No one person can decide how well a film may be received. Many Bollywood films that are now crowd favourites, didn’t have great things written about them. In fact, they were declared flops by critics. And yet, years later, they hold the status of ‘cult’ films. 

Here are some which had typically terrible reviews:

1. Sholay

This 1975 classic written by Salim–Javed and directed by Ramesh Sippy is one of the most iconic Indian films. And yet, here is what the reviews read when it was released. 

Live Mint
G.P Sippy’s huge, showy “Sholay” directed by Ramesh Sippy has everything that a big budget can commander, except high intelligence, art and purpose. 
Dead ember. A gravely flawed attempt. 

-K.L. Amladi of India Today

Grafting a western on to the Indian milieu, the film remains imitation western, neither here nor there, could have gone easy on the depiction of violence.


2. Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein

Starring Madhavan, Dia Mirza and Saif Ali Khan in lead roles, this 2001 film received mixed reviews but for most part, nobody expected it to be remembered decades later. 

It is not a bad bargain at the end of a long day. There are parts where you would actually enjoy the courting game between a game hero and a gorgeous heroine with fine one-liners and good gestures. However, a part does not a whole make. 

-The Hindu

Director Gautham Menon has chosen the right script to remake in Hindi, but the presentation is not absorbing in entirety. The film needs to be trimmed by at least 20-25 minutes for an enhanced impact.

-Taran Adarsh

The music in the film is quite decent. But I would have preferred lesser songs, as they are quite indifferent to the narrative. Besides, most of the songs have exceedingly abrupt endings. Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein may not have any star attraction. But it is definitely entertaining and enjoyable.


3. Rockstar

Imtiaz Ali’s 2001 film, Rockstar received mixed reviews and some even criticised Ranbir’s character for being too dramatic. 

Jordan is more like Devdas than his idol Jim Morrison. On the surface, the film is about a guitar-toting dimwit transforming into an angry ‘rock star’, an expression that can perhaps give ‘awesome’ a run for being the most misused term in the English language (my boss sarcastically calls me rock star because I play guitar). But this film is devoid of any insight into an artiste’s anguish, try as it might by quoting Jalaluddin Rumi.

-Sumit Bhattacharya, Rediff

But despite all the frenetic movement in space that Rockstar offers, the film really goes nowhere. It feels strangely static. Rockstar is a gig gone wrong. Rockstar has a Sufi soul. If only it had been set free and allowed to go the whole hog!


Imtiaz Ali has discovered his baroque side and it is a terrible thing to behold. Everything is in excess. Newbie Nargis Fakhri is painful to watch. A R Rahman’s music is the soul of the film. What is missing is the spine, leaving just a jelly in place. 

-India Today

Ali tries to go a level up and likens love and music to a spiritual experience and the montage at the end is evidence of that, but the pace of the film and its many loopholes in the plot don’t. “Rockstar” works on so many levels, but it fails miserably on so many more


Imtiaz Ali’s latest is yet another good-looking product where a promising new-age director fails to translate his thought into something convincing.

-The Hindu

4. Nayak

This Anil Kapoor film is one that every Indian kid grew up watching. Not only was it a commercial failure, but it also received unflattering reviews, can you believe it?

It’s not breathless quite in the manner in which crooner Shankar Mahadevan was in one of his hit pop numbers. That would have been fine. It’s breathless in the way a bloke would be if he’d been running for hours without knowing where he is going. The intention is good no doubt, but the execution is infinitely worse than what the politicians have reduced India to — a complete mess. Nayak is a patchwork that’s neither pretty nor useful.

-Hindustan Times

Anil Kapoor tries hard to live the character and succeeds to an extent. The actor is in form in a restricted few sequences only and that’s thanks to a substandard screenplay. Rani Mukherji has no role to talk of. In fact, Pooja Batra has a better role than her. On the whole, NAYAK does not meet the gargantuan expectations generated from a film of this magnitude. Its weak second half and a heavy price will see most of its distributors in the red. Disappointing.

-Taran Adarsh

5. Lakshya

Directed by Farhan Akhtar and starring Hrithik Roshan, Preity Zinta and Amitabh Bachchan in lead roles, this 2004 film was said to have ‘missed the target’. 

Dil Chahta Hai was refreshingly unconventional. Lakshya is not all that inventive. Lakshya has its moments. But is that all you were expecting from one of 2004’s eagerly awaited films?


Farhan misses target. The film really picks up after the transformation in Karan, but by the time, with several songs and lapses, it”s too late. 

-Times of India

Though the story has twists and turns aplenty in the first half, the problem is that everything unfolds at a very lethargic and sluggish pace. In fact, the narrative moves at such an unhurried pace throughout that an average Indian cinegoer would start feeling restless after a point.

-Taran Adarsh

6. Agneepath

Said to be one of Amitabh Bachchan’s finest performances, Agneepath was recorded as a flop at the box-office and his voice was criticised.  

But the biggest undoing of the film is Amitabh Bachchan’s voice. He has spoken the dialogue in a different voice (similar to what Marlon Brando did in The Godfather) which will not be accepted by the audience. Further the mixing not being clear, his dialogues are incomprehensible at places.

-Komal Nahta

The narrative had a slow pace in the last hour. Another fact that worked against the advantage of the film was its weak story.

-Satish Naidu

7. Jagga Jasoos

A 2017 musical release, this film didn’t just do badly at the box office but also received mixed reviews. But now, years later, it has become a crowd favourite. 

Anurag Basu’s Jagga Jasoos is a certified Disney powered children’s musical film. Sadly, it’s not as polished as usual Disney products. Full marks to the filmmaker for trying, but this whimsical adventure story panning across continents is not exactly as good as it could have been.


The writing exudes joyful abandon and warmth initially. However, it soon starts faltering at places and you do end up losing your attention. Too many subplots dilute the main crux of the film and suddenly you find yourself craving for that warmth that’s been missing for a while. 


8. Dil Se…

This 1998 Mani Ratnam film starred Shah Rukh Khan, Manisha Koirala and Preity Zinta in roles that went on to become iconic. However, this film was at the time called Mani Ratnam’s worst. 

ALL of us make mistakes. Now with Dil Se, Mani Ratnam has made his first blunder. Often implausible, often leapfrogging clumsily from one character to another, and often just plain tedious, this 15-reeler leaves us confused and depressed.  


But with Dil Se…, the last instalment in his love-in-the-time-of-terrorism trilogy, Mani misses a step. But the biggest problem is that Dil Se... takes itself too seriously. High on technique and low on emotions, every frame strives for profundity and after a while, it all becomes a bit of a bore. Amid the reels of tripe churned out by Bollywood every week, Dil Se… is a noble attempt. But coming from Mani, that’s simply not good enough. 

-India Today

Which one surprised you the most?