The 1990s was a remarkable period in the history of Hindi cinema. There have been good and bad movies in every era, but the 90s, when I grew up, was an extraordinary era which saw an incredible number of unintentionally hilarious movies- movies that were meant to be serious but ended up tickling the funny bone of the audiences.
As an ode to that era, here is my famous five list from that era- movies to watch at least once in your lifetime.
Any article on the worst of Hindi cinema would be incomplete without a reference to this Kanti Shah cult movie. So much has been said and written about this gem that I have little left to say. Suffice it to say that if you haven't already seen it, nothing can prepare you for this assault on your sensibilities. A goon who walks around with a pet cheetah and a sexually challenged brother in tow, an impoverished hero who goes around in an esteem car and produces a bazooka seemingly at will, baddies whose most preferred method of settling scores is by raping the kith and kin of their enemies, corrupt officials/ politicians (the stock-in-trade of 90s Bollywood)...you got it all.
Apart from the sheer ludicrousness of what you see, the most incredible thing about Gunda is the dialogues. I doubt if there has ever been a movie where the vast majority of the dialogues rhyme. Imagine a guy saying "mera naam hai pote jo apne baap ke bhi nahi hote" or "main banaunga tumhe maut ka nivala, gadhkar teri chati mein bhala". Yes folks, I'm not joking. Those dialogues are real!
I promise you, you have never seen anything like this before. This movie stands all alone at the highest pinnacle in the Golden Kela hall of fame (or should it be hall of shame?). Kanti Shah, take a bow!
It must be said that nearly every Mithunda movie from the 90s could merit pride of place in this list. Sher-E-Hindustan is but a random pick. Released in the same year as Gunda, this movie showcased Mithunda at his worst or more accurately, second worst- Gunda takes the biscuit by a country mile.
The basic theme of this movie was supposed to be a bunch of honest policemen trying to clear the lawlessness prevailing in the village where they are posted- potentially an interesting theme. But when you add to this background a vicious, scheming local strongman with four perverted sons, a heroine whose clothes reveal more than they conceal, half a dozen songs that pop out without any context and a romantic track featuring the heroine and a clearly unfit and overage hero, you have all the ingredients of a really bad movie...except that this movie is so bad, it makes you laugh at the sheer stupidity of it.
The 'romantic' scenes are bad enough to make you laugh out loud, complemented by some ridiculous moves that pass for dancing- the kind of steps Jitendra routinely did in those 'Made in Chennai' movies of 80s vintage. But the action sequences at the end overshadow everything else, catapulting this movie from the also rans to the realm of legend. Sher-E-Hindustan features some of the most bizzare fights that I have ever seen. I kid you not when I say that I feel off my chair laughing at them. Not even Jitendra in his 80s avatar managed such hilarious action sequences.
Check out the poster of this movie (below)- if there were to be one single image that could be taken as a microcosm of this movie, this is it.
Bal Brahmachari (1996)
Bal Brahmachari could easily hold its own as one of the finest (unintentional) comedies ever made. The Hanuman worshipping protagonist, who's blessed with extraordinary physical strength, goes about carrying a blank expression throughout this film. As if to compensate for it, his adoptive father (played by the inimitable Mukesh Khanna) hams like there's no tomorrow. A series of hilarious capers featuring the baddies trying to upstage the hero provide ample entertainment of the unintended variety. Don't get me started on the wholly superflous track featuring the heroine who's head over heels with the protagonist for no apparent reason.
I've seen school level plays with a more coherent and logical script than Bal Brahmachari (insofar as there was one at all). If entertainment were to be the only parameter for evaluation, I would give unhesitatingly give two thumbs up to this movie, never mind that the entertainment was of the unintended variety. Very possibly this writer expended more effort in penning this review than the person who wrote the script of this pathetic excuse for a movie.
Guddu featured an eponymous protagonist, whose sweetheart Salina loses her eyes in an accident that happened when the two were travelling together. Having discovered by chance that he has but a few months to live, Guddu wishes to donate his eyes so that Salina can see. Unfortunately he requires his father's approval to do so, as he still has not attained majority- which is not forthcoming. Guddu goes to court fighting for his right to donate his eyes.
Its hard to understand what went wrong...sorry, what went right with this movie. For sure, the lead pair of Shah Rukh Khan and Manisha Koirala conjured up performances that they would be embarassed to recollect today. Add to that Mukesh Khanna (who played Guddu's father) who effortlessly outdid the rest of the cast in the ham stakes. The scene where he makes his way to the court has to be seen to be believed. And yes, the ending deserves a special mention. To quote wikipedia:
Kavita (Guddu's mother) couldn't bear the trauma of ...her son's disease, so she decides to devote herself to god for five days without drinking a sip of water. Her prayers get answered and her ...son's operation is successful. She dies in the feet of god while praying and her eyes get donated to Salina. Salina and Guddu get married and are blessed with twins and they live happily ever after.
In other words, the son survives and his sweetheart's vision is restored, thanks to the mother, who staves to death for them. Tragic as this may sound, I assure you that the way it is presented, the ending will make you laugh out loud...as does nearly every supposedly touching scene in this movie. It beggars belief that Shah Rukh Khan and Manisha Koirala, both established stars at the time, agreed to do this movie.
Karan Arjun (1995)
Rakesh Roshan's 1995 blockbuster is admittedly an unlikely candidate for this list, but this movie has earned its entry into this list. To sum up the story in a few simple words: baddie steals Karan-Arjun's property, baddy kills Karan Arjun and harasses their mother to his heart's content. K&A are reborn, K&A kill baddie and aal iz well ever after.
To this cliched story add a bumbling (obviously iniberated) mother who hams like there's no tomorrow, a bunch of sadistic villains who take pride in their viciousness, a hero who can propel a stone hard enough to not just shatter a windscreen but also kill the man behind using a catapult (I kid you not) and dialogues of the variety that make you cringe/ laugh, depending on your perspective.
It must be said, in all fairness, that the actors in this movie actually performed pretty competently, but what can even the best actor do when burdened with a script that had more holes than an anthill. The only exception is Rakhi Gulzar, the ever suffering mother, whose acting and dialogue delivery is so bad, its hard not to burst out laughing. Bad as this movie was, I must confess that she single-handedly took it to a different level.