You know what? There are so many great Bollywood movies, it would be impossible to just list ten of them – so the gracious editors of BollySpice.com have allowed me to do the whole enthralling exercise twice over! In the first part of this article, we read about the 10 greatest movies in the early eras of Bollywood – from the 20s to the 70s, ending with the groundbreaking Sholay. In this article, we’re going to look at ten more great movies from the modern era.
The first of these is very special to me. It’s Khoon Bhari Maang (1988), and it’s special because it was the very first Bollywood movie I ever saw. I was around a friend’s house and we’d just finished carrying out a detailed analysis of some of the favourite features of our local hostelries. So there we were, sitting in his living room with a takeaway curry on our laps, when the ritual cry went up – ‘What’s the midnight movie?’ ‘Oh, dearie me,’ my friend said, or words to that effect, ‘It’s one of those Indian things – you know with the trees and the orchestra offscreen.’ ‘Trees?’ ‘Yeah, there’s always some really pretty girl being chased around a tree by an ugly guy.’ ‘Like in Creature from the Black Lagoon?’ ‘Sort of.’ ‘Okay, pretty girl-ugly guy, can’t be all bad. Let’s give it a shot,’ I said. And that was it, my life was transformed forever. Once I’d looked upon the golden countenance of Rekha (especially in the second half after the makeover), there was no turning back. Since that time, by my own estimates, I’ve seen over 3000 Bollywood movies but none remains as clear in my mind as Khoon Bhari Maang, and no heroine can come remotely as close in my heart as Rekha. The story is a simple one of revenge. Rekha is Aarti, and she is not very attractive with a disfiguring birthmark on her face. She is widowed but rich. Kabir Bedi weaves his way into her life, tricking her into marrying him. The day after they are married, he literally throws her to the crocodiles from a boat. However, she is rescued by a kindly farmer who looks after her. She then trades everything she has, her diamond earrings, for extensive plastic surgery. The upshot is that she becomes a breathtakingly beautiful femme fatale. Unrecognized, she then sets about weaving her way back into Kabir Bedi’s life. To see what happens next, you must watch the movie!
Here’s a secret! Anil Kapoor is older than he looks! He is lucky in having one of those rounded, happy faces that never seem to age, but it was in 1987 that he first sprang to stardom in Mr. India. This is that rare thing in Indian movies, at least until recently, a comic science-fiction superhero movie. Even before this movie, Anil had been around for a while, building his credentials with a succession of solid performances, including Meri Jung, but it was Mr. India that made him the star he is today. The plot revolves around an evil villain, Amrish Puri as Mogambo. You remember Amrish, he’s the really bad guy in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as well. Through his international terrorist organization, Mogambo is infiltrating all areas of Indian society, causing chaos and mayhem all over. His ultimate plan is to take over the country. Arun (Anil Kapoor) is an everyday good guy. Although he has no money and is homeless, he somehow succeeds in running an unofficial orphanage for street children. Could there ever be anyone any more noble than that? Arun then discovers a secret device that can make the owner invisible. He uses this ability to carry out noble deeds. Personally, I can think of other uses for such an invisibility device, mostly related to girls changing rooms, but then I’m not as noble as Arun. Eventually, he comes up against Mogambo’s evil organization and the rest, as they say, is history. For some eye-popping action and great family entertainment, Mr. India is the one for you!
The recent Umrao Jaan with Aishwarya and Abhishek was a pretty good movie, but for sensitivity of performance, it doesn’t come anywhere near the 1981 original which starred Rekha. The story is based on Mirza Hadi Ruswa’s classic from 1905 and focuses on the life of the famous Lucknow courtesan of the same name. It’s a classic heartbreaking story, the type that only Bollywood can do so well. A young girl is kidnapped from the streets and sold to a brothel. She learns all the arts of the courtesan and then falls in love with a local Nawab. However, there’s no way his family is going to let him marry a prostitute and he must marry to their taste in order to keep his position and money. Guess what he does – the little spineless rat fink? But never mind, our heroine moves on and she then falls in love with a bandit chieftain, but tragically, he is killed by the police. But it’s still not over because of course, bad news comes in threes in Bollywood. The British then decide to invade Lucknow and everyone in the city is forced to flee. Unknowingly, Rekha stumbles across the village where she was born as she drifts through the countryside. Slowly, she begins to recognize it and to seek out her family. Then amazingly she finds them, but will they take her back again? That’s what you need to find out by watching this great movie.
Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988) is a tragic romance with some very light touches that enshrines all the elements of the modern genre and stars a young and confident Aamir Khan in his first movie and the gorgeous pout of Juhi Chawla. This was a landmark of a movie and, along with Khoon Bhari Maang, is often seen as the turning point in the industry. During the late 70s and early 80s, it had allowed itself to get bogged down in increasingly violent and unimaginative scripts, as though we were watching more and more photocopies of Sholay with each one a little more faded and a little more jaded compared to the last.
Then came these two great movies showing panache,