I seem to have been on a ‘listing’ spree – my last few posts have all been lists of one kind or the other. I was going to turn away from lists and go back to reviewing movies, but the truth is that I haven’t seen a movie for ages. I did watch Dev Benegal‘s Road, Movie yesterday, and quite liked it, but I didn’t feel up to reviewing it for the blog. Anyway, I decided to prepare a list – something that will make you laugh at the memories the contents evoke. A list of Hindi cinema’s finest comedies.

There are some films I turn to when life gets too depressing for words. Or because I need to unwind. Or simply because I need to laugh. I’m talking here about classic comedies, not Priyadarshan‘s (or David Dhawan‘s) brand of slapstick. (Priyan makes me want to get up and smack him for his wanton destruction of some of Malayalam films’ sweet, simple, slice-of-life films, but that’s a rant for another day.)

These films are my favourites (in reverse chronological order). 

 Andaz Apna Apna(1994)

Andaz_Apna_Apna_alman Khan_Aamir Khan_BollywoodirectI must confess that this is one of my all time favourite movies. It does not matter that I (literally) know its dialogues by rote; or that the totally over-the-top antics coupled with the ghastly fashions of the eighties is usually a recipe for disaster. This film is one where the male leads bounced their dialogues off each other, where the script took potshots at all the masala  film tropes by completely adopting the very same tropes, and everyone from the two heroes, to the heroine, villains and all the supporting characters (Mehmood, Tiku Talsania, Viju Khote, Shehzaad Khan, Javed Khan, Deven Verma, Jagdeep, Harish Patel) had some wonderful one-liners. This is slapstick comedy at its finest (Priyan, take some lessons!). The film is unapologetically goofy, undoubtedly silly and totally comic. The film is replete with references to other classic films – Sholay, Seeta aur Geeta, QSQT, Amar Prem, Ram aur Shyam

What is it about? Well, simply put, two small-town guys (one, a bumbling idiot, the other, a street-smart conman at heart) Amar and Prem (Aamir Khan and Salman Khan) want to get rich quick. The news about an heiress (Raveena/Karishma) played by Raveena Tandon coming to India to look for a groom gets them out of their hometowns and the clutches of their ‘controlling’ fathers (Jagdeep and Deven Verma) and off to Ooty to try their luck. So they set off, accompanied by Anand Akela (Javed Khan), who was originally a suitor, but who decides to give up and help one of the two win the heiress’ hand.

I love that the scenes are so self-referencing – when Amar and Prem are caught by the inspector, and Prem says a dialogue that the inspector recognises as a dialogue from Sholay, Amar says caustically,Uske baap ne likha tha.” When Amar cuts the ribbon to inaugurate the new cell, the song in the background is Papa kehte hain bada naam karega… the director (Rajkumar Santoshi) even pulls in the vidhwa maa, andhi behan scenario with finesse (and for laughs). When the villain fantasies about what he will do with his brother’s fortune when he gets it, he finishes with Hamara Bajaj

The parody is even better. When Aamir teases Raveena by going after her and singing, she sniffs, she is annoyed, she finally hits him with a very convenient log. Karishma Kapoor, the other heroine (Karishma / Raveena) plays the dumb blonde shtick with complete insouciance, and I have never liked the two of them as much as I did in this film. 

Add Paresh Rawal in a double role, Shehzaad Khan and Viju Khote as one Paresh Rawal’s sidekick, with the former channelling his father’s style of dialogue delivery (Shehzaad is yesteryear villain, Ajit’s son), and Shakti Kapoor as Crime Master Gogo (aankhein nikalke goti kheloonga), and you have a laugh riot on your hands. 

What makes Andaz Apna Apna very unique in the genre of comedy is that it remains slapstick until its very end. There is no emotional thread, no side story, even the fights are played for laughs, it all ends just when it should – when the audience, when it can stop laughing, is gasping, “Oh, no, did it end already?”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1H0vtkIiPbM

The music by Tushar Bhatia channels OP Nayyar very well, down to a beautiful tonga song, and Santoshi uses the melodies to pull the narrative along. One of the few movies of the time that actually used songs they way they were meant to be used.

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (1983) 

jaaney-bhi-do-yaaro_bollywoodirectThis is deservedly a cult classic. A satirical look at the state of the country in the late seventies and early eighties, it had Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Baswani as two struggling photographers, Vinod Chopra and Sudhir Mishra (two of India’s well-known producer / directors who were then production controller and assistant director respectively). This was a masterful farce, and it’s sad that this remained Kundan Shah‘s greatest success. It is one of the best black comedies that I have ever seen, the underlying tragedy masked by the slapstick.

Taking off from the prevailing discontent and rampant unemployment, the film takes a look at the politician-criminal nexus, and how two simple young men who happen to be in the ‘right’ place at the right time eventually find out how they were manipulated. The film cornered some of the best talent in the industry at the time – apart from the leads, there was Satish Shah (in probably the best role of his life – a corpse. And how he acts!), Pankaj Kapoor, Bhakti Barve, Om Puri, and Neena Gupta, and oh, I almost forgot the monkey.

When Vinod and Sudhir accidentally come across a murder and take a photograph, they do not realize what they have let themselves in for; soon, they are on the run, not knowing who is friend, who is foe; the film moves from scene to tense (albeit hilarious) scene until its climax on stage – a scene from the Mahabharata.

If you want an intelligent, and hilarious, take on modern life, grab a copy, and watch it now!

Angoor(1982)

Angoor_Sanjeev Kumar_Gulzar_BollywoodirectLong before Vishal Bharadwaj Indianised Shakespeare (and did it well), his mentor tried his hand at doing so. Needless to say, Gulzar‘s take on the Bard’s Comedy of Errors was brilliant. The tale of two pairs of twins and the identity crises that occurs from having the four cross paths was made memorable by the casting – a pitch perfect Sanjeev Kumar as the two masters (both named Ashok) and the lovable Deven Verma as the two servants (both named Bahadur). 

Add Utpal Dutt as the father who sets the train of misunderstandings in motion by naming both sets of twin babies  the same name, an accident that separates each of a pair of twins, and you have the framework for a wonderful laugh-fest that depends as much on dialogue as it does on the actions-reactions between the two pairs of separated twins, and between them and the bewildered people in their lives.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMJzJhGl6wc

This was a situational comedy at its finest. Sanjeev Kumar, as the obsessed-with-detective-fiction-Ashok was brilliant, as was Deven Verma in the Bhang scene. Gulzar exploited Moushumi Chatterjee‘s talent for comedy; Aruna Irani and Deepti Naval added to the tone of general hilarity. With no villains, no gratuitous fight scenes, and no needless emotional track, the film was a perfect inspiration, in the true sense of the word.

Chashme Buddoor(1981)

chashme buddoor_farooq Sheikh_Deepti Naval_BollywoodirectIt’s a shame Sai Paranjpaye made such few movies, and does not make movies anymore. Simple, hilarious, heartwarming, seriously funny, Chashme Buddoor is a must-see for anyone who loves real comedy. When Jai (Ravi Baswani) and Omi (Rakesh Bedi), the two womanising room-mates of the seedha saadha Siddharth (Farooque Sheikh), come across their new neighbour, the delectable Neha (Deepti Naval), they try various ways to patao her; both fail. One runs away, the other is beaten up by her brother. However, since they cannot admit failure, they spin tall tales of what happened when they went over to her house. Sid, more academically inclined, is aghast. He is going to keep far away from such a femme fatale. 

However, it is Sid who meets her under very different circumstances. Neha and he soon fall in love, but Omi and Jai are afraid – what if Neha tells Sid the truth? While Neha and Sid are wondering if they should sing a song Hindi-fillum-ishtyle in the park, Omi and Jai are conspiring to break them up. They succeed too, by impugning Neha’s character, until they realize that Sid really loved her. Now, they have to scramble to get the two lovebirds back together.

This was a very refreshing movie, with a very simple story. Apart from the four main characters, there was another man who helped make the film what it was – Saeed Jaffery as Lallan Mian, the neighbourhood paan and cigarette-seller, who sells cigarettes to the three young men on credit.

Golmaal (1979) 

Golmaal 1979_poster-amol palekar_bollywoodirectOne of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s finest comedies, he used the ‘identical twins’ and ‘mistaken identities’ theme that was so popular and turned it on its head – there weren’t any identical twins, except there were! Want to know how? 

Ram (Amol Palekar) is a recent fun-loving college graduate who is on the look-out for a job. He loves music and is fanatically devoted to all kinds of sport. He has a sister, Ratna, and the two of them live quite modestly; but Ram needs to find a job soon. A kindly family friend, Dr Kedar (David Abraham) brings news of a job opening – only, there is a catch. The employer, Bhavani Shankar (Utpal Dutt) is an opinionated man, and has some quirks which need to be indulged – a) Ram should give his full name at the interview – Ram Prasad Dasharath Prasad Sharma. b) He should never cut off his moustache. c) He should pretend to know nothing of any sport whatsoever.

Ram is wary, but a job is the need of the hour, and so, off he goes. He succeeds in impressing the old man so much that he is employed on the spot – at a higher salary than advertised. Ram is happy there, but soon there is a cloud on the horizon – a football match. Ram decides to bunk office in order to watch the match at the stadium. Unfortunately, Bhavani Shankar is also there, and what is more, spots him.

Soon, Ram is forced to invent an identical twin, the clean-shaven Lakshman Prasad, and pretend that it is a case of mistaken identity in order to keep his job. When Bhavani begins to get suspicious, he is forced to invent a mother, and then to hire one. A socialite, Kamala Srivastav (Dina Pathak), with dramatic tendencies comes to his rescue. When she is spotted in her real element by Bhavani, she is forced to pretend to be her own twin sister, Vimala. 

The plot gets more and more complicated, as Bhavani decides to offer Lakshman a job tutoring his daughter Urmila (Bindiya Goswami) in music. Urmila and ‘Lakshman’ soon fall in love with each other, but Bhavani wants Urmi to marry Ram. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=AgN8N810a_0

There are some lovely supporting characters like Bade Babu (Yunus Parvez), Doctormama (David), Urmi’s widowed aunt (Shubha Khote) to add to the humour and the confusion. But the scene stealers are definitely Utpal Dutt and Amol Palekar, who set the audience laughing every time they meet and speak to each other. Truly a classic.

Baton Baton Mein(1979) 

Baton-Baton-Mein_amol palekar_bollywoodirect_tina munim_Piloo Wadia_Pearl PadamseeA film that took an affectionate look at the Christian community in Bombay, without stereotyping them. It is a simple, touching tale that is set in a Bombay that is so markedly different today, you may have difficulty recognising it. Tony (Amol Palekar) and Nancy (Tina Munim) are introduced to each other in the local train by Tina’s uncle, Tom (David). Tina has recently broken off a friendship with Peter (Dev Mukherjee), and is morose and silent. Tom hopes that Tony’s friendship will help her come out of her depression. 

Nancy’s mother, Rosie (Pearl Padamsee) is the typical over-anxious mother who wants to see her daughter married off to a ‘good’ boy. Every time a girl in the neighbourhood gets married, Rosie is sad that Nancy is still on the shelf. Tony’s mother Mrs Braganza (Piloo Wadia), on the other hand, is over-possessive and treats Tony like a small child. 

Tony and Nancy soon fall in love, but Tony is unable to commit to marriage. Besides, Rosie’s unbridled pushiness puts him off. Nancy is livid at his criticism of her mother. Soon, the lovers are at odds. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ZObiwmXHsjY

Who is going to sort out the tangled mess? Will Tony come through finally? Or will Nancy suffer another heartbreak? Watch the film to find out the answers.

Chupke Chupke(1975)

Chupke-Chupke-1975_Bollywoodirect_Dharmendra_Amitabh BachchanAnother comic masterpiece from the master, this film intersperses intelligently humorous dialogues with totally hilarious situations to come up with a film that is an all-time favourite. This insane laugh riot depends much on its lead actor’s comic timing, and handsome hunk Dharmendra obliges with ease.

He is famous botanist Parimal Tripathi, who meets botany student Sulekha (Sharmila Tagore at her dimpled best) on a field trip, and after a whirlwind romance and courtship, marries her in her elder brother’s (David) house. Soon, however, he is bored out of his head, and a tad bit annoyed at his newly-wed bride who never stops singing the praises of her brother-in-law, Raghav (Om Prakash). Since neither Sulekha’s sister (Usha Kiron) nor her jijaji could attend the wedding, Parimal has not met them as yet.

Very naturally, he sets out to prove to Sulekha that her jijaji is not as perspicacious or omniscient as she thinks he is. He decides to take up the job of Raghav’s driver, and soon comes to Bombay ahead of Sulekha. He introduces himself as Pyare Mohan, and when Sulekha appears, happily romances her much to the chagrin of her sister. 

Soon, there comes ‘Parimal’ to visit, quite angry at his wife’s prolonged silence. The real Parimal has inveigled his friend Sukumar (Amitabh Bachchan) to impersonate him. Sukumar, nervous at the whole idea, aghast at having to romance his ‘bhabhi’, and frightened of being found out, pretends to be furious at Sulekha’s illicit relationship with Pyare, and leaves to stay with a friend, Prashant (Asrani). Complications arise when Prashant’s sister-in-law Vasudha (Jaya Bhaduri), a botany student asks the botany professor for help! Matters become even more muddled when Sukumar, as Parimal, falls in love with Vasudha.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=F_woPJC76Kg

A movie that has often left me wondering why no one exploited Dharmendra’s obvious talent for comedy much more than they did, Chupke Chupke is a charade that keeps you in splits with its use of spoken language to ensure laughter.  Brilliant! If you haven’t seen it yet, you should!

Choti Si Baat(1975) 

How do you win a girl when you are painfully shy? Arun (Amol Palekar) is about to find out. He has seen, and liked, Prabha (Vidya SChoti si baat_Bollywoodirect_Amol Palekar_Ashok Kumarinha), a girl from his neighbourhood who works in an office near his. They travel on the same bus, and some times, Arun is able to snag a seat next to Prabha. His diffidence keeps him from talking to her, but Prabha is keenly aware of his interest. She, in turn, is attracted to him, though she is not very sure how much, but she wants him to make the first move. 

Arun’s bête noire is Nagesh (Asrani) who has several advantages that Arun lacks: he is an extrovert, and can talk nineteen to the dozen. He is a very good chess and tennis player, Arun is no good at any sport. Last, but not the least, Nagesh is the proud owner of a green Lambretta, on which he occasionally offers Prabha a ride, much to Arun’s chagrin.

In a final bid to win over Prabha, Arun takes the help of Col. Julius Nagendranath Wilfred Singh (Ashok Kumar), who is a ‘Life Coach’. Under his expert tutelage, Arun learns the art of courtship. Slowly, but surely, with the continued support of his mentor who has accompanied him to Bombay, Arun begins to turn the tables on Nagesh, much to Prabha’s amusement.

Loosely based on the 1960 film School For ScoundrelsChoti Si Baat was a character-driven comedy that depended heavily on Amol Palekar to deliver. He did so with such simplicity in a role that seemed tailor-made for him.

Victoria No. 203(1972)

Victoria_No__203_Bollywoodirect-ashok kumar-pranThe film depended on two old men who had moved easily into character roles to be the lynch pins that held a loose plot together, and surprisingly, became an unforgettable classic. 

A diamond heist goes wrong, the man behind the scenes is double-crossed, and the diamonds are hidden in the horse-drawn Victoria before the double-crosser dies. An innocent man is jailed, and his daughter Rekha (Saira Banu) is left bereft. She disguises herself as a young man in order to protect herself. 

In the meantime, two small-time crooks, Raja (Ashok Kumar) and Rana (Pran) have just been let out of jail. They are in possession of a key; they have no clue to what. Rana is perpetually drunk, and Raja has a penchant for chasing after anything in a skirt. Soon they realise that they hold the key to a great fortune; to get close to where the diamonds may be hidden, they pretend to be Rekha’s long-lost uncles.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybg2YqfJ46c

Much hilarity ensues, and the plot gets complicated with missing infants, rich men who are not what they seem, a wayward rich young man who has a yen for a mysterious woman who vanishes during the day… all in all, a film that has to be watched for two reasons. Ashok Kumar and Pran. 

Seeta Aur Geeta(1972)

Seeta aur Geeta_Bollywoodirect-hema malini-dharmendra-sanjeev kumarA thoroughly enjoyable film, worth watching simply for a double dose of the beautiful Hema Malini. A film that swept identical-twins-separated-at-birth, mistaken identities, dangerous masquerades, comic villains, girl power, two handsome heroes who play supporting roles to the heroine(s), into one merry pot-boiler that keeps you engaged for the full-length of the movie – how many movies could boast of that?

Hema plays the titular roles of identical twins – heiress Seeta who is treated like a servant by her cruel aunt Kaushalya (Manorama) and the aunt’s evil brother Ranjeet (Roopesh Kumar); and the free spirit gypsy Geeta, who lives with her mother and earns her living by working as a street entertainer along with Raka (Dharmendra). 

One day, Seeta, fed up, runs away; she is rescued by Raka who mistakes her for Geeta, and brought to her twin’s home. Geeta, on the other hand, has had an altercation with Raka and is roaming around Bombay to teach him a lesson. Chased by Seeta’s aunt and uncle, and thereafter by the police, she escapes only to meet Ravi (Sanjeev Kumar) who had seen Seeta when his parents went to their house with a marriage proposal. He is surprised to see Seeta (as he thinks her) in such a costume, and takes her back to Seeta’s mansion. Geeta soon begins to understand the undercurrents, though she still has no clue who her lookalike really is. 

Meanwhile, the change in ‘Geeta’ is a shock to Raka; but he is soon falling in love with her. Whereas Ravi, who initially couldn’t find anything attractive in Seeta, is beginning to fall in love with her outgoing doppelganger. What will happen when Ranjeet spots Seeta in the market?

Hema was not only gorgeous in the movie, but she imbued the characters with very different traits. As Seeta, she was docile, shy, and totally traditional. As Geeta, she was rambunctious, not given to taking things lying down, and gets to mouth some really zany dialogues. Her comic timing is impeccable, and she is ably supported by Dharmendra as the no-nonsense Raka, and by Sanjeev Kumar as the gentle Ravi. A charming comedy that ends in a superb climax. I love films where the heroine does not quite need a hero to rescue her.

Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi(1958)

Chalti ka Naam Ghaadi_BollywoodirectAn all-time classic and another one of my favourite movies of all time, Chalti ka Naam Gaadi  was a madcap ride through a plot that twisted and turned until you weren’t sure where it began or where it will end. 

Brijmohan (Ashok Kumar) is anti-woman to a fault; he runs a garage, ably assisted by his brothers Jagmohan and Manmohan (real-life brothers Anoop Kumar and Kishore Kumar). His no-woman policy is so rigid that he will not serve a female customer. One day, however, a beautiful damsel-in-distress lands up at the garage. Renu’s (Madhubala) car has broken down, it is a rainy night, she is drenched, and if this is a garage, then her car had better be looked at, damnit! Manmohan acquisces, and repairs the car. He also loses his heart to the beautiful customer who vanishes without paying him.

Manu is frightened of what his brother will say, and sets off to track the decamping customer, but alas, he falls asleep, leading to one of the funniest dream sequences in Hindi films! Faster than you can ask how they feel, they are in love. Only, there is a murder, and an imprisoned woman, and a criminal masquerading as a prince, danger all around, and Jagmohan to face! What are the lovers going to do??

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mB_V2_vqj1Y

Madhubala’s trademark laughter marks this film from beginning to end. She’s a perfect foil for Kishore Kumar’s inspired looniness. Add a spaced-out Anoop Kumar, a stern Ashok Kumar, and a car that has a mind of its own – you have a laugh-riot that will keep you in splits even after multiple viewings. If you haven’t seen it yet, hurry! 

Miss Mary(1957) 

Miss Mary_Bollywoodirect-kishore kumarDid you know Meena Kumari acted in comedies? And acted well? If Kohinoor and Azaad were always prime favourites of mine, then Miss Mary runs them a close third. A remake of the Tamil movie Missiamma with Gemini Ganesan and Jamuna, Miss Mary was a remarkably sweet and funny movie with a clutch of lovely songs. 

Mary (Meena Kumari) is an out-of-work school teacher, who is tired of looking for employment. She needs the money to pay off her parents’ debt. She has several run-ins with Arun (Gemini Ganesan reprising the original role) and neither are overly impressed with the other. However, an advertisement for married schoolteachers brings them together. Mary reluctantly agrees to Arun’s idea that they pretend to be married in order to gain employment. 

Unwillingly, they live together in the housing provided by their employers, who begin to look upon Mary as their missing daughter, Lakshmi. They had employed Raju (Kishore Kumar) to trace her, and he is sure that Mary is indeed Lakshmi. Mary is incensed at her employers’ continued attempts to embrace her as their daughter. While Arun, who needs the job, insists that she keep silent until they can find another job. 

In the meantime, the employers’ younger daughter is flirting with Arun (and Mary finds to her discomfiture that she doesn’t quite like it); and Raju is busy pursuing Mary herself. 

You really need to see this, purely for Meena Kumari!

Other films that really make me laugh out loud despite repeated viewings, but didn’t make the final list:

1. Naram Garam
2. Rang Birangi
3. Bombay to Goa

These are some of my favourites; what are yours?

Written By:- Anuradha Warrier, is a writer, editor, film and music buff. She writes for pleasure, edits for a living, and indulges in watching films, listening to music, and writing about both on her blog Conversations Over Chai as and when time permits.

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