Thursday, January 31, 2008

My Favourite Movies

After writing about my harrowing experiences of watching some mind-numbingly bad films, the logical conclusion was to write about the best films I have watched.
Now, I am extremely paranoid about using the word ‘Best’ since one man’s meat is the other man’s Uttapam. That's why I have paraphrased it into My Favourite Films of all times – which is more personal and maybe non-controversial.
The only problem is that everyone has seen each one of these films multiple times and consequently, there are no chances of me saying anything novel. I think I will just link to all the posts I have already written about most of these films!
So, here goes a list of 13 of My Favourite Films of All Times (in chronological order).
One question, why 13?
Just. It’s my blog. I will put 17.6 films I choose to.

Jewel Thief 
Once upon a time, there was a Jewel Thief. Actually once upon a time, there used to be kick-ass stories in Hindi cinema.
A police commissioner’s son is a gemological expert and looks exactly like an international burglar. The girl he falls in love with is actually in love with the burglar.
Confused? Just watch the film for its mind-blowing music (SD at his peak), Dev Anand’s suave swagger (before he degenerated into a caricature) and Tanuja’s blink-and-miss appearance. The story will suck you in and we realize why they still dedicate films to Vijay Anand.

My mother promised me a cracker of a film on Doordarshan one Sunday evening. She was right as usual and I, a six-year old totally sold on dhishum-dhishum, became a film of Hindi film music. Everybody has one Sunday Hindi Film Memory, at which point he/she became a film fan. Aradhana was my tipping point.
Rajesh Khanna tilted just right. Sharmila simpered just enough. SD (the man again!) delivered probably his best soundtrack. A clichéd story of unrequited love spanning two generations made stars out of the first two – and reaffirmed faith of the industry in the third.
While on the topic, you might as well read about one of the best entries of a hero in a Hindi film. As well as about one of the questions that has intrigued mankind most since the disappearance of Atlantis.

Deewaar won almost every Filmfare award in 1975. Best Screenplay. Best Dialogue. Best Supporting Actor. Best Director. Best Film. I said almost all the awards because the man playing Vijay Verma did not win.
I penned down some thoughts on the Most Perfect Hindi Screenplay after viewing the film for the 72nd time here.

This is unquestionably the first film I ever watched – even before my memory started forming. I wrote about it here – and hey, I even won a prize for my troubles!
What can you say about a film that copied its story from earlier Hindi and Hollywood films? Surely, not The Greatest Story Ever Told.
What can you say about a film that stars a flop hero as second lead and a complete newcomer as the main villain? Surely, not the Greatest Star Cast Ever Assembled.
So, where does that leave Sholay? Go figure.

Along with its spiritual cousin, Chhoti Si Baat, this film is one of the best examples of middle-of-the-road cinema. It was tantalizingly close to the lives of the audience and yet hilariously over-the-top to engage them completely.
Its title song – Golmaal hain bhai, sab golmaal hain – was a favourite of mine, which I sang with passion and completely out of tune! But by the time Utpal Dutt calls a cop a Foolish Officer in the climax, you are totally and entirely out of breath from laughing. Dashrath Prasad Sharma’s two sons are mindblowing enough to make a comeback almost three decades later.
And don’t forget RD-Gulzar’s ‘Aanewala pal jaanewala hain’ – arguably, the best film song ever composed.

A good whodunit is one in which you are given all the clues as the detective and he still manages to piece them together before you do. A perfect whodunit is one in which you are told who the murderer is and you still don’t catch on till the time it is actually revealed. Khamosh falls in this second category.
When I asked for the cassette at Gupta Video Parlour, the jerk at the counter said, “Oh – the one in which Om Puri is the murderer?” and all through the movie, I thought that the guy was wrong. BTW, relax – Om Puri is not even in the film!
A wonderful ensemble cast played a film crew assembled at a Kashmiri hill station to shoot a typically masala film and one by one, people started getting bumped off. A detective arrives, people’s drug addiction comes to light, the heroine walks in her sleep, shady waiters add to the complication… and you have a cracker of a film.
Trivia: All the characters are named after the actors who play them!
Mr Chopra – stop discussing Eklavya and make one more film like Khamosh.

Mr India 
When the video boom invaded the country, a standard entertainment programme was devised by families across the country. Hire a VCR for a day along with some three or four cassettes and the entire family can congregate for a day of solid entertainment. Given the diverse age groups of the audience, the films had to be carefully chosen. Good, clean fun (preferably with a little bit of sentimental and/or religious undertones) was the order of the day – and no film fitted the bill better than Mr India.
Contrary to the perception of those times, the film was not about a body builder. It was about an Invisible Man, his reporter girlfriend (who worked for a newspaper called The Crimes Of India!) and a bunch of cute kids who sang spoofs of Hindi film songs to get their football back.
And not only Mogambo, har koi khush hua!

When you are in Class IX, you are always in love with your history teacher.
At a time when the entire film output consisted of college romances, a wonderfully stylish film about a young man falling in love with an older woman was too good to be true. And then, the woman’s daughter fell in love with the man. Wow!
Yash Chopra brought a twist to his chiffon-and-roses brand of romance and backed it up with great music (by Shiv-Hari). Anil Kapoor shaved off his moustache and made a smooth transition from tapori Munna-bhai to Kunwar Virendra Pratap Singh. Sridevi looked a million dollars but why she wanted to marry a squeaky-voiced Deepak Malhotra was not quite explained.
On second thoughts, all Class IX students are not in love with their history teachers. If they were, they would have all watched Lamhe and it wouldn’t have been such a flop.

Andaz Apna Apna 
Okay, time to test your general knowledge…
Q. Which player has scored six goals for Mohan Bagan in an IFA Shield Final?
Q. What is the specialty of Vasco Da Gama’s gun?
Q. Given a choice, would you want to go to New York or America?
For none of the answers and some thoughts on the people who love the film, you may want to read this.
I watched the film in Priya Cinema with a friend, who is a bit of an Scorces-Kubrick man. How and why he agreed to come with me for the film eludes me right now but I do remember him asking me (after the film) if that was the general level of humour I appreciated. I had to shamefacedly admit my absolute enjoyment of the same!
I am still a connoisseur of the same kind of humour, so you could call me one of the early patrons. Like Dr Prem Khurana, iss dhande mein bahut purana!

How does a terrorist’s mind work? At what point does an honest man break? Where lies the thin line between a patriot and terrorist? Drohkaal defied all the things that made ‘art cinema’ pariah for the masala film bhakt.
It made an eerily gripping tale of duty and honour, set in the background of infiltrating a terrorist group. Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri returned to a Govind Nihalini film together for the first time since Aakrosh – and the results were just as explosive.
I remember watching the movie in Roxy Cinema of Calcutta and being very impressed with Ashish Vidyarthi and Meeta Vashisht. They, of course, betrayed me completely and went on to act in Bicchhoo and Oops.
The biggest tribute to the film came from my dad when he saw the film and said, “Even Ritwik Ghatak couldn’t have done better.” And that’s saying a lot.

I have watched this film three times. In the theatres, that is. My sister gave me a DVD and I lost count after that.
The first time I watched it was when the film was in its first weekend at Inox in Calcutta. I paid Rs 200 each for the tickets and as I swiped a credit card for the first time to buy movie tickets, I felt a little nostalgic (like old people do) about the five-rupee tickets at Nandan.
But by the time Amitabh Bachchan met Selvamani, I was willing to pay more. After all, it was not a film I was watching but a concept. “Subhash Nagre ek insaan ka naam hain. Aur Sarkar ek soch.
My wife, on the other hand, pronounced that Abhishek Bachchan runs even better than his father. Just for the record, I don’t agree.

Om Shanti Om 
I wanted a book that would list all the gossip, trivia, goofs and spoofs of Bollywood. Instead, I got a film.
And I realise that Bollywood Ka Boss is a woman.
There. Done it. I think I can do a few more of these!

UPDATED TO ADD: I suddenly realised people are giving my posts more attention than they deserve! Two people pointed out that I was short by a film.

The lukkha-giri of Delhi University (or for that matter, any university) was never better portrayed and Sai Paranjpye deserves a big round of applause for that. The subtle humour, the dreadful dress-sense, the sense of peace with the entire world and the desperation reserved only for women are things I have seen so many times in real life and only a few times on screen. Of course, it also had a priceless sequence in which Deepti Naval and Ravi Baswani act out romantic songs from Hindi films down the ages - and I have a big weakness for these Medley Song Sequences. The above list has two films - Mr India and Lamhe - that had these!


Anamika said...

U said 13 ... I counted only 12.

Greatbong said...

Gupta video. Mouchaak and Gupta Video. Did you have one of those Gupta video membership cards? I preferred Neha video near Mandeville Gardens for Hindi flicks.Gupta had the best English collection...

Lovely post.

You were JU mechanical in GasBelly's batch. Right? Were you the one who wrote that awesome piece in Chayapath which had the line:

"The Xerox is the second greatest labor saving device invented. The greatest being tomorrow".

sbora said...

you are funny. have never commented on your blog but couldnt help!

btw, there are only 12. where is #13 or should I say 17.6:-)

Vrij said...

Andaz Apna Apna is my all-time fav.. it might seem to be slapstick, but unlike David Dhawan or Priyan movies, this one had sense.

Example: Salman says he saw Sholay 10 times. Aamir quips 'iske baap ne likhi hai'.. which is actually true!

And of course, Sholay, Golmaal, Choti si baat were classics.

Vrij said...

Ok.. I just went thru ur post on AAA.. :)

Anonymous said...

oh, wow, finally atleast someone i know likes drohkaal. it was a brilliant, simply brilliant movie. it even got remade in tamil, with kamal haasan... and what a well-made remake that was!
mita vashisht betrayed you more than you think... i remember her playing a crass jailor with lesbian tendencies in an extremely crude third-rate movie which I couldn't stand watching for more than ten minutes.. not sure if it is the ones you mentioned.

Dipta Chaudhuri said...

@ Anamika, sbora: Thanks. Added the 13th.

@ GB: You and I have too many things in common. Cal 29, JU, Parnab... and now Gupta Video. We did have a membership card and the films we took on that card deserve a separate post.
In JU, I was not only in Nilendu's batch but his bench as well for most of the time!
And yes, I am indeed the person who wrote that line you quoted. I had forgotten it myself but being reminded of it 10 years later is very flattering indeed.
Thanks - you made my day!

Bapi said...

One corection - the title should have been My Favourite Hindi Movies, because you have not included Ray's films and I am sure many other non- Hindi movies. May be another blog is called for

Tania said...

You have picked a few of my most entertaining ones here.My all time favorites are Jewel Thief, Deewar,Sholay,and Drohkaal(the others are in my love watching again list too).
BTW didn't you like the other Amol Palekar, Utpal dutt movies like Naram Garam and Rang Birangi?
What about the sad oldies? Your thoughts on them?

Greatbong said...


That piece in Chayapath was just awesome. I remember reading it and saying to myself "Wish I could write like that.". As you see so many years later, I still remember that line.

One of my favorite JU pastimes was to take the pamphlets handed out by SFI, DSF, RSA and perform certain racy "edits" on them and pass it around the class (when the prof was teaching), leading to much merriment.

udayan said...

Awesome list.

AAA is definitely the best movie ever made (well .... actually no, but one of the most enjoyable).

And Drohkaal was an inspired pick. Simply unforgottable. Another guy who I had big hopes of after watching the movie was Milind Gunaji (of 3 and a half dialogues). He too flattered to deceive.

Beryl said...

Chashme-Baddoor and Choti Se baat are my absolute favs.

Khamosh was a movie that I discovered on DD while I was surfing channels..And I loved the plot-very sinister and Not once can u guiess who is the baddie in this

Andaz apna convinced me that i have a very low threshold of humor and I am very proud of it :)