Ten old Hindi films I’d recommend

This post came about because of my recent review of Rangeen Raatein. Another film-lover, an American, noticed that post and said that she thought it was time she began branching out into watching Hindi cinema too (she’d already seen a good bit of Satyajit Ray’s work). She thought she’d begin with Rangeen Raatein. I was quick to dissuade her, of course—even I, die-hard Shammi Kapoor fan that I am, probably couldn’t stomach a rewatch of that film.

But it made me think: if I had to introduce a newcomer to Hindi cinema (or, more specifically, pre-70s Hindi cinema, since that’s what I love most), which films would I recommend? They would have to be films that are available with English subtitles, of course.

So here it is: my list. I do not claim that these are the best Hindi films of that era; by no means. They just happen to be ten of my favourites. These are in no particular order.

1. Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962): A naïve country bumpkin arrives in late 19th century Calcutta, and encounters two very different worlds, peopled by two very different people. One is the warm, sunny world of the strong-willed Jaba, who flirts with him; the other is the dark gloom of the grandly decaying mansion where the beautiful Chhoti Bahu spends her days and nights waiting for the philandering husband who has no time for her.

See it for: The excellent direction (Abrar Alvi, though most believe that Guru Dutt himself was the actual director). The great script, based on Bimal Mitra’s novel. And, last but not least, Meena Kumari’s award-winning role as the Chhoti Bahu, doomed and desperate and almost haunting in her intensity.

2. CID (1956): The editor of a Bombay newspaper is murdered in his office on the eve of a major exposé.  The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) cop who handles the case finds himself being offered a bribe by a mysterious woman—and ends up being charged with torturing an arrested man to death.

See it for: The gritty, fast-paced, entertainment that makes this the best example of Bollywood noir. CID does have the songs and the romance and even the comic elements of the typical 50s and 60s Hindi film, but in its basics, it’s relatively close to the noir form known to Western cinema: grimy, brooding, and dark.

3. Dekh Kabira Roya (1957): Frothy, farcical comedy about three girl friends: one a painter, one a poet, and the third a singer, who’ve made up their minds that they can only ever fall in love with a man who shares their own passion for art/literature/music. Problems arise for the men who do fall in love with these ladies—because the men, while one is a publisher, one a singer, and one an artist—do not fall for the lady they’re ‘supposed’ to.

See it for: The sheer light-heartedness of the film, one of those unfortunately rare 50s and 60s Hindi films that are pure comedy.

4. Professor (1962): An educated but unemployed young man is forced—by poverty and his widowed mother’s illness—to take up a tutor’s job, disguised as an elderly professor. In the process, he falls in love with the elder sister of his two little students, and she reciprocates the love of this handsome man who’s wooing her. Complications arise when her termagant aunt falls for the old professor and makes up her mind to finally get married.

See it for: Shammi Kapoor, who rules this film—it’s my favourite role of his, where he so effortlessly manages to be both the wise old professor and the charming young flirt. Also, for Lalita Pawar’s acting. And for the fact that this is the romantic/comic/drama film that was so characteristic of actors like Shammi Kapoor and Dev Anand.

5. Khamoshi (1969): A nurse in a mental hospital is asked to feign a romance with a patient, a man who was traumatised after being jilted. In the process, she actually falls in love with the man, who is cured—but never realises her feelings for him, and returns to his ex-lover. The situation takes a turn for the worse when the nurse is ordered to repeat the experiment with yet another patient who has also been a victim of a failed romance. Will she be able to withstand the emotional implications of this? Will her heart heal?

See it for: The sensitivity of the story and its direction. And Waheeda Rehman, whose acting as Radha is impeccable.

6. Waqt (1965): The quintessential multi-starrer blockbuster of the 60s. A wealthy trader, his wife, and three young sons—the youngest a baby—are separated from each other during an earthquake. Years later, their paths cross again: the father is now an ex-convict, the eldest son is a gentleman thief, the middle son is a lawyer, and the youngest son, who lives with his invalid mother—is a chauffeur to a wealthy crook. And none of them knows of the relationship to the others. Many coincidences, much drama, loads of entertainment,

See it for: The glamour, the slickness, and the cocktail of high society life, crime, romance: Waqt has it all. Also, you get to see some of Hindi cinema’s biggest names onscreen, together.

7. Chori-Chori (1956): A remake of the Clark Gable-Claudette Colbert starrer, It Happened One Night (1934). A spoilt heiress runs away from her father, who disapproves of her romance with a worthless adventurer. En route to her sweetheart, she meets a journalist who realises that this is the news story of a lifetime. Their journey begins with them going at each other hammer and tongs before becoming friends—and eventually falling in love.

See it for: The chemistry between Raj Kapoor and Nargis. And the light-hearted, often funny, adventure that forms the bulk of the film.

8. Pyaasa (1957): The story of a disillusioned, outcast poet, Vijay, who realises that much of the world revolves around money and power—a realisation that sinks him even deeper into cynicism. Vijay’s life takes a turn when a prostitute named Gulabo becomes his friend (and falls in love with him), and a chance accident causes Vijay to realise just how fickle society can be.

See it for: The direction, by Guru Dutt (who also plays Vijay): it’s harsh, cynical, and—oddly—both subtle as well as dramatic, at times. Also for the excellent songs; while all the films I’ve listed in this post have wonderfully melodious scores, Pyaasa’s songs are also a showcase for the genius of one of Hindi cinema’s best lyricists, Sahir Ludhianvi.

9. Teesri Kasam (1967): A naïve bullock cart driver is hired to drive a woman—a dancer in a nautanki company—to a distant town for a performance. En route, they become friends, even (in a sweetly platonic way) developing a deep, unexpressed affection for each other. The cart driver, however, does not fully realise the fact that the woman’s profession will not let her go so easily—and does she even want to let go of it for domesticity?

See it for: The quietly lyrical beauty of the story, its leisurely rural setting, and the subtle way in which it’s portrayed. The acting of both Waheeda Rehman and Raj Kapoor, who are excellent as the lead characters.

10. Anupama (1966): A man, deeply in love with his wife, is shattered when she dies in childbirth—and he takes out his anger and sorrow on his baby girl, whom he blames for the death of her mother. The girl grows up timid and scared, knowing her father as a cold, bitter man who only allows himself to show any affection for his daughter when he is very drunk.

See it for: The sensitive, lovely way in which the tenuous relationship between a resentful father and his blameless daughter is explored. And the acting—of Tarun Bose as the father, Sharmila Tagore as the daughter, and Dharmendra as the young poet who falls in love with the girl and tries to help her spread her wings.

These are ten of the films I’d recommend (there are many more, like Anokhi Raat, Prem Patra, Junglee, Teesri Manzil, Haqeeqat and Nau Do Gyarah—but these are the ones I thought merited first listing). Which films would you recommend?

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115 thoughts on “Ten old Hindi films I’d recommend

  1. Thanks so much for the recommendations. I really like 4 of the 5 on this list that I’ve seen, so I look forward to checking out the other five, and rewatching CID

  2. Great list, Madhu!
    3 films from Guru Dutt’s stables!

    It is so difficult to choose ten favs! Congratulations on the accomplished task!

    May I also recommend Bandini and/or Sujata.
    My most fav from your list are all the Guru Dutt films, Khamoshi, Anupama and above all Teesri Kasam. It has been a long time since I saw Professor, Dekh Kabira Roya and Waqt. So maybe I would have substituted it with Teesri Manzil, Chalit Ka Naam Gaadi and Guide.

    Thanks for bringing up the nostalgia! :-)

    • After racking my brains a bit, I came up with the following list. It has many things common with yours:
      Baazi
      Awara
      Pyaasa
      Bandini
      Teesri Manzil
      Guide
      Teesri Kasam
      Anupama
      Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam
      Chalti Ka Naam Gadi

    • Thank you, Harvey! Yes, three films from Guru Dutt – even though I find some of his films pretty hard to bear (Kaagaz ke Phool and Chaudhvin ka Chaand are just too depressing for me), he was a fabulous director and producer.

      I like your list too! Especially Bandini (along with Sujata, that was on my shortlist) and Teesri Manzil – what a fantastic film that one is. :-) As far as Guide is concerned, I’ll be my usual iconoclastic self and say I personally don’t much care for it. But then, that’s your list.. :-)

      (Though, seeing you didn’t include Mother India, I can see you’re being a bit of an iconoclast yourself)!

        • I agree! I remember, the first time (actually, the only time) I watched Mother India, I’d already heard so much about it. I was expecting something mind-blowingly good. I guess it was good (too unrelentingly morbid, in my opinion), but it didn’t stir me to anything but yawns.

  3. Thanks for this list. Dekh Kabira Roya sounds terrific – I had never heard of that one, now I want to look out for it.

    What I like about your selections is that they are not all the usual suspects. I’d expect to see movies like Pyaasa on a list like this but for the most part your choices are unusual (at least compared to what I normally hear people talking about, in my limited experience), and that is what makes the list useful. Who needs recommendations of 10 films everyone knows and has seen?

    This, incidentally, is why I haven’t done any top 10 list sort of posts myself, despite being asked from time to time. I just don’t think I know enough to write an interesting list. I really appreciate this.

    carla (Filmi Geek)

    • Thanks, Carla. Yes, Pyaasa is one of those must-see films that appear on every list of this kind, along with Guide and Mother India and Do Bigha Zameen… but I figured it was time I listed films I like other than the acclaimed classics. There are loads of great films out there which people tend to sneer at because they’re not highbrow – comedies, for example; or suspense films. Since I love seeing films across genres, I guessed I should do a list which includes films I consider enjoyable – not necessarily magnificent cinema, but entertaining.

      After all, if Hitchcock can be considered a great director, why not a Vijay Anand or a Raj Khosla? Okay, not in the same league, but you know what I mean.

      Do check out Dekh Kabira Roya – it’s a really cute film, and everybody has a lot of fun.

      • I am a huge fan of Vijay Anand so I can’t object to him being included in any list of great directors! It might even be fair to say that, over time, he has risen to become my favorite Hindi film director. Tere Ghar Ke Samne finally pushed him over the top.

        I just checked Induna for Dekh Kabira Roya – DVD is out of stock, drat! I need to find another source for my fix. ;)

        carla (Filmi Geek)

  4. What a lovely idea for a list, Madhu. Like Carla, I like that you haven’t just mentioned the biggies. I cannot cavil at any of your selections, and I’m sure you agree that ten films does not even begin to do justice to that era. Never fear: the comments section is sure to throw up a few hundred. :)) Harvey has already put in his choices, now I’ll list some of my favourites (like you, I’m not arguing they are the best, but I like them for various reasons).

    If you take out the obvious suspects (Pyaasa, Awara, Shree 420, Mother India, et al, my list would be:

    1. Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi – for its sheer abusrdity; the sort of nonsense that only Kishore Kumar could make sensible.
    2. Parakh – for its simplicity.
    3. China Town – for a good attempt at noir.
    4. Anuradha – a nice slice-of-life film before that term was even thought of. A sensitive subject, sensitively handled (even though I did not agree with the ending.)
    5. Haqeeqat – I think it is one of the finest war films ever made, certainly the best that India has made.
    6. Jaagte Raho – made a commendable allegory.
    7. Kanoon – for its introspection, and the courtroom dramatics.
    8. Andaz – Flawed though it is, is still a fresh take on how relationships cane be formed and misconstrued.
    9. Madhumati – If you want a reincarnation story, go for this one.
    10. Mugha-e-Azam – hey, I’m allowed one big film! Besides, this one had the best of the genre – great actors, great music, and as Dharampaaji would have put it -isme ackshun hai, emoshun hai, drrrama hai. What more can you ask from a film? :)

    Garam Hawa would make any list of great films, but it is of a later vintage.

    Goody! I’ll come back and see what gems your readers will unearth. *Rubbing hands in anticipation*
    Thanks for opening up a discussion on such an interesting topic, Madhu.

    • “ten films does not even begin to do justice to that era

      I couldn’t agree more! Yes, I can definitely think of a lot of other films I’d recommend (as you see, I’ve tried to squeeze in mentions of some more, right at the end of the post). And I was hoping that readers would oblige and post their favourites too, so that this page can become a helpful reference for newcomers to old Hindi cinema. :-) Thank you for your contributions, Anu!

      Of the films you’ve listed, I especially love Parakh, Haqeeqat and Kanoon – they’re all very good. Jaagte Raho is, on the whole, a good film (much better than I’d expected it to be), but RK’s lapse into the bumbling simpleton – rushing about indulging in comic antics when he has the opportunity to drink some water – irritated me.

      Ouch. I just realised I haven’t seen Garam Hawa yet.

  5. I think I’d trade out Solva Saal for Chori Chori, and Dil Deke Dekho for Professor, and I’d have to put Aakhri Khat in there too. And Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi. What fun, I’ll have to think about it some more!

    • Dil Deke Dekho is another favourite of mine, as is Solvaan Saal. And Aakhri Khat I still haven’t seen! Somehow the thought of that poor little kid toddling around Bombay on his own scares me…

  6. Love all the movies listed. For me Waqt is the most stylish movie made and apart from songs, Ravi saab’s background music with characteristic piano notes is unforgettable. Guide, aar paar, Jaagte Raho are some of the movies which got missed out in this list. I am sure all of us have our Top 10 recommendations.

    • ‘Stylish’ is the word to describe Waqt. I can’t think of any other Hindi film of that era that so exemplified style.

      Guide, Jaagte Raho and Aar Paar didn’t get ‘missed out’ – I left them out on purpose, because I don’t particularly like them. But yes, all of us are entitled to our own top 10 recommendations!

      • I thought I was the only person who didn’t really like Guide :D I haven’t seen Jagte Raho (don’t really want to although I know I “should”) and Aar Paar put me to sleep. But I would like to try it again, when I’m more awake…

        • Oh, I know of others who don’t like Guide either. You should get Stuart started on this topic!

          Jaagte Raho is good, but somewhere down the line, Raj Kapoor’s penchant for clownishness a la Chaplin kicks in and he started getting pretty irritating. Aar Paar isn’t one of my favourites, either, even though it’s noir and Johnny Walker and Guru Dutt and great music…

  7. Terrific list, Madhu. Can’t argue with any of your picks – have seen all these movies, and love them all.

    Others have mentioned some of my favorite movies (like Parakh and Bandini).

    I’ll just add a few more movies to the list.

    -Tere Ghar Ke Saamne : I saw it ages ago (so I don’t remember very much of it but I do remember liking it a lot at the time of seeing it). Need to see it again.
    – Sadhana: This movie put me on the BR Chopra bandwagon.
    – Ittefaq. Though it’s based on a Hollywood movie, I thought it was very well-made in Hindi too.
    – MemDidi. A little-known movie but a very sweet one IMO. I’d recommend it very highly.

    I’m sure there are more out there but these came top-of-mind to me.

    • Thank you, Raja! – and for sharing your recommendations, too. I can’t argue with any of your picks, either – they’re great films. Ittefaq had been on my shortlist (I think it’s one of the best Hindi suspense films made), but I dropped it because I decided one remake (Chori-Chori) of a Hollywood film was enough for this list.

      I remember seeing Mem Didi a long, long time ago, and loving it. Must get hold if it again and watch it… thanks for reminding me of it.

  8. Pakeezah, Mughal-e-Azam, Guide, Pyasaa, Waqt, Amar Akbar Anthony, apart from the movies you have mentioned.

    Like you and Harvey, I did not think much of Mother India either. Do Beegha Zamin maybe. But I saw that years and years ago and don’t remember all of it.

    I have not seen Anupama and Khamoshi. I am too scared of seeing Khamoshi, can’t bear to see a woman face that kind of a heartbreak. I found Teesri Kasam also very heartbreaking in the end.

    But all the other suggestions given her are super. I am sure they will soon read like the best 50 Hindi films.

    • Yes, Teesri Kasam does get rather heartbreaking at the end, no? I too tend to steer clear of films that have sad endings – that’s why I’ve not got around to watching Baharon ke Sapne yet, because I’d been told it had a sad end.

      Khamoshi is heartbreaking, but Waheeda’s acting is so very good, I’d recommend the film just for her. She’s superb. And Anupama, while it is sad, has a sweet end – in fact, I listed the last scene from that as one of my top ten most memorable scenes from old Hindi cinema. Shilpi’s dad is excellent there.

  9. Lovely topic and one that I will be coming back to when I’ve exhausted Dev Anand’s (up to the early 70s I hasten to add) and Rajesh Khanna’s filmography! Agree on your Dev and Rajesh recommendations and those mentioned in the comments. In addition:

    1. If one of the reasons is to showcase how good looking our leads are :-) ‘Bombai ka Babu’ (1960) with Dev and Suchitra Sen would be right up there apart from the fact that it’s unusual, and by Raj Khosla (one of the best directors then), and has an absolutely topnotch soundtrack from SD Burman.

    2. ‘Kala Bazar’ (1960) for Goldie Anand’s directorial panache and SDB’s marvelous music and the fabled Dev-Waheeda chemistry, the cameos by Goldie and a v. distingué Chetan Anand as well as the premise.

    3. ‘Baharon Ke Sapne’ (1967) for RDB’s music, the cinematography, the Rajesh Khanna-Asha Parekh chemistry, and a fairly realistic portrayal of industry and labor unrest and the like, upward mobility via education (or the lack thereof, very different from the idealism portrayed in the films of the late 1940s immediately after independence) but with due apologies for the compromised last 15 mins of the film.

    4. ‘Aradhana’ (1969) – Star power of a superb soundtrack, chemistry of both Rajeshs with Sharmila Tagore and Farida Jalal, ‘Roop tera mastana’ for what it did for sex in Hindi cinema :-) and for the beginning of the magic that the trio of RD, Kishore and Rajesh spun for the next few years.

    • I like your disclaimer about Dev Anand’s filmography – only up to the early 70s! :-D Yup, beyond that he seemed to suddenly do a volte face and make a series of truly frightful films.

      Kala Bazaar is one I’ve not seen since I was a kid, so I’ve forgotten most of it. Bombai ka Babu is good, despite the rather sad (but realistic – it couldn’t have played out any other way) end.

      As I mentioned to Ava in an earlier comment, I’ve been steering clear of Baharon ke Sapne all these years because I’d heard it had a sad end. Maybe someday I will steel myself and watch it. I’ve seen songs from it, of course, and think the music is lovely – plus Rajesh Khanna looks wonderful. :-)

      • Oh please do see ‘Kala Bazar’ again and write it up.

        SPOILER: And the problem with ‘Baharon Ke Sapne’ is because it does NOT have a sad end ;-) Trust me, that is what will really sadden you!

        As for Dev, my love for him, just like my love for Kaka, is the ‘saath khoon maaf’ type. And there was much need for ‘maaf’ as I’ve gnashed my teeth while suffering through their later atrocities!

        • “And the problem with ‘Baharon Ke Sapne’ is because it does NOT have a sad end ;-)

          Now you’ve really got me intrigued! Okay, I’ll put it on my to-watch list.

          As for both Dev Anand and Kaka, I tend to not watch their later films. When I was a kid and we were dependent on whatever Doordarshan showed us for my weekly fix of Hindi cinema, I watched tripe like Warrant and Manpasand… later, when more channels appeared, I began restricting myself to about pre-1971 Dev and pre-1975 Rajesh Khanna. The best years. :-)

    • Just goes to show! :-)

      Besides the fact that she’s a great actress, I think she was also (mostly) pretty discerning about the films she picked. Of course, some were awful or just so-so, but many were superb.

  10. Great list, Madhu! It looks like Dekh Kabira Roya is a movie I should see soon – watch out, India holiday! – but I am not so sure about Professor. Personally, I like Brahmachari better, even if Shammi had gained a few pounds by then, or Dil Deke Dekho – Asha Parekh is prettier! I would add Bandini and Madhumati to this list ( I know the number will exceed ten by then!). I am glad you have Pyaasa and Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam in your list – definitely a must for any lover of old Hindi films!

    • I happened to watch Dekh Kabira Roya the first time without any great expectations – it was being shown on Doordarshan back in the mid-80s, and my father said, “This film had very good music.” Even he didn’t know what the film was about. So we all sat up and watched it (I think it was being telecast at 10:20 PM), and loved it, it was such a cute, funny film. A must-see!

      I know most people would probably rank Brahmachari higher than Professor, (well, Shammi even won an award for Brahmachari!), but I somehow find his two-men-in-one acting in Professor utterly beguiling.

  11. A very nice list, Madhu. I have my own list of top 25 films (most of them Hindi) on the page of my blog that I call “Filmi Favorites 1944-1964.” Looking at the top 10 of those, I see that our lists have three in common. Maybe they would have had more in common if my list had stretched up to 1970 and yours had included films made before 1956.

    1. Anmol Ghadi (1946)
    2. Mahal (1949)
    3. Shree 420 (1955)
    4. Babul (1950)
    5. Dillagi (1949)
    6. Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai (1960)
    7. Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962)
    8. Pyaasa (1957)
    9. Do Ankhen Bara Haath (H, 1957)
    10. Chori Chori (1956)

    I have shown the top 3 on the list to a few people unacquainted with Hindi films, and both Mahal and Shree 420 got raves. Unfortunately, though, it seems the uninitiated simply haven’t quite understood my great love for Anmol Ghadi. :)

    • it seems the uninitiated simply haven’t quite understood my great love for Anmol Ghadi

      Hehe. I could say that about some of the films, the actors, and the actresses I like!

      I have to admit I haven’t seen Babul, Dillagi and Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai. Of the others (besides the ones we share in common as recommendations), I really like Shree 420 – of the RK films that he directed, it’s probably my favourite. Though that title sometimes belongs to Jaagte Raho, depending upon my mood.

    • Thank you, Karthik! And Waheeda – well, it just shows what good films she acted in, doesn’t it? :-)

      I like Kanoon too. A good film, and I’m glad BR Chopra maintained its tautness and strength by making it a songless film.

  12. There is no one film mentioned here in the post and the comments that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. I’ll add some picks;
    1.Anari (RK)
    2.Kohinoor – I like B/W Dilip Kumar but this is better than some of his ‘wimpy’ roles he did. I preferred it over Aan , maybe it is the ‘color’.
    3.Naukri (Kishore Kumar) , his claim to fame, Bimal Roy film which is oddly ignored and it is ‘not’ a comedy.
    4.Solva Saal – It betterred Chori Chori I thought , but that is maybe because I like the lead pair.
    5. Brahmachari .
    6. Kabuliwala
    7. Satyakam – Dharam is 100 times better than the ‘Viru’ of Sholay.though that is only my opinion.
    8.Mere Mehboob
    I wonder why there is no mention of PRAN saab at all . Did he ever do any substantial villain role like a Gabbar?

    • Chris, last night, just before I fell asleep, I suddenly realised that Dilip Kumar was the one major actor who didn’t find a place in this list. And, mentally recalling the comments till then, I also realised that nobody else had listed a Dilip Kumar film, either! So, thank you for mentioning Kohinoor – it’s a very enoyable film (definitely more so than Aan, which I personally feel was let down by the theatrical acting of its women).

      Kabuliwala and Satyakam are great films too. And Dharmendra is definitely much better in Satyakam than he was in Sholay – though of course one could argue that they were very different roles. I remember a later interview in which he admitted that after not getting an award for either Anupama or Satyakam, he gave up trying to really act.

        • And I have said that I would add Madhumati to the list! A list without Dilip Kumar is no list at all! Just kidding – I have absolutely no desire to see those gloomy movies of his, but I enjoy all the lighter, romantic ones – and that is just my opinion, based on my personal preference for lighter movies.

        • When I think of ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ I first think of Madhubala, then Prithviraj Kapoor and songs. Dilip Kumar’s role was somewhat behind those for me . and this is one ‘color’ film which I avoid. It cannot match the original version.

          • Chris, I will avoid *any* and all ‘coloured’ versions of the old black and white films. I agree Mugha-e-Azam was Madhubala’s film through and through, but Dilip was a classic supporting role. I tend to agree that a list without Dilip Kumar is no list at all. :) Madhu, are you listening?

            • To each his/her own, I guess! Dilip Kumar is fine with me as long as he’s not being depressing. I like him well enough in Kohinoor and Azaad (even Aan), but other than that… I don’t really care for his films much. His acting is hard to fault, but the films often don’t appeal to me.

        • Ouch! *slaps forehead*

          How could I have made such a blunder?!

          …but, actually, I know how I did that. Because, when I think of Mughal-e-Azam, the images that come to my mind are of Madhubala dancing to Pyaar kiya toh darna kya or Madhubala dancing to Mohe panghat pe, or Madhubala in chains… I only think of Madhubala in that film. So much that I completely forgot Dilip Kumar! :-(

  13. I like the Dev Anand film ‘Taxi Driver 1954′ too, But I am not sure I should add it to recommendations as I like all noir type films of 50s -60s. fabulous soundtrack.

    Lata singing a cabret song?

    Sheila Ramani was brilliant, Can’t believe she didn’t make it big. She does resemble Aishwarya Rai in her looks it seems.

    • I can’t see much of a resemblance to Aishwarya Rai, but I do like Sheila Ramani in Taxi Driver – and I love the songs you’ve linked to! Simply super. :-)

      Here’s another of her songs from the film, Dil jale toh jal:

      • As silly as it might sound, I didn’t know the cabaret songs (and they are quite a few of them) are sung by Lata and not Asha before I saw these on Youtube! Is the film worthy to be recommended? It was a hit according to the net.

        • It was a hit, as you say, but I still wouldn’t rate it as highly as CID or Nau Do Gyarah, two of Navketan’s other major noir films from this period. It’s watchable, and the songs are very good, so I doubt if you’ll be really disappointed. Give it a try.

  14. Thanks for the great post. All the films in your list are worth watching. Some additions from my side:
    1. Anuradha – for Leela Naidu’s ethereal looks, Balraj Sahni’s restrained acting and Ravi Shankar’s sublime music;
    2. Tere Ghar ke Samne – The ultimate romantic comedy
    3. Chalti ka Naam Gadi – Obvious reasons
    4. Padosan – Not as innocently pure as the previous one, but very different from the vulgarity of today’s Housefull etc.
    5. Bees saal Baad – Good mix of horror and suspense. Gave us the immortal Gopichand Jasoos.
    6. Kabuliwala – can see it repeatedly for the songs alone.
    7. Ram aur Shyam – If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then it is the most flattered film of all. At least two of its copies – with gender switching – ‘Seeta aur Geeta’ and ‘Chalbaaz’ are super hits.
    8. Sujata
    9. Bandini
    10. Mamta – No comments needed for 8,9 and 10.

    • I agree with Tere Ghar ke Saamne, Sujata, Bandini, Mamta and Kabuliwala – they’re all fantastic films. The others generally have something or the other that detracts from my enjoyment of them for reason or the other (for example, there are plot holes in Bees Saal Baad, and the comic pace in Chalti ka Naam Gaadi flags towards the end). But I agree that they’re still good films – I guess these would be part of the ‘next ten films’ a newcomer should see after watching some of the others!

  15. Aaah. I’ll have to think.

    Dev’s films. All of the good 50’s and 60’s ones. Don’t care if the person never gets anything done. Welcome to my world. :D

    Shammi’s films. The 60’s ones. I’m not responsible for the unwashed dishes. Hmm, I’d show them Jhuk Gaya Aasman too, Ek Musafir Ek Haseena, a lot of awesome romance films, uhhh, I dunno, I’m not thinking.

    OH OH OH AND RAJESH’S FILMS TOO. Just for the heck of it. Aradhana yay. And Kati Patang, oh, and Andaz (that one for both Shammi and Rajesh!), and a LOT of others.

    Once I’m done I think whoever got through those films can become my film-watching buddy.

    And today, one of our vocabulary words was debonair. I literally FELL OFF MY CHAIR (because a lot of people describe Dev as debonair and suave and and and and -squeal-), then I jumped up and described debonair. Suave, charming, stylish, handsome, and then I melted back into my chair.

    My teacher kept using OLD MAN as an example of debonair. Heh, she has to go see Jewel Thief. DEBONAIRRRRR. Oh, and I had PE today, so I couldn’t find anywhere to put my belt, so I wore it around my shirt. JUST LIKE RAJESH. JUST LIKE HIM.

    I feel so good. :D

      • Yeah, it’s obvious, isn’t it? :D

        And of course, I would never forget Shammi! Never in a million years! I didn’t really know a lot about him when he died, but over the past year, I’ve come to really really love him. :)

          • Hey, um Dustedoff? Can I -blush- tell you about something? Well, uh, um… well… I think I have a sorta, um… crush on Dev. Yeah, I know, he’s not… around anymore, but I liked him REALLY REALLY a lot when he was still here.

            Somebody said it was WEIRD, and writing letters to a ‘dead person’ is dumb, and I should go see a doctor. Well darn you, Dev is Dev. He’s special. He’s very very special. I want to hug him. Well I could even kiss him. Yeah, I mean, I like him, got a problem?

            …Is something wrong with me?

            • BN? No doubt dustedoff will answer your questions, but in the meantime… Remember that blog you visited a while ago? Remember your reaction to that blogger’s crush on Rajendra Kumar? Can you tell me what the difference is (now that *you* are experiencing a crush on Dev)?

              For what it is worth, there is nothing wrong with you (well, not in this case. I reserve judgement on the rest of you! *grin*)

              • Well, yeah. It wasn’t about the blogger crushing on Rajendra just ‘cos he was dead (AND, since no one seems to like him, he is mineeeeeee. :DDDDD), but the fact that the blogger was a guy… but anyway.

                I just… oh gosh, how can I describe it. Dev is just. Gosh. I would just hug him so so so so tight and then I wouldn’t be able to control my tears. I love him so much. Maybe I was born in the wrong generation.

                But YEAH. Nothing wrong with me! Yay! Thanks Anu! -huggles-

              • YAY DUSTEDOFF. :D :D :D But hey, Dev isn’t long-dead. I always refer to him in the PRESENT tense (got that idea after reading a news article where the guy said ‘It must bother him that I’m using the past tense’.) I even corrected a friend and said, “Use is.”

                …But things would be different, so different if he were here. I mean, nobody would make fun of me, and all… :(

  16. As is obvious I am in and out of cyberspace but could not but help posting a comment here. As they say nowadays, I usually find myself on the same page as you but pasand apni apni khayal apna khayal apna, so Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam would not feature anywhere on my list and reason for that is I am a Bengali. Wondering what has that got to do with it? Well plenty, I grew up hearing all the Bengalis my mom included unfavourably comparing the Hindi version with the Bengali one. Based on a Bengali novel, the Hindi version messes up the original story in a bid to cater to the Hindi audience, and for all Bengalis Gurudutt did not exactly fit the role obviously they found Uttam Kumar better and last but not the least Meena Kumari could in no way be compared to Sumitra Debi. I waited to see both versions before forming my opinion and like a true Bengali I agreed. Uttam Kumar was brilliant and Sumitra Debi- very beautiful and she lived the role of Choti Bahu. I give below a link to a song from the film featuring Sumitra Debi. Well I had loads to say on this post but lack of time prevents me from doing so

    • Shilpi, this song does appear interesting – and even though I couldn’t understand too much of the lyrics, I could get the gist of what was going on (because I know the story, obviously).

      If one vastly prefers the original of a film, I’m sure a remake would never appeal to them. So I’m not surprised that you would never include Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam. Just curious: what would you include?

      • A number of films and I know Guide and Waqt would definitely feature in them, if you may have observed I am consciously not mentioning Anupama for that would be too obvious but while on Hrishikesh MUkherjee I would definitely include Namak Haram and why just serous films, Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Golmaal and Chupke Chupke would definitely feature in it. You know what? I found Chupke Chupke far better than the Bengali original, Sharmila Tagore was way, way better than Madhabi Mukherjee and Amitabh’s character was better fleshed out than the Bengali and what’s more the comedy scenes were far better written than the Bengali version, in fact in my view the Bengali film paled in comparison. As I said I have loads to say but I am totally involved in something else and I am a bit stressed out.

        • I can understand you not specifically mentioning Anupama, Shilpi – but, just out of curiosity: which of your father’s films is your favourite? As you can see, Anupama is mine (though I also especially like him a lot in Sujata).

          Ah, glad to know that for once a Bengali film was topped by a Hindi one! :-) Chupke-Chupke is an absolute favourite of mine. I’ve seen it dozens of times, often enough to know most of the scenes inside-out (even some of the dialogues) – and I never tire of it!

          I hope the stress eases for you soon, Shilpi! Take care of yourself.

          • Actually Madhu I never gave it a thought, now that you ask me about dad’s films you have set me thinking. Anupama and Gumnaam would be the obvious choices but there are films which have gone unnoticed thanks to the fact that they were box-office duds, one such film which would be somewhere on the top- that is if I were to rate his films- would be Shama where he played Suraiya’s villainous brother. I saw the film just once long ago on Doordarshan and I have been looking everywhere for the DVD but have drawn a blank. The last scene from this film remains etched in my memory, his performance just blew me away and in fact the entire scene between dad and Suraiya that leads to Suraiya’s suicide and a repentant dad going mad with grief and regret is a scene I would like to see again and again. Besides this there is also Oonche Log, I keep watching this film off and on.
            Thanks for the good wishes Madhu.

            • Thank you, Shilpi! I’ll keep an eye out for Shama now. I’ve never seen it (and I must admit I haven’t even seen Oonche Log, though I’ve heard of it, and even seen the VCD). Will pick that up the next time I’m ordering stuff from Induna.

  17. Dustedoff ji,
    If I were to give a list of Hindi films to initiate any outsider(i.e. Non-Hindi/Non-Indian) my choice would be slightly or may be grossly different.I would try to give that person a glimpse of Hindi Film Industry’s evolvement over the years and also to showcase a variety of types of films.
    1.Amar Jyoti-1936
    2. Padosi-41
    3.Ek thi Ladki-49
    4. Baiju Bawra-52
    5. Hum sab chor hain-56
    6.Dil Deke Dekho-59
    7. Hum Dono-61
    8. Guide-65
    9- Anand-70 and
    10. Chameli ki Shaadi-86.

    Those who have given their lists have their own reasons and I too have my reasons.
    In any case it is extremely difficult to limit the list to 10 or any other such number and then ” to each his own ” !
    In your list I find that some films are my choices too like,CID,Chori chori,Anupama,Waqt and dekh kabira Roya.
    -AD

  18. I like the twist you’ve given to the entire premise, Arunji. Of course, if I were to give a chronological list of ten must-see films from Hindi cinema, my list would be totally different, because the evolution of Hindi cinema – as opposed to just a listing of ten of my favourite films – would necessarily include later films too. In that case, I think my list would probably look like this:

    Roti (1942)
    Neecha Nagar (!946)
    Dholak (1951)
    CID (1956)
    Professor (1962)
    Waqt (1965)
    Chupke-Chupke (1975)
    Yeh Vaada Raha (1982)
    Andaz Apna Apna (1994)
    Chak De! India (2007)

    And you’re so right, it’s very difficult to restrict oneself to just ten. But it’s an interesting challenge nevertheless – at least it made me think which films I really like. The films I’ve listed – both in this post, and in this comment – are ones with which I find little fault. They are the films I’d be proud to showcase to a newcomer to Hindi cinema.

      • You are in a class by yourself, Anu. I know I’m stupid enough to overlook plot holes in films I really enjoy (like Woh Kaun Thi?). I never read Steele, so I can’t comment on the book, but I love Yeh Vaada Raha and I will defend to the death my right to love it, plot holes and all! :-)

        Incidentally, this is the only Hindi film I can think of that I liked better than the Hollywood original.

        • Meh. When I watched all the stupid Amitabh films (and liked them! Think of Amar, Akbar, Anthony!) I should be the last person complaining about plot holes! Besides, I liked Yeh Vaada Raha too (despite plot holes). It’s just that I would not have had it as referential of a decade, even if it were the eighties. Masoom perhaps? Even if it were an adaptation of Man Woman and Child? I am not sure.

          • Yes, Masoom, definitely. Somehow, thinking back on the 80s, not too many spring to mind that I really loved. Some of the best were also some of the saddest or the most painful – and the worst were even more painful!

            My main reason for including Yeh Vaada Raha in my list was that I loved it, glitches and all. My list, you know. ;-) But yes, I agree it wasn’t representative of a decade – even the 80s.

  19. Oh this was a great post as always! I have only seen two of these (Khamoshi and Anupama – as you would expect from a devoted Dharmendra fan), but I absolutely adore them both, and would definitely recommend them both – I think it’s impossible to watch them without being moved each and every time. I have many of the others on your list sitting unwatched in my sadly neglected collection, and this post has definitely encouraged me to find time to fish them out. It’s definitely an interesting challenge to try to come up with a list of Hindi films I’d recommend – so many are springing to mind even as I think about it….

    • I agree, DG – both Khamoshi and Anupama are very touching films. You should really check out the others on this list (and some of the others suggested by readers – have you seen Mamta, by the way?)

  20. I think Dilip Kumar’s Mughal-e azam and Gunga Jamuna definitely merit mention here. Besides, movies like Mother India, Awaara and Guide figure at the top for me.
    I feel that Dilip saab was the greatest actor ever. He might seem to be brooding all the time but he also came up with some maverick performances in Ram aur Shyam, Kohinoor, Naya Daur and Gunga Jamuna. He was at his best in Devdas

  21. I like your presentation style and that you always have reasons for your selections. While I may not always agree with all your your choices, there is no denying they are well thought out and articulate.
    My list (just entertainers) would include :-
    1) Sholay
    2) Deewar
    3) Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron
    4) Jewel Thief
    5) Teesri Manzil
    6) Aradhana

    Loved this post, and all the ensuing comments & other choices.

    • Thanks, Samir! I like all the films on your list, but I especially love Teesri Manzil (it was on my shortlist), and Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron – what a fabulous film that was.

  22. What a wonderful thread. I always keep looking for recommendations on old Hindi movies, and here I got to know two movies that I had never heard about before- Dekh Kabira Roya and Mamta. Rest I have at least seen the names if not the films.

    If I have to add a name to this list (chhota mooh badi baat- I don’t think I qualify here as I have seen very few movie from pre 1970s), it would be Kanoon. Especially, if the list is being recommended to some foreigner just embarking on the journey to discover Hindi cinema. Might also go for Haqeeqat because of its sheer scale- and the fact that there is no other movie on the subject of Indo-China war.

    But don’t ask me which movies I would like to keep out. Professor maybe (I haven’t seen it) but simply because I generally don’t like Mr. Shammi Kapoor. And thanks for not keeping Teesri Manzil a part of this list, and letting it remain on the shortlist.

    • because I generally don’t like Mr. Shammi Kapoor.

      Shoo! Don’t come on this blog if you’re going to be saying things like that! :-D

      Seriously, though, how many films of his have you seen? And which ones?

      I freely admit that I don’t like Raj Kapoor, but I think of films not in terms of actors but the films themselves – which is why two Raj Kapoor films feature in this list. Simply because they’re good films, not because I’m an RK fan.

      • Arre baap re!

        No I haven’t seen much of him. But I don’t really enjoy his latkas and jhatkas and matkas and lachkas, in whatever I have seen of him.

        I also think of films not in terms of actors, but the films themselves. At least I try to. But I cannot get myself to admire even Teesri Manzil which is arguably his best film. Not to say that doesn’t have good films. Brahmachari for instance is a good one.in my opinion as well…

        Maafi!!!

        • Hehe. Maaf kiya! ;-)

          See, the problem with Shammi Kapoor’s films is that unless you see the right ones, the jhatkas-latkas and whatever can really put you off. I personally don’t care for some of his films, such as Prince, Jaanwar or Budtameez, because they’re more that type… but a film like Professor, Junglee, Dil Deke Dekho, Brahmachari, Andaaz – those may have some of that clowning around, but they also have a lot more. And, frankly, I find his acting in Professor really very good.

          But it’s all subjective, of course.

    • “And thanks for not keeping Teesri Manzil a part of this list, and letting it remain on the shortlist.”

      -bursts into tears-

      How can you NOT like Teesri Manzil? >:( Not for the songs? Not for Shammi (Okay, maybe not)? Not for GOLDIE?! I roleplay with people all the time and somehow or the other I add in murder mysteries (Much to the annoyance of my friends), just ‘cos of this film.

      And just today I was playing the air guitar while thinking about “Aaja Aaja Main Hoon Pyar Tera”. I got weird looks, but eh, all worth it! :D

      Seriously though, what genre of movies do you like? (And Dustedoff, let’s organize a plan to turn Piyush into a Shammi fan!)

  23. Hey Dustedoff, I’m just going to rant about the weather here. IT SUDDENLY TURNED SO COLD! >:( It got to 17 degrees and I was freeeeeeeezing! I’m used to 30-degree temperatures all year round, this was WAY cold. Yet people can turn up in school in skirts.

    And tomorrow’s picture day. I’m going to make a silly, silly face at the last minute. Just like how Shammi did in one picture. :D :D Practiced today. And I found your ‘priceless parodies’ post and I was reading it in class, and literally fell off the chair laughing at the “Hey Neele Gagan Ke Tale” parody. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    I got my copy of The Englishman’s Cameo in the mail today! So excited to start reading it! :D :D Hey , is Muzaffar Jang like Hercule Poirot? (And I have to confess, when Agatha Christie described him as polite, I let out a snort and started laughing. Poirot and polite? No way!)

    Oh, oh, and the Facebook page for Shammi’s fan club is doing a thing for his birthday (I’m doing a sketch of him… hopefully it turns out good), and it’s sort of like, you have to take your picture with one of his pictures, (and people have posters of his films! SO JEALOUS!) and then they will vote for best dedicated picture. I’m taking part. :D

    • Hehe. The Neele gagan ke tale parody was funny, wasn’t it? I loved that one too. :-D

      Yup, I saw that announcement on the Shammi Kapoor Facebook page too. Unfortunately (even though I do own a few lobby cards), I’ve never been able to lay my hands on a good Shammi Kapoor one. Shammi Kapoor posters – especially of Teesri Manzil aren’t that uncommon, though. I’ve seen them here for sale in Delhi, and just for a few hundred rupees too.

      Would love to see your sketch once it’s done. Please share!

      • I know! And I was laughing so hard I just couldn’t stop! And the “Dil Ke Jharoke” one was absolutely hilarious! HAHAHAHAHAAAA! Today we were discussing the death penalty in class, and my teacher said that they’re debating whether to give the death penalty to mentally ill people or not. (First thought – Death penalty = Kanoon. Second thought – mentally ill = Ittefaq. Though Rajesh wasn’t actually mad.)

        And then she said, “But there are people who pretend to be mentally ill to escape the death penalty.” PAGLA KAHIN KA. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. OH MY GOD I FELL OFF MY CHAIR AND I JUST COULDN’T STOP. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! They thought I was having a fit or something! HAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

        In Spanish too, the informal word of ‘you’ is tu. I just couldn’t stop giggling at that. And you know what? I thought of “Tu Kahan Yeh Bata”. CUE MORE CRAZY LAUGHTER. The formal version of ‘you’ is usted. Reminds me of ustaad.

        AND OH. You have lobby cards. I am so jealous. -breaks down into tears- I am so so so jealous. You live in India. AND OH GOSH, TEESRI MANZIL POSTERS. My God I need to hop on a plane RIGHT NOW and go and buy all the posters I can.

        And sure, I’m going to trace and cheat though. :( Tried out with a reference pic and it turned out badly. Especially the hair. Oh well. :(

  24. I generally admire your taste in old Hindi movies but I was really disappointed to see that Madhumati did not make it to your list. To me, Madhumati is an ideal combination of romance, drama and good music in a Hindi movie. Great storytelling in an uncomplicated style. One of the best music scores of all time. And what atmospherics – each of the songs evokes an ethereal, other-worldly feel. Please reconsider !!!

    • Well, it’s my list, as I said. While I don’t mind Madhumati (and its music is superb), I wouldn’t put it in a list of the first ten films I’d recommend to a newcomer to Hindi cinema.

  25. Fair enough. I have started following your blog lately and really enjoy reading the comments of people who like old Hindi movies, as do I.

    Just to reinforce what someone has already said, please do watch Kala Bazar again and write about it. I think it is one of the best products of the Dev Anand – Vijay Anand – SD Burman combination. Very well directed and entertaining right through, with a significant part of the movie shot beautifully in Ooty. The only flaw is some sermonising towards the end (unusual for Dev Anand). Also noteworthy is the fact that this is the only movie in which all the three Anand brothers have acted together. The music of course is excellent – apart from the popular songs like “Khoya khoya chand …” and “Rimjhim ke tarane …”, there are some rarely heard gems like “Upar wala …”, “Teri dhoom har kahin ….”, “Na main dhan chahoon …”

    • Another lovely song from Kala Bazaar is Saanjh dhali dil ki lagi thhak chali pukaarke – and I must confess that even more than Khoya-khoya chaand or Rimjhim ke taraane leke aayi barsaat, I like Na main dhan chaahoon – that’s my favourite song from the film. And this from someone who doesn’t even like bhajans!

      Yes, I should certainly put Kala Bazaar on my watch-list.

    • “The only flaw is some sermonising towards the end (unusual for Dev Anand). ” Sorry, but this was way too funny too pass up! Sermonising UNusual for Dev? I am not even going to argue because I am laughing so much at the idea. Thanks for brightening a grey Saturday morning by making me laugh out loud, Vinay.

  26. When I watched CID (one of the recommendations here), I had mixed feelings. While all the songs were great, I felt all of them were forcibly injected within the acts; and as a result none of them were in sync with the plot. Waheeda, though, sizzled. It being her maiden performance?

    • I agree with that – the songs don’t really sync with the plot. But then, that’s more the norm in Hindi cinema than the exception. (Kahin pe nigaahein kahin pe nishaana may be one song I’d think did have a hand in helping the story move on, though).

      “Waheeda, though, sizzled. It being her maiden performance?

      Waheeda always sizzles. :-)

  27. Very interesting list you have compiled DustedOff. I would have really racked my brains to come up with one.

    Amar Prem (1971) would have made it to my list.

    Not wanting to take away from your selection though…..its simply great.

  28. my twenty best are…
    Sujata
    Saraswatichander
    Bhabhi ki Chudiyan
    Pyaasa
    Teesri Manzil
    Guddi
    Anand
    Bobby
    Blackmail
    Kabhie-Kabhie
    Trishul
    Guide
    Chupke-chupke
    The burning Train
    Choti Si Baat
    Baaton-2 Mein
    Golmaal-old
    Aap ki kasam
    Waqt
    Ghar-2 ki Kahani old

    • There are some there, though from a later period than my blog is about, that I like a lot. Chupke-Chupke, Anand, Blackmail, The Burning Train, Golmaal: all are among my favourite post-60s films.

  29. I love Waqt, Professor (and just Shammi Kapoor in general) and Pyasaa.

    I just recently watched Anupama I really liked it. It’s a beautifully done film in my opinion. So simple, yet so complex. I’m a huge fan of Sharmila Tagore’s acting and I thought she did a great job portraying Uma in the film. But I was pleasantly surprised by Dharmendra’s role as the sensitive guy–I’ve only really seen him playing brash, rowdy guys like in Sholay.

    I really empathized with the Uma character, I felt so bad for the emotionally repressed young woman, and that song “kuch dil ne kaha” totally tugged at my heart strings, especially that verse “dil ki tasalee ke liye/ jhuthii chamak jhuthaa nikhaar/ jeevan to suuna hi raha/sab samajhe aayi hai bahaar/
    kaliyon se koi puchta/hasti hain voh ya rotee hain” it perfectly describes the conflicted state that Uma is in throughout the entire film.

    Even though the ending was predictable, I was satisfied with the outcome.

    This was also the first time I had cried while watching a Hindi film–I just felt so bad for poor bekasoor Uma.

    –So glad I stumbled upon your blog, it keeps me occupied and entertained! Plus I can talk about classic Hindi cinema and people don’t grunt and roll. their eyes at me lol.

    • Yes, Anupama is a gem of a film. It’s been a while since I watched it last, but it stays with me – it’s so memorable. Incidentally, talking about Dharmendra being so different in this one, he’s actually admitted in interviews that after he put so much effort into his acting in Anupama and Satyakam and still didn’t get any recognition for his acting, he chucked it up and decided to go for all-out ‘entertainment’ value roles. I do think he was a superb actor when he put his mind to it (and heart!), and very versatile too. A fine comedian, for instance.

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying this blog. :-)

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