In the 1950s, Hindi films reflected the hopes and aspirations of a country, recently freed from colonial rule. It was a golden period for Hindi cinema, which laid the foundation for Bollywood as we know it today. Here are some timeless classics that today’s youngsters can watch to get a hang of Indian society, just after independence.
1. Do Bigha Zamin (1953)
No commercial Hindi film before or since argues for the idea of a socialist India as strongly as Do Bigha Zamin. Inspired by Rabindranath Tagore's Bengali poem, ‘Dui Bigha Jomi’, Bimal Roy’s movie is a classic in every sense. Art merged into commercial cinema — a first-time experience for Hindi cinema’s audiences. Balraj Sahni plays a farmer struggling to free his land from the local zamindar. His performance is bound to give you goosebumps.
2. Boot Polish (1954)
There are bad people and good — in the same world. This simple and timeless truth unfolds in front of two siblings in Boot Polish. The backdrop is the idea of a ‘Nav Bharat’, hopes of which echoed on India’s streets in the 50s. The first generation of children growing up in independent India visualised the future with dreamy eyes, despite surrounded by poverty. Watch the film to know how our cities looked like back then.
3. Jagriti (1954)
The 1950s was an era when India’s children held centre-stage. They were supposed to serve as catalysts to unlock the country’s potential. This thought resonated in the movie Jagriti. Child actor Ratan Kumar, who played a pivotal role in Boot Polish and Do Bigha Zamin, headlined Jagriti too. The tale of a rich brat turning a leaf struck a chord in Indian cinemagoers. Old-timers still remember how the film’s songs were a rage in those days.
4. Mother India (1957)
For most of the period between the 60s to the 90s, every Hindi movie had a little bit of Mother India in it. Mehboob Khan’s magnum opus led to the birth to the ‘blockbuster’ Hindi movie. It appealed to people from all ages, religions, and walks of life. Nargis epitomised the strength and frailties of the Indian woman. Watch it when she says in the climax, “Main beta de sakti hoon, laaj nahin” — inspiring stuff! ‘Maa’ became an infallible figure in Hindi films after Mother India.
5. Madhumati (1958)
Another of Bimal Roy’s classics. A commercial movie to the core, Madhumati was a visual and aural cinematic experience. The film’s music has acquired an eternal quality over the years. The legendary Dilip Kumar and the mystically beautiful Vyjayantimala came together to bring on screen a tale of love beyond life. Madhumati was a benchmark in romance for Hindi movies. It created a template of ‘immortal love’ for many years to come.