Indian Cinema is now more than 100 years old, but more often than not, Indian films are still considered as the ones which have elements of ‘masala’ like unbelievable action sequences and pretentious romantic songs, wherein the hero dances around a tree. However, there are many films that have defied the norm and have set the precedent for future Indian films. There is no inadequacy of filmmaking talent in India and Indian cinema has had its ample share of genius filmmakers who have made masterpieces that were not only celebrated in India but also at global level.
Here’s the list of 10 must watch old classic films which received international recognition –
1. Neecha Nagar  –
The film was directed by Chetan Anand. It was India’s first film that depicted the chasm between the socio-economical strata in a realistic manner. The film was based on Hindi story written by Hayatulla Ansari. The film puts a light on the atrocious avarice of the rich part of Indian society who influence and manipulate decisions on country’s projects that are meant for the welfare of the public, in order to reap private profits. Neecha Nagar got appreciated at Cannes Film Festival and happens to be the only Indian film to have received the much-coveted ‘Palme d’Or’.
2. Awaara  –
Regarded as Raj Kapoor’s finest film, Awaara happens to be an iconic film in Indian Cinema. Even though the film was a typical Bollywood’s ostentatious love story but it was lauded for its cinematic brilliance and gripping storytelling. In the backdrop of post-independence India, Awaara told a story of a guy who indulges in crime. He latterly meets his lost childhood friend only to fall in love again. The film was globally the second highest grossing film in 1951 and praised as well as nominated for the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1953. It’s also among ‘Greatest Films of all time’ by TIME.
3. Do Bigha Zameen  –
This was the film that changed the use of narratives in Indian cinema and paved the way for Indian Neorealism. Do Bigha Zameen is a story of a peasant who wants to save his small land. A rich landlord who had lent him some money with land as the mortgage asks him to sacrifice the land. The film by Bimal Roy also took inspiration from Vittorio De Sica’s ‘Bicycle Thieves’. It became the second Indian film to win the International Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and it also won the Social Progress Award at Karlovy Vary.
4. Pather Panchali  –
An adaptation of Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s Bengali novel of the same name, this film was Satyajit Ray’s directorial debut. This Indian neorealistic film was shot in the backdrop of a small village in West Bengal and was about a poverty-ridden family. Satyajit Ray’s inspiration behind making this film was again Vittorio De Sica’s Italian Neorealistic film ‘Bicycle Thieves’. The film was the first installment of the ‘Apu’ Trilogy and displays the childhood of the protagonist. The film also got appreciation in most of the film festivals and received a special award for the ‘Best Human Document’ in 1956 Cannes Film Festival.
5. Mother India  –
Mother India is Mehboob Khan’s magnum opus. The title was chosen in retaliation of Catherin Mayo’s book of the same name which disparaged Indian culture. It is the story of a poor woman who raises her two children (of different mold) and survives against rich money-lender. The film depicts Indian moral values, culture and also self-sacrifice of a mother. Furthermore, Mother India was India’s first submission for the Academy Award for the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ in the year 1958. Unfortunately, the film had lost the award to Federico Fellini’s ‘Night of Cabiria’ by only one vote.
6. Pyaasa  –
Pyaasa was a tragedy film directed by Guru Dutt, who was regarded as Orson Welles of India. Set in the backdrop of post-independence India, the film is a story of a struggling poet who is trying to make his work reach people but succumbs to the mere structure of society. Pyaasa is one of the films which have received a lot of love way after its release. The film was also a commercial success in 1984 at French Premier. It is number 160 on the Sight & Sound critics and director’s poll in the year 2002. Later in 2005, it was among the ‘100 Best Films of All Time’ by TIME magazine.
7. Kaagaz Ke Phool  –
Kaagaz Ke Phool happened to be Guru Dutt’s biographical tragedy film. The film was a commercial disaster in India. It told the story of a filmmaker who runs out of ideas because of the delirious state of his family life. Moreover, the film was way ahead of its time and had influences of Guru Dutt’s association with the director Gyan Mukherjee. The film became a subject of world cinema and a lot of critics and film scholars had enamored it during the 1980s. It also features in the list of ‘Greatest Films Ever Made’ by Sight & Sound.
8. Charulata  –
Charulata is a Bengali drama film by Satyajit Ray. It was based on Rabindranath Tagore’s novella ‘The Broken Nest’. The film tells a story of a lonely housewife, who gradually starts having feelings for her brother-in-law. Charulata is also one of the path-breaking films in Indian Cinema which used techniques inspired from French New Wave. The film is also in Sight & Sound’s list of Greatest Films. Satyajit Ray had received the award for the best director at the Berlin Film Festival. Unfortunately, the Cannes Film Festival had rejected the film back then. Cannes Classics had featured it in early 2013. The film is also an all-time favorite of Jean-Luc Godard.
9. Swayamvaram  –
Swayamvaram was the Padmashree Award-winning director Adoor Balakrishnan’s directorial debut. The film tells the story of a couple who have married against their parents’ wish and have started a new life. The progressive film was also aptly titled to allusively reproach the archaic tradition of marriage in India. The film was path-breaking as it brought a new wave to Malayalam Cinema. The film had received a lot of critical acclamation at 1973 Moscow International Film Festival. International Film Festival of India had also screened it in 2012.
10. Ghatashraddha  –
Ghatashraddha is the first film of legendary Kannada director Girish Kasaravalli. The film tells the story of a young Brahmin Vedic student, who fails to hide the pregnancy of his Master’s widowed daughter whom he happens to befriend. Along with winning the National Awards for the best feature film, the film boasts of being the only Indian film as a part of National Archive of Paris, which also has 100 other films from different countries. It was also one of the ’20 Best Films in Indian Cinema’ at the 2009 International Film Festival of India.
Language is no barrier in the world of cinema because cinema is itself a language. With so films made in Hindi and also other regional languages going on to make a mark at a global level only proves the fact.
Indian Cinema has grown enormously over decades and the industries have been coming up with more and more quality cinema, which is not only appreciated in India, but have also been receiving worldwide recognition.