10 Must Watch Bollywood Classics (According to My Mom!)

10 Must Watch Bollywood Classics (According to My Mom!)

Manjulika Agarwal

So this gorgeous lady happens to be my mommy back in her 20s! How cute right?! She always tells me how amazing Bollywood film music and all the drama used to be, so I figured she’d be the ideal person to suggest 10 movies from way back when that you absolutely must watch! (Do I look like her you think?) xoxo

Manjulika Agarwal
Manjulika Agarwal

One evening as I watched all the hype around Rajesh Khanna’s recent demise I was taken aback by the adulation he got from both the young and the old. It made me think back to my own youth when he used to be our hero, so charismatic making all the girls swoon. I often wonder if today’s generation is missing out on that old Bollywood charm. Back in the 50s, 60s and 70s, when there was no satellite TV and Chitrahaar had just begun on Doordarshan I used to listen to Radio Ceylon and wait for my songs to play on Binaca Geetmala. The programme was hosted by Amin Sayani who had such a beautiful and sexy voice that we all fell in love with it! We used to wait near the radio every Wednesday with paper and pencils to write down where our song was going to figure on charts.

Films those days were so full of emotion. Family dramas, comedies, religious movies and some slapstick films too. Chalti Ka Naam Gadi with Kishore Kumar his brothers Ashok and Anoop Kumar. Chaudhvin Ka Chand with Guru Dutt and Waheda Rehman was a classic. Barsaat Ki Ek Raat was another romantic movie with Madhubala looking stunning. In Pakeeza Meena Kumari did a fantastic job playing a nautch girl. Prem Rog made by Raj Kapoor on widow remarriages. Boot Polish on the lives of street urchins… Movies have always been a mirror of the society we live.


Family dramas are still in vogue today with saas bahu serials. In those days it was all about brother v/s brother, or lost and found siblings but the main thing in all these movies were the beautiful songs and theee lyrics. Even today you’ll catch people sing those songs on Indian Idol! I loved the songs from movies like Aradhana, Amar Prem and Do Raaste. We had such eminant lyricists like Gulzar, Sahir Ludhianwi, Anand Bakshi, Kaifi Azami, Shakil Badayuni and many many more with such beautiful voices like Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosale, Geeta Dutt, Mohd Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Talat Mehmood, Manna De etc.

A true rare photograph with many stars of Bollywood playback singing golden era. This photograph was probably taken in early 1950's.
A true rare photograph with many stars of Bollywood playback singing golden era. This photograph was probably taken in early 1950's.

Heroines those days had an identity of their own. They were depicted as innocent and helpless always in need of a rescue by the hero. The “bad girl” or “vamps” were played by actors like Nadira, Helen, Bindu, Aruna Irani and Shyma. Again a reflection of our times when “good girls” stayed at home even after getting an education.


We used to watch Hunterwali movies with the Anglo-Indian actress Nadia as the lead. She could ride horses, jump from tall buildings and fight strong men and would even win most of the time. We as youngsters used to copy her and enacted her scenes daringly jumping across the rooftops of our grandmothers house! It was a large house in Allahabad with a courtyards and many rooms. When I look back now it was all quite scary and we totally didn’t know to not “try this at home” we’d do anything our beloved stars did.

Nadia Hunterwali
Nadia Hunterwali

So many amazing movies come to mind when I try to make my list, MughalEAzam, Do Raaste, Do Bigha Zameen, Taxi Driver, Uran Khatola Taj Mahal, Kohinoor, Guddi, Khubsurat, Mela, Ganga Jamuna, Madhumati, Kohraa… so I hope you enjoy my final selection! My favorite movies as a young girl growing up in the 50,60 and 70s. I’m sure your mom’s will agree :)

Here are 10 must watch classics for the new generation, that will show you what I mean.

1. Mahal

1949 – Directed by Kamal Amrohi, starring Ashok Kumar and Madhubala. It was India’s first reincarnation thriller.

2. Pakeezah

1972 – Directed by Kamal Amrohi, music by Ghulam Mohammed and Naushad. The film tells the story of a Lucknow tawaif played by Meena Kumari who died shortly after the film was completed.

3. Umrao Jaan

1981 Directed by Muzaffar Ali. Based on the Urdu novel Umrao Jaan Ada (1905), written by Mirza Hadi Ruswa based on the famous Lucknow courtesan. The film starred Rekha and Farooq Shaikh.

4. Silsila

1981 – Directed by Yash Chopra. The film stars Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Sanjeev Kumar, Rekha and Kulbhushan Kharbanda, with Shashi Kapoor in a special appearance. Rumour had it that Silsila was based on the true love story of Amitabh, Jaya & Rekha.

5. Prem Rog

1982 – Directed by Raj Kapoor. Prem Rog literally means “love sick”. The film tells the story of a man’s love for a woman who is a widow of a higher status. Starring Rishi Kapoor and Padmini Kolhapure.

6. Amar Prem

1972 – Directed by Shakti Samanta, based on a story “Nishipadma” by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay and starring Sharmila Tagore, Rajesh Khanna, Vinod Mehra and Madan Puri. The thought-provoking song Chingaari Koi Bhadke written by Anand Bakshi and sung by Kishore Kumar, is one of the highlights of this classic.

7. Amar Akbar Anthony

1977 – About  three brothers separated during their childhood who grew up in three homes, adopting three different religions. Directed by – Manmohan Desai starring Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna and Rishi Kapoor, Parveen Babi, Shabana Azmi and Neetu Singh. The music was written by Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Kishore Kumar sang for Amitabh Bachchan, and Mohammed Rafi sang for Rishi Kapoor.

8. Satyam Shivam Sundaram

(Truth is Eternal and Beautiful) made by Raj Kapoor. Starring Shashi Kapoor and Zeenat Aman. Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s music won the Filmfare Best Music Director Award. Lata Mangeshkar lends her voice to the main theme song Satyam Shivam Sundaram, which was among the chart-toppers of the year.

9. Abhimaan

1973 – Starring Amitabh Bachchan; his real-life wife, Jaya Bachchan; Asrani; and Bindu. It was directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. The film is perhaps best remembered for its songs. When it was released, audiences found similarities between real-life couple Amitabh and Jaya and the couple they portrayed on-screen as Jaya’s career was stronger than Amitabh’s at the time.

10. Sholay

1975 – Action-adventure film produced by G.P. Sippy and directed by his son Ramesh Sippy. It is considered by the Encyclopaedia of Hindi cinema to be among the greatest films in Indian cinema.


stars Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjeev Kumar, Hema Malini, Jaya Bhaduri and Amjad Khan. The film drew its plot heavily from the conventions of Western films.

How awesome right? I’m going to go back and watch all 10 on mom’s list, starting with Abhiman tell me if you do too!