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Sriram Raghavan | January 12, 2004 08:00 IST

Listing his five favourite films was not impossible for filmmaker Sriram Raghavan. "There will be at least a hundred that I would want to squeeze in," he says.

Raghavan makes his debut as director with the thriller Ek Hasina Thi, featuring Urmila Matondkar and Saif Ali Khan, which releases on January 16.

Raghavan says, "One of the USPs of Ek Hasina Thi is the jail sequences." Figures that he would list his five favourite jail films.

"These are films I love and watched whilst making Ek Hasina Thi. They were a source of inspiration and excitement. They set a high standard for me whilst struggling with scenes and shoot," he adds.  

The Shawshank Redemption: Based on a Stephen King novella, Frank Darabont's debut film is an absorbing and uplifting story of survival against all odds. Lifer Morgan Freeman narrates the story of protagonist Tim Robbins, an innocent man sentenced for the murder of his wife and how he refuses to let the prison crush his spirit.

Brilliant performances, masterly direction and a script that totally deserved the Oscar it got.

My favourite scene is when inmate Tim Robbins finds a wriggling worm in his rice. He is about to throw the plate away, when another old inmate asks for the worm. A zapped Robbins gives him the worm. What does the old man do?  Won't spoil your fun. See the movie.

Midnight Express: This Alan Parker film is based on the true story of Billy Hayes, an American tourist arrested in Turkey whilst trying to smuggle out dope. Five years of hell in a Turkish film collapsed into two hours of intense, harrowing cinema.

The script is by Oliver Stone before he turned director. It is a disturbing document of both conditions in the prison and the gradual descent of the prisoner into near madness and despair. 

I love the scene when his girlfriend comes to meet him after some years and he asks her to take off her clothes. It is horrifying, humane, sad, emotional and shocking. 

Stalag 17: Thank God for DVDs. This Billy Wilder gem is available and a total must-see. Set in a German prisoner of war camp, it tells the story of opportunistic sergeant William Holden, who makes money any which way within the confines of the camp.

Unable to stomach his thriving trade, his own co-prisoners suspect him of being in cahoots with the Germans. Wilder shatters the cliché treatment of war films, which show camaraderie amongst soldiers and cynically exposes how the allied prisoners ultimately are no different from their captors.

Incidentally, Billy Wilder was Manmohan Desai's favourite director. I love MD too.

Bandini:  Though set largely in a women's jail, Bimal Roy's classic is not so much a prison film as it is a love story. But I just must include it. Ashok Kumar, Nutan and a young Dharmendra are the key players in this tale of love and murder where destiny is the real villain.

The best love stories are those in which love is unrequited. The ending of Bandini put me -- the viewer -- in a quandary: is this a happy ending or a sad one or both?

S D Burman's score is exquisite: Ab ke baras bhejo bhaiya ko babul, Mora gora rang laile and Mere saajan hai us paar.

Bandini is a classic example of a film that defies the idiotic commercial film-art film divide.

The last one? Too difficult to choose betweenThe Great Escape (a rousing all star cast adventure); The Dirty Dozen (studded with stars and excitement); Escape From Alcatraz (Clint Eastwood and director Don Siegel); The Hurricane (Denzel Washington); In The Name Of The Father and the very recent Spike Lee film, 25th Hour

As told to Sukanya Verma

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