Quick Hit List

Posted by sepoy on August 09, 2005 · 2 mins read

update: Ok, ok. ok. Now, I am in it for the glory. We shall compile the Top 25 of Indian Cinema for a newbie. The movies should be representative of genres, influential directors or stars, cultural themes or epochs, and regional film industries. They should have had popular appeal. They should be available on DVD in the states [with subtitles if possible]. Consider this list a must-see starting point for any exploration of Indian cinema. Post your picks in the comments, I will compile and release for the sake of humanity by Monday. We can wiki the post, later.
Cleaning out my desktop, I came across this list that was compiled over a few pale ales on my back porch. Dman asked for a list of movies that can be considered influential in Indian film history, culturally or artistically. Basically, a must-see list for a newbie to Indian cinema. The list below was made by the help of some fine connoisseurs and I was gonna do a longish post about the movies, and their reason for inclusion. Like THAT will ever happen. So, in the interest of public discourse, I am pasting the list. Tell me if it is missing something or has something amiss with it.

  1. Barsaat, 1949 - seminal Raj Kapoor.
  2. Piyasa, 1957 - seminal Guru Dutt.
  3. Mother India, 1957 - Not a big fan but obviously a seminal movie.
  4. Mughal-e Azam, 1960 - seminal everything.
  5. Pakeezah, 1971 - I love this movie, so there.
  6. Bobby, 1973 - This was one of the "forbidden" movie of my youth.
  7. Sholay, 1975 - Perhaps the most influential movie?
  8. Amar Akbar Anthony, 1977 - The birth of more than a few genres.
  9. Mr. India, 1987 - Sridevi!
  10. Bombay, 1995 - Mani Ratnam.
  11. Dilwalay Dulania Lay Jaingay, 1995 - Kids liked this one.
  12. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, 1999 - Quintessential Bollywood.
  13. Lagaan, 2001 - Bollywood goes international.

Hmmm... missing anything recent. What gives?

I will return soonish. I think. I do have a goody for those Mangal Panday fans among us. I will post that in a day or so.


bulleyah | August 09, 2005

dude, thou misseth two of the best yash chopra flicks - Dharamputra (1961) Deewar (1975) Veer Zara, is of course, highly debatable... and MS Sathyu's Garam Hawa(1973?) and my favourite Masala Flick of all time Main Hoon Naa (2003) and some of the Ram Gopal Verma's early stuff Satya? and Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Parinda and Golmaal Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron... two very different comedies...

sepoy | August 09, 2005

HA. I did, I did. But the criteria is that the movie must have had an impact on the wider world of Indian cinema. Much as I love Dewaar, Garam Hawa and Satya - were they widely seen, and copied? I am missing Benegal for the same reason. Now, why am I missing Satyajit Ray, is the real question.

Saurav | August 09, 2005

How about some Bong cinema? Autobongs, assemble! Meghe Dhaka Tara and Apu trilogy come to mind. I'm not a buff, though--others might have more inspiration.

kabina | August 09, 2005

i concur. no list relating to indian cinema is complete without Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak. I would say Mammo and Zubaida. ooohh and Anand! and Gol Maal

Rakesh | August 09, 2005

Hum Aapke Hain Koun any one...which started the trends of songs and large households and marriages and customs based events in every other movie..

kabina | August 09, 2005

Dil Chahta Hai brought the whole suave urbanite story to the fore front

Quizman | August 09, 2005

Sepoy, you began with "considered influential in Indian film history, culturally or artistically" and put out a list that included very few films that spun off a genre. I am deeply disappointed. Consider, for instance, Ankur by Shyam Benegal. It is a singular film that began the art cinema movement which lasted over a decade and produced very influential films and gave us stellar performers. Consider Zanjeer and Deewar, which gave us the angry young man who replaced the romantic hero-persona of Rajesh Khanna in much the same way that Guru Dutt (Sahir/Abrar Alvi) wanted to break away from the Dev-Dilip-Raj genre. They did it by exposing the flawed implementation of a (now failed) ideology in all its nakedness. I am very surprised that you did not list Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam (and Kaagaz Ke Phool) in that list. V.K. Murthy's seminal camerawork in those films has influenced everyone from Nihalini/P.C.Sriram/Mani Ratnam/Ram Gopal Varma onwards. Sikander (Sohrab Mody, Prithviraj Kapoor), the mother of movies like M-e-A, Anarkali and others. Pakeezah was a dud and if it influenced anything, it was the death of the period drama for a long time. How about Sujata? Anmol Ghadi? Godan? How could you forget Saigal's 'Devdas'? How about the films that were popular in Greece? 'Bombay' did not influence anything. Nor was it historical. If you wanted a film on religious riots, you could've chosen Bhisma Sahni's 'Tamas' on the '47 partition. On the other hand, Roja spun was singular. It was the first film that named Pakistan directly and set out a cascade of (unfortunately badly-made) films in that genre, including a forgettable 'Mission Kashmir' which was, incidentally written by Suketu Mehta and Vikram Chandra. Sholay actually killed a genre. It was the last of the dacoit-based films since no one dared take on that theme anymore. However, it was also the first film in which the villian became popular - so much so that he modelled in ads (for Glucose biscuits). Gulzar's 'Mere Apne' (1971) was s superb film that tackled student unrest and rebellion at the failure of govt. The songs had biting lyrics that struck home. [The film was sorta remade into 'Ankush' in the 80s.] HDDCS should not be in any list. :-) I would replace that with 'Tezaab' since it was responsible for the rise of Madhuri. It is a terrible film, though. Some timeless films that have not necessarily influenced films in general: GolMaal Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron Kaliyug Ardh Satya Chashm-E-Buddoor Shree 420 Anand Namak Haram Ijaazat Gaman Salim Landge Pe Mat Ro Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai? and so on...more later.

har | August 09, 2005

Umrao Jaan?

Morcy | August 09, 2005

Quizman, HDDCS's representation of "Italy" is quite possibly one of the best FUs I've ever seen given to Europe, colonisation, and cultural exploitation. I don't know if that is a common way (in Bollywood) to represent Europe, but it was the first, most naked site of it I encountered. So just on that, it deserves to be on some list...

Morcy | August 09, 2005

I can't tell if it's good or bad that Netflix has 8 of the 13 flix you mention above. They don't have the one I wanted most to see, though.

Dman | August 09, 2005

Kuel!! Thx Sepoy. This is a lot to catch up... Plus, I see a lot to cover from the comments too. Psyched!!

sepoy | August 09, 2005

Quizman: Devdas, Deevar, GolMaal, Kagaaz Key Phool, for sure! Shatranj Kay Khilari? Umrao Jan Ada? Morcy: which one? All are at Devon for 5-8 bucks...

venu | August 09, 2005

How about ArdhSatya? [ OmPuri, Sadashiv Amrapurkar]

amanush | August 10, 2005

Sepoy - Why indeed are you missing Satyajit Ray??!! He put Indian cinema on the international map waaay before Lagaan, surely! Not to mention significantly influencing the art of filmmaking both in India and abroad. And Shatranj Ke Khilari was not his best work either! I thought you said this list was of movies "influential in Indian film history, culturally or artistically", yet I'd say that the influence of most of the films on your list was more in the commercial (and perhaps arguably some popular culture thereby) realm rather than artistic. As a newcomer developing a Chapati habit in recent weeks due to the generally excellent content here, I'm rather disappointed... for this list seems to represent more the hegemony of Bollywood / mainstream Hindi movies than artistic influence. I'd say quizman is on the right track for such a list, but you are both still limiting yourselves to Hindi movies - so perhaps the list should be labeled as such!

Azher | August 10, 2005

You really only needed to list sholay on there. That movie justified the entire bollywood industry. I mean really has amitabh done anything better than that?

sepoy | August 10, 2005

Ayiayi! The list is JUST a beginning! O "disappointed" readers. But, thanks for reminding me why I hate lists.

Nandu | August 10, 2005

Initial assumption - we will stick to only Hindi movies. If we're gonna start playing in the Ray/Benegal/Gopalakrishnan leagues, there's never gonna be an end to this!! My additions - Golmaal, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, Deewar, Waqt, Woh Kaun Thi, Satya/Company, 36 Chowringhee Lane, Aar Paar, Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, Do Aankhen Bara Haath, Do Bigha Zameen, Guide, Shatranj ke Khiladi.... That much should do, to add to the confusion!!

DesiDancer | August 10, 2005

Ooh! whoever said Zubeidaa is my hero. That is arguably one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen. SO compelling... sigh. Umrao Jaan is just so... likewise a gorgeous flick. If you're counting Mughal-e-Azam, consider special acknowledgement for Umrao Jaan :) also: mani ratnam's Dil Se farhan akhtar's Dil Chahta Hai

andrea | August 10, 2005

Newer movies? Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham - when I first started watching hindi films, this is the one EVERYONE told me to see. I'm not exaggerating. 'course I saw Kaante first :P and I hate to say it, but maybe Kuch Kuch Hota Hai .. can't give any reason except that it's a textbook masala flick. with HORRIBLE SONGS *shudder*

Quizman | August 10, 2005

desidance - Zubeida is part of Khalid Mohammed's trilogy (directed by Shyam Benegal). The other two are "Mammo" and "Sardari Begum". I found Mammo to be the best of the lot - superlative acting by Surekha Sikri-Rege and Farida Jalal. A must watch. I had written a a post on a song from that movie.

Quizman | August 10, 2005

Nandu, You wrote:"Initial assumption - we will stick to only Hindi movies. If we're gonna start playing in the Ray/Benegal/Gopalakrishnan leagues, there's never gonna be an end to this!!" I assumed that it's a typo and you didn't really mean Benegal, since he made almost all of his films in Hindi (the rest in English). :-) Probably Ghatak, Karnad or Kasaravalli.

Quizman | August 10, 2005

Btw, speaking of regional films, if you want to watch how Bride and Prejudice should've been made watch Kandukondain Kandukondain, a Tamil version of Jane Austen's story.

Quizman | August 10, 2005

..hit send too soon. I meant to write: "A Tamil version of Jane Austen's story Sense and Sensibility"

Saurav | August 10, 2005

I really didn't enjoy watching Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham. Probably because of that awful refrain that pervaded the movie (and my head for days afterwards).

Morcy | August 10, 2005

Quizman: though I liked KK quite a bit (apostrophised in brief here), B&P has its own merits, namely in how it takes the conceit of the Austen novel and then moves into talking about something completely different: globalised capitalism (apostrophised here). It's unfair to lump the two flicks together just because of the Austen connection. And the mess that B&P ends up being for a lot of critics, as far as I've read, sadly obscures the paradoxical politics of the movie. But it's the paradox that makes it worthwhile. Sometimes even car crashes are worth watching.

danial | August 10, 2005

I love indian movies. I would like to add Silsilay - Rekha Chandni - Sridevi KhalNayak - Madhori Dacoit. Kal ho na ho - The movie discusses issues of Indians living abroad though it was not the first of its kind but it was prolly the first to rightly (not perfectly) portray them.

Quizman | August 10, 2005

Morcy, Actually, I thought B&P was trash precisely because it was a film that had a director with a jaundiced view. And the film does not even pretend to be art. It is basically a kitschy imitation of what Chadda perceives to be a imitation of the Hindi film industry. Naah, it was crap. I had gone with 10 other friends (all Indians). Most of us wanted to leave half-way. We stayed because it was raining outside the theatre. :-)

Quizman | August 10, 2005

Saurav, The fact that you did not enjoy KKKG shows that you are a completely normal human being. One would be very concerned if you had enjoyed it.

saurabh | August 11, 2005

Are we picking good movies, here? If so, I must say the best Hindi movie I have seen is Bimal Roy's Do Bheega Zamin. Also, there's precious few comedies here! What about my two faves: Padosan and Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (which contains one of the funniest scenes ever).

saurabh | August 11, 2005

By the way, Saurav, thanks for getting that awful refrain stuck in my head. Bloody bastard!

leena | August 11, 2005

MAIN HOON NA (2004) is the best film ever!! :) are you not including "crossover" type films like monsoon wedding? arth (1984?) and mirch masala (1986?) are good too, and actually meaningful.

Morcy | August 12, 2005

Q: I don't fully understand your complaint about the jaundiced view---are you saying that the movie is made with contempt for Bollywood? That may be, but that's one of the paradoxes. Lalita's saying she'd never leave India, since the US has nothing for her, is the exact thing that Rai is contradicting by being in the movie. I read your piece and understand your position, but as a mediation on cultural capital, instead of "simply" globalisation of the marketplace, the movie gets trickier. Isn't the "kitschy imitation" precisely a reflection of the fact that Hollywood can only shittily imitate Bollywood? B&P is a great example of the form telling us as much about the politics as the content.

DrM | August 14, 2005

Good Indian cinema died a long time ago. "Main hoon na" was utter crap, an amalgamation of 80s Meatball movies with a touch 90s action. That being said, the list aint bad, but wheres Kala Pathar. It was way better than Amar Akbar Anthony.

Saurav | August 16, 2005

By the way, Saurav, thanks for getting that awful refrain stuck in my head. Bloody bastard! If I have to go down, the ship goes down with me :)

Sohaib Rashid | October 11, 2009

In my view you missed atleast 7 films missed are QSQT,JJWS,DCH,Dil Se,Swades,RDB and TZP!!

Qalandar | October 11, 2009

A bit late to this thread, but you should call this a Hindi cinema list, not an Indian cinema list. Turning to this list even if you restrict it to popular cinema,for instance, Bombay is not even one of Rathnam's five best films (Iruvar; Nayakan; Kannathil Muthamittal; Thalapathi; and Alai Payuthey are all available on subtitled DVDs; the last was re-made in Hindi as "Saathiya" by Rathnam's assistant director Shaad Ali; I would pick Mouna Raagam, and Aayitha Ezhuthu/Yuva over Bombay as well)

Qalandar | October 11, 2009

My own pick for best Hindi movie of the 1980s would be Ghulami (1985); but J.P. Dutta's others from the period (Hathyar (1988); cricket fans will remember Mohsin Khan's debut Batwara (1991); and Yateem was from that period too) are pretty good...

Conrad Barwa | October 13, 2009

Yeah I agree with Qalandar, heavy Hindi bias here - nothin' wrong with that of course as long as it is acknowledged ;) I would add Madhumati to the list for Hindi cinema; instead of Amar, Akbar, Anthony, which I can't stand I would insert Naseeb. I also prefer Kagaz Ki Phool instead of Pyasaa for Guru Dutt's work. For Bengali Cinema I would add Bimal Roy's Khamooshi, which has a fantastic soundtrack and Ray's Charulata.