Best Black and White Bollywood Movies
Bollywood has seen a lot of classy movies. There was a time when one film was released in a month; the box office collection did not matter. A film was declared hit if the story was worthy. And, only if the star cast did justice to the characters. Apart from brilliant direction and genuine acting, music was subtle and the lyrics added meaning to the song and story-line. No doubt those films even then had an item song, that’s how Helen made her name in the Hindi Film Industry. Overall black and white Bollywood movies provided a power-packed performance covering all the aspects of film making.
Here, we are discussing a list of black and white films, which has set a benchmark in the Hindi Film Industry. Just like those movies; the featuring films on this list were either critically acclaimed or enjoyed silver jubilee. Some of them have a cult-following today, and a couple were even golden jubilees.
- Kaagaz Ke Phool
- Chalti Ka Naam Gadi
- Mr. X in Bombay
- Shree 420
- Mother India
- Do Aankhen Barah Haath
- Do Bigha Zameen
- Howrah Bridge
Pyaasa is a romantic drama film directed by Guru Dutt. Although the film was star-studded with the likes of Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman, Mala Sinha, Johnny Walker and Mehmood; it failed to make an impression on the audience. Nonetheless, nowadays, the film is a cult-icon and a masterpiece of benchmarks in the Indian film industry.
The plot revolves around a struggling poet living in Calcutta. The iconic element about the storyline is that in spite of being a sane human being in all aspects; Vijay (Guru Dutt) has to face all sorts of mishaps possible in a man’s life. Right from the moment of struggling to make a name in the Arts; to losing his mother and ending up in an asylum, while presuming dead to the rest of the world. In this struggle, he is supported by Gulab (Waheeda Rehman) who is a prostitute with a heart of gold.
This black and white film is renowned in the work for its camera work and marvellous direction. The motion picture is not flawless, but, there are too few to spot. This film was in the theatres in 1957, somewhat 60 years earlier than its time.
The soundtrack was composed by Sachin Dev Burman. Pyaasa is one of the best lyrical Hindi musicals of all-time. The beautiful transition of poetry with harmony is a melody of all the emotions. It’s definitely much better than modern-day rap.
Kaagaz Ke Phool is another classic cinema by Guru Dutt; who also played the lead role. This film is quite popular amongst the film-makers of all the decades after 1959 for two reasons. Kaagaz Ke Phool is the first Indian film in CinemaScope and the last film by Guru Dutt.
The plot features around a famous film director, Suresh Sinha (Guru Dutt) and Shanti (Waheeda Rehman). It’s a simple, yet twister of a story that entices the plot and leaves the audience with watery eyes. Unlike Pyaasa, Kaagaz Ke Phool does not have a happy ending where Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman live happily-ever-after. Instead, the end is real and brutal. Probably, one of the reasons why the audience didn’t appreciate the film.
The film features some of the best dialogues in Hindi film cinema and makes it one of the best movies of all-time. Although the film was out for the public in 1959, it was half a century early. A heartbroken artist loses himself, family and career in the search of surreal – happiness. Kaagaz Ke Phool is definitely one of the best black and white Bollywood movies.
Who doesn’t know the story of Salim and Anarkali? Salim, the son of Akbar who fell in love with Anarkali, a court performer; and their love was disallowed by his father. Mughal-E-Azam is the excruciating story of the impeccable love shared by Salim and Anarkali. The classic old tale of a rich boy and a poor girl is in the picture. Mughal-E-Azam is the tale of Akbar and Salim, and the rift between them due to Anarkali.
This 1960 film stars Dilip Kumar as Salim, Madhubala as Anarkali and Prithviraj Kapoor as Akbar. The performance by the entire star cast is fantastic. Being, the film set during the Mughal dynasty, and that too during the richest emperor of Mughal family; extravaganza sets were designed. Mughal-E-Azam was the costliest film.
The film is popular amongst the people today due to two reasons, the song “Jab Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya” and the ending of the film, where power wins over love. Thus, Akbar walls up Anarkali in front of Salim and makes him presume that she is soon going to die. But, in the last scene, it’s shown that Anarkali flees from the kingdom on the command of Akbar.
This ending taught us an important lesson; some things are meant to be done in order to bring everything back in order.
For those who do not wish to see this black and white film, a colour version of the same was released in 2004.
If black and white Bollywood movies were not able to make us laugh, then Johnny Walker would always be remembered only as Johnnie Walker.
The film starts with a hilarious scene on the streets of Mumbai. Three brothers: Brijmohan (Ashok Kumar), Jagmohan (Anoop Kumar) and Manmohan (Kishore Kumar) run a 24×7 service garage. Brijmohan, the eldest brother despises women due to past experience; also, he has ordered his younger brothers to stay away from the opposite sex.
A twist of fortune is in place when Renu (Madhubala) is at their doorsteps on a rainy night; she is seeking help after her car breaks down in the middle of the road. The plot then revolves around Manmohan and Renu’s romantic relationship.
Chalti Ka Naam Gadi is the black and white film which is still popular for its astounding soundtrack. This golden gem is somewhere lost in the cinematic history; but, still gives us a burst of good laughter with the quirky comic timing and excellent characteristics.
The music director of this black and white Bollywood movies was S. D. Burman, and his son R. D. Burman was the Assistant Music Director. The soundtrack of Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi is very popular even today in 2020. The most popular song from this motion pictures is Kishore Kumar’s Ek ladki bheegi bhaagi si.
Mr. X in Bombay is one of the very first sci-fi films in Hindi Film Cinema. This film stars Kishore Kumar in the main lead opposite Kumkum.
The movie is focused on Kishore Kumar and his romantic relationship with Kumkum. The plot seems ordinary, doesn’t it? But, in Kishore Kumar’s films, nothing is ordinary. Kumkum’s father is a scientist and by mistake one of his inventions is consumed by Kishore Kumar, who then turns invisible.
Hilarious turns of events take place when Kishore Kumar woos Kumkum, who presumes that he is dead. Alongside, teaching a lesson to Madan Puri who has been nothing but a headache for Kumkum and her father. All of these takes place while Kishore Kumar is invisible. For all of those who are reading this, it does sound like Mr. India. Well, it might be, but, Mr. X in Bombay was on the screens in 1964; 23 years prior to Mr. India.
With Kishore Kumar as the main lead, the film is bound to have a marvellous soundtrack. Songs like “Mere Mehboob Qayamat Hogi” and “Khoobsurat Hasina” are still amongst all-time favourites.
Shree 420 is a directorial marvel featuring one of the most popular stars of Indian film Industry: Raj Kapoor. The film is based on the filthy scams and gambits a person has to perform. Just to make through in the mighty city of Mumbai.
The film is the depiction of a naïve country boy, Raj (Raj Kapoor) who comes to Mumbai with dreams of becoming a millionaire. As soon as he sets his foot in Bombay, he understands that there is no place for simplicity and values in this city. Meanwhile, a spark of a romantic relationship is lit between Raj and Vidya (Nargis).
While on delivery of ironed clothes to an elite couple in South Bombay; his ultimate gambling talent is discovered by Maya (Nadira). She then takes him along with her to the club; where Raj showcases his skills in a game of Teen Patti.
His visits at the club are now frequent and he starts making associates amongst the rich people. Soon, he is also one of the conmen who harasses and fools the common public for his own gain.
In the end, Raj becomes the title character; Shree 420 (MR 420), a crook. But, the end varies than the real-life; how, do watch how Vidya loves him again after despising him and how he becomes the hero.
The directorial vision is excellent. There’s a shot in the film when Raj Kapoor has self-realization and his reflection is talking to him. An excellent shot and very well captured by the cameraman. Apart from the storyline and star cast, the film features an evergreen collection of the soundtrack. Songs like “Pyaar Hua Iqrar Hua”, “Mera Joota Hai Japani” and “Ramaiya Vastavaiya” are still popular amongst all the age groups.
Mother India is one of the highest-rated Bollywood films of all-time. A remake of a classic black and white Bollywood movies; which was also directed by Mehboob Khan, Aurat (1940). Mother India stars Nargis, Sunil Dutt and Rajendra Kumar in the lead roles. The supporting cast includes big names like Kanhaiya Lal, Raaj Kumar and Kumkum.
Mother India is an epic drama film set in rural India. The plot revolves around the distress of moneylenders and the fight against corrupt powers. Radha (Nargis) is forced to pay 3/4th of her crops to Lala (Kanhaiya Lal) as interest for the loan took for her marriage. In order to end her mother’s misery and rise above the corrupt moneylenders, Birju (Sunil Dutt) takes the law in his own hands. This makes him a rebel. And by the end of the film, he is a criminal who steals his mother’s jewellery which was a mortgage for the land.
As Radha is a role model for the entire village for her just and unbiased nature; she is forced to shoot her son dead upon realizing the mishaps committed by him. Apart from stealing the jewellery, Birju also kidnaps Rupa, Lala’s daughter on her wedding day to exact his revenge.
The film received a lot of critical acclaims; ever since has been a benchmark in the Hindi film industry. The film was declared super-hit during the first week itself. The film’s reel was on the theatre screens for over 25 weeks, making it one of the many silver jubilees.
Shantaram is considered to be one of the most iconic filmmakers of all-time. Do Aankhen Barah Haath is a story of a jail warden who takes up the duty to rehabilitate six criminals. The literal translation of the title is Two Eyes, Twelve Hands. It seems funny, yet inquisitive. When understood, it actually means:
A vision is seen by two eyes, who allow six men (twelve hands) to work towards betterment.
The meaning is deep; but, when you watch the film, it’s quite easy to understand.
The film is one of the first films to be based on humanistic psychology with a very important message; hard work and untiring efforts in the right direction for a right cause always gives worthy results.
The film-making technic is excellent. However, the show-stopper is the beautiful depiction of rehabilitating criminals and teaching them that if they change themselves, the society changes for them too. Yes, a worthy message sent out in 1957; which is still being delivered to every human being even today.
Do Bigha Zameen is a landmark in Hindi film industry. The film was released in 1953 and one might say the storyline was a lot influenced by The Bicycle Thieves.
The plot of the movie revolves around Shambu (Balraj Sahni) and his family who try everything in order to save their land. The land is neither mortgaged, nor forcefully seized; but, a complete legal procedure is in place to declare that Shambu must sell his land in order to pay off the debt he owes to Thakur Harnam Singh (Murad).
His family is already in too much trouble. Due to the long-lasting drought, the entire village is hit by a famine. When the drought ends, Thakur Harnam Singh decides to sell off his land to an industrialist who wishes to build a mill on the same land. The only problem is that Shambu’s Do Bigha Zameen (Two-Thirds of an acre) is on the same course. And, that land is the only source of income for Shambu and his family.
Refusing to sell the land to Thakur in order to pay his debt; Shambu goes to Calcutta to earn money and pay off the loan. Right then, reality hits and he is not able to make the money. The film ends on a real note; the land is auctioned and Shambu loses his only possession.
The condition of farmers in India during and after a famine is displayed to perfection in this black and white film. Sometimes, it’s quite essential to watch realism on the screen and realize the social situation.
Howrah Bridge is one of the underrated Bollywood movies of Black and White Era. The film is recognized for two soundtracks, Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu and Aaiye Meherbaan.
The film was directed by Shakti Samanta. The plot revolves around a family heirloom belonging to Prem’s (Ashok Kumar) and Madan’s (Chaman Puri) father. The film is set partly in Rangoon and Calcutta. The lead actress Madhubala plays a crucial role when Prem is framed for a murder.
The film is a lost gem in Bollywood. The storyline of Howrah Bridge is not only intriguing, but it’s also an edge-of-the-seat thriller. With multiple plot twists and accurate song placement, Howrah Bridge is one film that people can watch over and over again.
The on-screen charm of Madhubala and masculine persona of Ashok Kumar is not to be missed. It’s a must-watch black and white film. With this, we wrap up this list.
Black and White films do sound boring, but, the real skill of film making is clearly visible to the audience. The good old reel and irrational disturbances gave life to the screen and not just the movies.
If we have missed out any other film, do let us know in the comments section below; and we’ll try to come up with another list of black and white Bollywood movies.