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.
We at Mr. and Mrs. 55 – Classic Bollywood Revisited! are getting tired of some of the recent unhinged political rhetoric being thrown around. Sometimes we have to take a moment to realize that not everyone was lucky enough to learn important life lessons as we were from classic Bollywood films.
Amar Akbar, Anthony (1977) is one of India’s most beloved masala films, telling the story of three brothers who are separated in childhood and eventually united after one is raised a Hindu, one a Muslim, and one a Christian. Let’s take a moment to reflect on what Vinod Khanna, Rishi Kapoor, and Amitabh Bachhan’s title characters would have to say about recent events.
3 Life Lessons From Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977):
1. We CAN all live in harmony.
Plurality makes us better. Families, communities, and countries are enriched because we embrace and learn from our differences.
2. A family that sings and dances together, stays together.
On a related note, always, always have a giant Easter egg handy. Just trust me.
3. Karma is a b****.
A really huge b****. If you insult a man when he’s down, you’re going to be that man soon. And everyone, even your kids, will hate you. Until, of course, you repent and join them in a group chorus (see rule #2).
Pass this along to friends, shady pharmaceutical executives, and bombastic political wannabes who don’t quite get it. And if your childhood was completely empty, you can now watch Amar, Akbar, Anthonyonline and subtitled here!
Biswajeet is haunted by a mysterious voice singing of love and murder in Bees Saal Baad (1962).
Happy Halloween!What better way to give yourself the creeps than with a vintage Hindi film song! Mr. 55 and I once hosted a Spooky Song-themed study break on-campus during which we projectedold Hindi film noirson a large screen, drank rooh afza and jammed nerdily to Lata’s high notes. Was it any surprise the two of us were the only ones really having an awesome time? Join us in our countdown to the spookiest song of classic Bollywood! When I say scary, I’m not referring toVinod Khanna’s lime green tuxedo in Aan Milo Sajna(although it might give you nightmares). I’m talking about the real deal here. These are songs that will keep you up at night, that will haunt your waking moments as you grapple with the symbolism. And if you see a mysterious woman in a white-sari floating around your house this evening…well, don’t say we didn’t warn you!
The Fifteen Scariest Songs from Old Hindi Films!
15. Tujhko Pukare Mera Pyar (Neel Kamal 1968)
Few things are scarier than being buried alive. Rajkumar haunts his Mughal-era lover through the ages even when she is reborn as a 1960s desperate housewife.
14. Gagan Jhanjhana Rah (Nastik 1954)
This song is a hidden gem. Hemant Kumar actually impersonates God in this song with a voice that booms from the heavens amidst a stormy apocalpyse. The chorus is so darn creepy in this song, you might feel real chills from the wind sound effects mixed into the song!
13. Waqt Ne Kiya (Kaaghaz Ke Phool 1957)
What makes this song so spooky and yet so beautiful? It’s all in the lighting and the spectres lingering in the room–read our translation for more!
12. Jayen To Jayen Kahan (Taxi Driver 1954)
In our translation of this all-time creeper, we discuss the emptiness of the song’s mis-en-scene to heighten a feeling of abandonment, leaving you nothing but Dev Anand’s perfect pompadour to ease the pain.
11. Akele Hain Chale Aao (Raaz 1967)
While the movie Raaz may be a clunk, “Akele Hain” (that is reprised in a male and female version!) will certainly leave you clawing after your security blanket. Insider hint: Rajesh Khanna takes his shirt off later on in the movie if you can sit through the rest of the film.
10. Raat Andheri (Aah 1953)
In this heartbreaking social drama, Raj Kapoor plays a handsome tuberculosis patient unable to marry the girl of his dreams because of his illness. In the throes of self-pity, the minor key music haunts him as his own life slips away. Tragic, yes, but mostly just creepy.
9. Sau Baar Janam Lenge (Ustadon Ke Ustad 1963)
Mohammed Rafi’s unearthly beautiful voice echoes through the mist in this song like a phantom from the other world. The woman in mourning seems ready to commit suicide at any moment during the song, keeping the audience on their toes!
8. Dekhi Zamane Ki Yaari (Kaaghaz Ke Phool 1957)
This gentle song of disillusioned love beckons you in like a tantalizing dream, and then drags you to perdition as you scream over the ethereal chorus. Our earlier translation of Dekhi Zamane discusses the transitions of the song from fantasy to absolute nightmare!
7. Koi Duur Se Aawaz De Chale Aao (Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam 1962)
One of my favorite songs in this genre, Guru Dutt is awakened in the middle of the night by a tender lament floating through the halls of the large empty mansion in which he works. Who is this mysterious and sad woman with the enchanting song? You HAVE to watch this genius star-studded film and find out!
6. Jane Kahan Gaye Woh Din (Mera Naam Joker 1970)
Good thing I don’t have a fear of clowns or this song would have permanently wrecked my childhood. Raj Kapoor plays a circus performer who has lost all those he has ever loved. He enters a private Hell in which he is bound to perform in his clown garb to an unfeeling audience, always smiling on the outside and crying on the inside. Brace yourself for several attempts at artsy camera tricks to make him float that could not be more creepy.
5. Gumnaam Hai Koi (Gumnaam 1965)
Based on the Agatha Christie novel “And Then There Were None,” Gumnaam is a kitsch-lovers delight. Drop-dead gorgeous (literally) Lata Mangeshkar’s voice haunts a group of travelers as they meander through a nameless forest. Newsflash! The “ghost” of this song actually chimes in with a high-pitch thrill when the music goes quiet, so listen carefully!
4. Naina Barse (Woh Kaun Thi? 1964)
One of the best examples of a femme fatale in Hindi films, “Naina Barse” is sung by a ghostly woman haunting her lover from a former lifetime. Her flowing white sari against the endless, crisp white snow of a Simla winter set the perfect stage for a nightmare. The woman in a white sari is a classic cliche–read more about its meaning here!
3. Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil (Bees Saal Baad 1964)
This song hardly needs an introduction, so famous is its eerie tune. One of the most brilliant shots is the slow crane down from above the chandelier to Biswajeet’s horrified stare at the piano. But has anyone else ever noticed the film version has the interlude violins playing an entire octave lower than in the recorded version?? It totally blew my mind when watching the film–and both ways are equally horrifying!
2. Jhoom Jhoom Dhalti Raat (Kohra 1964)
Stylistic symbolism sets this creepster apart from its competitors. My favorite moment in this song is when the shadow figures do an interpretive dance in the sand, acting out the “choDo piyaa mera, choDo haath” line. I get chills every time I watch this–the cinematography is genuinely brilliant and haunting!
1. Aayega Aanewala (Mahal 1949)
Welcome to the spookiest song of Bollywood! Nothing will ever top the song that officially taught Bollywood everything it needed to know about horror. Don’t expect any corpses to pop out of the closet–this song is way to classy for that. See our translation of this unbeatable classic for more!
So…I know I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight. What are your favorite spooky songs from Bollywood films? Tell us the scenes that have haunted your waking hours for years (think Sadhana declaring “Mujhe khoon achha lagtaa hai” on a rainy night)! Mr. 55 and I both hope you have a very Happy Halloween!
– Mrs. 55
Mrs. 55 in her go-to gypsy girl costume. When all else fails…tie a chunni on your head.
Saira Banu is disgusted as Manoj Kumar ruins classic English songs with Panjabi dhamaka in Purab Aur Paschim (1970).
Happy Fourth of July from Mr. and Mrs. 55!To honor this occasion, we would like to discuss that well-recognized, unsettling phenomena of classic Bollywood: Hindi film songs with unnecessary English. Yes, I know you just cringed. But recognition is the first step towards healing. Like those t-shirts your aunties used to bring back from the motherland with random English words sprawled across the front, these songs are the ones you tend to hide from your friends. Despite their heroic attempts at glamorous cross-over appeal, these adulterated lyrics explode messily in the face of linguistic purism.
If you thought this was a strictly modern phenomena, prepare to blow your mind. Indian lyricists have been playing this dangerous game since the 1950s! Why, God, why? You may ask. There are many reasons. In some instances, the use of English was directly pertinent to the plot, such as in Laxmi’s portrayal of an Anglo-Indian girl in Julie (1975) or even Shammi Kapoor’s Elvis-esque embodiment of a happening nightclub singer in Chinatown (1962). Yet other times, the English words were gratuitous with no contextual relevance, such as Joy Mukherjee’s boyish declaration of “Japan, love in Tokyo!” (1966). All of them represent a fashionable trend toward westernization, even exoticism to some extent, in Hindi music that evolved over the 50s through 70s. The lyrics reflected back on the changing Indian society and the growing popularity of interspersed English in spoken Hindustani.
Just another average evening at home for the big happy Anglo-Indian family singing “My Heart is Beating” together in Julie (1975).
I always find it ironic that as I cling to the idealization of the Indian culture glorified by films of the 50s and 60s, when I visit my cousins in India, they find it tiresome to sit through a Rajesh Khanna film (many hardly know who he is!), or insist on speaking English, while I desperately want to practice my Hindi. Ah, the joys of being an American Desi. These songs that straddle two worlds appall me just as much as they identify a crisis I know so well.
So let us celebrate India’s love of English today with our list of fusion lyrics from classic films! Each song on our list gets a verdict: a cheer or a cry. Should you feel proud busting out these melodies in the shower, or should you try to hide your shame in the dark recesses of your filmi sub-conscious? Find out below! But be forewarned: this exercise was never meant to be done in public. Go home to the safety of a private room, shut all the windows and lock the doors. Some of the lines you are about to hear require a true devotion to classic Bollywood to survive!
15 Classic Hindi Film Songs with Unnecessary English:
1. All Line Clear (Chori Chori 1956)
It’s not for blind enthusiasm that this song is lacking. Johnny Walker parades his family through the metropolis, rolling the ‘r’ like a Spaniard of what sounds way more like “killier” than “clear.” It’s meant to be comic, but it might reduce you to tears.
2. C-A-T, Cat…Cat Maane Billi (Dilli Ka Thug 1958)
The title says it all. Don’t expect Shakespearean poetry from this song, you might do well on your next spelling bee thanks to Kishore Kumar.
3. Bolo Bolo, Kuch To Bolo (Dil Deke Dekho 1958)
Questionable line: “Pyaar ho to keh do ‘Yes!’ Pyaar nahii.N to keh do ‘No!'” It’s subtle, right? Just enough English to keep the audience on their toes, but not enough to overwhelm anyone. And the song is so catchy, it’s hard to hate.
4. April Fool Banaya (April Fool 1964)
OMG, Saira, stop it. When she screeches “Yooooooooooou eeediot!” I think we all ask ourselves if we were not better off dead. His awkward reply of “Very good!” is as out of place as the hideous shirt on his back.
5. Baar Baar Dekho (China Town 1965)
Verdict: Cheer…and then cry
See, this song walks the line. It’s so catchy and Shammi looks so fly, that you could go through the entire song and not realize any words of English were actually spoken. Oh, but they were. The refrain he struts around to is actually the English fox-hunting cry “Tally ho!” I don’t understand.
6. Japan, Love in Tokyo (Love in Tokyo 1966)
Just warning you, this song WILL get stuck in your head and won’t be released until you sing the refrain out loud in a public forum. The English here is purely gratuitous. First of all, why does he suddenly scream “Japaaaaaaaaan!”? Could there possibly be any confusion in the viewer’s mind about their location? And second, why must he declare there has been “love in Tokyo!” in English of all languages at this point? Who is his real target audience here?
This song is quintessential and needs no introduction. Of course, we all wish Bollywood had more to offer in terms of great birthday songs (and ones which were not specifically dedicated to women named Sunita), but we’ll take it. Rafi’s cuckoo-like “oh ho!” after each lilting “Happy Birthday to you!” is just one of many reasons why this song should never get played in front of your non-Indian friends.
9. The She I Love (Mohammed Rafi 1969, non-filmi)
I debated a long time whether or not to put this song on this list. It wasn’t because the song is non-filmi, but rather, because my undying love for Mohammed Rafi held me back from sharing this little dark secret of his with the world. But it had to be done. We must learn from history’s mistakes. Sung vaguely to the tune of “Hum Kale Hain to Kya Hua,” this song is sure to kill the mood of any party.
10. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (Purab Paschim 1970)
This song just wins hands-down. Saira Banu, as the blonde-wig sporting Londoner, takes on dhoti-clad Manoj Kumar in an East-meets-West sing-off of epic proportions. I love how he twists her straight-laced rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” into a completely Panjabi “Twinkle Twinkle Little Sitar” that is actually far more exciting than the original! The total irony, of course, is that when Asha Bhonsle sings the English lines as if she’s a blue-blooded English girl, her Indian accent is so thick, the effect is totally lost (but still kind of loveable).
12. Meri Soni Meri Tamanna (Yaadon Ki Baraat 1973)
Verdict: Cheer…but it’s borderline
This is song so good, it practically kills me that they threw in an English line just for giggles. It makes the whole thing awkward. Why can’t you just say “tumse pyaar hai” instead of “I low you”? Nope, I didn’t misspell. Listen to the line. I sure didn’t hear the ‘v’ in that sentence either.
13. My Heart is Beating (Julie 1975)
I know, I know. Bear with me here. I too stuck my head under a pillow and cried about the cruel and unusual punishment I was being served when I first heard this song. Part of it is her thick accent, part of it is the ridiculous caricatures of the members of the Anglo-Saxon family they portray. 100% of the lyrics are sung in English, which is a rare thing in classic Bollywood. Julie took fusion lyrics where no lyricist had dared go before. And I’ll be the first to say…it grew on me. It’s actually very melodious! Sure, Preeti Sagar is no Karen Carpenter, but this song did earn her the Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer in 1975!
14. My Name is Anthony Gonzalves (Amar Akbar Anthony 1977)
This song theoretically makes some sense in the context of the film. Yes, Anthony Gonzalves was a real guy, and Amitabh Bachhan is supposed to be just another God-fearing Christian at an Easter party. When he starts spewing strings of random English words together, it’s clear he knows he’s just a buffoon trying to look smart and sophisticated to impress the ladies!
15. Humko Tumse Ho Gaya Hai (Amar Akbar Anthony 1977)
It’s not that I hate this song, in fact, I love it. But I would have never known in a million years that Amitabh Bachhan is supposed to be saying “God promise, ham sach bolaa hai.” Excuse me, ‘God promise’? Who even SAYS that?? I know you’re supposed to be Christian and all that, but seriously, what is happening here.
We know this is a divisive issue in the obscure world of classic cinema and as constant mourners of the loss of Urdu in Hindi films, we want to hear YOUR thoughts! Do you love you a good Hinglish patois or do you cringe and die every time? Have we forgotten any potential gems that deserve a place on our list? Let us know in the comments!
The top 30 greatest classic Bollywood films have been selected. Which films made the list of Bollywood’s best?
Mr. and Mrs. 55 – Classic Bollywood Revisited! at last present our definitive list of the Bollywood classics you absolutely must see before you die. Hundreds of films were scored and ranked across multiple dimensions of Bollywood cinema including: story, direction, performances, musical composition, as well as cultural impact and legacy. We included Hindi-language films made between the period of 1949-1979 on our list of the best classic Bollywood filmsever made. Some on the list are beloved favorites of the industry, while others may surprise you.
Among the winners are directors Guru Dutt, Bimal Roy and Raj Kapoor–names synonymous with masterpiece Indian cinema–each with multiple films among Bollywood’s all-time greatest. Always wondered why a couple of young Harvard students like us love old Indian films so passionately? No matter what you think you know about Bollywood, the movies on this list will change your understanding of Indian films like never before. From village epics that grapple with our national identity to the nostalgic poetry of sudden disillusionment, classic Bollywood films transport us from the enchanting glamour of Bombay nightlife to the majestic gardens of Kashmir. They carry our souls through hardship and loss and revive our spirits with redemption.
This is cinema the way it was meant to be. This is classic Bollywood.
The top 30 Films from 30 years of classic Hindi cinema (1949-1979):
Guru Dutt, 1957
Pyaasa, or “thirst,”is the story of one man’s search for compassion in the cold cynicism of post-independence Indian society. Vijay is an unpublished poet, dismissed by his own family and scorned by socialites and his colleagues. After befriending a prostitute who shelters him, Vijay is believed dead and his poetry “posthumously” lionized. He becomes an overnight sensation, mourned by fans across the country, and the true Vijay is labeled an imposter. India entered its golden age of filmmaking in the 1950s when its long-awaited freedom from England and the hopes of a new government created a social tinderbox of great expectations and disillusionment. Pioneering the technique of utilizing song lyrics as direct extensions of the film’s dialogue, Guru Dutt as the writer-producer-director-star paints a stirring portrait of the commodification of humanity.
Karimuddin Asif, 1961
At the turn of the 17th century, Prince Salim falls in love with the court dancer Anarkali and wages war against his own father, Emperor Akbar, in order to marry her. Director K. Asif’s enormous cast, opulent sets, intricately designed costumes and extravagantly staged battle scenes made the film the most expensive ever produced in India at the time. But despite of all the grandeur, the film has a warm heart, and the dangers of the romance between Salim and Anarkali are infused into each glance they share. Although the love story is the backbone of the film, it is Emperor Akbar, from whom the film derives its name (“the Great Mughal”), who takes center stage as he is torn between love for his only son and the unforgiving demands of the Mughal Empire. Every line of dialogue is written with the ornamentation of poetry, casting an elegance to Mughal-e Azam‘s thunderous power.
Kamal Amrohi, 1971
In the grandeur of Muslim Lucknow at the turn of the century, Pakeezah is a courtesan and dancer who dreams of leaving her life behind when a stranger falls in love with her in a train compartment, not knowing her true profession. With swirling romanticism and languid, dream-like cinematography, Pakeezah instantly became one of the most extraordinary musicals ever made. Perfectionist director Kamal Amrohi, who also wrote the script and some of the lyrics, effectively transports the viewer into a wistful age of bygone formality and luxury. Each of Pakeezah‘s popular semi-classical songs illustrates the duality of a courtesan’s poetry, at once glamorizing the elaborate rituals of love and destroying the institutions that upheld them.
4. Mother India
Mehboob Khan, 1957
With tragedy strikes her family, newlywed village belle Radha is determined to weather a crucible of social and personal adversities without compromising her honor. In doing so, she reinvents herself as a heavy-handed symbol of India’s own pride as an ancient culture and a new democracy. A defining film in the history of Bollywood, director Mehboob Khan’s iconic Mother India set the pattern for the more than 60 years of Bollywood film that followed it. A mythologization of traditional values and an homage to the beauty of Indian heritage, Mother India‘s unabashedly epic glorification of self-sacrifice and female empowerment was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1958.
Vijay Anand, 1965
A corrupt businessman is transformed into a spiritual guide after a misunderstanding that leads to his idolization by a village besieged by drought. Based on the R.K. Narayan novel of the same name and bolstered by a stunning soundtrack, Guide explores a fundamental Vedic transformation from materialism to a release from worldly attachments in an extremely unlikely hero. A scandalous love story settles into the background as director Vijay Anand boldly deconstructs social taboos, from adultery and non-traditional gender roles to religious fraud, in a film that stirringly evolves into a philosophical awakening greater than the circumstances it portrays–a brilliant reflection of the double entendre intended by its title.
A female lawyer is determined to prove her lover’s innocence in a murder attempt on the life of a respected judge. Structured in medias res, the film’s flashback reveals the injustice of her lover’s past when the very judge who condemns him proves to be his own father: a man who threw his wife onto the streets when he believed a criminal had raped her. Echoing the dark lessons of the ancient Ramayana, Awaara shatters the nature versus nurture debate with a showman’s flair and surrealist fantasy, including the film’s legendary dream sequence evoking a descent into Hell. Awaara launched Raj Kapoor’s famous Chaplin-esque hero for the first time, who resonated immensely across the Soviet Union and Communist China as the voice of a new generation.
8. Sahib, Bibi, Aur Ghulam
Guru Dutt/Abrar Alvi, 1962
Desperate to save her marriage, the younger daughter-in-law of a wealthy family sacrifices her moral boundaries to win over her alcoholic husband. A nostalgic glimpse into the decaying Bengali feudal system, Sahib, Bibi, Aur Ghulam unravels a dazzling murder mystery at the heart of its progressive view of societal redemption. Seen from the perspective of a young factory worker lured into a stately mansion as an ally of its young mistress, Sahib, Bibi, Aur Ghulam hauntingly opens the doors to the hollowness of exterior splendor. Spiraling against her will with the collapse of Calcutta’s landed aristocracy, Meena Kumari’s portrayal of the tormented wife is forever considered among the most magnificent on-screen performances of Bollywood history.
Shakti Samanta, 1971
When her lover dies at war, an unwed mother gives up her son up for adoption, vowing to watch over him in secrecy as he grows up in the house of another. Her poignant worship, or aradhana, of her dead fiancé and their son became immortalized in the Indian cinematic psyche as an audacious struggle of traditional society confronted by changing modern values. Boasting one of the all-time greatest soundtracks of Indian cinema, Aradhana epitomizes the versatility and creativity of the era’s leading music directors. From the youthful romance of “Kora Kaagaz Tha” to the grim Bardic undertones of “Safal Hogi Teri Aradhana” to the notoriously seductive “Roop Tera Mastana,” the film is as much remembered for its luminous performances as for exemplifying the golden age of Bollywood music.
10. Do Bigha Zameen
Bimal Roy, 1953
A farming family fights to save their ancestral land from a cunning mill owner. Do Bigha Zameen follows the father and son’s trip to Calcutta from their idyllic village to earn enough money to pay their debts–only to discover the miseries of urban poverty instead. Inspired by the work of Italian neorealism, Do Bigha Zameen pioneered early parallel cinema with a deliberate attention to the “everyday,” and the feeling of an invisible, unhurried camera whose shots and mis-en-scene are both carefully constructed and effortlessly fluid. Directed by Bengali auteur Bimal Roy, the film’s nationalistic electricity hit a broader audience, becoming the first Indian film to win the Prix Internationale at the 1954 Cannes Film Festival.
During the British Raj of the 1930s, a prison doctor falls in love with a convict who reveals the story of her tumultuous connection to a freedom fighter.
Bimal Roy, 1958
On a rainy night, a man enters an abandoned mansion where he is confronted by unfulfilled visions of his past life.
13. Shree 420
Raj Kapoor, 1955
A country boy travels to Bombay to make his fortune where he is lured from the path of virtue into a thrilling life of deceit.
Ramesh Sippy, 1975
After his family is murdered by a notorious bandit, a former police officer enlists the help of two outlaws to capture him.
Shyam Benegal, 1974
The social hierarchies of rural India are disrupted when a landowner begins an affair with a poor farmer’s wife.
16. Hum Dono
Amarjeet, Vijay Anand (1961)
After returning from war, a soldier begins to lead a double-life when his doppelgänger’s family welcomes him home.
17. Barsaat (1949)
Raj Kapoor, 1949
Two men with different ideals of love search for answers with the coming of the monsoons.
18. Amar Akbar Anthony
Manmohan Desai, 1977
Three brothers are separated in childhood and eventually unite after one is brought up a Christian, one a Hindu, and one a Muslim.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee, 1971
A doctor recounts the story of a terminally ill man who wishes to his live life to the fullest and spread happiness to those around him.
Chetan Anand, 1964
A platoon of Indian soldiers leave their homes and loved ones to encounter the harsh realities of battle in the Indo-China War of 1962.
Chandra Barot, 1978
A simpleton is trained to infiltrate the underworld by impersonating a criminal leader who has been killed in a police chase.
Kamal Amrohi, 1949
A young lawyer is haunted by a ghostly woman in his new house, where the builder and his fiancée died shortly after it was built.
Raj Kapoor, 1964
An Indian Air Force Officer leaves for the Kashmiri front, entrusting his wife to the care of his best friend who has secretly always loved her.
Satyen Bose, 1964
A penniless orphan makes the unexpected friendship of a blind boy who teaches him survival on the streets of Bombay.
Yash Chopra, 1965
Natural disaster separates the members of a close-knit family who re-connect in a series of dramatic entanglements years later.
Yash Chopra, 1975
A mother attempts to reunite her two estranged sons: one, a leading criminal of the underworld, and the other, an uprighteous policeman.
27. Kati Patang
Shakti Samanta, 1970
As a promise to raise the child of her dying friend, a young woman risks starting a new life under a false identity.
A powerful politician struggles to reconcile her position with secrets from her past.
29. Purab Aur Paschim
Manoj Kumar, 1970
East clashes with West when a traditional Indian student encounters swinging London society for the first time.
30. Bombai Ka Babu
Raj Khosla, 1960
A small-time thief is forced into a deadly web of deception when he gains the trust of his victim’s family.