Never before have the worlds of Hollywood and Bollywood collided so prominently. Slumdog Millionaire, the biggest film of 2009 so far, is filmed in India and ends with a spectacular song and dance number inspired by the beloved Hindi language film industry. Then it bagged eight Oscars, including Best Picture. The result is a growing interest among the uninitiated in Indian film’s vibrant world of musical romance. But if you’re new to Bollywood, where to start?
The top nine highest-grossing Bollywood films ever might be a good place to begin. Nine, you say? Well, there is no official source for Bollywood box office takings, but there are a few unofficial ones. IBOS Network and Box Office India can only agree on nine films, and even then they clash when it comes to the rankings. So, in no particular order, Time Out presents you with the definitive(ish) guide to the nine most lucrative Bollywood blockbusters.
The only thing anyone agrees on is the highest grossing Bollywood film of all time – Ghajini. Raking in rupees at a rate that hit 10-figure sums (although the exact figure is debatable), the film is based on Hollywood’s Memento, the Guy Pearce-led psychological thriller about a man with no short-term memory trying to avenge the murder of his wife. In this version, Aamir Khan stars as rich businessman Sanjay. His tattoo reading ‘Kalpana was killed’ reminds him every morning that he must wreak vengeance for the mysterious death of his model wife. Khan reportedly spent a year at the gym with his personal trainer to muscle up for the role. But did he sign on for a cut of the royalties?
Dhoom 2 (2006)
This gargantuan action monster boasts understated sequences, such as master thief Mr A skydiving on to a train in the Namibian desert disguised as the queen to steal a priceless English crown, before sandboarding away. Woah. Some critics complained the film was excessively action-oriented with little or no attention to character. Time Out says these critics are clearly just jealous they’re not masters of disguise who sandboard.
IBOS ranking: 2
BOI ranking: 4
This sci-fi super hero film is the sequel to Koi… Mil Gaya, in which Rohit Mehra (played by Hrithik Roshan) received super powers from the alien Jadoo. Why, of course. In this installment, Rohit dies in a lab accident but his son, Krishna, inherits his powers. Krishna tries to hide this superhuman strength, but when a circus tent catches fire, he creates a costume and comes to the rescue. Thus Krrish is born. Logical, yes?
IBOS ranking: 3
BOI ranking: 5
Singh Is Kinng (2008)
Filmed in large parts in Australia, Singh, also known as Lucky, is the kinng of the Australian underworld. He was born in a remote village in Punjab, where nowadays the notorious Happy Singh is annoying the villagers with his outrageous behaviour. Exasperated, the villagers send Happy to Australia to get rid of him, but also hope he might encourage Lucky to return and bring peace. But, of course, nothing goes according to plan and Happy ends up usurping Lucky as kinng. But why can’t anyone spell king?
IBOS ranking: 4
BOI ranking: 9
Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008)
Split personality romcom showcasing the talents of Shahrukh Khan, who has been widely compared to legendary comedic actor Peter Sellers. Khan stars as mild-mannered office worker Surinder ‘Suri’ Sahni. He marries the beautiful Tania (Anushka Sharma), but she soon bores of him. Desperate to please her, Suri invents alter ego Raj, a fun-loving cool guy. But when Tania falls for Raj without realising he is really Suri, farce and moral dilemmas follow.
IBOS ranking: 5
BOI ranking: 2
As a mega-complicated love story combining marriage and the mafia, Welcome may be the sixth or seventh highest-grossing Bollywood movie, but filmgoers might have spent similar amounts on headache pills after trying to follow the plot.
IBOS ranking: 6
BOI ranking: 7
Om Shanti Om (2007)
More than 42 big-name Bollywood stars make an appearance in Om Shanti Om, culminating in a show-stopping song and dance number involving no less than 30 of Bollywood’s most familiar faces.
IBOS ranking: 7
BOI ranking: 3
Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006)
Sanjay Dutt stars as Munna Bhai, an underworld boss who starts to see the ghost of Mahatma Ghandi. The spirit inspires him to change his ways and help other people. The film had a strong cultural impact, encouraging many Indian citizens to do the same. Ah, the power of the silver screen.
IBOS ranking: 8
BOI ranking: 6
Gadar: Ek Prem Katha (2001)
Romeo And Juliet-esque yarn about a Sikh truck driver who falls in love with a Muslim aristocrat after the partition of India. He saves her from a mob during the Hindu-Muslim riots and offers shelter. They fall in love, but her family is none too chuffed.
IBOS ranking: 9
BOI ranking: 8