Bollywood has the distinction of being the biggest film producer on the planet. It makes twice as many movies as Hollywood, the second largest film industry in the world. For the most part, Bollywood blockbusters are pure entertainment, famous for their 'masala' - formulaic plot lines, exuberent musical numbers and colorful costumes. By and large, they reflect the country itself - colorful, noisy, brash, romantic, coy but seductive, festive and larger than life. The recent trend in Bollywood, however, is that it works with one eye on the foreign markets. The sets have become more lavish, the costumes more extravagant, the chorus line more glamorous and locations far beyond one can dream of - from the glaciers of Alaska to the pyramids of Egypt. Spanning a wide range of decades, genres and style, the Bollywood film culture in all its glory is a wonderful thing. Of the hundreds of great hits it has given, some have attained an aura of unparalleled respectability because, overtime, they continue to draw viewers in multitudes for weeks, months and even years. Here is a tribute to Bollywood's top ten blockbusters.
1. Kismet (Gyan Mukherjee, 1943): One of the biggest hits in the history of Hindi cinema, Kismet ran for three long years in the same cinema hall in Calcutta. The film is a representative example, prefiguring the kind of entertainment extravaganza that has become the hallmark of Bollywood films. Kismet changed the image of the 'ideal son' hero drastically, with Ashok Kumar as the smooth talking, chainsmoking 'criminal' hero who conducted his affairs, including those of the heart, on his own terms. He seemed to appeal to the audience who saw him break the law and fool the British police. They loved him even as a thief. Indeed, the film was the basis for all anti-hero roles played by Amitabh Bachchan in the 1980s. As India's first 'lost and found' film, Kismet paved the way for the films of Manmohan Desai. Kismet was not only Indian cinema's first bonafide blockbuster, but also one of the most influential films of all times. Kismet is also remembered for poet Pradeep's immortal patriotic song, "Aaj himalaya ki choti se phir hamne lalkara hai, door hato ae duniawalo Hindustan hamara hai".
2. Anmol Ghadi (Mehboob Khan, 1946): A phenomenon, Mehboob Khan had been watching the two singing-acting sensations, Noorjehan and Suraiya, and was ready to recall Surendra, his own discovery from his Sagar days in the thirties. The result was a casting coup of the three singing stars together that created a flutter in the film industry, and the film that remains the biggest musical hit ever. Endowed with the sensationally successful score from Naushad, Anmol Ghadi is a veritable musical bonanza. It started and perpetuated the Mehboob-Naushad partnership. As great as her success had been so far, Noorjehan could never predict that of all her hits, Anmol Ghadi would be the biggest name, with her all time hits, 'Kya mil gaya bhagwan', 'Mere bachpan ke saathi', 'Jawan hai mohabbat'. The film also rejuvinated the career of Surendra, with his soulful solo 'Kyon yaad aa rahe hein guzre hue zamane'. The film was also a great hit for Suraiya with three hit songs in the movie. Anmol Ghadi is best remembered for Noorjehan and Surendra's immortal duet, 'Awaaz de kahan hai, dunia meri jawan hai'.
3. Barsaat (Raj Kapoor, 1949): The raw passion between Raj Kapoor and Nargis in Barsaat, shot with a beautiful use of light and shade, drove audiences wild. It made the viewers, especially the younger generation, return to the theaters repeatedly, some for 'cannot remember' times. Barsaat is a sweet poignant story about love. Love which comes like rain, bringing with it hope, life and the promise of new beginnings. The film revolves around Pran (Raj Kapoor), an intense poet for whom the only universal truth is love, and his best friend Gopal (Premnath), a devil-may-care rolling stone, rolling from one moment to another, collecting nothing but his own personal enjoyment. Barsaat is flush with heady impassioned romanticism. In one of the most identifiable sequences of the Hindi screen, an emotional Raj Kapoor plays a melancholy tune on his violin and Nargis rushes to him, as though pulled by the magnetic force - the call of the violin becomes emblamatic of their love. Barsaat proved a shower of money for Raj Kapoor at the box-office, that helped him own the famous R. K. Studios at the age of 25.
4. Naya Daur (B. R. Chopra, 1957): The rustic classic, Naya Daur aims to highlight the sometimes overlooked humane cost of progress. Fifty years after its release, the humanist issues it raises remain just as timeless and urgent. Besides its plea to consider the fate of those displaced by the relenting march of progress, Naya Daur also appeals because it is a fine example of the tiumph of the human spirit when pitted against seemingly insurmountable odds. In true Chopra fashion, the fable is salted with several absorbing intricasies - an estranged friendship (Dilip Kumar-Ajit), gung-ho team spirit (an entire village joins hands) and a troubled but deeply abiding love story (Dilip-Vijayantimala). Dilip Kumar holds the film together. He brims over with roguish rusticity and sheer ebullience, yet in sharp contrast. However, the biggest draw of the movie is its music. The O. P. Nayyar wave crested in 1957 with his hit tunes heard everywhere. The trade mark tonga song - 'Mang ke saath tumhara' - became the all time hit. In Naya Daur, Nayyar introduced for the first time Punjabi rythm in Hindi songs - 'Reshmi salwar kurta jalidar' - that became a rage then and trend setter for film music to follow till today. The film was also a big break for Asha Bhonsle that decisively catapulted her to the major league. Naya Daur won Filmfare (1958) Awards for Best Actor (Dilip Kumar), Best Music Director (O. P. Nayyar) and Best Story (Akhtar Mirza).
5. Waqt (Yash Chopra, 1965): A huge blockbuster in its day and the most repeated show in theaters and on television till date, Waqt is an ageless tale masterfully told by Bollywood's ace story teller, Yash Chopra. When he said the man could be the architect of his own destiny and could, if he wanted, write the story of his children, Kedarnath did not know that the next moment the great world of Lala Kedarnath and Sons would be humbled to dust in the big earthquake of Quoeta. Waqt brought home the profound message that in the affairs of humans, it is time that is the ruling factor - Time, that is Waqt. Chopra's direction is without doubt the major highlight of the movie. He directs the film with flair and passion. The anticipation that he builds right up to the climax where the entire lost family is involved in a court case shows a brilliant command over the screenplay that flows with an excellent pace. He also manages to extract wonderful performance from the multi-star cast - Balraj Sahni, Sunil Dutt, Raaj Kumar, Sharmila Tagore, Sadhna, besides a number of veteran character actors. Waqt has an abundance of all the Chopra staples - a unique theme, melodius Ravi-composed numbers, top level performances and gripping climax. The film won the Filmfare (1966) Awards for Best Director, Best Story (Akhtar Mirza), Best Dialogues (Akhtar-ul-Iman) and Best Supporting Actor (Raaj Kumar).
6. Bobby (Raj Kapoor, 1973): A super hit of the seventies, Bobby seared the audience who went back to the theaters again and again to see the young Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia enact a passionate love story. The youth loved the film. Raj Kapoor's foresight paid when he thought that the time had come to address himself to the new young generation of cine-goers, the youth audience of the country. Bobby is their story. It is the story of an eighteen years old boy who had just passed his senior school examination. The only son of rich parents who were too busy to bother about him, he found love, solace and comfort in the company of a sixteen years old girl. Out of their love for each other arose the usual problems - disparity of class, attitudes and generation gap. The manner in which the two innocent teenagers deal with the situation provides for the "Teenagers' Love Story" - the catch phrase of the film. It created a sensation and fashion phenomenon within the emerging youth culture of India. Suddenly teen fashion was on the forefront, with an emphasis on a 'ready to wear' look. Bobby elevated the definition of style among the youth to a new level, making youthful sexy and rebellious looks daringly acceptable. What is astounding about the film is the freshness of the performances by the two lead actors, Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia. There is a compelling magnatism about their portrayals that is hypnotizing. Their love is so sweet, so innocent and yet so full of a newly discovered sexual yearning. Indeed, Bobby belongs to them. No surprise, they both became instant stars and won the Filmfare Awards for Best Actor and Best Actress.
7. Sholay (Ramesh Sippy, 1975): A legend and by far the most successful film of its time, which ran for five cosecutive years in a theater in Mumbai, Shole is often described as India's best known 'curry' western. It has all the ingredients of a Western - rugged countryside, bandits on horseback, fierce gun fight etc. But it has much more than that - an idealized love, ample measure of comedy and fast paced actions and an entire galaxy of stars - all the motifs and ingredients which make a Hindi film work. A key factor in this film is the villain, the cold-blooded killer, Gabbar Singh. Played by a new comer, Amjad Khan, Gabbar became and has remained a cult-figure as his popularity ensured the sale of everything from biscuits to belts to water bottles to jackets. By far the most popular character of the film, Gabbar's dialogues are remembered till today. Audio cassetes of the film containing the main dialogues were sold in millions, attesting to their immense popularity. Other highlights of the movie include the screen chemistry between Hema and Dharmendra, delightful comarraderie of Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan and the powerful performances by the rest of the star-cast. Shot in 77 mm with stereophonic sound, Sholay was the ultimate big screen experience and an immortal classic par excellence.
8. Hum Aapke Hain Koun (Sooraj R. Barjatya, 1994): One of the biggest hits in the history of Hindi cinema, HAHK has been hailed as India's cultural ambassador in the world market. The film is, indeed, a celebration of the Indian tradition and 'a tribute to all the families of the world', as its catch phrase says. It is a kind of film that brings a smile to your face. Its reassuring ethos is seductive and soothing, asserting the permanence and stability of all the institutions that are at this moment under pressure: joint family, patriarchy and religion. Ultimate family film, HAHK is entirely about a marriage and makes you nostalgic of the time when weddings were the greatest social occasion of the society. This was the time when ties were made, links established and the genetic code emphasized. In one sense the film is like a home marriage video where the viewers feel they are very much a part of the celebrations. The movie is done perfectly as an entertainer throughout. A simple but well directed story, it has the look and feel of a compulsive winner. The film won Filmfare (1995) Awards for Best Film, Best Director and Best Actress (Madhuri Dixit). It also won the National Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment.
9. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (Aditya Chopra, 1995): The longest running film of Indian cinema, DDLJ has made history by completing 500 weeks of continuous play in Maratha Mandir, Mumbai. It emerged as a cult film from day one of its release and remains one of the very few evergreen films that can be watched again and again. The film's focus is on the family for which lovers are ready to sacrifice their love if necessary. Its a love story that consolidates the feel good trend in Hindi cinema and unleashed a plathora of family-cum-love stories aimed especially at the NRI audience and overseas market. Cultural crisis of the NRI and his family comes in as a dramatic element in the film. But its greatest strength is its perfect blend of the modern and the conservative through its state-of-the-art packaging story that is strongly rooted in the tradition of Indian culture. DDLJ would not have been what it is - despite its powerful dialogues, fabulous music and exciting locales - without all those superlative performances by the top heavy cast comprising of Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Amrish Puri, Anupam Kher, Farida Jalal and Satish Shah. Khan, Kajol and Kher are particularly awesome. They all three won Filmfare (1996) Awards for the best performances. DDLJ also won the awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Lyricist (Anand Bakshi), Best Playback Singer (Udit Narain), Best Supporting Actress (Farida Jalal), Best Screenplay (Aditya Chopra) and Best Dialogues (Aditya Chopra, Javed Sadiqui).
10. Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (Karan Johar, 2001): Unequalled star power, glamor, laughter, tears and fabulous musical numbers enrich this superb Bollywood exravaganza. The story is all about Amitabh Bachchan, a Business tycoon, trying to enforce Indian family values and traditions in the face of the foreign studied son's rebellious romantic yearnings. The first half of the film focuses on the romance between Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, while the romance between Hrithik Roshan and Kareena Kapoor dominates the film after interval. Much of the film is based in London. NRI is shown as being just as capable (or more so) of upholding Indian family value as those who never left their country. NRI-themed films like this one have been tremendously important and profitable cultural touchstone amongst the worldwide Indian diaspora. Watching the film, you will laugh, you will cry, and you will think of your parents many times. Johar handles the emotive scenes and the sad scenes with a magic touch. There are many scenes that will win you over and leave you in knits and tears. Kareena Kapoor's transformation from a slut type character to a humane persona and SRK's attitude towards it is indeed enjoyable. One of the most humorous memories from the film is Kajol's take off on the London life style. Johar has done awesome job overall with the comedy in this film, but what stands out more is he does it with the main protagonists and not a comedian. A lovable film, K3G is one heck of an entertainer. "Sometimes Happiness Sometimes Sorrow", as the movie is known in many European countries, it is, perhaps, be most successful Indian movie ever made, at least in terms of the revenues from the overseas market. Kajol won the Best Actress Filmfare Award for her brilliant performance in the film.