Friday, September 11, 2015

Top 5 Bollywood Classics

This one's a guest post from the archives from my dear friend, Beth of BethLovesBollywood.

Mtoher India Balcony Row

A classic film for me is one that has stood up through the passage of time, I'd say at least 20 years (long enough for an entirely different generation to encounter it as teens or adults), that still makes an impact in some way: the craft of film-making, aesthetics, story, characters, performances, ideas it addresses, questions it raises, commentary it offers, description or evocation of a particular time/place, etc.

Here are my top 5 picks:

1. Mother India (1957) 
See it for the communism, see it for the lengths a filmi mother will go to in order to protect her own version of her son, and see it for its powerhouse conclusion fueled by a woman's mighty moral stance. 

2. Dharmputra (1961)

Long before Yash Raj Films was associated with cheesiness (romantic or otherwise), Yash Chopra made this fiery film about the vital importance of communal harmony in nation-building. Amid fiery Hindu/Muslim tensions, there is still room for some heart-wrenching family drama and fiercely feminist language and characterizations.

3. Sharmeelee (1971)
Traditional vs. modern, fantasy vs. reality, proper vs. misplaced loyalty, introversion vs. involvement with the wider world...the list goes on. In addition to the seemingly never-ending shades of its story, Sharmeelee features lovely songs, fabulous costumes, and strong performances in a double role by Rakhee and a forlorn lover by Shashi Kapoor.

4. Parvarish (1977)
Although it is often overshadowed by Amar Akbar Anthony, another of director Manmohan Desai's releases in 1977, Parvarish is masala perfected. Typical masala story elements and moral messages are supported and greatly enhanced by pretty much everything you could ever want: long-lost family members, mistaken identities, romance, revenge, brothers and sisters, police, smugglers, disguises, temporary blindness, a qawwali, a villain lair with a death trap...and even a submarine.

 5. Kaala Patthar (1979)
The story is full of conflicts and genuine peril, focusing tightly on just one little community whose life depends on the dangerous but vital endeavor of coal mining, and its telling (again by Yash Chopra) grabs my emotions and won't let go. Kaala Patthar addresses big questions ranging from the importance of dreams to personal responsibility to hints of environmentalism, but it never feels like "an issues film." The coal dust covering almost every surface in the sets of this film perfectly suits the gray shades of emotion and ethics.

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