From unrequited love, gender roles and the vicissitudes of human nature, some classic Hindi films were certainly ahead of their time. The essence of the film, the story and the songs were designed to live forever in the souls of the audience. Here in the 21st century, as we are surrounded by world cinema, there is still much to learn from the craft of masterful actors and directors of the past era. The films of Guru Dutt, Meena Kumari and Dilip Kumar, among others, had deep meaning.
Classic Bollywood films transport us from the alluring glamor of Bombay nightlife to the beautiful gardens of Kashmir in seconds. Here is the list of notable films that have marked the history of Indian cinema.
Prince Salim falls in love with the royal dancer Anarkali at the turn of the 17th century and makes war on his father, Emperor Akbar, to marry her. The film was the most expensive ever produced in India at the time, thanks to director K. Asif’s massive cast, gorgeous sets, meticulously crafted costumes, and lavishly choreographed fight scenes. The grandeur of the production design, the dialogues and the depth of emotions portrayed by veterans such as Dilip Kumar, Madhubala and Prithviraj Kapoor make this a classic.
This film directed and produced by Guru Dutt features him alongside Waheeda Rehman, Mala Sinha and Johnny Walker. The film focuses on the struggles of an artist. It revolves around Vijay, an artist whose work is not taken seriously by publishers. Then he meets Gulaabo, a prostitute who helps him get his work published. It was also named one of the 100 Great Movies of All Time by TIME magazine.
Mother India is a 1957 Indian epic drama film, directed by Mehboob Khan and starring Nargis, Raaj Kumar, Rajendra Kumar and Sunil Dutt. When her husband abandons the family in disgrace, she must care for her two sons on her own while defying the threats of a sleazy loan shark. Mother India was one of the most expensive Hindi films ever made when it was released, and it is now considered one of the most admired films in Bollywood history. It was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film, becoming the first Indian film to be nominated.
Pakeezah directed by Kamal Amrohi starring Meena Kumar, Ashok Kumar and Raaj Kumar. Sahibjaan is a courtesan and dancer in luxury Muslim Lucknow at the turn of the century. When a stranger falls in love with her in a train compartment, unaware of her real job, it creates upheavals in her professional life. Pakeezah has become one of the most extraordinary musicals ever made, with swirling romance and slow, dreamlike cinematography.
Sahib, Bibi, Aur Ghulam
Sahib, Bibi, Aur Ghulam is a nostalgic look at the dying Bengali feudal system that unravels a murder mystery. To save her marriage, the young daughter-in-law of a wealthy family lowers her moral limits to win over her alcoholic husband. Sahib, Bibi, Aur Ghulam hauntingly opens the doors to the void of outward magnificence seen through the eyes of a seduced young worker in a majestic estate as an ally of his young mistress. In Bollywood history, Meena Kumari’s portrayal of the tragic woman, bent against her will with the collapse of Calcutta’s landed gentry, will go down as one of the most exquisite on-screen performances of all time. .
The Guide revolves around an independent guide Raju and his encounter with Rosie, the wife of a wealthy archaeologist. After a misunderstanding, an unethical businessman is turned into a spiritual guru and idolized by a drought-stricken town. Vijay Anand boldly deconstructs social taboos in this film, from adultery and non-traditional gender roles to religious fraud.
The film was a commercial success upon release and over time gained cult status.
A film based on a family drama, Waqt had a separate storyline from the 1960 Nationalist film and is said to have introduced the concept of multiple stars to films. The film was directed and written by Akhtar Mirza. The ensemble cast included Balraj Sahni, Raj Kumaar, Sunil Dutt, Sharmila Tagore, Rehman, Sadhna, Madan Puri, Shashi Kapoor and Balraj Sahni.