Five Hindi Movies That Changed My Life

by Anita Menon

For someone who has sleep-watched movies for the better part of her life, I have come a long way. My earliest memories of watching movies are observing people who gathered at my home to watch the 6 pm movie on Sunday on Doordarshan. I was brought up in a teeny weeny township, off the coast of the Arabian sea and in the 80’s there weren’t many households with television. I sat with everybody, trying my best to be attentive but hardly interested in what was going on in movie. Our guests, enthralled and emotional towards the end of it, made their way out of our house, promising to come back the next Sunday. I was a bundle of energy and found the whole exercise excruciating. The first movie I recollect watching was ” Qayamat se Qayamat Tak (1988). All of 8 years, I went, dressed in my newest frilly frock and bright shiny shoes to the cinemas. In the first few minutes, I recollect being bored and restless but I sat till the very end because I wanted to prove a point. Right from the beginning, I guessed that both the protagonists were going to die in the end and just to see if my prediction came true, I suffered through it. Ofcourse, I was right. I couldn’t imagine why somebody would make a film that was so obvious. Why couldn’t they be more like books; involving till the very end. It frustrated me that movies didn’t leave anything to the imagination. The other so-called block busters that I remember watching were – “Dil” (1990)and “Beta”(1992). This was when my Madhuri Dixit -obsession phase had begun. I watched these movies only to watch Madhuri Dixit dance and groove. Nothing else in the film got my attention. She was a revolutionary and I collected post cards, wrote fan mails, and cut clippings of her from newspapers. My cupboard was filled with Madhuri Dixit posters and I wanted to dance like her, walk like her and smile like her. The Main-Madhuri-Dixit-Banna- Chahti-Hoon phase ( I want to be like Madhuri Dixit) lasted a good decade and a half. I still adore Madhuri Dixit and sometimes watch her videos to observe how graceful she is.

And I digress. It often happens when it is about Madhuri Dixit.

If I were to think back then I can very clearly state the five movies that changed my life:

1. Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992) –  On the threshold of embarking on a teenage life, I suspect now, that my hormones had had a great deal to do with loving this movie. I wasn’t movie- educated enough to admire the finer aspects. But the whole romance & adrenaline pumping cycling action drew me in. Falling in love became the most sought after event after this movie. I strained hard to listen, if in the background, I could hear “Pehla Nasha” playing every time I had a crush on someone from school. To tell you the truth, that song played in my head all the time. I even learnt it and sang it a number of times to the sheer delight of my friends who were equally impressed with the movie. Now when I sit back and think, I realize this movie was a very well made movie. It had all the elements of romance, action and drama in place. The songs were fantastic and the treatment delicious and so real. I wanted to run away from home and study in some convent in such hills like the leads in the movie did. Thankfully better sense prevailed. This movie ushered in the ‘falling-in-love-is-cool’ notion and a realization that, such a joy is unrivaled by any other.

2. Baazigar/ Darr (1993)– Technically, these are two separate movies but in my head somewhere these are so muddled up and interlinked that I find it difficult to think about one without thinking about the other. It is mainly due to the fact that Shahrukh Khan had stepped into Bollywood with much ado and panache. This guy was sizzling on screen. The hottest of heroines melted in his presence and the audience had eyes only for Shahrukh Khan. It was pretty clear back then, that he was no ordinary hero and he was here to stay and to be crowned the Baadshah (King) of Bollywood. Both the movies were thrillers and made for edge-of-the-seat sort of viewing. But what made it more compelling is Mr. Khan’s intensity. It was blazing  and made its way out of the screen to scorch his audiences. He made instants fans out of me and my friends. At school we even had Shahrukh Khan Vs Aamir Khan camps just as we had Sridevi Vs Madhuri Dixit camps. When I first set my eyes on Shahrukh, I was sure I had to marry someone with that intensity. Later somewhere that got muddled up and I personally wanted that intensity in me. I practiced hard but I guess it is no ordinary gaze. Even after decades my heart skips a beat when I see Shahrukh Khan’s dimpled smile and the fire in his eyes.

3. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam(1999) – Movies were lost to me for a large part of the 1990’s. I may have watched a few in a half -hearted manner because I was dragged by a bunch of excited friends and in some cases even my parents. In the movie hall, I found myself wondering how I would have turned the plot around and killed off a few unnecessary characters. But then at the turn of the new millennium came this grand movie that was bigger, better and more beautiful than anything I had ever laid my eyes on. It had not only the frills, lace, foot thumping folk music and all the gorgeousness that can be held in a single frame but also it was kind of a coming of age, mature film. It brought home a moot point about the changing faces of love. It was a story that tugged my heart at several places and the concept of ‘Soul mates’ etched deeply into my psyche. This new realization filled my heart with promise, hope and chi of life.

4. Rang De Basanti (2006) – A movie that was so much fun right from the first frame to the very last, a movie that made the audience clutch their bellies while they laughed hard and made them cry till there weren’t any emotions left; that’s Rang De Basanti for you. Great acting, great dialogues, a meaningful story woven seamlessly into a fabric that rocked the nation and its youth. This movie woke the generation from their stupor and gave them the courage to take up causes with all the passion that they have in their hearts. Life is short and youth is shorter. Time is running out and causes are aplenty. This movie ignited a fire that I still burn inside of me.

5. Jab We Met (2007) – For someone who is in love with the idea of being in love, this movie came as a validation. The concept, that to love oneself is to love life and it is impossible to tell where one ends and  the other begins is something I always held close to heart. Shameless self adoration can be charming without being obnoxious – Kareena Kapoor played her character with such perfection that she might have succeeded in instilling that self confidence in most young Indian girls. The romance portrayed was so simple yet powerful, that I can easily declare that this movie is one of the finest romantic movies I have ever seen in my life. Even today, I can watch this movie as many times as it is possible and every time it leaves me refreshed and enthusiastic about life and love.

So that concludes my list of 5 movies that changed and touched my life in some way. As far as my movie viewing interests go, I was a late bloomer. My husband who eats, drinks and breathes movies turned me into a believer. Over a period of time, I have realized what movies do; they bring colour, dreams and weave a magical web where we as audiences enjoy getting  caught in for a few hours. They build bridges, spring hope and sugar coat life( in most cases) and present before us opportunities to escape the realities of life for a few moments. I think, with these obvious advantages, I am sold for life. Bring out the popcorn!

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