Top 10 Movies on pre-Independence India: MSN Choice
1. Shatranj Ke Khiladi
Based on: Munshi Premchand’s novel by the same name
Screenplay & Direction: Satyajit Ray
Cast: Sanjeev Kumar, Saeed Jaffrey, Shabana Azmi & Amjad Khan
This is almost a docu-drama on Pre-1857 India; it shows how the docility of India’s affluent upper middle class contributed to the establishment of the British Raj. Lucknow and its Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (an exemplary performance from Amjad Khan) provide the backdrop for the story of two chess-obsessed noblemen.
The film documents the sluggishness of Post-Mughal India, where Kings preferred poetry to diplomacy and the durbars witnessed more mushairas and mehfils than ministerial meetings.
Though a landmark in India’s period film genre, ‘Shatranj Ke Khiladi’ is considered by most critics to be one of Ray’s unimpressive works. It is remembered more for the voiceover done by Amitabh Bachchan than for the political insights it gave.
2. Jhansi Ki Rani
Producer/Director: Sohrab Modi
India's first technicolour film, ‘Jhansi Ki Rani’ was Sohrab Modi’s dream-come-true project. He brought technicians from Hollywood to work on the SFX and battle sequences.
Mehtab, the star of the year, was cast in the title role. Modi essayed the role of the Raj Guru.
The film was received well by contemporary critics and it was applauded for “its authenticity in creating the right period and delineating historical events, its spectacular battle scenes and Mehtab's stirring performance though she is far too old for the role.” There is a Ball sequence in the Jhansi palace, which was shot spectacularly by Modi.
In spite of the critical acclaim, the film fell flat at the Box-Office.
Based on: Ruskin Bond’s ‘A flight of Pigeons’
Screenplay: Shyam Benegal
Directed by: Shyam Benegal
Produced by: Shashi Kapoor
Set in 1857 India, ‘Junoon’ explores the romantic within the rebel and the rebel within the romantic.
It is set in 1857, with the First War of Independence as its backdrop.
The perspective is that of Javed Khan, one of the leaders of the Mutiny (played by Shashi Kapoor).
The film discusses the deeper truths of the rebellion. Javed Khan storms a British hideout and imprisons three British women. He falls in love with Ruth (played by Nafisa Ali) and wants her to be his second wife. The romance falls apart as British seek retribution for those killed by the rebels.
‘Junoon’ was India’s toast at most international film festivals (1978-1980), and it brought home a bagful of awards.
Directed by S. Ram Sharma
Produced by: Kewal Kashyap
Cast: Manoj Kumar, Prem Chopra
Bhagat Singh’s life has been subject to various Bolly takes, but none has been more impressive than this 1965 film. Manoj Kumar plays Bhagat with elan.
This is the first of Manoj Kumar’s ‘patriotic series’. Kamini Kaushal, Pran, Iftekhar, Nirupa Roy, Prem Chopra, Madan Puri, Asit Sen, Indrani Mukherjee and Anwar Hussain form the supporting cast. The films music is by Prem Dhawan, and all the songs became super hits.
If you are a B&W fan, you should never miss this film. Ranjod Rathore’s cinematography wins both the battle and the war, for this one.
5. Mangal Pandey: The rising
Written by: Farrukh Dhondy
Directed by: Ketan Mehta
Produced by: Bobby Bedi
Cast: Aamir Khan, Toby Stevens, Rani Mukherji
Mangal Pandey: The Rising (Indian title) is the typical example of a speculative period film. It is supposed to be the biopic of a sepoy called Mangal Pandey, who had “spent the first bullet of the 1857 mutiny”. Half of what we see on screen, here, is an assortment of historical fiction rather than fact.
Made on the lines of a ballad, the Ketan Mehta film failed to connect with the 21st Century Indian. This was primarily because of the fact that the premise for the film was an assumption rather than a truth.
Produced by Mohanlal
Directed by Priyadarshan
Written by T Damodaran
Cast: Mohanlal, Tabu, Prabhu
A take on the infamous Andaman prison of the British (referred to as ‘Kalapaani’), the prime purpose of this film was to imitate Hollywood movies of the ‘Schindler’s List’ hue than to depict the prison realities of 1919.
It meanders through romance, violence and slapstick before finally coming to a Titanic-like end. There is even a romantic number picturised on the female lead, inside the prison walls (the prisoner’s dream, of course!)
Spectacularly mounted and dubbed in six Indian languages, ‘Saza-e-Kalapaani’ was a moderate hit both at the marquee and with the critics.
Based on Bapsi Sidhwa’s novel ‘Cracking India’
Written & Directed by Deepa Mehta
Produced by Anne Mason
Cast: Aamir Khan, Rahul Khanna, Nandita Das
This is about the pent-up energies of “non-violent” India that found a vent on the eve of Independence. Deepa Mehta deftly portrays 'Gadar' (Partition) and the first wounds of Freedom!
The film was received well both at home and across the world.
8. Saat Hindustani
Produced, Directed & Written by KA Abbas
Cast: Utpal Dutt, Amitabh Bachchan, Jalal Agha, Madhu
‘Saat Hindustani’ is known today as the debut vehicle of Amitabh Bachchan. But there is more to it than meets the eye. KA Abbas, inspired by Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai’, tells the heroic story of seven Indians who attempt to liberate Goa from the Portuguese colonial rule. Amitabh Bachchan played one of the seven Indians (a Muslim poet) captured by “the enemy nation” as POW.
A decade later, Bachchan starred in another film titled ‘Pukar’ (directed by Ramesh Behl), which again had the liberation of Goa as the theme. This time, it looked as if it was Amitabh Bachchan, the superhero, who had liberated Goa from Portuguese yoke!
Source: India SYndicate
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