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Numero Unos – A Survey Of The Top Hit Films: 1960s

Bollywood News

Over the last six decades, it is indeed a fascinating exercise to see which films proved the topmost box-office hits in their respective years from 1950 till the present. Their successes proved eye-openers not just for film buffs, industry and trade but frequently for their makers themselves, proving that hits happen and cannot be designed! In Part 2 of this 7-part series, we examine the films that have topped the box-office each year from 1960 to 1969.

The Top Guns

The kind of wide variety we saw in the Numero Uno hits of the '50s continued, reflecting how audiences could be demanding. The winners of the '60s were:

- Mughal-E-Azam, a historical romantic epic (1960)

- Ganga Jamuna, a 'dacoit' drama (1961)

- Bees Saal Baad, a supernatural thriller (1962)

- Mere Mehboob, a Muslim social and romantic triangle (1963)

- Sangam, a romantic triangle (1964)

- Waqt, a social (1965)

- Phool Aur Patthar, a social (1966)

- Upkar, a patriotic social (1967)

- Aankhen, an espionage action thriller (1968) and a tie between

- Do Raaste, a family drama

- Aradhana, a love story (1969)

The epic beginning

The beginning of this decade was anything but modern. Mughal-E-Azam was the legendary love story of Anarkali and Prince Salim last seen in the 1953 topper Anarkali, but the K. Asif epic was conceived and executed on a mammoth scale. The attention was shared not just by the lovers but by the father-son tussle between Emperor Akbar, enacted magnificently by Prithviraj Kapoor, and a defiant Salim essayed by Dilip Kumar. The ethereal Madhubala played the courtesan and the music by Naushad (including the opulent background score) was also on an epic scale.

Everything about Mughal-E-Azam was grand and had blockbuster written all over, including the advance booking queues (people slept on the pavements outside the main Mumbai theatre the previous night!) and the premiere (where the film's prints arrived on an elephant). Incredibly, though everyone still prefers the black-and-white classic over the abridged colorized version released in 2004, the fact remains that even the latter modernized avatar proved a hit, when released in Diwali week and pitted against contemporary films starring Shah Rukh Khan (Veer-Zaara) and Akshay Kumar (Aitraaz)! So in 1960, one can understand why the nearest contenders - Barsaat Ki Raat, Kohinoor, Chaudvin Ka Chand and Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai - simply did not stand a chance!

The trailblazers

After this came an array of trailblazers. Dilip Kumar's home production, Ganga Jamuna, directed by Nitin Bose, made the Bhojpuri dialect used in the film so popular that it almost single-handedly fathered the Bhojpuri film industry that is so huge today, even in some international pockets. It is a combination of the success of this film and the request of India's first president Dr Rajendra Prasad that made possible the first Bhojpuri film, Ganga Maiyya Tohe Piyari Chadaibo released in 1962.

Ganga Jamuna was the first time that two real-life brothers - Dilip Kumar and Nasir Khan portrayed reel brothers who were pitted against each other. Deewaar was just one of the many Hindi and regional films inspired by this classic, despite the mixed element of the powerful mother from Mother India, the 1957 topper.

And if Biren Nag's Bees Saal Baad set into motion the supernatural trend in the real sense, with Woh Kaun Thi? and many other small and big films as the direct consequences of its 'haunting' success, H.S.Rawail's Mere Mehboob and Raj Kapoor's Sangam together gave new boost to the romantic triangle as a foolproof formula for big-time success. Rawail himself tried to reprise his film with disastrous results as the 1982 Deedar-E-Yaar. Sangam was, of course, the first Bollywood film to be extensively shot abroad, in Italy, France and Switzerland.

After the 1950s Mother India, the 1960s Waqt directed by Yash Chopra for producer-brother B.R.Chopra was Hindi cinema's first multi-starrer film. It also became the first contemporary lost-and-found drama of a family torn asunder and reunited in the last reel and remains a benchmark blueprint for this genre.

Ramanand Sagar's Aankhen, along with 1967 blockbuster Farz, set into motion a temporary trend of spy dramas that however died down after films in subsequent years like Humsaya and Shatranj bombed.

New brands

If Bees Saal Baad introduced Bengali boy Biswajeet to Hindi cinema, it was the 1966 Phool Aur Patthar directed by O.P.Ralhan that made Dharmendra a big star six years after his debut. As the hunk with a heart of molten gold, he instantly became branded as the He-Man, a firmly-etched image even today. Phool Aur Patthar dared have the hero strip to the waist to show his brawn, and also kept him away from lip-synched songs.

Upkar, in turn, entrenched Dharmendra's good friend and co-struggler Manoj Kumar as Mr. Bharat, the man who epitomized the idealistic Indian. It also marked his official debut as director (after ghost-directing Shaheed) and changed the image of Numero Uno screen baddie Pran to a sympathetic character. It was the start of a Mr. Midas phase in Manoj's career that lasted till 1981 and included the 1974 Numero Uno hit Roti Kapada Aur Makaan.

The tie between two films both starring the new young heartthrob Rajesh Khanna at the end of the decade heralded a paradigm shift to come in the '70s in Hindi cinema. Kaka (as he came to be known) became the new icon, riding in on the wings of the Kishore Kumar chartbuster Mere Sapnon Ki Rani from Aradhana. Raj Khosla's Do Raaste, the less costly film of the two, matched Aradhana in box-office grading and the actor formed super-successful pairings with Mumtaz and Laxmikant-Pyarelal with it just as he struck a fruitful association with Sharmila Tagore, director Shakti Samanta and R.D.Burman, who had assisted Aradhana's composer, his father S.D.Burman.

The two films heralded the shifting of these two directors best known for crime-related genres to socials, but most importantly, with his songs in both these films, Kishore Kumar became a frontline playback singer for the first time and the prime voice for Rajesh Khanna, now touted as India's first “Superstar” and a Phenomenon.

Melody triumphs again

As always with Hindi cinema till then, a powerful music score was a must, though it was not necessary that the soundtracks were the respective best of that year. Veterans Naushad (Mughal-E-Azam, Ganga Jamuna, Mere Mehboob) and Ravi (Waqt, Phool Aur Patthar, Aankhen) annexed six of these 11 films, with Shakeel Badayuni annexing five (the three Naushad films, Phool Aur Patthar and Bees Saal Baad), Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi and Mukesh remained the top names, but Asha Bhosle, Mahendra Kapoor, Manna Dey and finally Kishore Kumar in 1969 made major impressions. The crème-de-la-crème of the cult songs included 'Jab Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya' (MEA), 'Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil' (Bees Saal Baad), the title-track of Mere Mehboob, 'Dost Dost Na Rahaa' and 'Yeh Mera Prem Patra' (Sangam), 'O Meri Zohra Jabeen' (Waqt), 'Mere Desh Ki Dharti' and 'Kasme Vaade' (from Upkar), 'Roop Tera Mastana' and 'Mere Sapnon Ki Rani' (Aradhana) and 'Bindiya Chamkegi' (Do Raaste).

Et cetera matters

Anil Kapoor's father, the late Surinder Kapoor, was an Assistant Director on Mughal-E-Azam, while Zeenat Aman's dad Aman was its co-writer. Aruna Irani made her debut as a child artiste with Ganga Jamuna, produced officially by '40s siren Begum Para, Nasir Khan's wife. The German-English song 'Ich Liebe Dich I Love You' from Sangam, sung by Goan musician Vivin Lobo was the base for Ravindra Jain's super-hit 'Sun Sahiba Sun' from Raj Kapoor's 1985 topper Ram Teri Ganga Maili. And yes, Subhash Ghai played a small role as the hero's friend in Aradhana!

Click here to read the first part of this feature


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