridhar, Nakul Kamte); Lacarno International Film Festival (2001) - Audience Award (Ashutosh Gowarker) and many other national and international awards.
73. Devdas (Sanjay Leela Bhansali, 2002): The fourth version of Sarat Chandra's novel to hit the screen, Bhansali's Devdas is visually stunning. It is a mystical experience, thanks to Bhansali's brilliant direction and superlative performances. The tragic love story of Devdas and Paro once again comes to life with a fresh outlook and innovative interpretation. Technically the film is flawless and far ahead of the earlier versions. The sets are spectacular and Nitin Desai deserves all the praise he can get for his work in the film. To help along the way, Binod Pradhan's cinematography captures each frame and turns it into art. Ismail Darbar's music also adds to the grandeure of the film. Choreography is fantastic. Bhansali gets full marks for extracting some amazing performances from his cast. Shah Rukh Khan has put great effort into his performance and he shares excellent chemistry with Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit. Aishwarya Rai gives her best performance to date. She uses her emotive eyes to the best of her ability. Madhuri Dixit impresses as the fiery Chandramukhi. Devdas pleases the eye and provides more than adequate satisfaction for those highly anticipating it. The film won Filmfare (2003) Awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Shahrukh Khan), Best Actress (Aishwarya Rai), Best Supporting Actress (Madhuri Dixit), Best Cinematography (Binod Pradhan), Best Art Director (Nitin Desai) and Best Playback Singer (Kavita Krishnamurthy, Shreya Ghoshal).
74. Page 3 (Madhur Bhandarkar, 2005): Page 3 in tabloids is reserved for celebrity news and gossips. And it's this area of entertainment which director Madhur Bhandarkar bases his satire. Examining the superficial world of Indian showbiz and high society through the eyes of female journalist Madhvi Sharma, Page 3 takes a daring look at the power play between the air-kissing celebrities and the media who help keep them in champagne. The film's strength s lie in the strongly etched characters and its refusal to consider any topic as taboo. Appropriately Madhvi is a levelheaded character with a strong sense of ethics and principles. It is her sanity that makes so many other people, within the stories, seem so absurd and so cruel. The diverse characters lend a rich touch to the story. Revelation of the casting couch, gay sexual fervors and child abuse leaves one resoundingly shocked precisely because they are caused by characters that you don't expect such depavity from. Konkona Sen Sharma is an intense performer and she proves this once more in Page 3. As the film grinds its way to the climax, she brings out the heart-wrenching agony of her character. Page 3 won the National Award - Golden Lotus - for the Best Film. The film also won Silver Lotus for Best Editing (Suresh Pai) and Best Screenplay (Manoj Tyagi, Nina Arora).
75. Black (Sanjay Leela Bhansali, 2005): It takes a brave man to make a Bollywood movie without color and songs, but that's exactly what Sanjay Leela Bhansali has done with Black. In his boldest movie to date, Bhansali directs living Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachcha as Debraj Sahai, an alcoholic teache who transforms the life of an Anglo-Indian deaf-blind girl played by Rani Mukerji. After rescuing her from an asylum, Debraj spends years developing the wild child Michelle into an intelligent and gregarious young woman. Determined to see his student graduate from university, he acts as her eyes and ears, guiding her through the tough world around her. But when Alzheimers sets in, both Debraj and his student's life are plunged into darkness once again. Now taking on the role of teacher, Michelle fights to remind her mentor of the meaning of everything he once taught her. Boasting of carefully crafted script, beautiful cinematography, a haunting score and moving performances by Amitabh Bachchan, Rani Mukerji and Ayesha Kapoor as the young Michelle, Black takes you on an uplifting journey of the human spirit.