Bollywood 101 -- Classics

by RRHowell41 | created - 22 Dec 2010 | updated - 10 Feb 2011 | Public

Older movies that are recommended if you want to understand the Bollywood scene. I am no pro, but these are ones that I like, and that are still well worth watching.

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1. Do Bigha Zamin (1953)

131 min | Drama

8.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  

In the hope of earning enough money to pay off his debts and save his land, a poor farmer becomes a rickshaw puller in the Calcutta and faces many difficulties.

Director: Bimal Roy | Stars: Balraj Sahni, Nirupa Roy, Rattan Kumar, Murad

Votes: 1,344

A very special movie about poverty and struggle and family life.

2. Shree 420 (1955)

168 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

8.1
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

Wearing torn Japanese shoes, English trousers, a red Russian cap, and a Hindustani heart, orphaned Ranbir Raj comes to Bombay to make his fortune. He pawns his gold medal, gambles with the ... See full summary »

Director: Raj Kapoor | Stars: Nargis, Nadira, Raj Kapoor, Nemo

Votes: 2,059

B&W classic starring Raj Kapoor, in a comic and sweet parable of the temptations of the big city.

3. Do Ankhen Barah Haath (1957)

143 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

8.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  

Progressive, reform-minded young warden gets permission to take six surly murderers from prison to dilapidated country farm, to rehabilitate it and themselves through hard work and kindly guidance.

Director: Shantaram Rajaram Vankudre | Stars: Shantaram Rajaram Vankudre, Sandhya, Ulhas, B.M. Vyas

Votes: 1,401

Six prisoners are rehabilitated by a prison warden seeking to put the principles of his faith into practice.

4. Pyaasa (1957)

Not Rated | 146 min | Drama, Musical, Romance

8.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  

A talented but indigent poet Vijay struggles for love and recognition in this selfish world.

Director: Guru Dutt | Stars: Mala Sinha, Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman, Rehman

Votes: 4,130

This is a major classic. HOWEVER, if you do not speak Hindi, you are at a huge disadvantage in appreciating this movie, as it is the life of a poet and the songs are not translated. Good enough that it is worth tracking down the translations online.

5. Mother India (1957)

172 min | Drama, Musical, Family

8.1
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
53 Metascore

In this melodrama, a poverty-stricken woman raises her sons through many trials and tribulations. But no matter the struggles, always sticks to her own moral code.

Director: Mehboob Khan | Stars: Nargis, Sunil Dutt, Rajendra Kumar, Raaj Kumar

Votes: 6,757

This was not my favorite movie, but it is a classic, and one which had a large impact on people.

6. Mughal-E-Azam (1960)

Not Rated | 197 min | Drama, Romance, War

8.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  

A 16th century prince falls in love with a court dancer and battles with his emperor father.

Director: K. Asif | Stars: Prithviraj Kapoor, Madhubala, Dilip Kumar, Durga Khote

Votes: 4,931 | Gross: $0.16M

A tragic love story of one of the early Mughal Emperors.

7. Bandini (1963)

157 min | Drama, Musical, Romance

7.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

During the British Raj of the 1930s, a prison-doctor falls in love with a convict who eventually reveals the story of her past and her connection to a freedom fighter.

Director: Bimal Roy | Stars: Ashok Kumar, Nutan, Dharmendra, Raja Paranjpe

Votes: 617

A black and white movie about the history of a female prisoner. Beautiful cinematography and strong story.

8. Saraswatichandra (1968)

156 min | Drama, Romance

6.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

A man regrets his decision of refusing to marry the woman he loves.

Director: Govind Saraiya | Stars: Nutan, Manish, Vijaya Choudhury, Ramesh Deo

Votes: 102

A tragic love story, tragic in ways that only an Indian story could allow.

9. Amar Prem (1971)

Not Rated | 143 min | Drama, Musical, Romance

8.2
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A village woman abandoned by her husband is forced into prostitution in Kolkata and forms nameless yet strong relations with a wealthy patron as well as an abused boy in the neighbourhood.

Director: Shakti Samanta | Stars: Rajesh Khanna, Sharmila Tagore, Sujit Kumar, Bindu

Votes: 1,178

Very different from what we think of today as a Bollywood movie. The story of a woman whose marriage goes wrong and who winds up as a prostitute (though there is an implication that perhaps she manages to live as a chaste courtesan). Lyric songs, and a story that is somewhat like a happy take on a Devdas-style set of relationships.

10. Abhimaan (1973)

Not Rated | 122 min | Drama, Musical

8.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A popular singer convinces his new wife to enter show-business, but his pride is wounded when she outshines him.

Director: Hrishikesh Mukherjee | Stars: Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bhaduri, Asrani, Bindu

Votes: 2,139

Gentle story about a successful singer who marries a woman who sings better than he does.

11. Sholay (1975)

Not Rated | 162 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

8.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

After his family is murdered by a notorious and ruthless bandit, a former police officer enlists the services of two outlaws to capture the bandit.

Director: Ramesh Sippy | Stars: Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Hema Malini, Amitabh Bachchan

Votes: 42,401

This is a western set in India. It was a classic in terms of being a movie that became extraordinarily well known. Dialogs and scenes of this movie are part of the shared cultural history of many modern Indians.

12. Deewaar (1975)

174 min | Action, Crime, Drama

8.1
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

Vijay struggles as a dockworker. Eventually, he becomes a leading figure of the underworld, while his younger brother, Ravi, is an educated, upright policeman. This divide causes problems in their relationship.

Director: Yash Chopra | Stars: Shashi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Neetu Singh, Nirupa Roy

Votes: 7,896

Two brothers are raised in poverty against a history of injustice--one becomes a gangster and one a policeman.

13. Mausam (1975)

156 min | Musical, Romance

8.1
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A medical student, Amarnath meets and falls in love with the daughter of a herbal medicine healer, Chanda while preparing for his exams in Darjeeling. He returns to Calcutta to sit his ... See full summary »

Director: Gulzar | Stars: Sanjeev Kumar, Sharmila Tagore, Om Shivpuri, Agha

Votes: 686

A doctor returns to the scene of a medical school romance.

14. Khushboo (1975)

132 min | Musical, Drama, Family

7.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Kusum and Brindavan are two small children living in a small village in India. Both love each other, and decide to marry when they grow up. Kusum has his name tattooed on her arm. But fate ... See full summary »

Director: Gulzar | Stars: Jeetendra, Hema Malini, Durga Khote, Farida Jalal

Votes: 178

This is a classic Jeetendra/Hema Malini piece. Childhood sweethearts separated by vicious parental arguing at a young age meet in later life. The woman has considered herself married to the man all her life, but there are complications.

15. Swami (1977)

129 min | Drama

6.6
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Shortly after Saudamani's birth, her dad passes away, leaving her in the care of her widowed mom, who re-locates to live with her elder brother in a small town. It is here that Saudamini ... See full summary »

Director: Basu Chatterjee | Stars: Shabana Azmi, Girish Karnad, Utpal Dutt, Dheeraj Kumar

Votes: 101

A woman grapples with a marriage that is not to the man of her dreams.

16. Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)

184 min | Action, Comedy, Drama

7.6
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Three brothers are separated and united after many years - one is brought up a Hindu, another a Muslim and the last (and most memorable) a Christian. Hilarity and adventure ensues.

Director: Manmohan Desai | Stars: Vinod Khanna, Rishi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Neetu Singh

Votes: 4,887

A classic comedy, on a par with something like Duck Soup. Three brothers are separated at an early age and adopted into three families (Hindu, Muslim and Christian). Now events bring the family back together.

17. Thodisi Bewafaii (1980)

Not Rated | 150 min | Drama

6.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Weekly 4pm visits? According to the film the son never met his father until toward the end of the film.

Director: Esmayeel Shroff | Stars: Rajesh Khanna, Shabana Azmi, Siddharth, Padmini Kolhapure

Votes: 73

A marriage that does not go smoothly.

18. Saaransh (1984)

Not Rated | 137 min | Drama

8.2
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An old couple lend a room on rent after recent death of the bread earner of the family, their only son. A budding actress starts living with them, who is in love with a local politician's only son. The movie shows what later ensues.

Director: Mahesh Bhatt | Stars: Rohini Hattangadi, Anupam Kher, Soni Razdan, Madan Jain

Votes: 1,397

An elderly couple coming to grips with the death of their son.

19. Main Azaad Hoon (1989)

Not Rated | 160 min | Drama

7.3
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A newspaper reporter exploits an ordinary man for few rupees to pose as a man who is fighting against the corrupt politicians and prints imaginary stories in his name to improve the ... See full summary »

Director: Tinnu Anand | Stars: Amitabh Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Ram Gopal Bajaj, Arun Bakshi

Votes: 597

A newspaper reporter talks a poor drifter into posing as a voice for justice in society, and gets more than she bargained for.

20. Khuda Gawah (1992)

Not Rated | 193 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

6.6
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Baadshah Khan falls in love with Benazir, a member of a rival clan who has defeated him in a game of buzkashi. Benazir will not marry him unless he brings back the head of her father's ... See full summary »

Director: Mukul Anand | Stars: Amitabh Bachchan, Sridevi, Nagarjuna Akkineni, Shilpa Shirodkar

Votes: 1,432 | Gross: $0.00M

An Afghan love story.