I love Bollywood. I always have. Granted, I haven’t watched some of the more recent releases of the past year or so with ever-increasing patriotic films which, at any other time, would have been wonderful, but with Modi and the BJP, I’ve sort of taken a step back in actively rooting for my favourite Bollywood heroines and heroes. Except Deepika Padukone because how can I not?
Of course, I take solace in the good ole wading through lavender fields, Shah Rukh Khan with his arms wide open in every one of his earlier films, and a song and dance every 30 minutes or so. But Bollywood has evolved, if it’s for the better, that’s a question for another day. But, today, I want to celebrate my favourite Bollywood films of all time blending in the classics with the more fresh and modern Bollywood hits (and one or two not-so-great hits that I loved anyway).
Who knows? You might even find your next Netflix watch! No, but, seriously, watch some Bollywood films, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, you need some light-hearted fun!
Right before her wedding, a young woman finds herself abducted and held for ransom. As the initial days pass, she begins to develop a strange bond with her kidnapper.
I say top 10 Bollywood films when I mean top 1 and that is Highway for me. Yeah, I might get some side-eye for this because Alia Bhatt essentially plays a character (Veera Tripathi) who develops Stockholm Syndrome. But, at its core, Veera and Mahabir (played by Randeep Hooda) are two characters who haven’t had the best childhoods with both being victims of child abuse. Just FYI and for the sake (and importance) of **trigger warnings**, before you decide to add it/watch it on Netflix, Highway deals with a number of tough topics including child sex abuse. It’s because of the horrible cards Veera is dealt with that being kidnapped, and now finally away from her home and her family, she finds freedom, safety and peace that she otherwise wouldn’t have.
I love Highway because Veera is basically me. She slightly overthinks at times, has the capacity to talk absolute nonsense, is fairly annoying, openly embraces her emotions (by that I mean crying), and I say I’m okay but deep down Veera and I just want to be one with the trees. There’s just something about Highway with its picturesque landscapes that takes me back to the Creative Writing Course I did with Futureversity in South Wales. Everything Veera does in Patakha Guddi is basically what I did, and no one thought I was silly, childish or outrageous for it and they even joined me on my adventures! Free-spirited weirdos and that’s on living in the moment. Also, Patakha Guddi is my favourite ever Bollywood song, and it’s a great pick me up when I need to dig in for some hope and to gather courage within myself. Added coincidence, Patakha Guddi mentions the Peepal tree, and my mentors were directly from Peepal Press (Kadija Sesay – I wouldn’t have had this wonderful opportunity without Kadija, Dorothea Smartt – who ignited my love for poetry -, and Jacob Ross – who was basically the Matthew Cumbert to my Anne Gilbert). A. R. Rahman is the man behind the music for Highway, and every song has a distinct Sufi spirit with exquisite lyrics.
Imtiaz Ali’s Highway didn’t garner the most positive reviews because it’s mostly character-driven with Veera embarking on her own journey free from societal expectations of normalcy. But not every film will speak to every person, it’s definitely a niche film, but Highway especially spoke to me. Every film will find a home in one person, and I found mine in Highway.
I’ll leave you with a few (translated) lyrics from Patakha Guddi:
O firefly, O fiery kite,
Intoxicated she flies,
All over the places around.
The darned girl is roaming a lot,
The kid’s like rainwater,
When she comes near the real world,
She will be a little dirty..
Highway is available on Netflix.
Shruti loves Barfi, a hearing and speech-impaired man, but marries someone else. Years later, she learns that he is in love with an autistic girl, and feels the need to rethink her own marriage.
Eeeek! Barfi is one of the MOST romantic films ever! And you can also learn some important lessons on love too. Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra are absolute gems in this film and redefine what love looks like. I love Jhilmil (Priyanka), she has her priorities straight and knows what she wants every step of the way which is a stark contrast to Shruti. Shruti inherits traditional ideas of love and marriage from her parents only to find out both from her own and her mother’s perspective that she had it all wrong and it hasn’t bought her any happiness. It’s devastatingly sad, but Barfi essentially is what would have happened had Noah from The Notebook decided that he was going to move on from Allie and without the haunting ending (yes, haunting!) of My Best Friend’s Wedding. Ranbir Kapoor as Barfi is hilarious, utterly charming and adorable, ushering in a Charlie Chaplin-esque performance that will make you feel fuzzy.
I’m still torn about what to think about that trust fall because instead of a body, it is a lamp falling on you, but can you really figure out that you’ve established total trust with someone through a potentially dangerous trust exercise? I guess Barfi is right, only someone who has full trust in you would trust that you wouldn’t put them in such a dangerous situation. But, damn, did you need to take it that far?
There’s speech and hearing-impaired and autism representation in Barfi too, and I read that Priyanka Chopra performed extensive research to play the role of Jhilmil. Though I can’t say how accurate the representation was, it’s not my place to decide.
Barfi is available on Netflix.
3. Jab We Met
Aditya, a heartbroken business tycoon, aimlessly boards a train to escape his depressing life. He meets Geet, a bubbly Punjabi girl, and gets pulled into her crazy life.
Well, well, well, if it isn’t a fully realised and humanised manic pixie dream girl. It’s no secret that Geet (Kareena Kapoor) is one of the greatest female characters of all time. Many Bollywood stars are even asked to audition with one of Geet’s scenes in Jab We Met. That’s how top tier Geet is. Jab We Met is also a beautiful love story for fans of opposites attract romances.
Aditya (Shahid Kapoor) is a withdrawn and depressed businessman who is on the brink of ending his life when he meets Geet on a train. From this point, the two venture on a crazy adventure with missed trains and learning to get over an ex! Aditya learns to love life after meeting the fun-loving, feisty and optimistic Geet. But the best part is that Geet doesn’t get the love story she originally wanted (bear with me), and, this time around, it’s Aditya who has to help her rediscover her zest for life. Also, who else cried their heart out when they saw Geet sink into depression? And scream and shout when she delivered the iconic, “Kutte, ulle ke patthe, you b******, saale suwar ki aulaad” scene. Kareena Kapoor delivered her finest acting performance, and Geet is a character that will stay with you forever.
With adorable songs like Mauja Hi Mauja and Tum Se Hi (guys, it’s one of the cutest and sweetest songs ever), Jab We Met is one of the most romantic films I’ve ever watched. And friendly reminder, this should be every single of you too (see below). Let the spirit of Geet enter you.
4. Hum Tum
Karan and Rhea meet on a flight and end up hating each other at the end of their journey. Things change between them when they continue to bump into each other at different stages of their lives.
Now, this one is for fans of enemies to friends to lovers. I’ve got you all covered.
This is one of my comfort films. Rhea (Rani Mukerji) and Karan (Saif Ali Khan) are complete opposites. Rhea is feisty, outspoken and strong-willed… and also a staunch feminist. She roots for women every step of the way. Rhea strongly believes in love and marriage and Karan… oh, boy. He is mischievous, flirty and light-hearted who thinks that love and marriage are totally outdated. As you can imagine, the two clash heavily. They clash so heavily that there’s even a song where they have a major men v women clash. But, interestingly, Rhea actually finds a great man who is exactly the idea of what her ideal partner looks like. I can’t say much without delving into spoiler territory, but, eventually, Rhea and Karan find themselves getting along. For all Karan’s slightly annoying patter, he is actually a great friend to Rhea and the chemistry? Whew. You’ll need a fan or two. The more you see of Karan the more you’ll like him. Then there’s the title song ‘Hum Tum’, let me stop before I start gushing irrepressibly.
Hum Tum is definitely more a traditional love story, but its delivery and execution is faultless. It’s loosely based on ‘When Harry Met Sally’. Another bonus is that every time Karan and Rhea meet, some sort of accident always occurs. But it teaches you a thing or two about love – tell that special someone you love them before you lose the chance even if you’re worried about losing their friendship, sometimes it takes years for people to fall in love and sometimes it happens within a matter of minutes. There’s no one specific method when it comes to falling in love. We’re all different, so why wouldn’t love happen differently for plenty of us?
5. Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani
Kabir, a guy who wants to make it big in the travel industry, meets Naina during a trekking trip. She falls for him but refrains from expressing it. Years later they meet at a friend’s wedding.
Okay, so there’s one woman that I have the biggest crush on and it’s Deepika Padukone. Seriously, I don’t think I would ever create a stan account, but, if I ever did, it’d be one for Deepika and the other for Winston Bishop. Okay, now I’ve finished fangirling over Deepika, let’s talk about Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani.
Kabir aka Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor) and Naina (Deepika) meet (again) during a trekking trip. Naina has immense social anxiety, so even deciding to go on this trip, against her mother’s wish, when she isn’t even friends with anyone there… how bloody brave is that? It’s heartbreaking to see Naina struggle to fit in. She’s studious, reserved, practical and cautious and… sadly, friendless. She sees herself as boring for not being rebellious like the others on the trip, but Bunny reminds her, “Hey, you’re awesome, brave, cool and, actually, you’re a damn hero, so celebrate yourself!” Naina slowly coming out of her shell and falling in love with herself (and Bunny) is the dream for anyone who suffers from social anxiety. So, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is for all my kings and queens who have social anxiety and a gentle reminder that you are awesome.
And, yes, it is a love story. Bunny is adventurous, always on the move, outgoing and fun. Bunny and Naina are still very much each other’s opposites by the end. But what did Barney from How I Met Your Mother quite rightly say? “It’s not legendary unless your friends are there to see it.” Adventures are always better when you’re with the ones you love. And, sometimes, you have to stop and smell the roses because, in life, you can’t catch and chase every moment, you’ll always be missing some moment or the other, but this moment right now? Live it to the fullest.
Also, ALL the songs in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani are amazing. But my favourites are Badtameez Dil, Dilliwali Girlfriend and Balam Pichkari. Actually, no. Balam Pichkari is my favourite. It’s the best Holi song ever, and, one day, I absolutely need to go to a Holi festival and a crowded one at that with music and laughter and dancing! Aaaaaah!
That’s it for now. Part One has more modern and contemporary romances, but Part Two will include more of the classic Bollywood films. I’m sure if you’re a Bollywood fan, you’ll probably already know which I’ll be featuring!
Have you watched any of these films? What are some of your favourite Bollywood films? If you’re a newbie or looking to watch a Bollywood film, which are you planning to watch? What other Bollywood films would you recommend? Let me know in the comments!