Starter Kit for Hindi Film Stars

Another starter kit post!!!  And I will have to somehow figure out how to squeeze it into the menu bar at the top.  Exciting!  Also exciting, you are all going to have so much fun disagreeing with my choices in the comments!

These are only the very top top stars, the ones with years of films behind them who are very important for you to learn about as you get into the films.  And only Hindi, because I don’t know enough about the other industries/stars.  For that, the best I can give you is the general starter kit.  And these are NOT the “best” films of these stars, just the most representative if you are trying to understand their stardom.  And they are not growing in order best to worst either, they are growing from “most easy to understand and appreciate for a new viewer” to “hardest to understand and appreciate for a new viewer”, which sometimes means newest to oldest.


Shahrukh Khan Beginner Films

Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (K3G): Not his best movie, either in his performance or just overall quality, but very easy to watch for a beginner and helps you begin to understand his appeal.

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (KKHH): A better movie and a better performance than K3G, slightly slower moving plot, less eye candy.

Kal Ho Na Ho (KHNH): Something a bit more serious, still with songs and fun stuff, but with some tears as well.  And slowly easing you towards more of the modern Shahrukh, the character actor not just the loverboy.


Shahrukh Khan Intermediate Films:

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ): The most important film of the past 30 years of Indian cinema.  But it’s a deep film, requires concentration and giving yourself over to it, unlike the previous three that you can just skate through.

Darr: The film that rocketed him to stardom, an anti-hero role and a powerpacked performance.

Om Shanti Om: The most entertaining Shahrukh film ever.  Not very good for introducing you to him, but a very fun ride once you are a little acclimated to him.


Shahrukh Khan Advanced Films:

Chak De India: His biggest non-romantic hit, a completely untraditional “Shahrukh Khan” role, and a very good film in general.

Fan: A brilliant film with two unbelievably good performances from Shahrukh at the center.  It also engages with his star identity in complex ways, best watched after you are already aware of him.

Jab Harry Met Sejal: Shahrukh’s mature romance.  Very different from what he has done before, but still recognizably the culmination of it all.


Aamir Khan Beginner Films:

Lagaan: Everyone’s first Indian movie!  No really, I did my Master’s thesis on this, I have percentages and everything showing that Lagaan is the film most likely to be the first movie seen by people who go on to be Indian film fans.  It’s completely unlike most other Indian films, not very representative or anything, but very fun and welcoming to newcomers.

Dhoom 3: Big fun silly film, with a great Aamir performance at the center.  And a nice intro to Aamir as the blockbuster star, not just the social message star.

3 Idiots: The birth of “new” Aamir!  And another “new” era of film, the soft social consciousness kind of film.  This is what Aamir specializes in now, big social messages and themes, not a simple story about a few characters.


Aamir Khan Intermediate Films

Ghulam: Before this new era, Aamir did a whole variety of films, including this very good remake of On the Waterfront featuring his all time most popular song, “Aati Kya Khandala”.

Dil Chahta Hai: Very unlike any other Indian film, at least at the time it came out, but very representative now.  Because everyone imitated it.  Light witty comedy with some heart and some great performances.

Ghajini: Aamir’s dark violent action film mixed with a love story.  Inspired by Memento, but very different.  Very different kind of performance from him, great soundtrack, his first big blockbuster record breaking hit.


Aamir Khan Advanced Films

Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak: His break out first hit.  A very innocent young love story, also very old-fashioned, which can make it a bit harder to get a handle on, thus the “Advanced” level.

Sarfarosh: A cop film, with a fair amount of back and forth in the timeline and some surprising complications, requires focus to follow.

Rang De Basanti: A divisive film.  Some people love it, some people don’t.  A combination of campus activists in the present day and freedom fighters from back in the 1920s and 30s.


Salman Khan Beginner Films

Bajrangi Bhaijaan: A sweet sweet movie, Salman in his modern tired older avatar, but with his essential sweetness still present.  Plus an adorable child co-star and a nice message and all of these good things.

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo: A fairytale come to life, Salman playing the charming lead controlling it all, bright colors and fun story.

Dabangg: Salman’s biggest best action film.  A consciously over the top plot and hero, great songs, super whistle-worthy action sequences, and a kind of sweet romance in the middle of it.


Salman Khan Intermediate Films

Hum Aapke Hain Koun: The most successful film on his filmography.  Very very slow moving, which is why it’s not the best one to start with.  But addictive and beautiful and romantic and happy.

Maine Pyar Kiya: His first big hit star making movie.  And he looks GORGEOUS in it!  Like, one of the most beautiful men I have ever seen on screen.  Same director as Hum Aapke Hain Koun, but slightly faster moving and more exciting.

Judwaa: Very silly comedy which Salman juggles masterfully.  A “bad boy” and a “good boy” role, two heroines, and half a dozen all time hit songs.


Salman Khan Advanced Films

Tere Naam: Salman is wonderful and being an entertainer, giving good big fun films.  But he is also an actor, and every once in a while he lets that actor out.  This performance is amazing.

Love: A very very early Salman, a remake of a Southern movie (as is Tere Naam), but with a heart wrenching central performance from him, and those shockingly beautiful looks from Maine Pyar Kiya.

Lucky: No Time For Love: This is not a good movie.  But it is a distinctively “Salman”y movie.  I would recommend watching it just to see the very limits of his excess.



Amitabh Bachchan Beginner Films

Jhoom Barabar Jhoom: Amitabh is barely in this one, but it gives you an idea of his position as the sort of all-powerful “God” of Indian film.  It’s best to ease in to Amitabh.

Eklavya: A bit more of a central role in this one, still in his older years, but a powerful character.

Baghban: Full-fledged hero in this movie, despite being over 70, and will break your heart.


Amitabh Bachchan Intermediate Films

Shahenshah: A very silly action movie, the watered down and spiced up version of his classic films.  A good intro to the over all genre.

Amar Akbar Anthony: A very silly comedy film, he is one of 3 stars, the plot is crazy, the songs are delightful, the sentiment is sweet.

Piku: A reminder that he can be a brilliant character actor in an off-beat female lead film, not just an action star or a noble old man role.


Amitabh Bachchan Advanced Films

Deewar: Best script in the history of Indian film, possibly the greatest performance of Amitabh’s career.

Don: Another brilliant script, but a performance that is more “fun” than touching.

Sholay: Greatest movie in all of Hindi film history.



Okay, those are the top 4 most important people to know in Hindi film right now.  I’ll start with that, and maybe when I feel like it, I will throw up another post for the Princes of films, now that the Kings and Emperor are done.


29 thoughts on “Starter Kit for Hindi Film Stars

  1. What I also find exciting when doing the journey into a new filmworld is the amount of people (actors & actresses, directors, writers, cinematogrpher, choreographer, set designer…even production companies I get to know).

    It’s nice to do a starter set although I think the very personal start makes the journey more memorable…mmmhhh…you could very well be a personal start, Margaret 🙂


  2. I can say from my personal experience that Dil Se is not a good movie for fresh Shah Rukh / Indian movies fans. I have watched it right after K3G, Veer-Zaara and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, when I knew nothing about Mani Ratnam, Kashmir problems etc and it was too serious. I wasn’t able to appreciate it as it should be appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly my feeling. Strangely, it is a good movie for people who like films in general. But it doesn’t seem to work well for making people want to see more Indian films, they love Dil Se, but it doesn’t make them want to see more Shahrukh movies necessarily or anything.

      On Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 4:33 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  3. Great lists!

    Here are my suggestions/thoughts

    The beginners doen’t need 3 KJios, 1 is enough, more variety needed at the beginner level.
    Paheli, like Lagaan for Aamir, is one of those films that non-bolly and non-SRK ppl have seen. And Don is an iconic movie, the only character he’s made into a franchise.
    K3g or K2H2, paheli, Chak de
    DDLJ, OSO, Don
    Darr or MNIK, Fan, JHMS

    Your list has 3 out of 9 SK films as rajshri/barjatya films. That doesn’t provide enough variety and exposure. Plus this list is heavy on romance and light on action and comedy, whereas SK career is 1/3 of each. The list needs HDDCS, Ek tha Tiger, and either Andaz Apne Apne or Welcome or Partner.

    I think Talaash should be in there, probably advanced. Maybe his most actor-y role?

    Would love lists for hrithik, ajay, ranbir, akshay, and the ladies (alia kangana deepika vidya rani kajol priyanka kareena). Doesn’t have to be 3×3, can be just 1×3.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alternately, for Salman, you could do 1 action, 1 comedy, and 1 romance per level (B, I, A) to form your 3×3 grid. His films break down neatly that way.


      • Only, the comedy is so hard to get a handle on! Not Salman comedy, but Indian comedy in general, it’s very different from other industries, I don’t know if I want to throw people in the deep end that way.


          • Yeah, basically all Indian film comedy is either based in Indian culture/languages (so, almost impossible for an outsider to fully grasp) or filled with film references (so you need to watching a couple hundred films before you can even begin to enjoy it).

            Liked by 1 person

    • I was thinking Talaash and Ek Tha Tiger! but they kept landing in the same categories as Sarfarosh and Dabangg, and it felt too similar. Same with HDDCS and the Rajshris. Maybe I could drop PRDP and replace it with HDDCS.

      Like your idea of swapping out one of the KJos. I don’t know if I would pick Chak De though for beginners, maybe Don. i feel like to fully appreciate Chak De, you have to understand how different it is as a performance from his regular stuff, so Intermediate not beginner.

      And I’d keep Paheli off just because it is such an odd movie, the plot kind of sags in the middle and doesn’t clearly conclude and so on. But it would be another good itnermediate perhaps, after you’ve gotten used to the films a bit.

      I was thinking 1×3 for the others, partly because there isn’t necessarily more than a beginner level for some of these actors, they all kind of do the same thing a lot of the time, or don’t have that long of a career overall.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Agree with replacing PRDP with HDDCS.

        I put Chak de in beginner because most movie industries have at least 1 famous film about an all female sports team, so that point of familiarity makes it an easy beginner transition.

        Comedy is indeed a challenge. Main Hoon Na (which isn’t even Salman) is the only Hindi film I can think of that is easily accessible to a western audience.

        About Lagaan, i find it a difficult watch, and still haven’t watched it all. It feels more like a Hollywood musical than a Bollywood musical.


        • Agree about Lagaan. It’s what people think an Indian movie is like, more than what it is actually like. The butter chicken of Indian film. Something tempting and fake that is just different enough to make people feel like they are having an experience.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Starter Kit Posts Index | dontcallitbollywood

  5. I think I’ve finally figured out something that’s been puzzling me since I began watching BWood films 5 years ago & more so since I began reading your blog. It has to do with the 3 Khans & who loves each of them & why. And how different those fans are from each other at heart.

    As I’ve said (ad nauseum by now!) my interest began with JTHJ. It was my first Indian film & I saw it quite by accident, by myself (this is very important, I think) and knowing nothing at all about BWood. I fell in love with the star, the director, the genre (or so I thought) and the music and the dancing. And the magic.

    If I had seen Lagaan (or at least the beginning of it because I’ve never managed to make it through the whole thing, finding it cliched & excruciatingly boring) I would never have watched another Indian film. I would have said~life is too short! Ditto for 3 Idiots.

    If I had seen Dabaang first I would have thought~as I later did when I speed watched it~this is the worst film I’ve ever seen. And, again, I would never have watched another.

    This leads me to my point~if you didn’t fall in love with the gentle magic of Paheli and rejoice in the child-like playfulness of the marionette dance at the end or weren’t inspired by Veer’s willingness to sacrifice his life for Zaara’s honor & happiness I will never really understand you. If you thought Lagaan was profound you will never really understand me. If you think Dabaang is entertaining we are from different planets. Perhaps our intersecting point would be that neither of us finds Johnny Lever the least bit funny.

    It’s probably not a big deal but for me it solved a mystery that’s been nagging at me since I found out that they make movies in India.

    For Ranveer~Lootera. His best performance to date.

    For Kareena~maybe Omkara. I even liked Ajay in that one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is my theory of the 3 Khans. The audience can’t be contained by just one actor, not the entire audience. So it is split in 3, some people will feel a sudden deep attachment to one of them and not be able to understand the other 2 at all. Other people will feel a deep connection to 1 over the other, but be able to enjoy all 3. And a few people will enjoy all 3 equally, but might want one over the other depending on their mood.

      Indian film is unique in how star focused it is, it’s not just that you fall in love with their charm or their handsome face, it’s a lot bigger than that, they really do feel like completely different people from each other and their films feel like completely different films.

      By the way, Lagaan was my first Indian film too (just like everyone else), and followed by Rangeela. I found them both enjoyable and interesting, but it wasn’t until I saw DDLJ that it all changed.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I get what you did with the beginner Amitabh films…JBJ is probably the first film I saw him in that I just embraced the iconic and sometimes oddness of his later film performances. But I didn’t truly understand his appeal until I watched Dostana, Zanjeer, Deewar, and especially Don. Sholay, I had seen years before, and never understood the fuss.

    Fun idea…keep them coming with the big actresses, too!


    • Amitabh is just so much, it feels like if you try to show someone Deewar to start, he is too big to really grasp. But if you come at him sidewise, get used to the weakened Amitabh in his old age, you can kind of work you way up to the real stuff and fully grasp it once you get there.

      Really, that’s true for all of these, that’s why you need the beginner and intermediate and advanced. Because the advanced is soooooooooooooo BIG, you need to work your way up to it, you can’t just jump in.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. My first Indian films were the Apu trilogy and Mirch Masala back in the 1980s, then a little later Lagaan. I thoroughly enjoyed and was fascinated by them but it wasn’t until Shahrukh’s Devdas and Main Hoon Naa played on television that I was hooked. Definitely a case of the actor ‘reeling me in’.
    I would also put CDI in the beginner’s category, especially for someone unfamiliar with Indian cinema. The genre, his performance and the slightly western feel of the film ( no dancing, no Johnny Lever! ) have made it very accessible to ”beginners’ I have shared it with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am ashamed to admit that I still haven’t seen the Apu Trilogy. Scratch that, no, I’m not ashamed! I’m not proud of it either, but I feel no worse about missing it than I do about missing Tokyo Story or Black Girl or Y Tu Mama Tambien. It’s a wonderful series of films, I’m sure, but it doesn’t have much related to the industry I focus on, Hindi film/Indian popular film. I don’t feel like there is a gap in my knowledge for not having seen it, the way I did about not having seen Andaz or The Burning Train.

      On Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 11:16 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  8. Would you consider Black and Shamitabh too un-Amitabh?

    I suppose in a few years you would be able to compile starter kits by genre rather than actor. Except maybe don’t go by what indian films describe their genre.

    I wish Saif gets his own starter kit and Go Goa Gone, Omkara and Qurban gets included in it.


    • Oh definitely, Black could slide in instead of Baghban, Shamitabh instead of Piku. I just like Baghban and Piku better as movies.

      I was thinking about genres. But it would have to be genres like “90s romance” “70s Angry Young Man” “Shammi Kapoor Style Films”.

      On Sun, Nov 19, 2017 at 8:29 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



        • I think that’s why it all goes back to stars. Sushmita Dasgupta’s book on Amitabh took the genre study style of analysis and applied it to his films, rather than the star study style of analysis. And that worked perfectly. An Amitabh Bachchan movie, or a Shahrukh Khan movie, or an Aamir Khan movie, or even a Hrithik Roshan movie, all are kind of a distinctive genre, certainly more distinctive than trying to watch “action” movies and ending up seeing Deewar and Bang Bang and Sarfarosh, all of which are completely different from each other.

          On Sun, Nov 19, 2017 at 9:28 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.