These movies defy classification, but had to be listed as must-watch. For instance, Om Shanti Om listed here is a spoof AND a musical AND a rebirth saga! Umrao Jaan is celebrated for its representation of a certain milieau basking in old world charm and Urdu poetry.
AAYIRATHIL ORUVAN (1965) – Tamil - A swashbuckling tale of adventure set in the high seas and pirate islands, the movie tells of a medicine man who is enslaved, then forced to become a pirate to fight the cause of his oppressed slave brethren.
THILLANA MOHANAMBAL (1968) – Tamil - Mohana, a Bharatnatyam dancer and Shanmuga Sundaram, a Nadaswaram pipe musician fall in love with each other. But before they can be together, they have to contend with misunderstandings between them and the manipulations of those around them.
UMRAO JAAN (1981) – Urdu - Amiran, a young girl, is kidnapped and trained to become Umrao Jaan, a courtesan for the wealthy. When she finally meets her family again, she realises that there is no going back for someone from her profession.
DIL CHAHTA HAI (2001) – Hindi - The relationship between three friends is ruptured when one of them falls in love with an older woman. The friends go their separate ways, experience life, love and heartbreak. When they meet again, their friendship moves on to a deeper, more unconditional plane.
MONSOON WEDDING (2001) - Hindi/English - When Lalit organises his daughter, Aditi’s wedding, little does he realise that amidst the preparations, Aditi is secretly meeting her ex-boyfriend, two romances are brewing right under his nose and a disturbing family secret cannot be concealed anymore.
MITR, MY FRIEND (2002) - English+Hindi/Tamil - Lakshmi reaches a dead-end in her relationship with workaholic husband Prithvi and rebellious teen daughter, Divya. When she makes a new friend in an online chatroom, she begins to see life through new eyes.
HAZARON KHWAISHEN AISI (2003) – Hindi – A triangular love story set in the corridors of power and the Naxal movement, of Geeta, Siddharth and Vikram who have different ideologies and loyalties, which each eventually gives up.
PITHAMAGAN (2003) – Tamil – Chithan is orphaned when the grave-tender who raised him in isolation dies. He forms an unlikely friendship with conman, Sakthi and is absorbed in the latter's social cocoon.
MUNNABHAI MBBS (2003) - Hindi - To redeem himself in the eyes of his father, gangster Munna joins Medical College. However, he does this by cheating his way in. He proceeds to become very popular, much to the chagrin of the Dean, Dr.Asthana.
OM SHANTI OM (2007) – Hindi - A fond comical tribute to the rebirth saga genre and popular cinema of the 1970s, the movie is about Om Prakash, a junior film artiste who is reborn as Om Kapoor to avenge the death of his lover, Shanti.
An edited version of the article was published in Culturama's May 2013 Issue.