In observance of India’s Independence Day on Aug. 15 we decided to put together an intro to Hindi films for those interested in dipping their toes in one of the largest film industries in the world. We limited it to Hindi films from Mumbai (except “Bombay”) as India produces nearly 2,000 films a year and has been in the biz since the early 20th century.
This 1971 drama about a cancer patient who takes up residence in his doctor’s home and changes the latter’s life is a three-hankie film filled with quotable lines by Gulzar. With only four songs, from composer Salil Chowdhury, and no dancing in this original story toplined by Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna was directed by top helmer Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Available on YouTube.
Mani Ratnam adapted this love story of an interreligious couple, set against the backdrop of the 1993 Hindu-Muslim riots in Mumbai. With music from A.R. Rahman the film starring Arvind Swamy and Manisha Koirala won awards at film festivals and was originally made in Tamil. See it on Amazon Prime.
During the 1970s one of the most popular pairings was Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor. Yash Chopra helmed this tale of two brothers, one is a cop and the other a criminal. It featured some of the best lines in Hindi cinema and a drive-in temple scene. Watch it on YouTube.
Dilwale Dulhania le Jayenge
DDLJ, as it was abbreviated, was a smash hit for Aditya Chopra in his directorial debut. Starring Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, the story of the persistent wooer who not only wins over the girl but also her father played uninterrupted in Mumbai’s Maratha Mandir for almost 20 years. Available on YouTube.
This 2016 female empowerment movie stars Aamir Khan as a dad who teaches his daughters to wrestle so that they can go on to win competitions. Loosely based on a real-life story, the story captured audiences not only in India, but also China.
Available on Netflix
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s opus starred Aishwariya Rai at the center of a love triangle with Salman Khan and Ajay Devgan. Her character is married off to Devgan’s despite being in love with Khan. Featuring not only great songs, but also fantastic locations in Europe the film was a hit.
Available on Eros Now with Prime Video Channels.
Another Aamir Khan feature, 2001’s “Lagaan” was nominated for the foreign-language Oscar after its rapturous reception at Locarno. The story of an Indian village whose residents banded to beat the British overlords at a cricket match in order to avoid having to pay extra taxes proved irresistible. It was peppered with singable tunes by A.R. Rahman. Watch on Netflix.
Nargis carried this story with a message about the predatory tactics of money lenders. Playing at Karlovy Vary in 1957, it was the first Indian film to draw an Oscar nomination. A little bit of trivia: Nargis and Sunil Dutt, who played her son, fell in love during production and got married soon after. View on Amazon Prime Video.
Produced by Anurag Kashyap and directed by Vikas Bahl, 2013 dramedy was the breakout film for both leads Kangana Ranaut, the titular Queen, and Rajkummar Rao. Jilted at the altar, Rani decides to take the European honeymoon trip anyway and discovers her inner strength and confidence. Available on Netflix.
No introduction to Hindi cinema is complete without 1975’s “Sholay,” an Indian adaptation of “Seven Samurai” and “The Magnificent Seven.” However, instead of seven men, just two tackle the dacoits who harass a village in this typical “masala” film directed by Ramesh Sippy, produced by his father, G.P. Sippy, with dialogue by Salim-Javed and music by R.D. Burman. The all-star cast included Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Jaya Bhaduri, Hema Malini and Amjad Khan. Watch on Amazon Prime.