Rarely have we seen artists who have been able to use the medium of cinema to depict the real essence of their cultural values so well! Even more rarely have we seen film directors who tell a simple tale of regular families that have characters of unique shades, characters which are bound to touch human emotions universally. Hrishikesh Mukherjee is one such Bollywood film director who is known for his sheer genius and honesty, with which he narrated the story of endearing characters that live with their audiences for forever! His characters were often caught fighting dilemmas or going through life-changing journeys of their own.
Here is a list some of the finest comedies by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, that may belong to our parent's generation, but that are timeless in their humor:
#1. Guddi (1971): The movie chronicled the story of a young girl unable to differentiate between the world of cinema and real life. Written by Gulzar, the movie starred Dharmendra, Jaya Bachchan, and Utpal Dutt, and is a lighthearted comedy that you can enjoy anytime.
#2. Anand (1971): One such gem of a movie from his entire body of work is – ‘Anand’! Those who have watched it, would know why, and those who have somehow missed this valuable piece of India’s biggest movie industry, must watch it to know why! The heart-piercing dialogues from Gulzar, such as “Zindagi lambi nahin, badi honi chahiye” (Life shouldn’t be just longer but, bigger!) are etched in the minds of those who have viewed this movie even once! Anand (Rajesh Khanna), a man who only knows how to bring joy to every one’s life, including the introvert and irritable Bhaskar, is dying of a rare disease of the intestine. He leaves us with an invaluable lesson on valuing the gift of life while sharing the joy of it with others! This movie is Mukherjee’s masterpiece which makes the audience of today crave for stories such as this!
#3. Bawarchi (1972): This family-oriented comedy-drama beautifully and comically explored the highs and lows of living in a joint family. Despite having characters that definitely needed a few lessons in morality, the movie did not rely on obscenities, crass jokes, or melodrama to get the point across. A classic Hrishikesh Mukherjee drama if there ever was one.
#4. Chupke Chupke (1975): This is without a doubt one of the most famous romantic comedies of Bollywood, and rightfully so. With a stellar starcast of Dharmendra, Sharmila Tagore, Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan in lead roles, the movie did not have a single scene or dialogue that was out of place. The humor in the situation was genuine, even if tinged with familiarity. And the actions of the characters were endearing, even when their intentions were not entirely noble.
#5. Gol Maal (1979): If there was ever a movie that defined a laughter riot, it would have to be Gol Maal. And despite Bollywood's attempt to recreate the magic by using a similar plotline, it never could happen. The brilliant story was enhanced with fantastic performances by actors Amol Palekar and Utpal Dutt.
#6. Khubsoorat (1980): Comedy, family values, romance - this movie had it all. The story of a vivacious, young girl who changes the stern and sensible matriarch of a family is still fun to watch. Flawless performances by actors like Rekha, Ashok Kumar, and Rakesh Roshan just added to the charm of the movie.
7. Namak Haram (1973): Both critically and commercially acclaimed film, ‘Namak Haram’ is a wonderful tale of two friends (Somu & Vicky) who come to a divide, created by their values. Where Somu (Rajesh Khanna) goes through a transformation of character, Vicky (Amitabh Bachhan) struggles to understand the change that has come over his dear friend. Now whether a friend should stay true to his friendship or stand up for what he believes to be right, is the crux of this film. Both the actors received accolades for their performances in this riveting drama. This was once again when Hrishikesh Da (Bengali for elder brother) brought the two actors together after their much-loved earlier chemistry in one of his own masterpieces (wait for it)!
#8. Mili (1975): Not often have we laughed and cried so much while watching a tale of a protagonist fighting with a fatal disease. Mili’s (Jaya Bachchan) love for life is contagious and while she is bent on making the most of her battle with pernicious anaemia, she also inspires Shekhar (Amitabh Bachchan) to live and love. ‘Mili’ is a moving tale of a girl struggling for her life, a father struggling to see his young daughter through this fight, and a drunkard settling for nothing but the promise of love which is tied with this girl’s flickering life! With Mrs. And Mr. Bachchan in the lead roles, this film by Hrishikesh Mukherjee is a pleasurable watch for all ages.
#9. Naram Garam (1981): This was Hrishikesh Mukherjee's third family comedy in a row, and just like his previous two movies (Gol Maal, Khubsoorat), this too was aided by superb performances and a funny storyline. As always, Utpal Dutt and Amol Palekar were naturally proficient with their comic timing, but a plausible story and honest comic gags doubled the fun.
#10. Rang Birangi (1983): Despite the fact that Utpal Dutt was a constant fixture of Hrishikesh Mukherjee's comedies, his role in the movie as Police Inspector Dhurandhar is still considered to be one his finest performances. A classic tale of rekindling the dying romance in a marriage, this is one of Bollywood's best situational comedy.