Yes: I am going there! I am putting a stake in the ground and saying that these ten films are the ones from 1970s Hindi cinema that I would take with me to a deserted island* (*subject to change without notice).
Several I have only seen two or three times (they are hard to watch although excellent); others I watch every other month or so when I need the equivalent of my mommy’s lap. The main thing they have in common is that they make my dil go *squish* and make my aankhen sparkle (or spill over with tears), my ears perk up and my feet start moving. They engage me fully and I love them like I made them, despite—or perhaps even because of—their flaws. For me, eye candy and heartfelt emotion trump more “arty” considerations like a tight script and flawless direction almost every time. (You’ve been warned.)
Picking ten was hard enough, so I am not prioritizing them in order of preference. They are all TIED! Here they are—in alphabetical order:
1. Apna Desh (1972): Starring Rajesh Khanna, Mumtaz, Om Prakash, Madan Puri, Jagdeep. Directed by Jambu, music by RD Burman.
This film goes from earnest sociopolitical commentary like this:
in no time flat. And if that weren’t enough by itself (it is! it is!) Rajesh and Mumtaz’s electric chemistry is on full display, and the music is to die for.
2. Apradh (1972): Starring Feroz Khan, Mumtaz, Prem Chopra, Siddhu, Kuljeet, Helen, Sombrero Man. Directed by Feroz Khan, music by Kalyanji Anandji.
Another two-for-one outing, with auto-racing and jewel theft against a Swiss background keeping us entertained through the first half, and India and the best lair ever through the second. Feroz is gorgeous, Mumu is gorgeous, Helen is gorgeous and a raft of scary-loony villains keep the plot ticking. Plus, one of Helen’s best songs of all time (and that is saying something) takes place in said lair. I think a simple look at her getup sums up the entire movie experience nicely.
3. Blackmail (1973): Starring Dharmendra, Rakhee, Shatrughan Sinha, Madan Puri. Directed by Vijay Anand, music by Kalyanji Anandji.
Quite simply the most heart-stoppingly romantic film ever made, with one of the most romantic songs (“Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas”) ever written, in any language. Dharmendra and Rakhee are beyond beautiful, their blossoming love story thwarted by misunderstandings, mad science and “international” villainy. I have never rooted for two people to find their way back to each other as I do for this pair. And when they do—the sparks will almost set your living room on fire! If you love romance, you will melt melt melt into a puddle. I do, every time.
4. Deewaar (1975): Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Nirupa Roy, Iftekhar. Directed by Yash Chopra, music by RD Burman.
Let alone a favorite 70s film, I would put this on a list of best movies of all time, made by anyone. It’s a tragic masterpiece, written by Salim-Javed and justifiably renowned for its story and dialogues; even subtitled, their power comes through…
It is also an acting tour-de-force: Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor will tear you apart as brothers unable to reconcile their shared but very different pasts. It’s gritty, tough, sad, and hard to watch a great deal of the time, but it is riveting and near-perfect, in my opinion.
5. Jugnu (1973): Starring Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Pran, Ajit, Prem Chopra. Directed by Pramod Chakravorty, music by SD Burman.
If this film didn’t inspire Manmohan Desai as he scaled the heights of the masala genre, I would be surprised. A separated family, a Robin-Hood type hero, and one of the most hilarious Masala Death Traps ever: spinning blades atop wobbly candy-striped poles fail to actually endanger Dharmendra and Pran as our villainous trio look on, cold beer in hand, from their plastic cafe table and chairs complete with umbrella.
Plus, Dharmendra and Hema strike sparks off each other in a wonderful display of their famous chemistry. It is too much fun and holds a special place in my heart, being one of my early forays into the wacky world of 70s cinema.
6. Reshma Aur Shera (1971): Starring Sunil Dutt, Waheeda Rehman, Amitabh Bachchan, Rakhee, Vinod Khanna. Directed by Sunil Dutt, music by Jaidev.
Sumptuously photographed in Rajasthan, this is a grim tale which condemns the cycle of violence that a culture of vengeance and machismo births. Very unusual for its time, it was a flop; Sunil Dutt lost a lot of money in the venture, but it’s by far his finest film as a producer-director and one of his finest as an actor. Amitabh Bachchan very ably plays a small but key character in one of his first roles and Waheeda is simply marvellous. It is a beautiful, powerful, tragic film (part of the tragedy is that the only dvd available is missing the key scene which leads to the climax) and it is well worth watching. The songs by Jaidev are lovely and include a qawwali where Sanjay Dutt makes his first screen appearance at the age of twelve.
7. Seeta Aur Geeta (1973): Starring Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Sanjeev Kumar. Directed by Ramesh Sippy, music by RD Burman.
This movie is all about the charm of its performers and the awesome music by Panchamda. A Cinderella/twins-separated-at-birth story with Hema as the sweet, wealthy (and put-upon) Seeta and feisty village girl Geeta who comes to Seeta’s rescue unknowingly. There is nothing not to love, except the print (someone needs to restore this one, and pronto).
8. Shehzada (1972): Starring Rajesh Khanna, Rakhee, Veena. Directed by K Shanker, music by RD Burman.
This is one of my favorite Rajesh films. He and Rakhee look gorgeous together and positively sizzle in a rain song that I adore, and it’s a wonderful fairy tale with engaging and real characters. Plus, Rajesh is just as charming and handsome as ever he was (and that too is saying something)…Yummy!
9. Sholay (1975): Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Jaya Bhaduri Bachchan, Hema Malini, Sanjeev Kumar. Directed by Ramesh Sippy, music by RD Burman.
I don’t think I can say anything about this that hasn’t already been said. Another masterpiece of story-telling from writers Salim-Javed, with great performances and skillful direction. If you have not read Anupama Chopra’s incredible book “Sholay: the Making of a Classic” you really should. Besides for Saadat Hasan Manto’s “Stars from Another Sky” and Nasreen Munni Kabir’s “Lata Mangeshkar…In Her Own Voice” you will never read a more entertaining, insightful and tastefully “gossipy” book than this.
10. Okay I’m cheating!!! Cheating Cheating Cheating! Everything Manmohan Desai made in the 1970s! Sachaa Jhutha! Shararat (please God put this on dvd with subtitles)! Bhai Ho To Aisa! Rampur Ka Lakshman! Aa Gale Lag Jaa! Roti! Dharam-Veer! Chacha Bhatija (please God put this on dvd with subtitles)! Amar Akbar Anthony! Parvarish! Suhaag!
Argghhh. I just can’t keep it to ten.
*Memsaab’s head explodes*