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My Early Memories of Indian Cinema…

May 11, 2013 2 comments

In 2013, we are all celebrating 100 years of Bollywood Cinema. With everyone making their own favorites’ lists and directors / actors citing their most-loved films from the past decades, I decided to give it a shot myself. This is obviously no easy feat, given the fact that we have seen literally hundreds of movies, over the years. And picking favorites amongst those that have made us laugh, cry, cringe, scream and even left us baffled, is a Herculean task.

So this list is limited to my early memories of Bollywood. To the times when “We Were Young”. Or as Silk would say, “To the years when we watched movies for nothing else but Entertainment, Entertainment, Entertainment”. 🙂 These may not be classics and a lot will probably have you scratching your heads. But these are my personal memories …ones that remain etched in my mind…despite the absence of Gabbar or Jai and Veeru.

Victoria No. 203: My earliest memories of watching this film on Doordarshan are those of Pran and Ashok Kumar singing “Do Bechaare Bina Sahaare” and their frantic search for diamonds. With the bad guys chasing them all over town. What great fun this was!!

Mausam: The first true “thinking man’s” movie I saw which dealt with relations in their most complex form. Since I was young, I didn’t fully understand the context of the film at that time, but the anguish reflected on Sanjeev Kumar’s face when dealing with a younger Sharmila Tagore still lives on in my heart.

Des Pardes: Here was a truly haunting film from Dev Saab who not only picked a relevant topic of illegal immigration but also brought it to the big screen in a fairly entertaining fashion. And “App Kahein Aur Hum Na Aaye” remains hummable as ever. 

The Great Gambler: I remember watching this 100% escapist flick with my cousins, and with every single one of us singing “Pehle Pehle Pyaar Ki Mulaqaatein” alongside Neetu Singh and Amitabh. What a hoot this much underrated film from Shakti Samanta was!! 

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron: The absolute comedy classic of Bollywood, with a murder, the Mahabharata and a climactic heartbreak thrown into the mix. What more can one ask for? This one is probably on everybody’s list. Bravo! 

Mirch Masala: How can someone NOT like the “art films” if you start off your journey with Ketan Mehta’s “Mirch Masala”. The memory of Deepti Naval, Smita Patil and their friends hurling those hundreds of “mirch” at Naseer Saab in this cracker-pot of a movie made me fall in love with non-mainstream cinema. And the bonding has just grown stronger over the years… 

Chashme Buddoor: The original buddy comedy that I saw in the theatres multiple times. I loved watching Vinod Nagpal sing “Kahan Se Aaye Badaraa”. Seeing both Rakesh Bedi and Vinod Nagpal again a few years later on TV in “Yeh jo Hai Zindagi” and “Hum Log” turned me into a TV junkie as well. 

Naseeb: The first film where I really have no count of how many times I have seen it over the years. A multi-starrer of the truest kind from Manmohan Desai, with just the right quantity of action, romance, emotion and music…the staple diet of any Bollywood film. And did I mention action? Who can forget that image of Bombay’s “Sea Rock Hotel” on fire? Delicious fun… 

Swayamvar: This one may surprise a lot but here was a genuinely sweet and emotional family movie with Sanjeev Kumar and Shashi Kapoor playing brothers. I still remember the great Sanjeev Kumar’s antics, playing a servant in disguise, and Shashi Kapoor singing that unbelievably romantic “Mujhe Chhoo Rahi Hain Teri Garam Saansein” with Moushumi Chatterjee. A must see! 

Pati Patni Aur Woh / Rang Birangi: I grasped the true comedy in Pati Patni aur Woh years after watching it, only when I saw its equally brilliant inspiration…Hrishida’s Rang Birangi. Since both of them touched upon the same guilty, sinful act that most men think of doing, I am listing these two hilarious films together. Watch them in the same order and you are bound to say “Fultoo Paisa Vasool”. 

Vijeta: Never before had I seen such a poignant yet brave display of love and emotions, both within the family, as well as for the country. Govind Nihalani’s film, made for Shashi Kapoor’s Film Valas company, remains one of the truly great films on the Indian Air Force…one that lives upto its name as a real “vijeta (winner)”. 

Kaamchor: What an entertaining and yet meaningful film Rakesh Roshan produced. Here is another one where I remember pretty much every scene of the film, having watched it multiple times and having laughed and cried with Rakesh’s lovable yet self-destructive character. Oh…and its true…Rajesh Roshan does always save his best music for his brother’s films. 

Vidhaata: Subhash Ghai’s depiction of the world of crime, as seen through the eyes of three movie legends – Dilip Saab, Shammi Kapoor and Sanjeev Kumar, remains one of my personal favorites. And that lilting score by Kalyanji-Anandji, from “Haathon Ki Chand Lakeeron Ka” to “Saat Saheliyaan” and from “Udi Baba” to “Pyaar Ka Imtihaan” remains amongst their best compositions. 

Saagar: Ramesh Sippy directing Rishi-Dimple-Kamal Haasan. And Javed Akhtar writing songs for RD Burman. Enough said. This was the first time when it felt I was falling in love. What a great film!! 

Satyamev Jayate: Another outlier for a lot of folks….but for some reason, I remember Satyamev Jayate as one of the grittiest performances given by Vinod Khanna. This was a raw crime thriller and amongst the last good movies made by Raj Sippy. See it for yourself… 

Naam: Name one person who didn’t cry with Sanjay Dutt as Pankaj Udhas sang “Chitthi Aayee Hai”. But it was Kumar Gaurav’s heartbreaking performance as Sanju’s brother that I remember this movie for…which is a shame, because it never did for Gaurav’s career what the film did for Sanju. This was one of Mahesh Bhatt’s most sensitive films that continues to tug at our hearts to this very day. 

Dacait: Grim, realistic, gritty and immensely powerful. Rahul Rawail’s underrated “Dacait” and its haunting images of the Chambal Ravines are still etched in my mind. Sure, there was nothing new in the story, but Rawail’s sensitive direction, along with awesome performances from Sunny Deol, Meenakshi Sheshadri and that chameleon called Paresh Rawal makes this as a one of the lesser known films that I still have not forgotten over the years. 

Tezaab: OMG!! Forget “Ek Do Teen”….Munna and Mohini’s complex love story was an overall path-breaking film, in my opinion. I saw it with my parents…I saw it with my friends. Hell…I even saw it alone. The movie’s tagline read “A Violent Love Story”. Oh yeah!! This one deserves a place in everybody’s movie collection… 

Tridev: Rajiv Rai’s Tridev should also be counted as a “must-have” on DVD for all Bollywood fans. This one, in my opinion, is amongst the most entertaining, clean, action-packed, multi-starrer, masala entertainer that Bollywood has ever produced. There was not a single moment in the entire film where the pace slackened and with a terrific soundtrack and Sangeeta Bijlani dancing to “Gali Gali Mein”, this was nothing but crazy fun. 

Main Azaad Hoon: The movie with which Amitabh Bachchan redeemed himself after those debacles of “Toofan”, “Jaadugar”, etc. I still have not seen “Meet John Doe” which inspired this film, but here was a fine film from Tinnu Anand where Amitabh did not fight or pine for his mother or dance with a girl. And yet, he wins millions of hearts. A sensitive performance and a film that was made “Jee Jaan Se”… 

Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak / Maine Pyar Kiya: QSQT and MPK changed the entire way I looked at love (at least at that time :-)) and I had to watch these films again and again, just to make sure that I don’t forget them. Such was their magnetic pull, with simple (and yes…clichéd) story lines and terrific music. Ah…the melodies of “Gazab Ka Hai Din” and “Tum Ladki Ho” seemed to have filled a huge void in my song collection that I used to own during those “Wonder Years”. 

Chandni: OK…so I couldn’t figure why I liked this simple uncomplicated film from Yash Chopra. But I sure as hell loved it. And it took me a few years to realize that it was the senior trio (Rishi-Sridevi-Vinod) and Yash Uncle’s mature treatment which has attracted me towards Chandni time and again, over the years. 

Lamhe: I was completely stunned when I walked out of the theatre after watching “Lamhe”. For two days, I did not discuss the film with anyone because of fear. Fear of getting ridiculed at, if I said that the movie was the best thing I had seen in years. Fear that people might think that I was too young to understand a theme as mature as this. Fear that, while I thought the movie was amongst the best I had seen in years, I may end up being an outlier myself. Such was the power of “Lamhe”. 

Saathi: Mahesh Bhatt made actors out of people like Mohsin Khan and Aditya Panscholi in this lesser-seen crime saga of two friends. I still remember it for the camaraderie between the two lead actors, Panscholi’s act as a drug addict, the gripping story and for that soulful song “Zindagi Ki Talaash Mein Hum”. Another must watch for Bhatt fans. 

Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander: And finally JJWS. Eveyrone who saw the film talked about “Pehla Nasha”, Pooja Bedi and the cycle race. But for me, JJWS was the film which introduced me to the wonderful world of Jatin-Lalit’s music and to “Rooth Ke Humse Kabhi”…that brilliant song which brings tears in my eyes to this very day. 

So there we have it….my list ends at the time when I started watching films more closely and became an even bigger fan of cinema, in general. I’m sure that we all have our own special memories of films we saw as kids / adolescents. That is indeed the power of movies. And if its Bollywood…then it has to be a razzle-dazzle of spectacular moments, lilting melodies and larger-than-life images that continue to enthrall us with something new every Friday.

Categories: Bollywood