Top 10 Masala Films of All Time – Part 2

This is Part II of my video essay on the Top 10 Bollywood Masala Films of all time. This was supposed to be my first video series but it somehow got delayed for various reasons.

I’ve chosen my top 10 based on the following criteria (in order):

a) Historical significance
b) The film’s legacy and lasting impact
c) The cut-off point or the earliest point (1973)
d) Personal choice, which accounts for at least 1 film out of the top 10

Hope you guys enjoy it as much as I did while making it. And thanks, of course, for all the guess work regarding that one film amongst the top 5. I’m afraid only Sanjana got that one right!

61 Responses to “Top 10 Masala Films of All Time – Part 2”

  1. Good work Saket!


  2. Strongly strongly vociferously disagree with this list, have not seen Shalimar but otherwise the ranking IMO should be:

    and Kaala Paththar next


    • But Aman, you have the same films…just in a different order 🙂

      I’ve tried to outline the reasons behind my choice for the #1 film. Regarding Shalimar, I watched it again last week, just to be sure, and I did think about omitting it completely. The heist scenes in the film still hold up pretty well but the last 30 mins were a letdown.

      Nevertheless, I went ahead with my list in the exact order that sprang to my mind, once I had shortlisted roughly 50 odd films.


      • I would have left Kaala Paththar from the top 10 actually, it is the most intense and brooding Big B has ever been, him and Shatru do have some great confrontations but there is a dryness that seeps in every now and then, that pull it down from the status of a great film. Even Javed Akhtar called it a flawed script. I simply don’t like the songs in Deewar, Trishul or Kaala Paththar. The mine scenes are also quite dated, unlike Sholay.

        A line I remember from Kaala Paththar is Big B remarking “yeh basti ki auratein agar choodi khareedti hai, toh unhe kaala paththar par todne ke liye”.


        • Even Javed Akhtar called it a flawed script.

          Every single script is flawed in some sense or another. Maybe he was being reactive to the Box Office fate of the film — a lot of people tend to attach a film’s significance to its Box Office fate, which is a completely flawed line of thinking. But this is just speculation on my part — in any case, Javed Akhtar’s POV is irrelevant as far as my own opinion is concerned.

          I found Kaala Patthar to be engaging throughout and it’s also a childhood favourite. Here are some more memorable lines:

          Abey taash ke tirpanwe patte…teesre baadshah hum hain

          Why don’t you understand, doctor? This pain is my destiny and I can’t avoid it!

          Mangal ka khoon koi lemon soda nahi jisse Vijay jaise aunge paunge apni pyaas bujhaate phire

          Liked by 2 people

  3. I didn’t plan it this way but after analysing the top 10 list, the stats are as follows:

    7 films belong to the 70s
    2 films belong to the 80s
    1 film is from 2001

    This pretty much sums up the state of Masala cinema as well. The 70s were the best decade for Masala films with Salim-Javed at their peak.

    The 80s was a period of slow decline where Masala films had regressed to formulaic scripts and sometimes cheap titillation to lure audiences.

    From the 90s onwards, there are only a handful Masala films that deserve a mention, although Masala as a genre was still quite popular.

    Fast forward to today and there is a huge shortage of Masala filmmakers… with the likes of Vijay “Victor” Krishna Acharya and Farah Khan/Sajid Khan making sure that Masala as a genre is laughed at…instead of being reinvented for a new generation of audiences.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. tonymontana Says:

    Great job Saket. Well narrated and written.

    Thanks to your videos, I will now read all your comments henceforth in your voice.


  5. @Saket, thanks for the video.

    Will digest it little bit but for me, movies like Suhaag, Mr. Natwarlal, Qurbaani, Naseeb, Dharm-Veer, etc were much more masala film than lagaan, kala-pathhar, shalimar.

    But as i had said before, this is your list and everyone has their own choice.

    Thanks again for making this video, please continue to keep making videos like this. It gives us good platform to talk/debate.


    • I completely understand your point of view Z.

      But for me, personally, the great masala scripts are those where the stakes imply a certain “cost”. It’s not all fun and games like Manmohan Desai’s world but the world is shaped by real-life events too. Even if the script is entirely fictional, there is still a strong emotional response to a tragic event in the script. There has to be a certain amount of seriousness involved. That’s just how I prefer my masala!

      That’s not to suggest I despise Manmohan Desai’s brand of masala films but when it comes to choosing between Andaz Apna Apna (Manmohan-Desai-inspired masala) and Ghayal/Khakee, I will always prefer the latter. All 3 films directed by the same person, incidentally.


    • By the way, I’ve seen Naseeb about 25 times. Basically till the point at which the VHS cassette gave up!

      And I still can’t place it in my top 10!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Johnny Gadar is masala or not?


      • Johnny Gaddar is not masala in the sense that there is no clear demarcation between good and evil in the film. It’s more of a Desi Film Noir…much like Andhadhun.


  6. Shalimar is good and huge flop when released but still widely praised by lot of bollywood freaks. I remember when I told my friends in Dhoom 2 1st day that that statue scene is from Shalimar, none of them knew about that movie and sort of explained them about it. It is very good but not sure if it will be TOP 10 of masala movies. Will see what other movies in the list.


    • Yep, it was a big flop…but also way ahead of its times.


      • It’s not like I wasn’t aware of Shalimar and could have actually guessed it but got diverted and didn’t come to this thread again but I don’t comprehend how can a ‘flop’ masala film can be in TOP 10 of all time. How can a truly well made masala movie be flop. It can disappoint a little and then have huge cult later (like say Andaz Apna Apna) but Shalimar is still not at that level with respect to audience acceptance. It is liked only by movie fanatics and not even remotely regular audience. If there is an art movie which flops makes sense but masala movies flopping this badly can’t be TOP 10 in my list. Like Shaan also underperformed but it did well but less compared to huge budget. Similar with Kaala Paththar.


        • To give example both Mela and Thugs of Hindostan were trying to be in that genre of Masala movies but flopped badly. The only aim of these movies was to liked to majority audience and be a commercial success which it failed miserably. Then we’ll have someone claiming that Thugs is actually TOP 10 masala movie of all time (trust me, such lunatics are lurking around here).

          It is not to dismiss your choice for Shalimar, it is good choice and certainly huge contender but without much acceptance, it is little tough call.


          • Mela did somewhat well in some interiors like B and C centres.

            Thugs of Hindostan.
            Actor Aamir Khan took full responsibility for the flop of his latest film, Thugs of Hindostan, and also shielded director Vijay Krishna Acharya from criticism. … The film has barely managed to recoup its reported Rs 310 crore budget, with a worldwide gross of Rs 335 crore.28-Jan-2019. I read it on google Q and A.

            Actually I liked the movie due to Bachchan’s performance and production values and some fun moments.
            Katrina Kaif was used only for her dance moves and was not taken seriously in TOH. And Fatima got crushed between Bachchan and aamir though they proclaimed that she had a big role. That was a a big deceit.

            Both Mela and TOH are masala films and many successful masala films are not much better. Success is a matter of many factors. Success does not define quality necessarily.

            Liked by 1 person

  7. Atlast! The voice sounds nice and very clear presentation.
    The defence of the choice is reasonable and somewhat logical too.
    It is interesting to read different views.
    The journey does not end with the revelation. There will be more debate.
    3 are Bachchan’s films. And he is mostly associated with masala genre though he also belongs to parallel cinema. And he is doing justice to mass and class cinema in equal measure.


    • 3 are Bachchan’s films.

      I don’t think anyone would call Sholay a Bachchan film! Gabbar Singh is easily the most memorable character in Sholay

      And congrats for guessing Shalimar as the mystery film…I seriously didn’t expect anyone to guess that one!


      • Thanks.
        For some Sholay is about Hema Malini, for some it is about Dharmendra, for some it is Amjad Khan and for some it is Sanjeev Kumar, for some it is Bachchan. For me it is Bachchan as he gets sympathy by dying just the way Kaka gets sympathy in Anand and Safar. Though he was paired with Dharmendra, he was not like Shashi Kapoor pairing with him. Bachchan stole many hearts with his quiet humour and a very strong presence and also his silent lovestory unlike the loud one the other one got. In that respect Sholay is also a Bachchan film.
        I will watch Kaala Patthar again to get what it is about apart from mining theme. It is too serious a film, though Deewar is also a serious film unlike Sholay. KP needs kudos for focussing on a serious issue. We have read about mining deaths so many times and the conditions in which they work. It is as dangerous as fighting the enemy. In this case, the deep mines.
        I also very much love the song ek Raasta Hai Zindagi, one of my favourite songs of Kishore Kumar.

        Once again I will congratulate you for the the way the video shaped out with all those iconic montages. Refined work.

        Waiting for An Jo’s take.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Kaala Patthar Trailer

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I loved the prison scenes of Sholay. It was so fun watching Jai Veeru plotting, the jailor’s antics, the prison barber. They all made the jail look like a fun place than a dreary one! And Hitler looked hilarious than forbidding! The comedy scenes of Sholay are much better than the comedy scenes of other masala films. Sholay is like a complete thali plate with so much to feast upon.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ram aur Shyam?


  11. A list of greatest directors of the commercial genre would be interesting. Most of them would belong to the 70s, the golden age of commercial Hindi cinema. My top 5 would be Prakash Mehra, Yash Chopra, Ramesh Sippy(early days), Mukul S Anand & Neeraj Pandey (post 2010). Many would claim the list does not complete without Manmohan Desai or Rajamouli, I beg to differ.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raj Kumar Hirani, Rohit Shetty, Ayan Mukherjee, Aditya Chopra, Subhash Ghai, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Gulzaar, Sooraj Barjatya, Mani Ratnam


    • Ramesh Sippy is indeed very underrated. His technical prowess was such that Sholay’s action scenes are still believable…45 years after its initial release.

      Shaan, too, is eminently watchable with a fantastic soundtrack.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Great list overall but I would not add shalimar, lagaan and KP in my top 05.
    From 90’s i absolutely loved ghayal and Gardish.
    Gardish for me is absolute gem, effective direction, strong emotions, fantastic fight scenes, few light comic moments and the real USP of the movie is calm and terrifying presence of Mukesh Rishi as Billa Jillani.
    Build up for Bazaar and dhobi ghat fight still gives me goosebumps.


    • This is a great coincidence — I was about to replace Shalimar with a tie between Parinda & Gardish.

      I loved the film too and while I wouldn’t compare Jackie Shroff’s performance with Mohanlal’s (Gardish is a remake of the Malayalam film Kireedam), technically speaking it’s a much better adaptation.

      And I do have to emphasize that Kaala Patthar is really my favourite Masala film! Just watched it again, yesterday, and it’s a freaking masterpiece…

      Liked by 1 person

      • What are your thoughts on Khakee ? I recently watched it and it really aged very well. One cant describe the depth of AB acting. Ajay was also very good
        IMO strong villains really elevate the level of good masala movies.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Since you mentioned Mukesh Rishi, Sarfarosh was a solid masala entertainer. having some light moments with Sonali Bendre, action packed fast moving stuff and extremely intelligent.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Not sure why we miss Rajiv Rai who directed best masala of late 80sz early 90s – Tridev, Vishwatma, Mohra.
    Brilliant music, superhits multi starrer, action, ….for me these were lot of fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • +Gupt.

      His decline started when he moved to make big budget films with Arjun Rampal.

      Otherwise…the background music of Tridev and the way its picturised would make one enjoy.


    • Listen till the end. 😃

      Liked by 1 person

    • Rajiv Rai, Subhash Ghai and Anil Sharma – They were transitioning from the Bachchan era to the next one.

      Amidst mediocre commercial films of mid 80s, theirs were the only hope for masala entertainers.

      As masala movies depicts a society during their times, its not right to rank masala movies across decades, as each 5 year or so the society changes and so does these movies.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Mohra is perhaps the only Rajiv Rai film I like. It was pretty slick with a very good soundtrack.


  14. Too involved with work and hence couldn’t get to this gem in time but enjoyed reading all the comments: All valid and varied — as it should be.

    Ha you outdid yourself Saket Bhai! ‘KALA PATTHAR’ as the ultimate masala film!! That is brave and controversial! It is one of my favorite films of Amit, in fact, for me, personally, it is Amit at his best when it comes to brooding intensity, 10 notches above ZANJEER. Maybe I can place MILI a close second to KAALA PATTHAR, with the difference being that there isn’t an ‘anger’ element in the latter.

    The list is great, and you have given the list based on the 4 metrics you mentioned: And of course, there will be personal bias! ‘SHALIMAR’ did go through my mind but somehow Johnny Mera Naam trumped it. [And it was Vijay Anand’s brilliance that he used the commercial Hini-song format as he smartly understood he was working with a very limited- range actor like Dev since histrionics was never his forte. It is still unbelievable to me that producers had approached Dev for Amitabh’s role in ‘Zanjeer’!] Heck, for me, if ‘JEWEL THIEF’ were made in the ‘70s, that would have trumped JNM by a long mile!

    I cannot debate much about the ‘order’ since I am pretty much fine with change in the hierarchy and different views on it. However, one must, and I think you did it finely, capture the essence, the reflection of society’s churnings in this ‘manthan’ of masala moviemaking, and your personal favorites.

    Again, a true masala film, I believe at least, is one which allows hordes of directors/moviemakers from a generation that doesn’t necessarily address or have the same problems as the times of the original, to richly pick and choose ‘elements’ of it. Hence ‘LAGAAN’, hence ‘KABZAA’, hence ‘NAAM’, hence a different form of ‘AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY’ – literally a medically-challenged scene – ‘our blood is the same’, but a violent version in ‘KRANTIVEER’. Amitabh wasn’t called Khal Nayak in ‘DEEWAR’, but Baba was explicitly called that name since the spirit was intact: Committing evil to take care of one’s family or circumstances or whatever. Masala is like an oral tradition; it keeps carrying on for generations albeit it takes various shapes and forms. It can never die. And the very meta-example of that is our collective love for the motion pictures, as witnessed on this blog specifically and in general, in Indian society.

    All the films you mentioned are great in their own respect, but personally, yes, I would tend to agree with Aman that ‘KAALA PATTHAR’ is too serious and actually, ‘specific’ a movie to fit into the masala moulid. Bachchan’s character was extremely intense; he was like a time-bomb exploding! See, I pasted an example above of Bachchan in ‘MILI’. Bachchan is wounded and raw when he directs his angst and sorrow toward society [TRISHUL, DEEWAR]; but when he directs that energy toward himself, he is a different beast altogether! Bachchan is relentless in not willing to forgiving himself in KP. The character, loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s novel, ‘Lord Jim’ – one of the classics of modern English literature – allows Bachchan to implode violently in a way never seen before; and to my limited understanding but perennial belief, one we will never see again thanks to Bachchan’s illustrious performance. The saying that when a ship is about to sink, the one running to save their lives first are the rats, is glorified by Bachchan to the hilt! His character is written so well, that even when he loses himself and his identity in the coal mines, he still keeps struggling to redeem himself. He is the first one rushing to jump down the mine – though there is none from his past ‘judging’ his actions; not his parents, not his friends, and importantly, not the navy court—to tell him, ‘Hey, you have redeemed yourself, why don’t you get back to a normal life?’ He just keeps pushing himself down the abyss. That is one extraordinary performance, at par, or slightly better, than ‘DEEWAR’ for me personally. Where the film suffered, I feel, was the introduction of unnecessary characters like Neetu Singh’s and the songs. The songs might be great to hear as standalone songs, but not in the context of the movie’s flow. They hampered the movie. The subject was too serious, and too important – I think that’s what Aman is conveying when he says dryness seeps in – to indulge in petty demands from producers to shove in songs and loosen the narrative. Honestly, Yash should have gone the ‘ITTEFAQ’ songless way for this movie. Whether the movie would have got a different box-office result I don’t know, but it would have packed in the impact of 100 bricks hitting you for sure! Saket you have given me a reason to revisit the movie and so much can be written about it! [When he is coward, he is running away from the water, and when he wants to redeem himself, he stands like a rock against the gushing water!]

    And I do agree with Aman that ‘SHOLAY’ is the ‘baap’ of all masalas. A 120 percent of it is masala. And how intelligently Ramesh woves it in! There is comedy, action, emotion, drama as Veeru puts it, but all those are channeled in keeping in mind the characters; hence Amitabh’s Jai has a wry humor, Dharam has more slapstick, and Hema is gregarious!

    Other films that come to my mind  are ‘SHAAN’ (honestly, I STILL don’t understand why this movie flopped), one of the ‘coolest’ movies EVER from the ‘80s.’ And then, the golden year of AB, 1978, which boasted of ‘DON’ that cemented his act as an all-rounder, only further concretized in MKD’s ‘NASEEB.’ Oh what a joyful movie NASEEB was!

    There are so many things to write about masala! Some of the movies I can think of which I loved, in no particular order and decade-agnostic:






    RAM BALRAAM [ a guilty pleasure thanks to Vijay Anand!]






    Saket you have completed an envious job finely. It is a demanding one and you have taken the pains to cut out video, add historical import and narrate. Thankful to you for rekindling memories.

    Honestly, you should share this more with the international audience more since I think it would be a fine primer for them to direct them to masala when they come about asking, ‘Why are they running around trees?’

    Liked by 2 people

  15. What about Bjarangi Bhaijaan as a masala film?


  16. This is the comment that this (or any thread on Masala films) deserves! Thanks, An Jo.

    I am a big, big fan of Vijay Anand. Almost all of his films are great fun — Teesri Manzil is perhaps my favourite film in his oeuvre.

    Thanks for the writeup and I would urge you to revisit Kaala Patthar again!


  17. Aman Basha Says:

    Tridev looks extremely stylish for its times. The songs all seem good and Amrish Puri’s got a cool look. But how is the movie for a watch?


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