I love period dramas. Period. With aesthetics that transfer you to another era, outfits and jewellery that makes you want to ghoomar right then and there, and stories that you can’t, and weirdly can, relate to: these films take you far away from these so-called modern times.
And luckily for me, whenever I need to skip into the past, I have a horde of films waiting to be seen (with some modern-day popcorn, of course). So here’s a look at some of the finest Hindi language period dramas, inspired by real life and fictional events:
1. Jodhaa Akbar
Apart from the ‘plot’ of the movie being Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan’s out-of-the-world looks as the Rajput princess Jodhaa and the Mughal emperor Akbar respectively, the overall flamboyance of the sixteenth century royalty left us awestruck. With iconic songs like Azeem-O-Shaan Shahenshah, Jashn-E-Bahaara, In Lamhon Ke Daaman Mein, and Khwaja Mere Khwaja, the film portrayed an ethereal romance you could never get enough of.
2. Bajirao Mastani
Set in the early 18th century Maratha kingdom, Bajirao Mastani is the passionate period romantic drama you can’t afford to miss, complete with societal orthodoxy and opposition that the protagonists overcome with their love. The chemistry between Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone, as the fierce lovers Peshwa Bajirao and princess Mastani, is surely for the win, and so are the gorgeous outfits, the action sequences, especially sword fights, and the fiery background score.
As nothing can beat Rajasthani royalty, Sanjay Leela Bhansali came with another movie with larger-than-life sets, jaw-dropping outfits and jewellery that screams Rajputana excessiveness, Padmaavat. Set way back in 1303 AD medieval Rajasthan, the story follows the obsession of sultan Alauddin Khalji with the beautiful Padmavati, which results in war, destruction and Padmavati performing jauhar. The visuals and cinematography will leave you stunned. The film is based on an epic poem by Malik Muhammad Jayasi.
The film, set in the early 1900s, is about the ill-fated actress Zubeida Begum, played by Karishma Kapoor and her marriage to Hanwant Singh of Jodhpur, and ensuing problems. The film was actually about the film’s writer Khalid Mohamed’s mother. It earned many awards and is hailed as Karishma’s best performance.
Based on Amrita Pritam’s Punjabi novel of the same name, Pinjar is set in the time of India’s partition, exploring the Hindu-Muslim riots that took place at the time. The film stars Urmila Matondkar and Manoj Bajpayee. It’s a heartwrenching tale of how two families are destroyed during partition, and how they recover from the trauma.
Set in late the 19th century India, this movie is a must watch if you are a cricket fan and wish to get your adrenaline rushing. With Aamir Khan in the lead, the movie follows Khan’s character Bhuvan, as he accepts Captain Andrew Russell’s challenge of winning a cricket match, a sport he and his village friends knew nothing about, to avoid paying tax (lagaan).
Set in a post-colonial India, the film marked the debut of actor Vidya Balan, and also stars Saif Ali Khan, Sanjay Dutt and Dia Mirza. Revolving around childhood sweethearts Lalita and Shekhar, portrayed by Vidya and Saif respectively, the film is based on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel of the same name, and is a love story set against the backdrop of class divide.
As every love story is incomplete without a Salim-Anarkali-esque feels, this list would be incomplete without Mughal-E-Azam. Breaking all box office records at the time of its release, the film starred the beautiful Madhubala, Prithviraj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar, and was a fictional tale revolving around the tragic, forbidden love story of Prince Salim and a courtesan, Anarkali.
9. Sardar Udham
Revolving around the revolutionary freedom fighter Sardar Udham Singh, who assassinates Michael O’Dwyer to take revenge for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, this film set in the early 20th century is every bit an excellent watch. With Vicky Kaushal in the lead role, the film shows sequences shot in the historical Amritsar and London which will evoke the inner patriot in you.
No, you didn’t think I’d complete the list without it, did you? The most epic movie ever made, Devdas doesn’t need an introduction, but still, here it goes. Based on a novel of the same name by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, the romantic drama movie set in early 1900s traces the path of alcoholism and a life of vice a man leads after his family doesn’t allow him to marry the woman he loves.
Watch these and start pretending like a maharani, saying, “hum iss yantra ki kathanak se manoranjit hue, sau swarna mudraeein di jaayein!” No? Just me?