The coronavirus lockdown across India means some of us with the privilege of working from home may have a little more time on our hands because we aren’t commuting to work. Like many others, I used the extra time to bingewatch everything on my list first.
After ticking off most of what I wanted to watch online, I suddenly felt the need to turn to old Hindi films. I began with Chupke Chupke and then looked for more, because it reminded me of the cozy afternoons during vacations when my grandmother and I would sit and watch these movies being shown on channels like Zee Cinema and Set Max. In these dark times, these films gave me a weird sense of warmth and comfort.
I’m sure there are others like me, so here’s a list of five Hindi films you can stream online. Most of them are fun, breezy watches that will take your mind off all the anxiety-inducing news updates coming in all the time.
Fair warning, while they are fun to watch, they come laced with the gender and class biases of the times they were made in. If you’re willing to look past that, these movies will offer some delightful humour, beautiful songs and a window into the past.
1. Khubsoorat (1980)
You may have watched Sonam Kapoor’s 2014 version (ah, Fawad Khan), but now turn to her inspiration—this 1980 film directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Manju, played by Rekha, visits her sister’s home after she gets married (Yes, Manju is the name of Kirron Kher’s character in the new version). While Manju and her family are used to a care-free lifestyle, her sister’s mother-in-law is extremely strict. When Manju fails to adhere to the rules, she decides to bring a mini-revolution to the family even as she falls in love with Inder, played by Rakesh Roshan. Watch out for the hit songs Sun Sun Didi and Piya Bawri.
2. Masoom (1982)
This Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi-starrer relates how Indu’s life is turned upside down when she learns her husband has had a son with another woman. Shot during a time when most women did not have the agency to walk out of their marriages, this is a story of how Indu comes to accept Rahul, played by Jugal Hansraj. The film boasts of an amazing star cast with character roles played by Supriya Pathak, Tanuja and Saeed Jaffrey. It also features a young Urmila Matondkar, who plays Indu’s elder daughter. And if for some reason you missed it at the peak, this was the film with the song Lakdi Ki Kathi and other hit songs like Do Naina Aur Ek Kahani and Tujhse Naraz Nahin Zindagi.
Stream it on Amazon Prime Video.
3. Chupke Chupke (1975)
Based on Upendranath Ganguly’s Bengali story Chhadobeshi and directed, once again, by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, this film follows Professor Parimal Tripathi (Dharmendra), who tries to one up his wife’s brother-in-law who she holds in high regard. When Sulekha, played by Sharmila Tagore, visits her sister, Parimal also turns up pretending to be the new driver Pyare Mohan Ilahabadi who speaks chaste Hindi and is confused by English pronunciations. While the newly married couple sneakily try to spend time with each other, Sulekha’s sister and brother-in-law are left confounded by her closeness with Pyare Mohan. Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bhaduri also play important roles in this hilarious film.
4. Shatranj Ke Khiladi (1972)
Based on a story written by Munshi Premchand, this is the only Hindi feature film made by Satyajit Ray. Set in 1856, the film follows two men — played by Sanjeev Kumar and Saeed Jaffrey — who are obsessed with playing chess, to the point that they find new ways to play the game without being disturbed by their family. As their obsession grows, so does the plan of the British to overtake erstwhile Awadh. The film also stars Shabana Azmi, Amjad Khan and Tom Alter.
Stream it on Hotstar.
5. Gol Maal (1979)
Yet another Hrishikesh Mukherjee film (actually, just watch all of his movies), Gol Maal is true to its name, and no, it is nothing like the new Golmaal franchise. The film is based on the proverb that one lie leads to another. When Amol Palekar’s Ramprasad lies to his employer Bhavani Shankar, played by Utpal Dutt, about who he is as a person, he thinks it will be fine. But then he finds himself in a twisted web of more lies when he falls in love with Bhavani Shankar’s daughter Urmila. Ultimately unable to keep up with the fake life he has created, Ramprasad must find a way out. This one is a comedy classic.