Indian History in 12 Films (a bit of a silly post)

I sincerely recommended 30 separate movies about Indian history. This is the silly version, when I try to tie together the entire history of the subcontinent in 10 films. And only use films I haven’t listed in any of the other posts. Be warned, none of this films are exactly “historically” “accurate”.

(3000 BCE)

There’s no particular evidence that pre-historical South Asia was made up of painted warriors with swords having illicit affairs and growling at each other. But, on the other hand, there is no evidence that it WASN’T made up of painted warriors with sexual tension. Oh, and no horses. So whenever this is set, it’s before Mohenjo Daro (the film, not the place). So if you want a painless and pleasurable vision of pre-historic South Asia, dropped into the middle of a reincarnation romance plot, check this out! And feel very knowledgable and scholarly for learning about “olden times”. For a date, let’s put it before Mohenjo Daro, so about 3000 BCE.

Image result for raabta
Ancient India? Could be! No reason not!

Mohenjo Daro (2500 BCE)

Mohenjo Daro is an actual place, one of the most ancient civilizations unearthed by archeology. But there isn’t a heck of a lot known about it, so the filmmakers took all kinds of liberties with how they chose to present it. Mysterious priestesses, noble farmboys, mutant alligators, and the first appearance of an animal called “horse”. Also, Hrithik has streaks in his hair. Because no matter how ancient the world is, there are Always Hair Products. Even in Mohenjo Daro, at 2500 BCE.

Did they wear hilarious hats during religious rituals? Maybe! Everyone else does, so why not the ancient South Asians?

Mirzya (1600 BCE)

This film puts the history in nice little bite-size dialogueless sections, kind of like Raabta. But it is very pretty, with all the painted warriors and dredlocks and arrows and stuff. Mirzya is in a Post-Horse world. The earliest definite confirmed evidence of Horse, is in 1600 BCE. So let’s say that is when it is set.

Everyone in ancient India wore fabulous eye-liner. Write that down, it will be on a test at some point I am sure.

Magadheera (1600 CE)

Sorry, I just leaped ahead a whole bunch. Asoka happened in between all of this, but I already listed Asoka in anothe rpost so I couldn’t use him again. Magadheera is about the Mughal’s slowly taking over all of South Asia. Definitely horses, SO MANY horses. And the film explicitly says the flashback is 400 years ago, so that puts it at 1600 CE.

The eye-liner is much less fabulous here, that’s how you can tell we are out of Ancient Times.

Junoon (1857)

And now we reach the recent past! When movies will be coming fast and furious instead of once every couple thousand years. Junoon, a truly beautiful movie, about the 1857 revolution and its effect on 3 characters, a half Indian mother, her teenage daughter who was raised in the British colonial community, and the Nawab who gives them sanctuary. Also, very easy to date because the year is right there in the name, “1857 Revolution”.

This comes close to being historically accurate, except that all the details and characters are made up. But the rest of it is true!

Lagaan (1880-1910)

This movie ends with one of my favorite phrases for these fake-history movies, “tragically, this story has now been lost in the mists of time”. Such a nice get out of jail free card! “You say you never heard about this? Ah, that is because it was Lost in the Mists of Time”. Anyway, I am saying 1880-1910 based purely on the clothing styles of the British.

late 1800s was also well-known as the British era of Bad Song Lyrics. So, it all fits!

Celluloid (1926-1960)

Finally, something based on an actual true story with a verifiable date! Also, very sad. The story of the first film made in Kerala, filming begun in 1926 but recognition of the landmark was not given until 1960, because it starred a Dalit woman as the heroine and the director was born in Tamil Nadu, not Kerala and so on. Unlike the other movies, this is not quite as cheerful and escapist, because real history is like that. But hey, an actual date!

Yes, Prithviraj can really pull off period hair. Hrithik should take notes from him.

Byomkesh Bakshy! (1942)

Not a real story, but it has a lot of fun with the freedom of not being real. There are secret freedom fighters and Japanese collaborators and swords and femme fatales and on and on. It’s delightful. Oh, and it has an actual time and setting that make historical logical sense, 1942 Calcutta.

Don’t worry, the scary masked people aren’t in the actual movie.

Gadar: Ek Prem Katha (1947-1956)

If you watch this movie and think of it as a totally made up story, it is very very fun. If you watch it and think of it is political propaganda, it is very very scary. So I recommend the first way. A love story set during Partition and the confusing aftermath, beginning in 1947 and going all the way until the two countries are well-established and the child born of the union is 8.

Really just THE BEST love story

Once Upon a Time in Mumbai (Late 1970s)

I love this movie. The costumes, the sets, the way the city looks, it is all so evocative. Plus, it gives you a feel for the gangster/police/political/film scene of Bombay in that particular era, the time when power was softer and crimes were smaller. I just am stumped with dating it. At one point, Amitabh us mentioned as a “young” new actor, they also go see the movie Bobby, so that would put it in 1974, but then time passes in the film, so maybe it is more like 1973-1977? Something in there.

See??? BOBBY!

Raid (1983)

Oh Raid! I love you so. Such a tight clean clear movie. And very much of its era, in small ways. The costumes and cars and sets and all, yes, but also the structure of power in the country and the issues that arise with it. And we can say definitely 1983, because the movie is nice enough to open with a date.

Look! Look at the metal detector! So perfectly in period.

Raees (1988-1993?)

A flawed movie, but definitely historical, a time before internet and cell phones and all the rest of it, when smuggling and polyester ruled all. The challenge is dating it. Mr. India is referenced, so that puts it after 1987. And then it SEEMS to end with a reference to the 1993 bomb blasts, but does it really? Also, how old is that baby by the end of the film? Anyway, it is definitely the latest of all the other movies, based on the Mr. India dating alone.

When is this??? Shahrukh’s glasses say 80s, but his shirt says 70s, and I am all confused.

And there you go! If you watch all these movies in order, you will know nothing more about South Asia 3000 BCE to 1993 CE, but you will FEEL like you do, and isn’t feeling like you know about history more important than actually knowing it?

10 thoughts on “Indian History in 12 Films (a bit of a silly post)

  1. A nice ‘running through centuries’ 🙂 … and with one of my favourite Indian movies…Celluloid! I think I even got to know about this Malayalam movie through your blog, Margret.


    • So glad I could introduce more people to that film! It is such a lovely one.

      On Tue, Jan 22, 2019 at 1:03 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



    • So far as I can tell, from a survey of all world cinemas, Hair Products have been in existence since the dawn of time. Also, Wonder Bras.

      On Tue, Jan 22, 2019 at 2:04 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

        • Can we add shaved/waxed chest for men? Having seen older movies/pictures of Askhay and Hrithik, among others, how long do you think its takes to wax their chest for these films??


          • I feel so bad for Akshay. And based on the few close-ups we get, either he shaves instead of waxing, or he waxes once and it grows out over filming, or it just grows so freakishly fast that he has a 5 o’clock shadow in most scenes. Hrithik, not so much of a problem. Anil is the smartest, he just stopped doing shirtless scenes once the waxed/shaved look came into vogue.

            On Tue, Jan 22, 2019 at 2:26 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



          • And they were born with eye shadow and lipstick on their faces.

            On Tue, Jan 22, 2019 at 2:39 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



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