Raghav Modi aims to enlighten new audiences to the wonderful world of Indian cinema by looking at ten great films lacking signature song or dance sequences.
A number of times I come across individuals who claim that the main reason they avoid Indian cinema is because of the song and dance sequences.
I must confess that we Indians are extremely proud of the singing and dancing as they both form an integral part of both joy and sadness in our lives.
But, everyone has the right to have their own views, so this Top 10 is for the people who might want to explore a different side of Indian cinema by avoiding songs and dances.
Ek Ruka Hua Faisla (1986)
It’s not something I would imagine saying, but I actually prefer this remake of 12 Angry Men over the original. There isn’t that much of a difference in the story, but the characterization of the jury members is simply more detailed and interesting than in the original. The fact that the film comprises of some of the best character actors from TV and Film has a lot to do with it keeping the audience interested throughout its length. Ek Ruka Hus Faisla is one of the few movies that I never get tired of watching whenever it is on TV, which is a lot.
It’s the age old story of the Mahabharata retold in a modern fashion by depicting a war of intellect, deception, passion and revenge between two influential business families. Brilliantly acted by an ensemble cast, Kalyug explores human nature in its rawest form. You don’t need to know about the Mahabharata to enjoy the film since the story captivates the audience beautifully playing with the characters as if they were puppets attached to a strings of words.
Iqbal is a charming little film about a mute and deaf boy from a small village in India with a dream of playing for the Indian cricket team. Don’t let the cricket aspect turn you off, as it is essential but not the focus of the film. Iqbal, directed by Nagesh Kukunoor, is about relationships; those between a brother and sister, between a son and his cricket hating father, between an ever loving mother and her son, and the relationship between a drunk washed up cricket star and his pupil. The film takes on these relationships in a lighthearted humorous way making Iqbal a must-see feel-good film.
Khosla Ka Ghosla (2006)
What would you do if your dream piece of land that you just bought was grabbed by an influential property dealer? The film is a comedy of sorts following a family as they go through the trials and tribulations of trying to get back what is rightfully theirs. It is a clean family entertainer and one that is amongst my favorites for its story, acting (aside for the voice of Tara Sharma), and authentic feel.
I cannot even imagine the huge gamble the makers took when they decided to make a silent film in 1987, a time when films were loud and over-the-top.
Pushpak remains one of Indian cinema’s masterpiece for its simplistic story of a man taking on the identity of another man and falling in love with a girl all the while being followed by a killer unbeknown to him.
Just like the scenario suggests, the film is comedy gold from the get go, but Tinu Anand as the not-so-lucky killer (with a rather unique style of killing) gives the standout performance in the entire film.
Chak De India
I must warn you that the film does have a bit of singing (although not dancing), but that serves more as background music against montages. A sports film based on real life events of a disgraced men’s hockey (field hockey) player who comes back to coach the women’s team and leads them to victory in the hockey world cup, Chak De India sees Shah Rukh Khan in what can be called a “deglamorized” role for a change. The cast of the women’s team was made up with real players and lesser known actors and that keeps the film more genuine and interesting. Again, once doesn’t have to know or even like the game of hockey to enjoy this film.
Bhoot is one of the very few successful horrors to originate from India. Although horror has been a huge part of Indian cinema, earlier horror films were always B-grade films with monsters that were more likely to make you laugh than scared. Bhoot explored the slow realization of a family living in an apartment block that their home might be haunted. The slow build-up of tension, the long scenes depicting mundane chores/acts of everyday life add a certain feeling of dread before the final act when all is revealed. The films might not stand much ground now, especially with the popularity of Japanese horror, but still deserves a watch.
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (1983)
The amazing thing about this satire on society from the 1980s is that it holds true now, even after three decades.
The story of two photographers who uncover a murder taking them deep into the corrupt world of politicians, builders, policemen, and newspapers is a look at how the rich have always had the ability to get away with anything.
While the film looks at the dark side of life, it does so in a comic way and that is also why Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron is considered one of the best comedies of Indian cinema.
A coming of age film about a boy who enrolls at a new boarding school, Rockford is heartwarming family entertainment at its best.
Great child performances, the film explores the innocence of children at the time when they are just about starting to experience love and infatuation for the first time all the while learning about life’s unfairness in the form of bullies and disappointments.
Rockford is a movie with a heart and for that reason makes for essential viewing.
Dus Kahaniya (2007)
An experimental piece of cinema which features 10 non-related shorts by 6 different directors. While Sanjay Gupta directs 5 of the 10 shorts, the entire collection makes for a interesting watch. As expected the stories are a hit and miss with a few falling flat on their face, while others simply wowing the audience. Enlisting a plethora of actors, some established and others not so, the stories look at different aspects of life from the supernatural to love to greed to jealousy. The best part about Dus Kahaniya remains that if you are not enjoying a particular story, you are not far away from a completely different one which just might surprise you. (Note: This film does have a bit of running on the beach with music and all, but something I know you all can overlook or fast forward).
Your turn – which films on this list have you seen, which ones do you want to see, what do you think of the choices made for each year?
Written and compiled by Raghav Modi.
Raghav is an Indian writer based in the northern state of Haryana. He writes about film at his site Ticker Talks Film, while also writing about travel, photography and family at his other sites The Travelling Ticker, Ticker Prints and Ticker Talks.
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