Do you know why people love to go back to the time when films like Anand or Pyaasa were made? Those movies had a sense of purpose. They were realistic and were aimed at showing the state of affairs that plagued the country during that particular time, in their beautiful ways of metaphor and well-thought dialogues.
Today, the scenario is not the same. Movies with a sense of purpose are censored off their most meaningful lines and crass female objectification is eaten as regularly as a Vada Pav in the streets of Bombay.
Leaving commentary on how Bollywood is now, let’s take some time to go back to the Bollywood that was beautiful back then. To the movies that defined cinema with their well crafted screenplays and laughter-inducing dialogues.
Do Bigha Zameen (1953)
Director: Bimal Roy
Do Bigha Zameen is a story about a family who are usurped off their land by a wealthy zamindar as they are unable to repay their debts. After the family is thrown out of their house, the father of the family makes a living by being a rickshaw puller in the streets of Kolkata.
The film was a trend-setter during the time when the idea of socialism was rising in Indian minds. The director Bimal Roy got his inspiration after watching Italian filmmaker Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thieves, a masterpiece during Italy’s neo-realistic cinema movement.
Screenplay: Gulzar, Bhushan Banmali
Many people think it is based on the life of Indira Gandhi due to the resemblance of the lead actor’s appearance to her but it’s just fiction and has nothing to do with the Prime Minister. Still, she banned the movie from being released during her tenure.
The film is about a politician’s daughter who gets married to a Hotel manager when she was young and impulsive. Years later, both realize that their personalities are not suited to each other leading to the end of their marriage. Years later, they meet again after Aarti has turned into a bigwig politician. Even though they are separated, they still feel a closeness towards each other but the fear of keeping her reputation clean doesn’t let Aarti take a step forward.
Chupke Chupke (1975)
Director: Hrishikesh Mukherjee
Screenplay: Gulzar, Upendranath Ganguly, Shakeel Chandra, Biren Tripathy, D,N, Mukherjee
With a star cast and a writer base as huge as Chupke Chupke, we had to get a film which would be perfect in its comedic timing and full on entertainment. The film is a re-make of the Bengali movie Chhadmabeshi. It would be tough for you to ‘not’ re-watch the movie for Dharmendra and Amitabh’s comedic performances. Added to that the film employs such a hilarious comedy of errors that you can’t help but hold your aching stomach while constantly laughing.
Director: Yash Chopra
Two brothers who lead the same poverty-stricken life during their childhood end up choosing lives that are paths afar. Vijay turns into a criminal while Ravi turns into an honest cop. The famous dialogue ‘Mere paas maa hai’ is from this film and in the end, the fight between the ideas of the two brothers becomes the sole decision of the mother.
Can you even imagine the creative talent of the duo Salim-Javed who ended up writing masterpieces like Sholay, Zanjeer, Mr India during those times.
Chhoti si baat (1975)
Director: Basu Chatterjee
Screenplay: Basu Chatterjee & Sharad Joshi
This film is probably the most comedic in this list with the lead actor Amol Palekar developing his skill for a string of similar comedic roles in his subsequent films. The film shows Palekar playing a shy man who is too afraid to show his feelings for his love Prabha (Vidya Sinha). He just looks at her from afar and follows her around but fails to build the courage to tell her about his feelings. In comes his rival played by Asrani who is his total opposite: confident, owns a scooter and all.
Seeing that Prabha’s attentions are shifting towards him, Palekar takes the help of a Colonel who trains him and boosts his self-confidence. After developing his fresh personality, he goes back to woo Prabha and become a part of her world.
Director: Shyam Benegal
Screenplay: Satyadev Dubey, Shyam Benegal
Ankur was Shabana Azmi’s debut and is based on a true story which took place in Hyderabad. It revolves around 3 people, one played by Azmi (Lakshmi) a Dailt married woman, second by Anant Nag (Surya) the son of a landlord who begins to flirt with Lakshmi and third of Azmi’s husband Kishtayya. The film mainly focuses on human behavior, how Surya is forced into a child marriage before which he sleeps with Lakshmi leading to her pregnancy. What follows is the sacking of Lakshmi by Surya’s future wife and the lynching of Lakshmi’s husband due to some misunderstandings.
The film is brilliantly shot and shows the reality of the many lives that are led by common people in addition to the concepts of caste, class, money, etc.
Boot polish (1954)
Director: Prakash Arora
Screenplay: Bhanu Pratap
What do a pair of siblings do when they are sent off under the care of an abusive aunt who makes a living out of prostitution? They are forced to leave the house and resort to begging in the streets until they meet a friendly cripple who teaches them how to shine shoes to make a living. The film covers the relationship of the siblings and the life they lead.
Director: Guru Dutt
Screenplay: Abrar Alvi
Writing an article on the best films of Bollywood without Guru Dutt in it? Impossible!
Produced, directed and starring Guru Dutt, Pyaasa is about a poet trying to make a living out of his passion in post-independent India. Gulabo (Waheeda Rahman), a prostitute helps him get his poems published by building connections with a known publisher. The film shows the way Vijay (Guru Dutt) is taken for a good for nothing fellow by his family and friends, only to be used when his poems start getting a high amount of recognition. The film follows betrayal, fake death and what not to show the hypocrisy of the rich and greedy.
Guru Dutt’s other films like Kaghaz Ke Phool, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam also serve as icons of that generation.
Director: Raj Kapoor
Screenplay: Inder Raj Anand
This film is responsible for the beginning of the use of foreign locales for on-location shooting. Apart from the on-the- spot shooting, there is no other film filled with such an in-depth show of what love and friendship can do to your life. The tale of three friends, two boys and one girl; Sangam covers the journey of love, friendship sacrifice, love letters, misunderstanding and a suicide in the name of love and friendship. A must-watch for people of every generation.