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We listed the best films in our Year-end Special.

As we start the new year, Dinesh Raheja lists his top ten all-time classics:

 
 


Shri 420 (1955)
Shri 420 presents an external manifestation of the internal struggle between the good and the bad continuously being fought inside each of us.

An innocent soul Raju (Raj Kapoor) loves the virtuous Vidya (the metaphor of knowledge, played by Nargis), but succumbs to the seductions of virago Maya (the symbol of worldly illusions, Nadira). Raju's venal failings are exposed, but his bid for lost love and redemption (Main jo dukh paoon toh kya; aaj pachhtaoon toh kya, Ramaiyya vastavaiyya) never fails to move the viewer.

Subsequent films (Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman, Bas Itna Sa Khwaab Hai, Aa Ab Laut Chalein) have sought to plough the same furrows. None are a patch on the Kapoor original.


 
 


Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1960)
This romcom is energised by the Ganguly clan's -- Ashok, Anup and Kishore -- screwball antics and their 1928 Chevrolet that the Marx brothers would have approved of.

In this pandemonium parade, Ashok is a misogynist, Anup pines for girls but is petrified of them, while Kishore serenades the giggly Madhubala with a song on his lip and a tea flask on his hip. Kishore lasciviously eyeing Madhubala's purse because she owes him paanch rupaiya barah aana and Anup jumping out of his skin when he mistakes Madhubala's lipstick for a kartoos (bullet) are scenes that make me invariably reach out for the rewind button.


 
 


Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
When a qawwali competition between Bahar (Nigar Sultana) and court dancer Anarkali (Madhubala) ends, prince Salim (Dilip Kumar) presents his love Anarkali with thorns. Anarkali reasons, "Kaanton ko murjhane ka khauff nahin [thorns never wither]."

Mughal-e-Azam is a textbook for dialogue writers. Yet, Dilip Kumar's eloquent silence is as devastating.

Of course, Madhubala (breathtakingly beautiful and expressive) and Prithviraj Kapoor have the more showy roles. Add Naushad's rousing score, Shakeel Badayuni's peerless poetry, intricately designed sets (Sheesh Mahal is a conversation piece even today), well-mounted battle scenes. Well, you do the arithmetic.


 
 


Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam (1962)
One of the oldest showbiz chestnuts is a filmmaker flattering an actor with: I can't imagine anyone else in this role but you. If Guru Dutt had used that line to convince Meena Kumari to play the unforgettable Chhoti bahu in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam he would have been justified.

She brought to life an endlessly fascinating woman who chafes at feudal bonds and wins over her husband, but it's a Pyrrhic victory. She loses herself to alcohol. The anguish in her voice when she slurs, "Hindu ghar ki bahu hokar kya sharaab pee hai kissi ne? [Has any Hindu household's daughter-in-law drunk liquor, ever?]" reverberates forever.

The film is Guru Dutt and Meena Kumari's ode to unfulfilled love.


 
 


Bandini (1963)
When I was young, Nutan's exalted status mystified me. Probably because I saw her latter-day melodramas Meherban, Khandaan and Gauri before I saw her earlier films like Seema and Bandini.

Bandini converted me into a Nutan admirer. The actress beautifully conveyed a deeply cerebral understanding of her character's interior map. Director Bimal Roy plunges right into the troubled soul of a physically still woman capable of great passion (Nutan murders Ashok Kumar's wife) and bottomless remorse.

In the climax, Nutan chooses old love Ashok Kumar over youthful Dharmendra, the song Mere saajan hai uss par echoing the mute churnings of her mind. The scene captures the headlong abandon of all true passion, before and since.


 
 


Sangam (1964)
Sure, the hypotenuse in Sangam's triangle, Rajendra Kumar shows a marked martyr complex, but the film's central husband-wife relationship between Raj Kapoor and the ravishing Vyjayanthimala is one of the most affecting ever.

A boorish Kapoor finds it difficult to accept the fact that his wife has kept a letter from a previous admirer. But he finds the pocket of grace in the middle of his pettiness to say, "Apna ghar chhod ke mat jao Radha [do not leave your home]." Vyjayanthimala is not leaving him because he has broken her heart, but because she cannot bear to see his agony.

It's a messy, mature love story with the highest gloss quotient in the satiny 1960s.


 
 


Guide (1966)
In the Shailendra nugget, Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai, Waheeda Rehman runs precariously over a ledge to express her newfound dangerous freedom. Like her, director Vijay Anand took wing and shook the syntax of Hindi cinema.

Guide is a complex romance between two grey characters -- an adulterous, ambitious dancer Rosy (Waheeda) and a drinking, gambling, exploitative guide Raju (Dev Anand).

The craggy relationship between two essentially self-involved people preoccupied with their insecurities is enhanced by Waheeda's fire-flashing eyes and Dev Anand's self-mocking performance, his best in a 55-year career.


 
 


Anupama (1966)
In a scene from Hrishikesh Mukherji's Anupama, Dharmendra describes Anupama as "Jiski koi upma nahin (one who cannot be compared)." It encapsulates my feelings for this sensitive gem whose climax makes me reach for the tissue box.

An insight into a fractured relationship between an emotionally withholding father (Tarun Bose) and his daughter (Sharmila Tagore), Anupama is an embarrassment of riches: Sharmila's odyssey from self-effacement to self-empowerment; Dharmendra's profound appreciation of her inner self; Rajinder Bedi's rousing dialogue; Hemant Kumar's haunting rendition of Ya dil ki suno duniyawalon and Kaifi Azmi's lyrics Kaliyon se koi poochta hasti hai ya roti hai.


 
 


Garam Hawa (1973)
Garam Hawa speaks for ordinary people whose lives are haplessly caught in political maelstroms not of their making.

Director M S Sathyu's stark film is set in Agra where a Muslim household weighs its options and considers migration to Pakistan.

The towering Balraj Sahni reveals in his careworn features all the anguish of an ordinary shoemaker compelled to make a hard choice. The scene where Sahni's mother hides herself because she does not want to vacate her ancestral home will haunt me forever.


 
 


Sholay (1975)
Twenty-seven years ago, when Amitabh Bachchan tossed a coin in Sholay I sprang from my seat at the New Excelsior theatre, Mumbai, to see if I had dropped some change. Today, we may have become blasť to the impact of stereophonic sound and a 70mm screen, but then it was like watching Neil Armstrong take his first strides on the moon.

Despite this curry Western's constellation of stars, as Shah Rukh Khan once observed, 'Even the coin in the movie assumed a character.' Plus, there is Salim-Javed's crunchier-than-cornflakes lines, Amjad Khan's performance as the most remembered movie psycho, and Dwarka Divecha's panoramic cinematography.

But the biggest credit goes to ringmaster Ramesh Sippy. If he thought sarkar sabaashi denge, he was right on target!


Tell us which is your all-time favourite Hindi movie, and why?

 

 
 
Tell us what you think of this list

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