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One hundred Hindi films

Rachel Dwyer's unabashed love for Hindi films makes her book a real treat, writes Poonam Saxena.

books Updated: Jan 10, 2006 20:03 IST
PTI

100 Bollywood Films


RachelDwyer
Roli Books
Pages: 251
Rs. 295



Any list of top/significant/ favourite Bollywood films is fraught with peril (“What! You haven’t included Agnipath! By the way, what’s Muqaddar Ka Sikandar doing in this list?”) But any such list has to be arbitrary and controversial. So though Rachel Dwyer, who has been studying and writing about Hindi films for years now, goes to great lengths to justify her choice, it wasn’t really necessary.

Her list does have musts like Mother India, Sholay, Zanjeer, Pyaasa, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and many others. And it does have some surprising omissions (Mera Naam Joker, for instance) and baffling inclusions (Roti Kapda Aur Makaan, why, why?). But it also has some welcome en-tries, like the works of directors like Raj Khosla (CID, Mera Gaon Mera Desh), surely one of Mumbai’s most under-rated filmmakers. But if you’re a Hindi film lover like me, you’ll be happy to read about all the films (yes, even Roti Kapda Aur Makaan). The book isn’t intended only for Bollywood buffs. Clearly, Dwyer is also reaching out to people who are newcomers to Hindi cinema. So for readers like us, explanations of who the Kapoors are and how Aamir, Salman and Shahrukh are not related to each other do interrupt the flow. But Dwyer’s comments and analyses of the films are insightful and always readable, whether they’re about the stories, scripts, cinematography, music or costumes. She also places each film in the context of its time, as well as the career graph of its maker — for example, how Yash Chopra’s Waqt was one of the first films that set the trend for showing us the lifestyles of affluent people — a trend that has reached its fruition in the last few years, and a trend which Yash Chopra himself was to develop in his future films. Plus, there are interesting tidbits which readers may or may not be aware of — like Andaz being Mehboob Khan’s last black and white film, or the fact that Bimal Roy’s Madhumati was scripted by Ritwik Ghatak.

I particularly enjoyed the book because of Dwyer’s unabashed love for Hindi films. Usually, when foreigners write about Hindi films or stars (like Justine Hardy’s execrable Bollywood Boy), they are either terribly patronising (making you want to engrave the words ‘Hollywood Makes Plenty Of Rubbish Too’ on a stone tablet and throw it at them), or uncomprehending. Fortunately, Dwyer enjoys seeing Hindi movies. She en joys the songs and doesn’t wonder why our films must have music. She is not uncomfortable — like so many Westerners are — with the depiction of sentiment and heartfelt emotion. We can argue with her choice of films, we may disagree violently with some of her comments — but that’s only because for us, Hindi films are a passion. Just like they are for Dwyer.

So, read the book.