lead most rewatchable films
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Many knowledgeable filmy leads once (read many a time) said, ‘There are two types of people in this world.’ Taking a cue from them, let’s classify movies in two – utterly subjective – categories: the one-time or occasional watches, and the fall backs. The latter belong to the comforting category of cinema, the ones that soothe you in bad times, and make you rejoice in the good ones. They are the films you can’t stop watching for various reasons – because you love them, because they carry a certain nostalgic value, or even because they are so bad, they’re simply amazing.

In this non-exhaustive list, our staff pick some of their favourite films to fall back on. PSA: Not all of them may be in contention for the best films ever made, but what they never fail to do is to give us joy.

Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

I don’t know that Hindi cinema has created a doomed love story with the scale, sweep and beauty of K. Asif’s classic.  The swooning romance between the prince and the dancing girl (her name means pomegranate blossom), the fury of the emperor who is bound by duty and must sacrifice his son’s passion for the larger good of ‘Hindustan’, the music by Naushad and the ultimate song of defiance in the face of authority – pyaar kiya toh darna kya – holds up six decades later.  It doesn’t matter which scene you start watching the film from, you can’t stop. – Anupama Chopra

Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1993)

Rewatchable for all the right reasons, Kundan Shah’s Goa-set masterpiece was a definitive movie for all the non-heroic middlers of a hard-striving post-liberalization country. Till date, there’s something strangely therapeutic about watching Shah Rukh Khan’s shaggy-haired Sunil fumble his way through the cusp of adulthood. Every character is lovingly rendered, like a Mario Miranda mural coming to life. It’s my personal favourite SRK movie, a soothing balm to balance out all the larger-than-life aspirational heroes he would go on to play. If nothing, I can keep the scenes of Don Anthony Gomes, his Man Friday Vasco and the saintly Father Braganza on perpetual loop – and feel better and proud about the Hindi cinema I grew up on. – Rahul Desai

Mr. India (1987)

Mr. India is about the triumph of good over evil. An ordinary man in Mumbai takes down the menacing bad guy Mogambo with the help of magical glasses that give him the power of invisibility. It’s a fun superhero film with a big heart, and one of the few children’s films of Hindi cinema. Over the years, there has been some chatter about a remake or a reboot, and maybe a younger, cooler Mr. India isn’t a bad idea, but the innocence of this film will be hard to re-create. Also, Sridevi in ‘Hawa Hawai’ and her Chaplin impersonation deserves to be watched on repeat. – Mohini Chaudhuri

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)

The film may not have aged well on several parameters, but what remains intact is the sheer nostalgia that DDLJ carries with it. For me, it was the first film I ever watched – and loved. The film became the foundation for many love stories in the times to come, and that train sequence became emblematic of sorts for the ultimate Bollywood rom com. The dialogues (who can ever forget Amrish Puri‘s Jaa Simran jaa?), the chemistry between the leads, the songs, the humour (remember the feeding-the-pigeon sequences?) and just the charm of Shah Rukh Khan in that black leather jacket and aviator sunglasses is enough to make me pause and re-watch the film, all over again. – Debdatta Sengupta

Pyaasa (1957)

Is Pyaasa too intense to be in this list? There is a reason Guru Dutt’s 1957 film has become an icon of Hindi film cinephilia. There are too many reasons why: Sahir’s drunk poetry and SD’s phenomenal songs, their picturization and Dutt’s expressions in them, VK Murthy’s incredible black and white cinematography and the film’s timeless statement of art versus commerce. Pyaasa is a gift that keeps giving. – Sankhayan Ghosh

Nayak (2001)

The perfect hybrid of visual eccentricity and political campiness, I challenge you to flip the channel (or platform, or whatever) when you catch a glimpse of Amrish Puri morphing into a giant multi-headed snake. I remember watching the Shankar film twice in a week back in my hometown Ahmedabad, fascinated by the Chief-Minister-for-one-day plot and bowled over by Anil Kapoor’s superbly urgent performance. I scoffed at the famous moment of the CM advising his police chief to let the city burn – a mere six months before the Gujarat riots mirrored the fiction and turned my life upside down. But it was more than the creepy foreboding. Nayak is addictive at a fundamental level of movie-watching: it helps the viewers project their own fantasies about social justice onto the most mythological palette possible. It also remains a rare instance of a South Indian filmmaker adapting his own vision to truly tap the pulse of Mumbai. – Rahul Desai

Gangs of Wasseypur I & II (2012)

If there is a secret formula to what makes a movie rewatchable, no one knows it. It’s that… quality. Because by logic, something as violent — and long — as Gangs of Wasseypur shouldn’t have been so immensely rewatchable. What clicks, again and again and again? It’s a great yarn. The fact that apart from being one of the darkest Hindi films of the decade, it’s also one of the funniest. The trippy soundtrack by Sneha Khanwalkar. A gallery of entertaining characters and the colourful language they speak. Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s star-making performance, taking the baton from a wild Manoj Bajpayee in part I, hinged on the most primal of human emotions: badla. – Sankhayan Ghosh

Also Read: 20 Years, 20 Female Characters From Hindi Cinema We Love

Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)

Amar Akbar Anthony released way before my time, so I first saw it on television, then VHS, then YouTube and now on streaming. If it ever re-released in the theatre, I’d go again. It has everything that adds to the repeat value of a film – a fantastic ensemble cast, campy villains (you can’t beat the bodyguard Zebisko in sleeveless vests), Bachchan’s comedic chops, and an emotional lost-and-found story. But above all, director Manmohan Desai’s sheer audacity is what makes me come back to this film over and over again. Every time I see famous scene in which a blind Nirupa Roy gets her eyesight back at the Sai Baba temple or when her three sons unknowingly donate blood to her at the same time, I wonder – how the hell did he pull this off! – Mohini Chaudhuri

Sholay (1975)

Sholay has timelessness built into it – the leading men in denim, the rugged, unchanged landscape, the villain in army fatigues who isn’t an old school dacoit but a psychotic, unhinged murderer whose menace is still chilling.  And then there is the writing – through the decades, scenes and dialogue from the film have been referenced so often that it seems at once, new and old.  The film’s tagline was: The Greatest Story Ever Told.  A claim that might have been laughable if lesser talents had made it but director Ramesh Sippy and writers Salim-Javed pulled it off.  This tale of friendship and revenge remains eminently watchable – I still weep when Jai dies. – Anupama Chopra

Jaani Dushman: Ek Anokhi Kahani (2002)

Who said that only great classics deserved to be re-watched? Jaani Dushman is a good example of how awful movies can be addictive too. Everything thing in this movie – the cringe-worthy performances, the tacky CGI, and unabashed lifting of scenes from The Matrix (yes, you read that right) – is so spectacularly awful that you can’t look away, and before you know it, it begins to grow on you. As the tagline of the film suggests, it truly is an ‘anokhi kahani’ that needs to be seen to be believed. I’ve always wondered why Akshay Kumar and Manisha Koirala, who have some super embarrassing scenes, agreed to do this film. If there’s ever a documentary on the making of this film, I’d watch that too! – Mohini Chaudhuri

Ijaazat (1987)

Gulzar‘s ode to unrequited love is as poignant as it is complex. The three central characters – Mahender (Naseeruddin Shah), Sudha (Rekha) and Maya (Anuradha Patel) are all heartbroken, and yet, there’s hope. There’s something beyond their individual equations that ties them together. There’s a marriage that struggles to come into its own as the shadows of a past relationship loom large. But even then, unlike the path films generally move towards, there’s no blame game, there’s no shaming or name calling involved. There’s an odd mutual respect instead. The two women – neither of whom are looking to replace the other – desire their own stature in the life of a man they both love. The man, on the other hand, dabbles between the guilt and love he feels towards the two women, unsure of what to do to find a resolution without any adverse affects. It’s a tragedy, really, but one so deep that you find yourself tangled in their lives every time you try to deconstruct the ongoings. A special mention to its soundtrack, composed by RD Burman, that haunts you well after the end credits roll. – Debdatta Sengupta

Luck By Chance (2009)

What does one say about Zoya Akhtar’s debut that hasn’t been said already? Over the years, Luck By Chance has grown in cult status; so many of us recognize its growing significance with each passing year of imperceptive film-industry tributes. Akhtar owned her insider-ness and privilege, making a wholly entertaining and slyly observed film about the universe she grew up in that – for those clever film-star cameos alone – can be watched from any point without really missing the essence. These were in-jokes and hat-tips before the TVFs and AIBs ruled the internet which, as a spiritual sibling to Farah Khan’s filmography, created a new ecosystem of homage-giving without eschewing the flawed humanity of its people. The movie is infinitely rewatchable because it offers new perspectives and rewarding insights that measure the viewer’s own evolving embrace of the notorious nepotism-versus-outsider debate. It helps that, in the end, Luck By Chance is a tragedy of success, not a celebration of it. – Rahul Desai

Gol Maal (1979)

There are some films that perhaps never stop being funny. Hrishikesh Mukherjee‘s Gol Maal is one of them. There’s something utterly hilarious, and at the same time, incredibly endearing about the Utpal Dutt-Amol Palekar duo. They make you laugh with their histrionics – one with his stringent rules and beliefs, and the other trying to keep up… somehow, anyhow. Dutt plays a strict businessman who judges a person by their attire and moustache. While he is an admirer of sports, he dislikes the youth who share this liking. Enter Palekar as Ram Prasad, who is intelligent and hard working. He has a moustache too. But unfortunately, that isn’t enough to guarantee him a job. There begins a laugh-a-minute comedy of errors – with delightful cameos from the effervescent Dina Pathak and Om Prakash. – Debdatta Sengupta

K3G (2001)

K3G is cinematic candy floss – pretty, sickeningly sweet, high-calorie, nutrient-free but irresistible. Director Karan Johar created a world of impossibly rich (they travel to work in helicopters) and good-looking people (see Bole Chudiyan in which all six stars, dressed in Manish Malhotra’s finest, are dancing). But he also baked in emotions and melodrama, dialed up to 11. So you can admire the svelte bodies, dazzling clothes and designer labels but also weep as Rahul is unceremoniously thrown out of the Raichand castle. And there’s Poo – hilariously vain and forever quotable. What’s not to love? – Anupama Chopra

Welcome (2007)

Welcome is the gold standard for silly comedies. It’s one of those comfort watches that allow you to relive the movie even if you are basically going back to those two or three set pieces. You know which ones we are talking about: the whole track of an elaborate fake movie set created to fulfil Nana Patekar character’s (dreaded gangster Uday bhai) dream to be a movie actor—with Vijay Raaz as the hot-headed maverick director no less; Anil Kapoor’s spectacularly bad paintings being put up for a fake auction (that Mallika Sherawat fake bids and buys for the highest price); and of course, the legendary funeral scene. – Sankhayan Ghosh

Chupke Chupke (1975)

Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Chupke Chupke will always be watched and loved across generations because there’s nothing else like it. The comedy is clean, simple, inoffensive and genuinely funny. All the characters are kind and uncomplicated. Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan are in top form as erudite professors who execute an elaborate prank. The scenes between Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan are particularly hilarious and remain charming nearly 50 years on. – Mohini Chaudhuri

Swarg (1990)

Hear me out. The pre-David Dhawan David Dhawan was the prince of melodrama, like 1990s Sooraj Barjatya without the nauseating gloss. I was barely 7 years old when I watched Swarg, which was likely the first big-screen portrait of Bombay I encountered. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen Govinda’s “loyal servant” Krishna going from spot boy to superstar when he performs a scene on the film set better than the hero: an encapsulation of the Bollywood dream, yes, but also a means to an end of wealth and revenge. I’m a big fan of Rajesh Khanna’s hammy acting as the fading patriarch, and one can even notice the seeds of Dhawan’s famed comedies – especially Hero No. 1 – being sown in the seedy spirit of Swarg. There’s a bit of Baghban and other family dramas, too, and don’t tell me you don’t get a kick out of watching a rags-to-riches superstar drag the greedy family members of his revered master through the dirt. It’s such a primal form of vengeance that most of us started to view errant relatives through an eye of ruthless comeuppance: dekh lunga tujhe. Needless to mention, I’m not close to any of my extended family. – Rahul Desai

Lootera (2013)

In an age where good love stories became scarce, came Vikramaditya Motwane‘s soulful retelling of O. Henry’s short story, The Last Leaf. If a film has ever known how to take a story forward through its songs, it’s this one. Amit Trivedi composes an album so goosebumps inducing that if you sit and concentrate on just the lyrics, it has the power to tell you its own story, its own interpretation of the film and its characters. A tale of love, loss and redemption, Varun (Ranveer Singh) and Pakhi’s (Sonakshi Sinha) drawing sessions, their growing attraction towards each other, and Varun’s deep desire to someday create his own masterpiece stay with you, especially when the climax plays out. It’s almost like, along with Varun, you too witness a flashback of the best hits of his life – especially the ones with the only woman he ever loved, as a satisfied, calming smile forms across his face even amidst impending darkness. – Debdatta Sengupta

Dil Chahta Hai (2001)

Dil Chahta Hai is so zeitgeist-ey — it’s the definitive millennial movie — that you might think it’s not going to age well. And yet, here we are, 20 years later, celebrating it. It’s not just nostalgia driving it. The reason we keep going back to Sid, Sameer and Akash is not because they are cool — well, that too — but because Farhan Akhtar managed to capture certain universal truths about friendship and growing up in the dynamics of the characters. Every repeat watch reveals a new layer. – Sankhayan Ghosh

Wake Up Sid! (2009)

I’m not a die-hard Wake Up Sid! fan but if I’m flipping channels and I spot it playing somewhere, I can’t not watch it. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve unexpectedly re-watched the movie. It has an easy, comforting vibe that sucks you in from whichever point you start watching. Filmmaker Ayan Mukerji presents a soft and dreamy take on the Mumbai hustle and you buy into it. It’s light but never light-weight. The film is over a decade old but has managed to retain its fresh, new-age vibe, largely thanks to Ranbir Kapoor’s charming portrayal of the entitled Sid and Amit Trivedi’s timeless ‘Iktara’. – Mohini Chaudhuri

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