The great Brunch checklist of #CultMovies

  • Aastha Atray Banan and Nihit Bhave, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Jun 07, 2015 09:29 IST

There are 100-crore hits, there are classics, there are even personal favourites. Then there are films you never imagined would be this popular even today. From critically acclaimed to cringe-worthy, here are movies we simply can’t forget.

We had a super time re-watching our favourite cult films. There’s nothing we’d like more than to discuss them with you. So tweet to
@HTBrunch with the hashtag #CultMovies about these films and the ones you think should be here. Let’s get talking!


Films so bad, they are actually good. Men catching bullets, lines that rhyme, even ichchadhari naags...
Himmatwala (1983)

In spite of its success at the box office, the movie garnered negative reviews. Jeetendra plays Ravi who avenges the bad guy, Bandookwala, for shaming his father and driving him away from the family. The massive hit song, Naino Mein Sapna, became the blueprint for its style of picturisation.

God-awful locations, fake sets and gigantic pots in the background featured in several songs afterwards. The movie was remade in 2013 by Sajid Khan, who claimed it was relevant to many people from his generation. The remake failed. And frankly, we would take Jeetendra-in-white over a tiger-taming (yes, there’s a tiger in the new one) Ajay Devgn any day. Gunda (1998) Kanti Shah film is Richa Chaddha’s "favourite cringe-film of all time!" So ardent is the cult around this absolutely terrible film, that its IMDb rating has skyrocketed to 8.2 (the same as for films like The Sixth Sense, The Avengers, Gone With The Wind and Fargo!)

Gunda is about a good guy (Mithun) caught in a gang war and it has over 1.2 million views on YouTube. With rhyming lines, crude double entendre, a hero who catches bullets with his bare hands, and characters who introduce themselves to the camera as they make their entry, Gunda gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, cult film.

The movie’s smutty content faced the ire of the censor board, who held it back for over six years. It was written off when it was released, but has found a whole new audience in the last five years or so.

Ask Chaddha why it’s her favourite, and she shoots off a line from the film: "Naam mera Pote, jo kisi ke baap ke nahi hotey…" off the top of her head. And if a two-time Cannes-returned actress vouches for the movie, who are we to argue? Khoon Bhari Maang (1988)

One reason this movie features in our Cringe section is for those over-the-top-even-for-Cleopatra outfits. Another reason is the plot itself: a husband throws his wife into a crocodile-infested lake. Why? To claim her inheritance, of course.

But the story doesn’t end there. Attacked by crocs and rebuilt by cosmetic surgeons, Rekha returns with a vengeance! The film, in a way, showed Bollywood that a revenge flick doesn’t have to be only about men. Female-led revenge-dramas like Khalnayika and Army followed.

"I really liked the movie because there was no concept of a makeover film in Bollywood at that time, and it also gave a new meaning to woman empowerment," says Chaddha. Plus, there’s that dolled-up Rekha rasping, "Main model banna chahti hoon". Dushman (2002)

The remake of the eponymous 1979 film has over half a dozen men fighting one ichchadhari naag. It gained a cult following for its bizarre tropes: dulhans turning into skeletons, a half-man-half-snake spouting emo lines, the works.

Sonu Nigam’s acting debut alone is enough to give you the chills. People excitedly live-tweet if they chance upon the movie on TV. Just run a quick search on Twitter, you’ll see. The protagonist (or antagonist?) of the film, Armaan Kohli brought it back into the news when he was on Bigg Boss in 2013.


Aag (2007):
The benchmark for everything bad in Bollywood today. Ram Gopal Varma, the director of the movie, has himself accepted that remaking Sholay was a mistake. Karan Johar among other filmmakers have jokingly flamed Aag on various occasions on Twitter. Bachchan as Gabbar, Ajay Devgn as Veeru... Ewww.

These films made us laugh when they released and are making us laugh even harder today, perhaps because the joke’s also on us now

Andaz Apna Apna (1994)

Here’s a shocker: This film was a huge FLOP when it released. But all of us have watched it a million times and died laughing at its dialogues and its general buffoonery.

Andaz... is about two losers who plot to woo a rich NRI who comes to India to find a husband. Today, even pretentious cinema buffs won’t roll their eyes at Crime Master Gogo’s classic line: "Aakhein nikal kar gotiya khelta hoon".

"Its dialogues were unusual for that era when drama was the order of the day," says Masand. "But today you remember every scene, every character, every line!" To viewers today, it represents the brief time before Aamir and Salman were The Khans, and their bromance is one of the best things about the movie, considering they weren’t even talking to each other during filming.

Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! (2008)
You know those “Delhi” movies like Band Baaja Baaraat (2010), Fukrey (2013) and Do Dooni Chaar (2010)? Well, this one started that wave. Lucky is a charming conman who gets arrested and, in flashback, relives all his cons.

“Dibakar Banerjee showed Delhi in such a new light,” says Richa Chaddha. The movie evoked humour with typical north Indian characteristics like the Haryanvi language, and the over-demanding, strict sardar father. A sleeper hit, it’s now regarded as the director’s best by his fans.

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983)

"When Kundan Shah set out to make Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, he didn’t even know he was making a comedy," says Rajeev Masand. "He had very little money and it was an uphill climb to get it completed. But its sheer writing genius and the performances, of course, have made it stand the test of time. It’s also very relevant today."

The movie which starred Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Baswani, was about two photographers out to expose the corrupt lives of the rich and famous, and still rings true 32 years later. It even used the Mahabharata to prove the point.

Its most iconic scene is one in which actors play characters from the epic, with Draupadi played by a corpse. It was inspired by a 1966 film, Blow Up, about a photographer who mistakenly takes pictures of a murder. Jaane Bhi... re-released in 2012 to a new, enthusiastic audience. Chashme Buddoor (1981)"It was a comedy made by a woman [Sai Paranjpye], and that was unusual enough", says Bhawana Somaaya. The film about two friends who sabotage their third friend’s romantic relationship, is remembered best for the chemistry between its lead pair, Deepti Naval and Farooq Sheikh, and its feel-good vibe.

It has been remade three times, once in Malayalam in 1984; it inspired a 2003 film, Nayee Padosan; and was remade officially in 2013.

Bheja Fry (2007)
It was Vinay Pathak’s defining role. He plays Bharat Bhushan, a cloyingly overpleasing wannabe singer, who’s invited to a party only for his comic relief, but ends up turning the tables on his host.

The cast also has Rajat Kapoor as an elitist music producer, and Ranvir Shorey as a suspicious IT official. Full of smart one-liners and great characters, it was the surprise hit of 2007, which made Pathak a star.

Angoor (1982)
There are two Sanjeev Kumars (as the masters) and two Deven Vermas (as the servants), separated at birth and having the same names. All hell breaks loose when the characters get involved in each other’s lives.

Directed by Gulzar and based on Shakespeare’s The Comedy Of Errors, it could have been entirely confusing, but is entirely hilarious. Chaos at its best.

Gol Maal (1979)

Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s comedy is probably the most consistently remade and referenced film in Bollywood. Achcha?

Count with us:

* There have been regional remakes in ’81, ’90, ’95 and 2013. Rohit Shetty’s 2012 comedy,

Bol Bachchan

was also a remake.

* In 2000’s

Hera Pheri

, Sunil Shetty’s character hears the title song of this film whenever something is about to go wrong.

* In 2004’s

Main Hoon Na

, the two protagonists are named Ram and Lakshman as a nod to Amol Palekar’s two roles from

Gol Maal.

* And then of course, the title has been reused by Rohit Shetty for his comedy-of-errors trilogy:



Golmaal Returns

(2008) and

Golmaal 3


Endearing, often painful love stories that became cult films for rewriting the idea of love itself

Pyaasa (1957)

This list wouldn’t be complete without one of Guru Dutt’s films. It’s the story of a struggling poet and his frustration with the world of corruption and hypocrisy; and a prostitute, the woman who loves him.

It’s also a story of how you give up trying to be successful and just live a simple life. Time magazine listed Pyaasa as one of the All-Time 100 Movies in 2010, and called it "the soulfully romantic of the lot".

Another film-school favourite, it finds resonance with the struggling creative types, and poetry enthusiasts, who look at it as an ode to Sahir Ludhianvi and Amrita Pritam’s failed love story. Pakeezah (1972)

This is a sad love story of a mujra dancer (Meena Kumari), and a forest ranger (Raj Kumar). "Kamal Amrohi made a film from the of view of a courtesan. It was as if poetry unfolded on screen," points out Bhawana Somaaya.

Even though she is named Pakeezah (the pure one) by the man she loves, she doesn’t get married to him and returns to life in a brothel.

Pakeezah is a visual delight. Amrohi personally sketched the set designs and selected every costume – he even approved the bangles they wore. It opened to a lukewarm reception, but after Meena Kumari’s death two months later, it became a hit. Today it is the quintessential mujra-themed movie. What’s that line about paon and zameen? Tell us. Guide (1965)

Adapted by Vijay Anand from the book by RK Narayan, Guide tells the path-breaking tale of a woman who has an affair with her guide and seeks independence.

"The best line is when Waheeda’s character says ‘Marco, main jeena chahti hoon’," says Somaaya. Dev Anand plays her lover, who later becomes a sadhu. "It violated all moral expectations," says Rauf Ahmed. Many films have explored affairs, this one is evergreen.

Silsila (1981)

It is a cult film for one major reason: Yash Chopra managed to make Amitabh Bachchan, Rekha and Jaya act together. Rekha and Amitabh were rumoured to be lovers before he married Jaya, and the movie was allegedly inspired by their love


In the movie, Amitabh marries Jaya when his brother (Shashi Kapoor) who was involved with her dies. He then has an affair with his former lover.

“In the movie actually, Jaya is the other woman, because Amitabh loves Rekha,” says Somaaya. Another reason for its cult status is the song Amitabh sang.

Rang Barse

is still the Holi song, 34 years later, and this bizarre love triangle (onscreen and offscreen) continues to fascinate us.

DRAMA: Emotions run high in some movies but decades on, few hit the same spot for the same reasons

Do Bigha Zameen (1953)

A poor farmer, Shambhu, sells all his household items, including his wife’s gold just to put together the (now) mere sum of Rs 65. All hell breaks loose when the village’s thakur forges the accounts, making him owe Rs 235, instead.

Do Bigha Zameen is as one of our earliest parallel films and one of Bimal Roy’s most hard-hitting. It dealt with subjects like poverty, the zamindari system and struggles of farmers, minus the charms of the song-and-dance entertainers of the time.

It opened to a tepid response in India, but was the first film to win the International Prize at the 1953 Cannes Film Festival, the first Award and the first popular award for Best Film. The film has been referenced in other films. The whole premise of the 2001 Oscar-nominated Lagaan is inspired by this movie.

Mera Naam Joker (1970)
Raj Kapoor’s ambitious project took six years to make and fewer than six days to flop. Within a week of its release, people complained about its length (over three hours, with two intervals), its pace and its story.

Kapoor tried to tell the story of a lonesome clown, who gets his heart broken by three women at three stages of his life.

Some details and themes stand out: how Raju, the protagonist, gives a rose to each of the women right before they break his heart; the iconic song, Jeena Yahaan Marna Yahaan which made people think that the film was a metaphor for Kapoor’s life in cinema.

The film flopped in India, but it multiplied Raj Kapoor’s popularity in Russia (from where half of the cast hailed). Those who love Indian cinema, have to watch Raj Kapoor. And those who love Raj Kapoor, have to watch Mera Naam Joker. Because Jeena yahaan, marna yahaan, etc.

Maqbool (2003):
Vishal Bhardwaj’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth had non-stars and shocked everybody with its gritty narrative. It also started off his Shakespeare trilogy featuring Omkara and Haider.

Old school horror or a dose of reality, these movies are still giving us the chills

Raat (1992)

There can’t be a list of cult movies without Ram Gopal Varma. He reinvented the horror genre with


, featuring Revathi as a college-going girl possessed by the ghost of a woman who was murdered in her house.

Varma showed us that you don’t need a blood-spewing monster to give you the chills. He also changed the horror locale – from a bhoot bangla to an everyday home. He continued his horror movie streak with


(2003) and


(2008), but


remains a masterclass in the fear of yourself.

Veerana (1988)

Veerana, directed by Shyam and Tulsi Ramsay, is glorious for these reasons:

* The ketchup-variety blood and gore

* The barely-clothed heroine, who once possessed, uses sex as a tool to lure her victims

* The tantrik and all the screaming

* The idea that rich people are secretly batty

Give the Ramsays props for their old-school approach. Want to see 200 horror movie clichés in one fun film, lock yourself into



Small films that made a big impact. They changed the plot, they changed society, they changed the game, while shaping the ‘other’ Bollywood Friday (2007)

Anurag Kashyap’s pre-Dev D, pre-fame movie was in equal parts chilling and controversial. Based on Hussain S Zaidi’s book about the events leading up to the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, the film was to release in 2004, but its depiction of gangsters and the police (plus all that violence), got it banned.

When it opened in 2007, it did better than expected because Kashyap’s fan base had started to grow. Richa Chaddha believes that Black Friday was a milestone for contemporary realistic cinema.

"It was extraordinary that someone would want to tell the story of the attacks in such detail," she says. "It also brought a sense of documentary-style shooting to Bollywood and made it look like the non-fiction story it is."

Even today, when true-blue Kashyap fans recommend his films to a newbie, they start with Paanch and Black Friday to a person who has never seen his work. And rightly so.

Mirch Masala (1983)
Ketan Mehta’s fiery drama was a slap in the face of the neon-clad airhead heroines of the ’80s. “There had been movies about female protagonists, but they were few and far between,” says Chaddha.

Mirch Masala tells the story of a spice factory worker (Smita Patil) who refuses to give in to the subedar’s (Naseeruddin Shah) sexual advances. “It depicted a woman standing up for herself, other women supporting her, and together becoming a force against the subedar. It’s a reference point for filmmakers like Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Sudhir Mishra even today.

In fact, SLB’s brief to me for my character in Ramleela (2013) was Smita Patil’s role.” Titled The Touch Of Spice, the film premiered at the 15th Moscow Film Festival alongside Federico Fellini’s Intervista and Francis Ford Coppola’s Gardens Of Stone. Watch it till its heated climax and we guarantee your eyes will water. And not in the way you think. (Unreleased)

Anurag Kashyap’s film has still not released officially. And yet it’s the very definition of ‘cult’ because:

* The thriller, supposedly based on the 1976 Joshi-Abhyankar serial muders, has such objectionable content (sex, drugs and violence), it didn’t get distributors for years.

* The censor board refused to allow the film to be released. It eventually found a massive underground audience when a copy leaked some years ago.

* Budding filmmakers consider this the go-to film for gritty realism.

* "This kind of filmmaking was so new. Nothing was planned, things keep happening unintentionally," says Masand. Garm Hava (1973)

Based on Ismat Chugtai’s unpublished short story and directed by MS Sathyu, Garm Hava is a film-school favourite. Think of it as the Citizen Kane of India – don’t ever admit you haven’t watched it.

"It had an empathetic viewpoint of those Muslims who chose to stay back after Partition, and the unjust struggles they had to face," says Rajabali. One of the few Indian films to have competed for a Palme d’Or at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival, it was also India’s official entry to the Oscars that year.

Many believe this is one of the films that started the parallel cinema movement of the ’70s. As Rajabali puts it: "Balraj Sahni, in a sensitive and extremely believable portrayal, brings home the anguished dilemma of Mirza, who finally realises that the only resolution is political."

Ardh Satya (1983)

A cop drama, removed from the false vigilantism of Bollywood, it tells the story of Anant (Om Puri), who discovers that it’s difficult

to survive as a morally upright inspector.

In the time of Amitabh Bachchan potboilers, with a clear distinction between the hero and the villain, it gave us the anti-hero whose intentions were unclear. “It served as a reality check on


(1973),” says Rajabali.

A lot of later crime dramas (Shool, Kurukshetra, Ab Tak Chappan, etc) relied on this anti-hero for their narrative. The film looked as real as the problems it portrayed. “It was another one of Vijay Tendulkar’s terrific scripts,” says Rajabali.

“It is as much marked by Puri’s superlative performance as it is by its depiction of the despairing helplessness of our law-enforcement institutions. Govind Nihalani handles the searing internal and external violence without compromise.”

From gritty mob dramas to flamboyant thrillers, some films still manage to keep us at the edge of our seats

Satya (1998)
“Mumbai ka king kaun? Bhikhu Mhatre!” echoes Bhiku’s (Manoj Bajpayee) voice, as he shouts into the sea. Little did the cast and crew know that the echo would not die down for years to come.

Ram Gopal Varma’s movie follows the turf war between two gangs and the innocent outsider, Satya, who gets sucked into it. It showed Mumbai’s underbelly like no crime film had. It gave the industry Anurag Kashyap – people went back to the movie after realising he had written it.

Satya also started the bitterness between Karan Johar and RGV, as the former won all the awards that year for Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. The rivalry still rears its head in the form of Twitter battles.

“It’s arguably, Ram Gopal Varma’s best film,” says Rajabali. “It humanised goondas and killers without shying away from their inevitable personal doom.” It also brought a rare thing to gangster films – poetic storytelling. Manzil (1966)

It was a thriller, but frankly, we remember it for O Haseena Zulfon Waali and Aaja Aaja Main Hoon Pyaar Tera. Shammi Kapoor’s swagger is all that matters.

Teesri Manzil is one of the few whodunits (don’t worry, no spoilers) that has great repeat value. Another reason it remained popular over the years is that the original run time was 170-something minutes, but only 143 minutes made it to DVD.

Just like in a whodunit, close to 30 mins of footage went missing! The song O Mere Sona Re gave the film a boost during the remix craze of the ’90s and has played on a 2010 episode of The Simpsons. Karz (1980)

"Ting-tee-ting-ting! Ting-tee-ting-ting! Ting-tee-ting-ting-ting…" We bet you sang along as well. Karz released 35 years ago and made reincarnation look cool. Few movies attempted this before, including Mahal (1949) and Madhumati (1958)., there were those hit songs, almost all of whose titles have now become individual films or TV shows: Ek Haseena Thi, Paisa Yeh Paisa, Aashiq Banaaya Aapne.

Karz itself has been reincarnated as Om Shaanti Om (2007) and Himesh Reshamaiyya’s Karzzzz (2008). The extra Zs added no zing, and the original Haseena and Deewana remain the best. Meri umar ke naujawaano, teri umar ke naujawaano, everybody loves it!

Agneepath (1990)
Amitabh Bachchan was neither too young to play the angry man, nor old enough for character roles. So he tried to play the tormented protagonist in Mukul Anand’s Agneepath, with a deeper baritone and much more angst than his ’70s roles.

The film flopped – only to be touted as a cult film later. The line “Vijay... Deenanath... Chauhan” has been referenced in several films: Bunty Aur Babli, Jab We Met, Bombay Talkies, Bhootnath Return and Hasee Toh Phasee among others.

Johnny Mera Naam (1970)

This proved to be a "cracker of a prototype" for more con- and heist-movies to come, says Rajabali. "Vijay Anand, an extremely successful, but critically underrated, writer-director gave us a gripping script with a 41-minute-long climax sequence which was unheard of in Bollywood.

Xcuse Me, Banarasi Babu, Chalte Chalte and The Xpose all referenced it. Now close your eyes and imagine Dev Anand popping up in all your windows, singing Pal Bhar Ke Liye.

They set the box office on fire when they released and they are still doing well today. We can’t get enough of these superhits

Dil Chahta Hai (2001)

Three boys come of age and force Bollywood to grow up too. Farhan Akhtar debuted with a style of flimmaking that was young, hip and fun.

"This was a very modern movie, and for the first time in years, the youth had a voice. It also brought back the focus from romance to friendships," says Rauf Ahmed. You can’t take a road trip to Goa without playing the title song. You also remember all the characters, even the moti opera singer and that clingy girlfriend.

Mughal-E-Azam (1960)
“It’s the evergreen historical movie,” says Rauf Ahmed. Madhubala and Dilip Kumar play out the doomed love story of Salim and Anarkali. And then there is that song, Jab Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya, which was written by lyricist Shakeel Badayuni 105 times before music director Naushad approved it.

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)
* Because it’s 2015 and Raj and Simran are still the ideal couple.
* Because you still go to Switzerland and buy the bell.
* Because 1,000 weeks later, a new generation loves it the same way.
* And badi badi filmein bhi cult ho sakti hain.

Mr India (1987)

Okay, there is no better sci-fi movie in India. The brilliance of this Shekhar Kapoor movie is that it’s a children’s film that you fall in love with no matter how old you are when you first watch it. Verma (Anil Kapoor) has a bungalow by the sea where he looks after a dozen orphaned children. But he has a secret, a watch that can turn him invisible.

Can he take on Mogambo, an evil villain who wants to conquer India? Journalist Sridevi will help. Ever imagined evil men getting beaten up by Bajrang Bali? Death by acid pools? The little Tina getting blown up? The opening gibberish lyrics to Hawa Hawai? Woh farmooolah? Sridevi as Charlie Chaplin and of course, making out with a man you can’t see? Brilliance. Cult. Forever.

Mother India (1957)
In a country where people are obsessed with their sons, this movie has a mother killing her wayward son because he disrespects a girl. Mother India starred Nargis, Sunil Dutt and Rajendra Kumar. Fifty eight years later, first-time viewers are gobsmacked by the ultimate sacrifice.

Sholay (1975)

India’s answer to the Hollywood Western. A handless former policeman hires two goons to help him bring down a dreaded dacoit. is a Dhanno and a Basanti and a mausiji. There’s also yeh dosti.

The movie gave you Gabbar, the ultimate villain who loses at Russian roulette and still manages to win. And uncountable references that are an industry of their own. Forty years later, you can ask any Indian "Kitne Aadmi Thay?". They’ll answer correctly.

Follow @misterbistar and @Aastha82

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