50 Best Film Shots That Will Make You Believe in the Magic of Bollywood

We’ve compiled a montage of the best film shots from classic Bollywood movies that we feel exemplify the splendor, allure, and excitement of Hindi movies from the Golden Age. Consider these 50 beautiful film shots a glimpse through a keyhole into a much grander world of cinematographic sublimity: watch the video below to behold the magic of classic Bollywood.

This project was kindled in part by my reaction to everyone who’s ever told me, “I love Bollywood!” I get that a lot. Being a film production major who’s worked in the Hindi movie industry, I hear the phrase, “I love Bollywood!” several times a month—from classmates, friends, and random people at parties. Bollywood has become a trend all over the globe—every hipster worth their organic sea salt is familiar with the term, and many have even seen a Hindi film or two themselves. Except I don’t really ever know what to say in reply. It’s not because loving Bollywood isn’t exactly what I look for in new friends (because believe me, it is), but because I don’t understand what that phrase even means.

Let me put this in perspective. To me, this can be the equivalent of someone in rural Punjab who’s seen the Bourne trilogy saying, “I love Hollywood!”

Think about that. What does it mean to love “Hollywood”? Are you saying you love American filmmaking and its history? Celebrity gossip? Or do you really mean to say, “I love action flicks and Matt Damon?” Because Hollywood is not just big-budget androcentric action flicks (although they are a cool part of a big genre). Ryan Gosling kissing Rachel McAdams in the rain is Hollywood. Orsen Welles fighting a smear campaign for governor is Hollywood. Judy Garland singing over a rainbow is Hollywood. And Jack Nicholas running amok in an insane asylum is Hollywood. It’s rare to find someone who knows and loves it all.

So when you say, “I love Bollywood!” to me, as a true lover of all things Bollywood, I don’t know what you’re really referring to. Often people who haven’t had much exposure tend to generalize that elusive term Bollywood to mean “pretty costumes!” or “crazy dancing!” This perception applies just as much to Indians from India as to non-Indians anywhere else. Because Bollywood is not just the melodramatic musical with half-naked women and a loose masala plot that is often stereotyped. Bollywood is Guru Dutt searching the streets of urban decay for a glimmer of humanity. Bollywood is Meena Kumari dancing kathak upon shattered glass in sorrow. Bollywood is Amitabh Bachhan’s fist meeting the jaws of his twenty adversaries with a satisfying smack. And yes, Bollywood is Aishwarya Rai and Shah Rukh Khan in glittery costumes declaring love in the moonlight. I often yearn to somehow share all the magic of classic Hindi cinema that comes to my mind when I think of Bollywood, because it is a well-hidden treasure for so many of my generation.

Now before someone throws a fit, I get it. Not everyone has the time or interest to become heavily familiarized with Bombay’s film output since the 1930s. Nor should they. All I’m saying is, I wish more people were aware of what Bollywood truly encompasses. When you exclaim, “I love Bollywood!” there is a reason why I can’t bring myself to reply, “OMG, totes!” but instead want to fill your ear with my reverence of the cinematography in Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959). Simply tell me you loved the movie Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) (because, seriously, who didn’t?), or that you thought Deepika Padukone’s outfits were beautiful in that one rom-com. Otherwise, we’ll both end up feeling awkward after I start on my spiel. Yes, I probably overthink this. Yes, most people probably don’t care one way or another. But I can’t imagine living a world without the enchantment of classic Bollywood films, and maybe there are people out there who would want in, if they only knew what they’re missing.

So this montage is the reply I wish I could give everyone, but I cannot articulate–a reply that must be seen to be believed. Because when I respond, “Really? I love Bollywood too!” this is what comes to my mind. This montage is why I love Bollywood. I hope that by watching these shots, you can get a peek into that hypnotizing world yourself, and that you’ll crave more. I hope that this might be a chance to understand that Bollywood is far richer, far more complex, and far more evocative than can be summed up by mere words or by viewing a single film.

Therefore, don’t just take my word for it. Watch the 50 Film Shots That Will Make You Believe in the Magic of Classic Bollywood, and I’ll bet that somewhere deep inside your heart, something faintly stirs in a way you never knew possible. And afterwards, I recommend starting with any of the movies that made our list of the Top 30 Greatest Classic Bollywood Films of All Time. I’ll get off my soap box now. Back to translating obscure old songs where I belong. But send us a comment if this montage resonates with you, and share it with anyone who may have never experienced the wonder of the films to which it pays homage.

Just don’t even get me started on Slumdog Millionaire.

– Mrs. 55

Final Shot from Mother India Nargis

An aged Nargis remembers the trials of her youth in the final shot of the Academy Award-nominated film Mother India (1957).

As a reference, the corresponding films to our 50 selected shots are below. The music playing during the montage is the “Title Music” from Pakeezah (1972).

50 Shots’ Film Names (in order of appearance):

  1. Bandini (1963)
  2. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
  3. Pakeezah (1972)
  4. Aradhana (1969)
  5. Bombai Ka Babu (1960)
  6. Kohra (1964)
  7. Mother India (1957)
  8. Guide (1965)
  9. Shree 420 (1955)
  10. Sangam (1964)
  11. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
  12. Chinatown (1962)
  13. Caravan (1971)
  14. Shree 420 (1955)
  15. Shree 420 (1955)
  16. Sholay (1975)
  17. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
  18. Pakeezah (1972)
  19. Pakeezah (1972)
  20. Pyaasa (1957)
  21. Bombai Ka Babu (1960)
  22. Umrao Jaan (1981)
  23. Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)
  24. Mehboob Ki Mehndi (1971)
  25. Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965)
  26. Aradhana (1969)
  27. Khamoshi (1970)
  28. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
  29. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
  30. Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)
  31. Mother India (1957)
  32. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
  33. Guide (1965)
  34. Andaz (1949)
  35. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
  36. Aradhana (1969)
  37. Pakeezah (1972)
  38. Jewel Thief (1967)
  39. Aan Milo Sajna (1970)
  40. Anand (1971)
  41. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
  42. Awaara (1951)
  43. Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977)
  44. Do Raaste (1969)
  45. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
  46. Awaara (1951)
  47. Sholay (1975)
  48. Baazi (1951)
  49. Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)
  50. Mother India (1957)

24 thoughts on “50 Best Film Shots That Will Make You Believe in the Magic of Bollywood

  1. The best post you have ever done! Unbelievable, I have no words for this, it is mesmerizing!!! One needs to watch it again and again to see how great it really is!

  2. This moved even a hardened coconut like me to tears…well done Mrs 55
    Surely this will be a classic video just like the ones it is made of

    • I’ll admit that I felt a bit teary-eyed myself! These shots have such a sentimental value for so many of us. I hope the montage can help expand the audiences of the films to which it pays tribute! Thanks for your comment!

  3. Bravo well done. A good gift for the new year.

    My humble submission is that there is an over representation of Shringara Rasa, with bits of Karuna, Veera, Adhbhutha and Hasya. That is unfortunately the limitation of Hindi Cinema, even Indian Cinema.

    To be fair I can think of two fabulous examples of Bibhatsa or disgust- Vijay (Gurudutt) saying Jinhe naaz hain Hind par woh kahaa hain in Pyaasa and Nawabjaan (Veena) calling out to Shahabuddin to witness the bleeding of his daughter’s feet in the climactic scene of Pakeezah.

    Well done , you two. Thanks for the gift and hope 2016 will be full of many more such gifts.

    PS: You must do something relating to the fabulous Sadhana.

    • Great thoughts Gaby! The Rasas of classic Hindi cinema indeed deserves its own post! The two examples you described of Bibhatsa are some of the most powerful scenes in film history to this day. I think we’re definitely going to have to do an extended version or sequel to this montage one day to include even more of our favorite shots like these! Thank you for reading and we hope you have a happy new year!

  4. Well done your selection is unbeatable:

    My own personal favorites if i could share:

    1] Saira looking into Shammi’s eyes so loving with just moonlight and the soft billowing breeze. At the end of the song Ehsaan Tera Hoga From Junglee. Did any couple look more beautiful on film?

    2] Amitabh vs God in Deewar

    3] Inconsolable Rajesh Khanna when his favourite elephant dies, he carries him to his funeral past church, mosque and temple, Hathi mera Sathi. Made me cry so much as a 4 year old. Though now adays I cant even think about the cruelty those animals would have suffered in the making of that film

    4] Amitabh cross dressing (whats not to like)

    • What fantastic additions! I particularly love the scene from Ehsaan Tera Hoga–the simultaneous tension and romance in the song is breathtaking! I also always need a box of tissues during the funeral scene from Haathi Mere Saathi (1971). Moments like that are truly special in Hindi films. Thanks for the contributions!

  5. This was incredible! I’ve already watched it 5x since yesterday. Also, the commentary with it was spot on as well. Of course everyone has their own personal favorite Bollywood scenes (intro to Jo Wada Kiya Woh anyone?) but this was a great montage of so many classics that just about everyone can agree are incredible! Loved that you captured “the wink” and that clip Shashi Kapoor was perfect! The Pakeezah music was the perfect background too.

  6. Happy healthy 2016 to you both and your team. Thank you for the great insights into Bollywood. Enjoyed the latest one very much. For the anecdote: spent the last couple of hours of 2015 and first half an hour of 2016 watching another great Bollywood film: Taallash. All the best Mr and Mrs 55

  7. growing up, while listening to songs from a radio in a pan shop next to bus stand, I felt a glimpse of the sublime feeling, but I lacked the vocabulary and mainly lacked the maturity to describe or even to recognize them. Fast forward 30 years and by happenstance I heard ‘chelte chalte’ from Pakeeza…and the love affair started. Thank you for your compilation.

  8. As someone who never shed a tear while watching the most gut wrenching movies,I couldn’t manage to keep my eyes dry as soon as the Pakeezah tarana started in the montage.I have heard people say say “I love Bollywood”but nothing comes close to the beauty of this montage.You are one of the few people who don’t write for gossip,but in reverence of art.It is sad how many of these movies weren’t regarded in their times,but they tug at our heartstrings in the present.
    This reminds me of Meena ji’s ghazal “raah dekha karega sadiyon tak,chod jayenge ye jahan tanha”,these artists may have left us,but their art keeps us yearning for more.
    Lots of love for you,one of the most honest people who have justified their love for Bollywood.

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