Films were always meant to change the way we look at life. Alas, they seldom do that. Busy as they are trying to desperately entertain us, there are some movies that dared to make us star hard at the quality of our lives. Here are 10 of them – from the classics to the recent releases – that emphasise the value of humanity, patriotism and all other traits that we should cherish.
1. Do Aankhen Barah Haath(1957)
V Shantaram’s gritty prison drama was about an idealistic jailor (played by Shantaram) who runs a unique open-jail to reform hardened criminals. The film and its soul-stirring Bhajan Ae maalik tere bande hum compelled many changes in the way we treat prisoners, especially on death row.
Director-actor Guru Dutt’s film addressed itself to the disenchantment of the post-Independence generation that found itself facing a moral and emotional crisis brought on by corruption and inept government. Guru Dutt’s poet Vijay was an angry but ineffectual version of the Vijay that Amitabh Bachchan later played.
Writer-actor-director Manoj Kumar’s passionate paean to patriotism sailed to salient summits of human reform on the strength of Lal Bhadaur Shastri’s slogan ‘Jai Jawaan Jai Kissan’. Manoj Kumar played Bharat, who was both a farmer and soldier in the film. This masterpiece influenced hordes of youngsters to respect the farmer’s vocation and to join the army.
Rajesh Khanna’s unforgettable performance as the dying do-gooder Anand Sehgal who influences friends and befriends strangers because he believes life is not about size bur substance, made such a powerful statement on humanitarianism and bridge-building that for years people used the ‘Anand’ motto of ‘Being Human’.In Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s scheme of existence you didn’t have to wear the message of ‘Being Human’ on your tee shirt. You wore it on your heart. Anand was the human embodiment of Facebook.
5. Jai Santoshi Maa(1975)
An odd choice, yes. But nonetheless a very important film for giving to the nation a new God to worship. In the year of Sholay, Jai Santoshi Maa a tacky low-budget mythological with farcical special effects swept the collective consciousness of North Indian middleclass women. Viewing the film became a form of pooja and pilgrimage. Anita Guha who played Santoshi Maa (plastic halo and all) was seen as a real-life goddess.
The plight of the deserted wife touched so many women’s lives that Shabana Azmi, who played the iconic role of the abandoned woman who learns to stand on her own feet, is to this day approached by distressed women in search of a home after a rudely terminated marriage. Mahesh Bhatt made no truer film.
7. Rang De Basanti(2006)
Corruption as seen and attacked by a group of angry youngsters (and never mind if one of the ‘youngsters’ Aamir Khan was 40-plus at the time he did the film) never seemed more eradicable. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra turned the tale of the vigilante into an extended patriotic anthem. Suddenly protest marches and candle-light vigils became more the norm than the exception.
8. Lage Raho Munnabhai(2006)
Was it a mere coincidence that after this film’s release incidents of road rage, neighbourly squabbles and petty crimes were reduced substantially? The jadoo ki jhappi became an accepted form of human empathy.
Seriously reconsidering the way we look at the disabled, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film opened windows and doors into the dark and heedless world of the blind and deaf. Rani Mukherjee’s rousing role as the disabled and Amitabh Bachchan’s bravura turn as her teacher galvanized many institutes for the specially abled to look within . More importantly the film connected the physically disabled with the world of the normal.
10. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag(2013)
A month after its release Rakeysh Ompraksh Mehra’s inspirational story of the ace-sprinter continues to create a powerful and durable impact across the nation.43 years ago when Sholay released moms would scare kids into eating their food with the warning, ‘Kha le nahin to Gabbar aa jayega.’ Today after Milkha moms encourage their little ones to drink their milk saying, ‘Pee le, tujhe Milkha nahin ban-na kya?’
Why do parents become redundant in their children's lives after marriage? The gloriously beautiful pair Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini played a couple torn apart by the eruption of selfishness in their children. The film questioned joint-family values and made ungrateful disrespectful progenies re-think their attitude towards their aged parents. Earlier director Ravi Tandon had attempted the same theme in Zindagi featuring Sanjeev Kumar and Mala Sinha. But the impact of Ravi Chopra's film was resonant and timeless. Even if he had directed no other film Ravi Chopra was immortalized by Baghbaan.