Director Rajkumar Santoshi tries to convey a social message in every film he makes.
At the same time, he doesn't like to repeat himself by making the same type of film or following a storyline that has been done before. While comedy comes naturally to him, his dramas are some of his most memorable films.
If you are new to Bollywood, here are five Rajkumar Santoshi that will give you something to think about.
English Translation: "Call"
Release Date: 11 February 2000
Description: Indian paratrooper Major Jaidev Rajvansh (Anil Kapoor) captures terrorist Abhrush (Danny Denzongpa) and returns home a hero. While on leave, he meets and falls in love with Pooja Mallapa (Namrata Shirodkar), much to the chagrin of his childhood friend Anjali (Madhuri Dixit) who believed she would marry him. Heartbroken, Anjali becomes a pawn in a larger plan to ruin Jaidev.
Why I Love This Film: This film blends action, romance and espionage in a story that really works. An extravagant movie mounted on a huge scale with songs shot at Arches National Park (Utah) and Glacier Bay National Park (Alaska), this film reflects how one man clings to honor and truth despite having his life, reputation, and career tarnished beyond repair. One of the things that makes this story stand out is that it features a unique love story. In a 2000 rediff.com interview, Santoshi explained:
"It is an emotional, intense love story with the Army as the backdrop. There is also an espionage angle to it. We talk about love in this film -- love in the sense of romance, but also love with respect to the motherland. ... I was thinking about a love story for sometime. But I wanted to be different and not make a conventional love story, without the usual problems of caste, class, rich boy-poor girl, family feud etc. I wanted to make a love story where love itself becomes a problem and the reason for creating rifts."
The beautiful soundtrack features a variety of musical styles that create a memorable listening experience.
Side note: I wish they'd remaster this film. Several fight sequences include unrealistic sound effects which detract from the impact of the scenes - particularly the scene where Major Jaidev is goaded on by Mishra and Tiwari in the town square. That scene is powerful enough to stand on it's own without the bloated sound effects.
Recognition: Pukar won a National Award for Best Actor (Anil Kapoor) and a Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration.
English Translation: "Shame"
Release Date: 19 September 2001
Description: The film follows the journey of NRI Vaidehi (Manisha Koirala) who runs away from her abusive husband Raghu (Jackie Shroff). She travels from New York to India where, rejected by her family, she meets people along the way who provide a place for her. Along the way, she befriends several women who each experience tragic events due to the norms of society and the people in power in their communities.
Why I Love This Film: This film takes a hard look at the plight of women in India. Some of the issues raised include: dowry money, education for women, abuse, rape, and female infanticide. At the beginning of the film, Santoshi offers the following statement:
None of the characters or situations depicted in this film are imaginary or fictional, really speaking. They are echoes of what is happening all around us in our so called civilized society. At best, these voices - cries and shrieks, pleas and whispers - have been amplified for deaf people to take not. After all, the greatness of a civilization can only be measured by the status of its women.
The background music of Lajja is different from your standard soundtrack as it is performed by the Budapest Radio Symphony Orchestra, giving the film an epic feeling which was required to reflect the importance of the issues picturized in the film. In an August 2001 Times of India interview, Santoshi explained the genesis of the film:
"The idea of making this film came to me when i read a newspaper item about a 42-year-old woman from a village near Kanpur. She was abducted, held captive for nine days and repeatedly raped, before being burnt alive. This incident triggered off Lajja. I wanted to discuss this issue. Even today, in 2001, when we are celebrating world beauty pageants, talking about the great Indian woman and celebrating festivals like Navratri, Durga Puja and Kali Puja, this is how women are treated in our society. Women in india are still fighting for equality and struggling to find their identity. When I approached the stars they agreed immediately because they understood the importance of making the film."
Release Date: 7 June 2002
Description: The life story of the revolutionary Bhagat Singh (Ajay Devgan). Born in British India in 1907, at age twelve he anguished over the Jallianwala massacre, witnesssed the successes and failures of Mahatma Gandhi, and eventually became one of the leaders of the Hindustan Socialist Republic Association in 1928. Taking action in response to the oppression of his country and countrymen, he was imprisoned in Lahore and executed at the age of twenty-three.
Why I Love This Film: While nearly everyone outside of India has heard of Gandhi and his legacy, this film focuses on other important freedom fighters who gave their lives for India's independence. While you might not agree with all of Bhagat Singh's tactics, he was responding to the world as it was at that time and his passion and legacy is an inspiration to anyone fighting against oppression.
Recognition: National Award for Best Regional Film (Hindi); Filmfare Critics Award for Best Movie.
English Translation: "The Brown Uniform"
Release Date: 23 June 2004
Description: DCP Anant Kumar Shrivastav (Amitabh Bachchan) is tasked with leading a team of police officers- including Senior Inspector Shekhar Verma (Akshay Kumar), Sub-Inspector Ashwin Gupte (Tusshar Kapoor) - to transport terrorist Iqbal Ansari (Atul Kulkarni) from Chandangarh to Mumbai. However, their every move is watched and challenged by Yashwant Angre (Ajay Devgan), a ruthless killer and a former police officer who wants to prevent them from reaching their goal - at any expense.
Why I Love This Film: A testosterone road trip, there is plenty of action with gun fights, fist fights, and explosions. The added tension of knowing every move is being watched by someone who wants them dead heightens the drama. Despite their character flaws, each of these police officers steps up to the challenge of completing their mission. By the end of the mission, they have become a traveling brotherhood that learns to fully embrace their duty to protect the righteous and destroy evil.
5. Halle Bol
English Translation: "Raise Your Voice"
Release Date: 11 January 2008
Music by: Sukhwinder Singh
Description: "Now it's time to live for what you believe. It's time to raise your voice." Small-town street actor Ashfaque Khan (Ajay Devgn) dreams of becoming a Bollywood superstar and this passion is fueled by his acting coach and mentor, Sidhu (Pankaj Kapoor). Ashfaque finally gets his big break, marries his sweetheart Sneha (Vidya Balan) and moves to Mumbai. Years later he has become superstar "Sameer" Khan who has all the perks of success at the cost of his own identity and moral standards. When he witnesses a murder at a party, his moral compass resets as he experiences injustice first-hand. As opposing forces threaten him, he finds himself caught between his human self on one side and his corrupted superstar image on the other.
Why I Love This Film: This is a powerful film about doing the right thing despite pressure to act otherwise. In this case, while trying to get justice for the victim, Sameer Khan and his family become victimized. What makes this film all the more powerful is that it pulls on real incidents to make its point. According to Wikipedia:
The film touches upon many issues that have come into the public eye in India lately, such as the Jessica Lall murder case, Aamir Khan's involvement with the Narmada Bachao Andolan, the Right to Information Act, and public participation in fighting corruption. It also references the theatre group Jan Natya Manch, whose leader, theatre activist Safdar Hashmi, was killed by political rivals while performing a street play by the same name, Halla Bol!, in 1989.
The music of the film offers more of a background score, with Sukwinder Singh's soundtrack and unique vocals adding just the right tone.
Don't know which film to watch first? The following playlist features trailers for four of the five films. Unfortunately, there is no official trailer available online for Pukar.
If you liked this, visit our other Friday Five posts.