What does Bollywood mean to you? India, music, romance, song, drama, dance, comedy, action? All of the above? Here at Time Out, we’re celebrating the popular, mainstream face of Hindi movies – the big films that have been entertaining audiences in India and across the globe for more than six decades. To find the best Bollywood movies ever made, we asked a select group of Indian, British and American Bollywood experts to share their favourite mainstream Hindi movies.
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Cast: Aamir Khan, Gracy Singh
Set in the 19th century, Lagaan sees a drought-struck village unite, learn to play cricket and take on their cruel imperial rulers. Although the combination of cricket and colonialism seems like a no-brainer in retrospect, at first nobody would touch this script with a bat. Then star Aamir Khan took the lead role and it’s critical and box office success ushered in a new era of alternative subject matter and varied storytelling. ‘Lagaan’ is, thus far, the last mainstream Hindi film to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.
Director: Guru Dutt
Cast: Guru Dutt, Mala Sinha, Waheeda Rehman
Filmmaker Guru Dutt, known for bringing tragic stories to celluloid, plays Vijay, a struggling writer whose two best friends happen to be a streetwalker and a masseuse. Vijay tries unsuccessfully to get his book of poems published and is later believed to have died in a train accident. A cunning publisher prints the book and makes a killing. Maestro composer S. D. Burman provides a stellar soundtrack, memorable for Sahir Ludhianvi’s poetic verses.
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)
Director: Aditya Chopra
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Amrish Puri
Familiar themes of personal choice versus family responsibility, and of forbidden love, are remixed for the ’90s in this epic, era-defining romance. In London, Raj (Khan) is an immature young man, while straight-laced Simran (Kajol) is all set for a marriage arranged by her domineering father. She goes InterRailing in Europe, meets Raj and they fall in love against the backdrop of Swiss mountains. The popularity of the film (the title translates as ‘The brave-hearted will take away the bride’) is reflected in the fact that it has screened daily in Mumbai’s Maratha Mandir cinema for 19 years and counting.
Mother India (1957)
Director: Mehboob Khan
Cast: Nargis, Rajendra Kumar, Sunil Dutt
The first Hindi film to be nominated for Best Foreign-Language Film at the Oscars, this is a heartbreaking story of the complexities of rural farming in newly independent India and the exploitation of farmers by their feudal landlords. It follows the hardships faced by Radha (Nargis), a village mother of three sons who is abandoned by her husband and forced to toil the paddy fields to survive. The film entrenched the idea of the pure, self-sacrificing mother figure as synonymous with the notion of an idealised Indian (Hindu) nation.
Director: K. Asif
Cast: Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Madhubala
Translated as Emperor of the Mughals and set in the late 16th century in India’s Mughal period, this is the doomed story of Prince Saleem (Kumar), son of the ruling Emperor Akbar (Kapoor), who falls in love with dancing slave girl Anarkali (Madhubala). This is true epic filmmaking, with magnificent sets, huge battle scenes with hundreds of real elephants, elaborate costumes, an evergreen score and naturalistic acting. It remains a gorgeous evocation of a bygone era, and was one of the rare occasions when a film of the ‘Muslim social’ genre became a blockbuster in India.
Director: Ramesh Sippy
Cast: Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Amjad Khan
After his family is murdered by a notorious bandit, an ex police officer recruits two outlaws to capture him. This cult masala western sees escaped convicts Veeru (Dharmendra) and Jai (Bachchan) defend a village terrorised by bandits led by the maniacal Gabbar Singh (Khan). Sholay has it all – epic dishum-dishum fight scenes, bromance, humour and memorable songs that will have you singing along. The haunting score and Bollywood’s baddest villain are the icing on an all-action cake.
New Hindi films to watch out for
Welcome to Karachi
Starring Lauren Gottlieb, Arshad Warsi and Nigel Barber, this comedy follows two travellers who find themselves stranded in Karachi, Pakistan. Much of the film was shot in the UK. Out in cinemas across the UAE from Thu May 28. Tanu Weds Manu Returns Directed by Aanand L. Rai, this comedy family sequel picks up with Tanu and Manu struggling with married life.
Out in cinemas across the UAE.