Hindi Cinema has cast a seductive spell over its spectators for close to a century now. Visually arresting, dynamic in outlook and pulsating with life, Bollywood has entertained and enthralled moviegoers over the years with its melodious music. Colourful drama and lively plotlines. At they very heart of the Bollywood mystique is the two ring presence of its galaxy of stars-demigods and divas who have shaped and defined and divas who have shaped and defined popular cinema, and popular imagination, from one generation to next.
Bollywood’s Top 20 is an exciting collection of brand-new essays by renowned writers on cinema that pays tribute to Hindi popular cine’s biggest stars to hindi popular cinema’s biggest stars of all time-from Ashok kumar, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor, Nargis and Madhubala to Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Kajol and Kareena Kapoor- Who are indispensable to the Bollywood pantheon. Each piece offers unique insights into the lives of Bollywood’s most exceptional legends-their struggles and triumphs, downfalls and scandals, and the inscrutable X-factor that made them carve a niche for themselves in an industry bursting with talented professionals and desperate hopefuls.
Bhaichand Patel, editor, saw his first film sitting on his mother’s lap in Fiji Islands and fell in love with Maria Montez and Madhubala before the onslaught of puberty. He has been film on every continent and sat on a number of juries, including one at the venerable Venice film festival. While he was posted with the united Nations. He studied film-making at New York University; He writes regularly on cinema and is the author of Happy Hours: the Penguin Book of cocktails
The first film I saw was Wadia Movietone’s Bambaiwali (1941) starring fearless Nadia. At Least that’s how I remember it. It saw the film sitting on my mother’s lap, in a large tin shed masquerading as a cinema hall. It was a time when it was not wise to invest much money in such places. They rended to burn down since the films that went through projectors were highly inflammable in the early days of cinema.
I come from a family of film buffs. My father was a fan of zubaida who has the lead in the first talkie, Alam Ara (1931). She was pretty but my father’s fascination may have something to of the Nawab of sacin. Out ancestral village in Gujarat was preferably something from Prakash Pictures starring Prem Adib Playing Ram and Shobhana Samarth Playing Sita. I met by that time my mother had gone to the big multiple in the sky but she must have been pleased.
My first English film was Michael Powell’s The thief of Baghdad(1940) when it finally reached our theater. It had a scene of Sabu in violent storm at sea. That scene scared the a kid my age to such a film but it developed a taste in me for Hollywood before I could understand English.
As a child, I saw an average of three film a week. I had all the time in the world after school. There was little else by way of entertainment in that small faraway country, Fiji island. I was not yet into serious reading and, of course, there was no was not yet into serious reading and, of course, there was not mostly from Bombay, some from Lahore, Calcutta and Poona successful remake of Tamil Extravaganza. As for English films, from the two British studios. J. Arthur Rank and London Films. They came to us after they were shown all over new Zealand.
We lived a stone’s throw from a theatre named Lilac. The other theatre in town, Regal, was more posh. It was European-owned and catered largely to white clientele but we were allowed in. regal showed film produced by MGM, Twentieth Century Fox, RKO and Paramount studios.
When I came to study in Delhi, I went to the cinema halls on the periphery of the old city since they were closer to the campus. I saw Mother India (1957) and Pyaasa (1957) at the Moti in chandni chowk. I went further out to Connaught Place, also by bus, if I wished to see an English film. The ten Commandments (1956) and Ben Hur (1959) ran at the Odeon. Later in Bombay I took the local train from Church gate to the seedy screens on Grant Road and Lamington Road. Some of these halls surely must have become victims of the multiplexes by now.
I have to confess there is a gap in my enjoyment of Hindi films. For five years from early 1961 I was in London. This was before Indians, Pakistanis and Uganda Asians invaded Britain in large numbers. There was only one theatre, a disused opera house off tottenham court Road, where Hindi films were occasionally screened on Sundays. I saw only four films from India in those years-a revival of Baiju Bawra (1952), one of my all-time favourites), Dharmaputra (1961, an awful Yash Chopra film), Prem Patra (1962, Bimal Roy’s worst film) and Guru Dutt’s classic Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962, which was some consolation).
Be that as it may , I hope I have somewhat established my credentials for editing a book that encompasses eighty years of Indian cinema. So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. This book is a celebration of Hindi films or, if you prefer, Hindustani films, from the introduction of sound in 1931 to the present day. We are covering these eight decades through twenty stars, the brightest, and often the best, men and women who gave us so much pleasure over the years.
Choosing the title of this book was not easy. There was considerable debate on the wisdom of using the word ‘Bollywood’. The moniker was coined sometime in the early 1980s and no are aware that there are some in the film business who dislike the use of the word. They have a point: it is derivative, a nod to the word ‘Hollywood’. But there are others who are quite comfortable with the word. We were wavering until Shekhar Search of Bollywood Kapur and Rakeysh Mehra made a documentary titled. In Search of Bollywood. It was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2011 where it received some acclaim. We figured that if the word “Bollywood’ was good enough for Frankly, there really is no other singe word that describes the film industry that operates out of Mumbai.
The twenty stars we have chosen to honour are not necessarily the most talented, though heaven knows they are all talented enough, but they were-and some of them still are-the most popular of their time. They could- and some still do-fill up cinema halls across the country on the opening weekend and often for much longer. Some of them have also acted in spectacular flops, the biggest duds of all time, but that comes with the territory.
Any such listing of stars would be absurd, if not downright eccentric, if it did not include Dilip Kumar, Nargis, Raj Kapoor, Madhubala, Dev Anand, Meena Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan. Selecting them was the easy part. Picking others, especially from the ‘50s and the ‘60s –the so-called Golden age of Hindi cine-was more problematic. There was an abundance of terrific actors at that time. Look at the names of the actors, in no particular order, whom we could not accommodate among our top twenty: Geeta Bali, Nalini Jayant, vyjayanthimala, Balraj Sahni, Nutan, Sunil dutt, Nimmi, Rajendra Kumar, Sharmila Tagore, Kishor Kumar, Kamini Kaushal, guru dutt, suchitra Sen, Manoj kumar, Dharmendra, Sadhana and Asha Parekh. We could have extended the list to twenty-five, even thirty. But that would have been to too easy. We were determined to keep it down to just twenty. It gave more glory to the ones that made the list.
The reader may well ask why Kareena Kapoor found her way among the twenty and not, say, Nutan or vyjayanthimala. Let me explain Kareena’s competition was neither Nutan Nor Vyjayanthimala. Her competition was Katrina Kaif, Priyanka Chopra and Imran Khan. She is the most successful of the current crop. Nutan and Vyjayanthimala’s competitors were elsewhere, several decades ago. Once you understand that, the selection process will, hopefully, make sense
The absence of Salman Khan from the top twenty also needs explaining. As I write this, the actor has come up with three huge hits in row with one film, Dabangg(2010), ending up as one of the biggest grosser of all time. Since we were determined to keep the list restricted to twenty, one of three khans- Aamir, decision was not that difficult. This is a personal opinion but I woul say that, in talent and popularity, aamir is today’s Dilip Kumar while Shahrukh is this generations’ Amitah Bachchan. Perhaps I am being unfair but Salman is the equivalent of Rajendra actor came up with hit after hit. But does anyone today remember any of the Rajendra Kumar films? None of them left a lasting played second fiddle to Raj Kapoor. Unlike salman ,Aamir And Shahrukh are here for the long run.
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