People are always asking me what movies I would recommend to them so they can become more familiar with Hindi movies. Of course, that’s like asking what Hollywood movies one would recommend*; obviously it depends on personal preference for genre, etc. but I’ve done my best to come up with a “one size fits all” list. These are not here just because they are favorites of mine (although they all are), but because I think they are also easily accessible to the western sensibility while remaining true to the culture they come from.
In no particular order (and subject to change without notice), here is my list:
Sholay: One of the classics in Hindi cinema; a western inspired by Sergio Leone’s “spaghetti westerns” — great cinematography, action/stunts, acting, music.
Lagaan: Goes without saying, Oscar-nominated in 2001 for Best Foreign Film.
Munna Bhai MBBS and Lage Raho Munna Bhai: Two wonderful characters in two separate stories. MBBS was one of the first Hindi movies where I laughed out loud throughout, and didn’t feel hampered by my non-desi genes in appreciating the humour. Heart-warming, funny, and best of all meaningful without being preachy.
Teesri Manzil: Shammi Kapoor, frothy romantic comedy combined with atmospheric murder mystery a la Hitchcock — and Helen in an actual role…what more can anyone ask for?
Chori Chori (2003): As I’ve said before on these pages, my favorite Hindi film. Sweet romantic comedy about following your dreams, great chemistry between the lead pair, wonderful music, and a lovely family of assorted quirky characters. See here for more details.
Parineeta: A great story (based on a Bengali novel) with beautiful songs, cinematography, and Rekha in an item number!
Hum Tum: Another funny romantic film (yes, I admit it — my favorite genre)…
Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II: I know nothing about Part I (if there is one), but this is a fun movie to watch with great performances by Arshad Warsi and Prashant; a dark but funny film in the spirit of Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers.
Bunty Aur Babli: Two con artists on a spree from Lucknow to Mumbai. It doesn’t get sillier than this! Great songs, and lots of fun.
Life in a Metro: See here for more details.
Chak De! India: See here for more details.
*a common misconception about Bollywood is that all the movies are alike: nothing could be further from the truth!