Here is the list of 25 iconic movies of Indian Cinema.
Do Bhiga Zameen (1953)
A tragic story of an Indian farmer, ‘Do Bhiga Zameen’ is one of the first and finest examples of art-meets-mainstream cinema.
The Bimal Roy-classic starring actor Balraj Sahni went to win the Prix International Award at the Cannes in 1954.
Guru Dutt’s timeless piece of work ‘Pyaasa’ was the only Hindi film to make it to TIME’s ‘All-Time 100 Movies’ list and Sight & Sound’s ‘250 Greatest Films’ List.
Starring Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rahman and Mala Sinha, ‘Pyaasa’ trails the life of an unsuccessful poet in an unkind, frigid society. Recently, ‘Pyaasa’ became the first Indian film to be restored by an Indian company for screening at the Venice Film Festival.
Mother India (1957)
The epic social drama starring Nargis, Sunil Dutt and Rajendra Kumar was India’s first submission for the Academy Awards (foreign film category). Only three Hindi films so far have been nominated in the category. The film became an icon not only for its cinematic brilliance for the time it was made in but also for its cultural and nationalistic significance.
‘Mother India’ has been hailed the ‘Gone With The Wind’ of Indian cinema by scholarly greats.
This love saga was a landmark film in the history of Hindi cinema in many ways.
Director K. Asif’s magnum opus was conceived in 1944 but the filming only started in 1950. It took another ten years for this cult classic to finally see light of day.
Starring Dilip Kumar, Madhubala and Prithviraj Kapoor, ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ was also the most expensive film of its time. It was the ‘highest grossing Bollywood film’ back then.
Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962)
Based on Bimal Mitra’s Bengali novel ‘Saheb Bibi Golam,’ this 1962-classic was hailed by critics and audiences largely for Meena Kumari’s performance.
The Guru Dutt film made it to TIME magazine’s ‘All-Time Best 100 Movies’ list.
A family drama, ‘Waqt’ was a refreshing break from the social and nationalistic-themed films of the 50s and 60s. Helmed by master director Yash Chopra, ‘Waqt’ was well-scripted, paced and a thorough entertainer.
India’s first multi-starrer film, ‘Waqt’ gave us some of the most memorable performances from Sunil Dutt, Sadhana, Raaj Kumar, Shashi Kapoor, Sharmila Tagore to Balraj Sahni, Achala Sachdev.
Based on noted Indian writer R.K. Narayan’s novel, ‘Guide’ marked the high point in Dev Anand’s career. He starred opposite the talented Waheeda Rehman. The film was made in both Hindi and English. But the English version only saw light of day 42 years later, when it was screened at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.
TIME magazine named ‘Guide’ in its ‘Best Bollywood Classics’ list.
There are films that become instant hits but don’t stand the test of time and then there are those that flounder initially but acquire a cult following over a period of time.
Starring Meena Kumari, Raaj Kumar and Ashok Kumar and in the making for almost 15 years, ‘Pakeezah’ didn’t see instant success. Critics had deemed the Kamal Amrohi-film a flop. But lead actress Meena Kumari’s death weeks after its release, turned things around. The audience had begun to connect the film with the tragic story of her life.
A moving tale of a courtesan, ‘Pakeezah’ is one of the most loved and talked about films even 40 years after.
Trivia: Did you know Meena Kumari charged only Re 1 for her role in this film? (Source: Pakeezah by Meghnad Desai)
Teenage romance was a genre mostly unexplored until ‘Bobby’ happened.
After having lost his life savings with ‘Mera Naam Joker,’ director Raj Kapoor found his redemption in ‘Bobby.’
Debut actors Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia turned stars overnight with the success of this film.
Garm Hawa (1973)
Focused around the post Partition (1947) events, ‘Garm Hawa’ explores how Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination in 1948 affects a Muslim family in Agra that must migrate to Pakistan like other members of its community.
Debutant filmmaker M.S. Sathyu’s masterful direction and a fine performance by Balraj Sahni make this classic a must watch.
It took a ‘Sholay’ to break Mughal-e-Azam’s record 15 years later. ‘Sholay’ was not only the highest grossing film of all time but also ran over five years at the theatres.
The classic, that set a benchmark for masala potboilers to come, gave India some of the most iconic screen characters – Gabbar (Amjad Khan), Thakur (Sanjeev Kumar), Jai (Amitabh Bachchan), Veeru (Dharmendra).
In the words of director Shekhar Kapur, “Indian film history can be divided into Sholay BC and Sholay AD.”
A political drama believed to have been based around the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, ‘Aandhi’ released amid much controversy. It was banned six months after its release.
It was over a year later that the Gulzar directorial, starring Suchitra Sen and Sanjeev Kumar, was re-released, with parts of it re-filmed.
The film was lauded not only for its bold and riveting narrative but also career’s best performance by Sen.
Among the many lighthearted entertainers that director Hrishikesh Mukherjee gave us was the classic comedy ‘Golmaal.’
Starring Utpal Dutt, Amol Palekar, Dina Pathak, Deven Varma and Bindiya Goswami, ‘Golmaal’ not only made for a gripping screenplay but boasted of some remarkable performances.
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983)
Another cult classic that wasn’t an instant hit among audiences is Kundan Shah’s dark comedy ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron.’
Starring a fine ensemble of actors — Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Pankaj Kapoor among others — ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron’ is a stinging satire on the widespread corruption in Indian politics and bureaucracy.
Here was a commercial Hindi film that subverted every rule of a template Bollywood film. It had no big stars, no song-and-dance sequences, no hero, heroine or a villain, and yet managed to connect with the audiences.
Shekhar Kapur’s directorial debut was an adaptation of Erich Segal’s novel ‘Man, Woman and Child.’
Not only did ‘Masoom’ stand out for its superlative performances by veterans Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi and the three child actors — Jugal Hansraj, Urmila Matondkar and Aradhana Srivastav — but also for its commendable treatment to a sensitive subject.
It went on to win several awards and was one of the most loved films of its time.
‘Saraansh’ marked the debut of actor Anupam Kher, who played a 60-year old retired headmaster. He was all 28 then!
The film explores the loneliness Kher and his wife (played by Rohini Hattangadi) must deal with after the demise of their only son.
Trivia: Anupam Kher had almost lost the role to actor Sanjeev Kumar since the producers were wary of casting a newcomer. But Kher managed to convince director Mahesh Bhatt to retain him.
Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988)
Eighties, flush with violent themes, was mostly a wasted decade for mainstream cinema.
But around the turn of the decade came along a love story that set a standard for films to come.
A modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’ starred relative newcomers Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla, who became idols overnight.
Bandit Queen (1994)
A defining film in Shekhar Kapoor’s career, ‘Bandit Queen’ is a brave, powerful biopic on Phoolan Devi, an Indian dacoit-turned-politician.
One of the most controversial films to have come out of Hindi cinema, ‘Bandit Queen’ is not only technically brilliant but also gave us the most iconic screen character. Protagonist Seema Biswas, even twenty years after, is remembered as Phoolan Devi.
Hum Aapke Hai Koun…! (1994)
Family films celebrating Indian culture were a prominent theme throughout the nineties. Wedding, as a theme, too had been explored in Hindi films but not as inherently as propelling a narrative or at a scale Sooraj Barjatya explored it, in this one.
Directed by Barjatya, and starring a hit pair of the 90s — Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit — ‘Hum Aapke Hai Koun,’ became a benchmark for family dramas to come.
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)
The classic love story starring the evergreen couple Shahrukh Khan and Kajol rewrote the rules of romance in Hindi cinema.
‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ or DDLJ, as it is popularly called, challenged Sholay’s record becoming the longest running film in the history of Indian cinema.
It completed a 1000 weeks at one of Mumbai’s oldest theatres ‘Maratha Mandir’ and continues to play a show daily.
Dil Chahta Hai (2001)
Around the turn of the decade came along a film that challenged the usual tropes of storytelling in Bollywood. The romantic comedy, directed by then newcomer Farhan Akhtar, was a refreshing, realistic take on friendship and love.
Starring Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna, ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ has come to acquire a cult status over the years.
From a director who dared to tread the path less traveled, came an epic sports drama that not only received worldwide acclaim but also went on to get nominated for an Academy Award (Best Foreign Language film category).
Director Ashutosh Gowariker, who was unable to get the film off ground at one point, not only convinced Aamir Khan to come on board as an actor but also as a producer. ‘Lagaan’ is on Britain’s Channel 4’s list of ’50 films to see before you die.’
Three years later, Gowariker gave us another gem that was lauded by critics and audiences alike. The film also found resonance with Indian audiences outside the country, for its theme, which is based on the real-life story of an NRI couple.
Shahrukh’s transformation from a ‘superstar’ to a common man in a subtle, restrained performance was remarkable.
Trivia: ‘Swades’ is the first and the only Indian film to have been shot inside the NASA research centre.
The Lunchbox (2013)
A rare love story to have come out of Indian cinema, ‘Lunchbox’ is a film connoisseur’s delight.
From its evocative narrative to the performances, this technically brilliant piece of work not only garnered appreciation at international film festivals but also won audiences’ hearts.
It was unanimously hailed as the best pick for India’s entry to the Oscars that year. Unfortunately, it didn’t make the cut.
Queen was a winner in every way. Woman-centric films in Bollywood have mostly explored bold, serious and message-ridden themes.
But here was a lighthearted entertainer that not only made a statement but did it with a subtle panache.
It attempted to break the traditional psyche of how women are perceived in our society and did it with aplomb.