Bollywood's Biggest Runaway Hits
1. Lal Haveli (K. B. Lall, 1944): The conventional comedian came on the screen as the hero's companion for the first time, perhaps, in Lal Haveli and clicked in a big way when the film became an instant runaway hit. Yaqub, the great comedian of yester years, played singer-actor Surendra's friend in the film and the chemistry between the two and their joining to pull the veteran Kanhayalal's leg whenever they found him flirting with a woman - "Chacha pasina aa raha hai" - pushed the film to heights of popularity. Another highlight of the movie was Noorjehan, the diva of the 40s, and the singing star Surendra coming together for the first time (they later made Anmol Ghadi together). They sang some of their memorable duets in the film - "Dil leke mukar na jana", "Mohania sundar mukhra khol"). Lal Haveli was also noted for the fact that Meena Kumari, then a child star, played Noorjehan as a child. But Lal Haveli is best remembered for its comedy that pulled the crowds for repeat viewing of the film.
2. Ek Thi Ladki (Roop K. Shorey): The wizard of comedy, Roop K. Shorey set new trends in comedy film with Ek Thi Ladki. With Motilal, the greatest of all natural actors with a flair for comedy, Shorey made this movie and the result was a comedy 'dhamaka'. Ek Thi Ladki, the biggest runaway hit, put him on top of the popularity chart of directors of comedy films and rejuvinated the sagging career of Motilal, who faced some failures after a very successful career in the 30s and 40s. Meena Shorey turned an overnight star and came to be known as the Lara Lappa girl after the release of the film, like Madhuri Dixit became Ek Do Teen girl in the 80s after Tezab. The film also helped establishing I. S. Johar as one of the greatest comedians of Hindi cinema. The highlight of the film was the hit song, 'Lara Lappa Lara Lappa Layee Rakhda, Addi Tappa Addi Tappa Lai Rakhda'. The song with Punjabi overtones was the trend setter for popular songs of later years and remains so till today. It is amazing to hear naughtiness in Lata Mungeshkar's voice in the song that became a mendatory part of all the live concerts of the melody queen.
3. Albela (Bhagwan, 1951): One of the biggest musical hits, Albela was also critically acclaimed for direction and performances by Bhagwan and Geeta Bali. It is an inspiring story about a lowly office worker (Bhagwan) who dreams of being a star of the stage. His slow march to the top is helped by the beautiful and successful diva Asha (Geeta Bali) with whom he inevitably falls in love. Bhagwan Dada became synonymous with this film. In fact his minimal dance movements, the gentle swaying of the hips and lift of the hands became a behavoral influence in Hindi films. His form of dance had amazing grace. Years later even Amitabh Bachchan and Sanjay Dutt were inspired by his dance movements. The film's other great highlight is C. Ramchandra's greatest compositions of his career - 'Shola jo bhadke', 'Sham dhale khidki tale', 'Dhire se aaja ri ankhion mei', 'Balma bada nadan', 'Bholi soorat dil ke khote' and more.
4. Nagin (Nandlal Jaswantlal, 1954): What gives Nagan a place in the top hits of Hindi cinema is the music. Composed by the legendary Hemant Kumar, the theme song perfectly evokes the sounds of the 'been', played by the snake charmers. The song 'Man dole mera tan dole; was an instant hit. So popular was the music that real snake charmers began using the Nagin tunes in their performances, a practice which is carried on to this day. All the musical numbers - 'Jadugar sayyan chod mori bayyan', 'Tere dwar khada ek jogi', 'Mera dil yeh pukare aaja', 'O zindagi ke denewale' etc. were not only top hit songs but also fitted well into the fantasy - the tragic tale of two star-crossed lovers. This runaway hit made stars out of everyone involved including the lead players, Vyjayantimala and Pradeep Kumar.
5. Dil Deke Dekho (Nasir Hussain, 1959): If anyone can say he had a hit formula on hand, it was without doubt filmmaker Nasir Hussain. With a dozen songs and Shammi Kapoor in his top form, Dil Deke Dekho is Nasir Hussain's youth oriented musical hit. Seventeen year old Asha Parekh, the new comer, became a star overnight. The scrubbed-clean teenager represented the new Indian youth with her trendy trouser suits. The highlight of the film is the hit music composed by Usha Khanna, the only established female music director in the male dominent environment of Bollywood. This was her debut film and initially people in the film industry did not believe it was she who gave the music for DDD. when the film was released. They realized the reality of Usha Kanna's glorious entry in the world of Hindi music only when O. P. Nayyar, her mentor, introduced her in the presence of other famous music directors - "Look, this girl is going to overtake us."
6. Love in Simla (R. K. Nayyar, 1960): The movie which introduced to Hindi cinema one of its most talented actresses, Sadhna, has the exuberance of youth, tongue in cheek dialogues and the capricious wit one associates with a classic romantic comedy. Even as it light heartedly delves into the eternal issues of looks in love, Love in Simla captures a class of elitist people at a certain point of time. Simla, the former summer capital of British India, serves as the backdrop for the film's rich protagonists who dance at clubs, live in homes attended to by turbaned bearers but cannot deny the subterranean hurts that lurk underneath. The British have left Simla but some 'burra' houses still retain a colonial hangover. In one such mansion takes place the Cindrella type story of Love in Simla which Nayyar tells with an unerring sense of extracting juice from romantic pulp and knack for tickling the funny bones. The script chooses to crackle with anything-goes humour. And this is what made the film the biggest surprise hit of the year, and debuntente Sadhna an overnight star.
7. Victoria No. 203 (Brij, 1972): With a horse drawn victoria (No. 203) as a motif, the movie is a crime thriller filled with comic situations liberally thrown in. Victoria No. 203 suddenly becomes the center of attraction of a number of crooks. Imagine that a dying man puts three crores of rupees worth of stolen diamonds somewhere inside the innocent looking victoria, driven by a beautiful girl disguised as a boy, and she also is unaware that she is riding a tresure. Enter two lovable jail birds Raja and Rana. They stumble on to a key and something tells them it is the key to their fortune. It is the chemistry between Ashok Kumar and Pran, one of the best ever seen in Bollywood films, which made the film one of the biggest blockbusters. There you are watching a crime thriller, glued to your seat, heart beating fast not knowing what is going to happen next and suddenly Kumar and Pran enter with key in hand and starting a riot which gets you laughing till it makes you fall off your chair. The song 'Do bachare bina sahare' clearly pinpoints the helplessness of their state. The show belongs to Ashok Kumar and Pran and ofcourse, Victoria No. 203. Cine thriller couldn't get better than this.
8. Jai Santoshi Maa (Vijai Sharma, 1975): This low- budget film with unknown actors unexpectedly emerged as one of the highest-grossing releases of 1975 - sharing the spotlight with the likes of Sholay and Deewar. This bewildered critics and intrigued scholars but made perfect sense to millions of Indian women who loved its folksy story about a comparatively less worshipped 'goddess of satisfaction', easily accessable through a simple ritual, which the film demonstrates. A classic example of the mythological genre and one of the most popular such films ever made that ran to packed houses for months. The film features a well crafted script, with witty dialogues and exremely catchy devotional songs. In an era dominated by violent 'masala' action films aimed primarily at urban male audiences, Jai Santoshi Maa spoke to female audiences, invoking a storytelling style dear to them and conveying a message of vindication and ultimate triumph for the devotees of the goddess Santoshi Maa.
9. Love Story (Rahul Rawail (?), Rajendra Kumar, 1981): Rajendra Kumar launched his son Kumar Gaurav in his first production Love Story. In three hours of its release, the shy unassuming Gaurav became the national heartthrob. The movie was in the language of Bollywood, a super duper hit. Rajendra Kumar by this successful move had also started a new trend of launching star-sons which is being followed to this day. Love Story is a story about love spreading to two generations. Vijay Malhotra (Rajendra Kumar) was in love with Suman (Vidya Sinha). Because of his too egoistic nature he lost his love to Ram (Danny). Suman got married to Ram and Vijay to another girl. Years later, their children, Vijay's son Bunty and Ram's daughter Pinky fall in love. They elope because the love story of their parents stood in the way of their relationship. The police are notified that the two youngsters are missing and then onwards the film is all about how the two elude the police, with abundance of situational comedy. The highlight of the movie is music by R. D. Burman - 'Dekho maine dekha hei ik sapna' and 'Yaad aa rahi hei', becoming big hits. Amit Kumar (Kishore Kumar's son) won Filmfare Award for Best Playback Singer for the songs. Another major draw is the excellent script that gives ample scope to the supporting characters - Amjad Khan, Shakti Kapoor and Keshto Mukherjee - to display their perfect comedy timings.
10. Maine Pyar Kiya (Sooraj R. Barjatya, 1989): In this feature, debut writer- director Sooraj R. Barjatya not only delivered the goods but also turned out what proved to be one of the most popular and heavily awarded pictures in the history of Hindi cinema. A film of considerable grace, its sicerity is as shining as it is crucial to the film's success. Its fairytale setting has the lovers sending each other valentines (carried by a little darling of a pigeon), overcoming all odds and finally emerging triumphant. The story has been told countless times before, yet the movie caused unprcedented scenes of hysteria all over the nation. Along with its dubbed version in English language 'When Love Calls' and Spanish language 'Te Amo', Maine Pyar Kiya was, perhaps,the first biggest hit of a Hindi film abroad. With this film it was evident a new generation of actors and filmmakers were set to take over. The day the film was released, the movie trade predicted Salman Khan to be an impending superstar. It catapulted Sooraj K. Barjatya to the top league of directors. The film won Filmfare(1990) Awards for Best Film, Best Actor (Salman Khan), Best Music Director (Ram Laxman) and many other catagories.