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.