These films flopped when they were released. But they have great recall value. See them now and you’ll know why.
1. Raj Kapoor’s Satyam Shivam Sundaram: The Indian film that had one of the biggest openings eventually turned out a flop. Audiences couldn’t connect with the theme of a scarred woman with a beautiful voice seducing Shashi Kapoor without showing him her face. But watch the film now for its exceptional look and music. Laxmikant-Pyarelal songs in Lata Mangeshkar’s voice will haunt you forever. This film is more a homage to the Mangeshkarian magic than to Zeenat Aman’s vital statics which was unnecessarily flaunted all across the film. RK’s fixation on a certain part of a woman’s anatomy is worthy of being analyzed by the world’s best shrinks.
2. Ramesh Sippy’s Shakti: After Sholay, Sippy couldn’t get anything right. Or so, the audience made him believe. Shaan which followed Sholay was a thundering flop, and that’ s understandable. But why did Shakti flop? It featured Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan as a warring father-son pair. The powerful dialogues, the brilliant confrontations…they still have the power to give you goosebumps. Watch the film. It’s superior to Sholay.
3. Mehboob Khan’s Aan: We are so fixated on Mother India that we’ve over the years refused to look at any of Mehboob Khan’s other works. Aan is a superior dazzling swashbuckling reworking of Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew with Nadira cast as the arrogant princess whom the commoner-hero Dilip Kumar tames. The film is lavishly mounted (it was the first technicolour Indian film) and executed with a splendid skill that justifies the epic skill. And really, the Thespian Dilip Kumar is so much fun in the Errol Flynn mould.
4. Kamal Amrohi’s Daaera: We just can’t get over Kamal Amrohi’s Pakeezah, can we? Having seen savoured and imbibed the timeless exquisiteness of the tawaif’s yearnings, you may want to turn to this earlier fable of the wife’s unexpressed sexual desire. Meena Kumari, looking more beautiful and vulnerable than she ever did in her entire career, plays the very young wife of a man old enough to her father. This is India’s first film to address the issue of a woman’s sexuality. And we are talking in 1952. Wow.
5. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya: If you turn to Saawariya without prejudice you’ll see influences and impressions from cinema across the world, mainly from Hindi cinema. While the songs show a heavy influence of Raj Kapoor, not too many have noticed that the closing scenes where the heroine chooses to go with her much older beloved rather than start afresh with her lover, is a gentle homage to Bimal Roy’s Bandini. Has anyone commented on Ranbir Kapoor’s rapport with Zohra Sehgal which harks straight back to Raj Kapoor and Lalita Pawar in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anari? Or that amazingly tragic song Pari where Ranbir offers hope to the decadent prostitutes… that’s a tribute to Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa. Or Rani’s hooker’s act? From Waheeda Rehman in Pyaasa to Aroona Irani in Bobby.Has anyone commented on the European feel of the sets which echo the sensuous stirrings of first love as seen through the eyes of a boy-man who recognizes only love, purity and elegance in the world around him? Saawariya is not a time-pass sab-chalta hai film. Did we really give it a fair chance? Did anyone see how the male protagonist’s relationship with three generations of women (Zohra Sehgal, Rani Mukherjee and Sonam Kapoor) qualified and accentuated the separate and yet synthesised components in a man’s growth from sexual innocence to romantic disillusionment? No? Try watching it again. It may surprise you in more ways than one.