The 20 Greatest Films Ever Made in IndiaI’m a big sucker for lists. More so when it has something to do with India and/or cinema. So obviously I was quite excited about the results of the T20 of Indian Cinema at The 40th International Film Festival of India being held in Goa. Though I didn’t quite like the title, anyway the grumbles will follow later in the post.

So here are the 20 greatest Indian films ever.

1. Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960)
Language: Bengali
Director: Ritwik Ghatak
Cast: Supriya Choudhury, Anil Chatterjee, Bijon Bhattacharya, Geeta Dey

2. Charulata (1964)
Language: Bengali
Director: Satyajit Ray
Cast: Soumitra Chatterjee, Madhabi Mukherjee, Sailen Mukherjee

3. Pather Panchali (1955)
Language: Bengali
Director: Satyajit Ray
Cast: Kanu Banerjee, Karuna Banerjee, Subir Banerjee, Uma Dasgupta, Chunibala Devi

4. Sholay (1975)
Language: Hindi
Director: Ramesh Sippy
Cast: Sanjeev Kumar, Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Hema Malini, Amjad Khan

5. Do Bigha Zameen (1953)
Language: Hindi
Director: Bimal Roy
Cast: Balraj Sahni, Nirupa Roy, Murad, Jagdeep, Nana Palsikar

6. Pyaasa (1957)
Language: Hindi
Director: Guru Dutt
Cast: Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman, Mala Sinha, Rehman

7. Bhuvan Shome (1969)
Language: Hindi
Director: Mrinal Sen
Cast: Utpal Dutt, Suhasini Mulay, Sadhu Meher, Shekhar Chatterjee

8. Garam Hawa (1973)
Language: Urdu
Director: MS Sathyu
Cast: Balraj Sahni, Dinanath Zutshi, Geeta Siddharth, Shaukat Kaifi, Farouque Shaikh, Jalal Agha

9. Mother India (1957)
Language: Hindi
Director: Mehboob Khan
Cast: Nargis, Raaj Kumar, Sunil Dutt, Rajendra Kumar

10. Ghatashraddha (1973)
Language: Kannada
Director: Girish Kasaravalli
Cast: Ajit Kumar, Meena Kuttappa, Ramaswamy Iyengar

11. Elippathayam (1973)
Language: Malayalam
Director: Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Cast: Karamana Janardanan Nair, Sharada, Jalaja, Rajam K Nair

12. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
Language: Urdu
Director: K Asif
Cast: Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Madhubala, Durga Khote

13. Nayakan (1987)
Language: Tamil
Director: Mani Ratnam
Cast: Kamal Haasan, Saranya, MV Vasudeva Rao, Janakaraj, Tinnu Anand

14. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1962)
Language: Hindi
Director: Guru Dutt
Cast: Guru Dutt, Mala Sinha

15. Apur Sansar (1959)
Language: Bengali
Director: Satyajit Ray
Cast: Soumitra Chatterjee, Sharmila Tagore

16. Sant Tukaram (1936)
Language: Marathi
Director: Damle and Fatehlal
Cast: Vishnupant Pagnis, Sri Bhagwat, Pandit Damle, Shankar Kulkarni, Kusum Bhagwat, Master Chhotu, B Nandrekar, Gauri

17. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (1980)
Language: Hindi
Director: Kundan Shah
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Ravi Baswani, Bhakti Barve, Satish Shah, Om Puri, Pankaj Kapur

18. Guide (1965)
Language: Hindi
Director: Vijay Anand
Cast: Dev Anand, Waheeda Rehman, Kishore Sahu, Leela Chitnis

19. Madhumati (1958)
Language: Hindi
Director: Bimal Roy
Cast: Dilip Kumar, Vyjayanthimala, Johnny Walker, Pran, Jayant

20. Anand (1971)
Language: Hindi
Director: Hrishikesh Mukherjee
Cast: Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Sumita Sanyal, Ramesh Deo

This list emerged from the ‘T20 of Indian Cinema’ poll in which 20 experts from around the country – 10 young filmmakers and 10 seasoned critics and scholars – participated.

While the official website for T20 of Indian Cinema – when I tried to visit was a pain (and it’s been down since yesterday) – has “showcased the 20 top Indian films in a form of a photogallery, with text by Saibal Chatterjee.

The list on website is full of errors.

Do Bigha Zameen is written as “Do Bhiga Jamin”, Bhuvan Shome is “Bhuvan Shoma”, Garam Hawa becomes “Garam Kawa”, Ghatashraddha became “Ghataskrada”, Elippathayam is “Ellipathe” and Apur Sansar is listed as “Apu Triology”.

Whoever came up with the name “T20 of Indian Cinema” deserves some rotten tomatoes. The greatest Indian films is not T20, it’s more like Test cricket. The name itself trivialises the affair.

Anabelle Colaco of The Times of India seemed disappointed with the likes of Chandni Bar and Lage Raho Munnabhai, not making the final cut. They might be good films, but then they aren’t great films. Somewhat like the difference between good and great cricketers. Saurav Ganguly was good, Sachin Tendulkar is great.

Dhiraj Ramakrishnan (@stupendousman78) questions the choice of films, replying to my tweet about the list, he asks, “how come only bengali and hindi are well represented“?.

While I’ll not go on to debate which film should have or shouldn’t have made it to the list, I think Dhiraj’s observation is valid. It does seem more like a Hindi/Urdu-Bengali monopoly with Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Marathi just filling in the quota seats.

The reason why I’ll not comment on selection, is because my exposure to other Indian cinema beyond the Hindustani and the Bengali is quite limited. I watched the most regional films in my childhood thanks to Doordarshan and the regional film telecast on Sunday afternoons.

The only regional film on this list that I watched is Nayakan. Though I have the other three in my library, I need to find time (and interest) to watch them.

Now on to some trivial pursuits.

If we use this list as a barometer, the following conclusions may be drawn:

* Satyajit Ray is the best Indian film director (three of his films are on the list) followed by Bimal Roy and Guru Dutt (two each).

* Bengalis (not necessarily Bengali films) make the best filmmakers in India. Eight of the 20 films on the list have been directed by Bengalis.

* The 1950s and 1960s yielded the best films in India. 12 of the 20 films are from the two decades.

* Since the 1990s there haven’t been any films of note produced in India.

Back in 2005 when people pestered me going gaga over Black, I wrote:

When Black was released there were accolades all over. I waited for some time for the rave reviews to disappear and made it to the theatre. When I exited, I didn’t feel that I had just witnessed the makeover of Indian cinema. It was only a relatively well-made film with a dark and damp look. The much appreciated acting seemed a little overboard. Histr
ionics is not equivalent to good acting. And all films sans songs are not necessarily good. It was just another hatke movie, but without the ability to really hata de.

Now this list also gives me yet another stick to beat people who still root for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘masterpiece’.

Of the 20 films I recollect watching almost 16, but then much of it was as a child (thanks to my film-loving neighbours). Such lists, even if you do not entirely agree with them, are a good list of recommendations for a lazy weekend.

To some it may be blasphemy, but sometimes I feel that Satyajit Ray is a bit too overrated.

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