Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Dev Anand. Illustration by Mathew Kurian / The National
Dev Anand. Illustration by Mathew Kurian / The National

Tribute to a century of Bollywood: Part six 1964-1973

On the sixth day of our illustrated tribute to 100 years of Bollywood, we look at 1964-1973.

Flamboyance, melodrama and romance mark the swinging sixties

Think satin and spangles. Think high-spirited high jinks. Think pretenders and princesses. Think bouffants and tuxedos. The 1960s seem to have been a direct response to the high seriousness of the 1950s. The two male stars who dominated the decade were never very comfortable outside the city; they were at their best in night clubs or in the front seats of taxis. The heroines were poor little rich girls, wealthy in everything but love.  It was that kind of cinema and some of its tropes and forms – an almost offensive form of romancing the heroine, for instance – became a standard for Bollywood.

Manmohan Desai

Manmohan Desai was the neglected genius of classic Bollywood: the three-hour / six-song /catch-all action melodrama. His way was made smooth by his father and brother, both of whom were in the industry, but neither of whom made it out of the B-grade rut. Desai began his career with characteristic panache by casting Raj Kapoor and Nutan in Chhalia, which turned out to be a huge hit. But it was with the coming of Amitabh Bachchan that Desai was to come into his own. But ah, that’s a story that belongs to the 1970s.


In most cinemas, female stars have a short shelf-life – and dancers? Perishable commodities. Helen bucked that trend. She was The Dancer for nearly 30 years. It wasn’t just her smile, her innate rhythm and her ability to look at home in satin, spangles, feathers and fur that made her a dancer who lasted in an industry that is brutal about throwing away what it doesn’t want; it was her ability to suggest that she was enjoying dancing for you that made her the go-to go-go girl.

Mohammed Rafi

The 1960s were the cotton-candy decade of chiffon saris and romantic songs in the moonlight. And the man behind the hero, the man at the microphone was Mohammed Rafi, whose voice brought thousands of songs alive. He was a devout Muslim whose understanding of Islam prevented him from taking royalties. He had a falling out with the then top female playback singer Lata Mangeshkar, which led the way to the ascendancy of Kishore Kumar in the next decade. But in the 1960s, if there was a romantic song, a devotional song, or even a patriotic song, chances are, Rafi was the voice.

Shammi Kapoor

He was the man in the white tuxedo, the nightclub musician, the lost heir to the fortune. But most of all, Shammi Kapoor was known as the “Yahoo” guy, who brought a brand of irrepressible energy to his portrayals of young lovers who brooded intensely in scene one and imitated Elvis Presley in the next. This might have been his way of differentiating himself from his elder brother, the redoubtable Raj, or his younger brother, the beautiful Shashi. In his after-career, he took to religion and the internet.

Dev Anand

By his own reckoning, Dev Anand was a star on the day he died in 2011; but that may have been because his greatest talent was self-deception. In the glory days however, between the 1950s and the 1970s, he was one of the great stars. The Dev Anand hero was a denizen of the city – of its underbelly. He was a noir hero, except that Bollywood morality would always demand a last-minute redemption, generally wrought by a woman. In the 1970s, he turned producer and director.


Text by Jerry Pinto; Illustrations by Mathew Kurian


twitter Follow us @LifeNationalUAE

Follow us on Facebook for discussions, entertainment, reviews, wellness and news.

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Hajer Almosleh, the winner of the last year's short story competition, at her home in Dubai. Duncan Chard for the National

Get involved with The National’s short-story competition

Writers have two weeks to craft a winning submission, under the title and theme "The Turning Point".

 It is believed that the desert-like planet of Tatooine is being recreated for Star Wars: Episode VII. Could that be where filming in the UAE comes in? Courtesy Lucasfilms

Could the force be with us? The search for Star Wars truth

On the hunt for the Star Wars: Episode VII set, which a growing number of people are sure is in Abu Dhabi, but no one can seem to find.

 With an estimated 18,000 comic and film fans having already paid a visit to this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con, organisers are hopeful they will have surpassed last year total, of 21,000, by its close. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

In pictures: Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai

Dubai's World Trade Center was awash with people visiting this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con. Here's some of our best pictures.

 Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, presents Quincy Jones with the Abu Dhabi Festival Award as the Admaf founder Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo applauds. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival.

A candid talk with Quincy Jones about the UAE, Lil Wayne and the Abu Dhabi Festival award

The Abu Dhabi Festival honoree Quincy Jones discusses his legendary career as a music producer, the return of Dubai Music Week and why he can’t handle the rapper Lil Wayne.

 Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge arrive at Wellington Military Terminal on an RNZAF 757 from Sydney on April 7, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand. Chris Jackson / Getty Images

In pictures: Will and Kate visit Australia and New Zealand

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge are on a tour Down Under for three weeks.

 A protester gives a victory sign during clashes near Tahrir Square in Cairo in November 2011. Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Street life: humanity’s future depends on ability to negotiate and sustain public space

Negotiating our ever more crowded cities and maintaining vibrant public spaces are among the major challenges facing humanity in the coming decades.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National