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Those were the movies

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In the last 100 years of Indian cinema, there have been scores of movies which have set the benchmark for film making. Director picks out two such landmark films which he rates as his all-time favourites

(1975)
Directed by Ramesh Sippy; Hindi

once rightly said that can be divided into two eras — before Sholay and after Sholay. Sholay really changed the way film makers made movies and will always be remembered as a classic. Be it the sharp and witty dialogues by Salim-Javed or the iconic characters of the movie, everything about Sholay stands out. In fact, when I was making Paan Singh Tomar, the dacoit scenes were inspired by Sholay. Ramesh Sippy made a classic formula film which could have easily gone wrong. What makes a film iconic? Script? Characters? Performances? Sholay scores on all these counts and on some more as well. A character like Asrani, who probably had a screen time of less than ten minutes, is etched in people’s minds forever. Or for that matter Sambha (played by Macmahon) who barely has three lines. But ask anyone even today and they will tell you who Sambha was and what his lines were. It is a memorable film and is deeply rooted in our culture and traditions. I remember watching it for the first time in school and was really blown away by it. Over the years a lot of our movies and directors have been inspired by Sholay which is a testament to the movie’s brilliance.

(1957) Directed by Guru Dutt; Hindi; B/W

Pyaasa is a masterpiece. It was one film which was way ahead of its times. The way has shot it, the innovative camera angles, the cinematography — it was simply excellent. What stands out for me, however, is that Pyaasa was a film which made a political comment and it didn’t have even a single politician. Though it is a romantic film, there is a strong political undercurrent in its theme. It is a film with a message and yet it is not preachy. A lot of it is down to the characters. It could easily have been over the top as the film has so much sentimentality. It is to Guru Dutt’s credit that he handled it so well. The music of the film by S D Burman is immortal and the lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi are one of the best of all time. The song, Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya hai, or Jaane woh kaise log the jinko are so integral to the script. It has undoubtedly some of the finest song-writing Hindi cinema has seen.

Guru Dutt was brilliant at his craft and movies like Kaagaz Ke Phool or even Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (Dhulia made a remake called Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster) were all exceptional pieces of work. But for me Pyaasa stands out of all of his great films.

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