Film Education

My Top Twenty Films – Oorvazi Irani

Films are like an ocean and one list cannot contain them. But the following is a list of some of the films that touched me

Top Twenty Films

Oorvazi Irani

  1. The Apu Trilogy – Satyajit Ray

Pather Panchali” (Song of the Little Road) 1955   – Aparajito   (The Unvanquished) 1956 – Apu Sansar (Apu’s World) 1959

I shared in the joy and sorrow of Apu and his family and they live on with me, it’s a world that I experienced – ‘tender’  ‘sensitive’  ‘real’ and most importantly ‘truthful’. Durga, Apu’s sister  from “Pather Panchali” still haunts me – her free spirit not willing to be killed with physical death .

2. La Strada (“The Road”) 1954 – Federico Fellini

Giulietta Masina was the Epitome of Innocence  and the music by Nino Rota transformed me to the circus of the soul. The film in its first viewing did not move me but when I saw it for the second time I could not resist its power that overtook me.

3. Persona (1966) – Ingmar Bergman

B&W photography that mesmerized besides Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann’s rivetting performance. My first introduction to Bergman and I was hooked.

4. Eight and a Half (1963) – Federico Fellini


Uniquely Personal  Surreal world that is fresh till today. A uniqueness which as an auteur challenges me.

5. In The Mood for Love (2000) – Wong Kar Wai


Infidelity dealt with such sensitivity and tenderness it hurts. The music of  the film brings alive the melancholy of the director’s style and makes my heart weep but not with tears of sentimentality but a deeper experience of art than a raw emotion.

6. Ladri di biciclette (“Bicycle Thieves”) (1948) – Vittorio De Sica


A Neo Realist Classic !

Every time I see it there is a new discovery, a new detail , something I missed – from the play of light to the junior artists in the frame, Children can surpass adults as actors and this young child Bruno played by Enzo Staiola gives a memorable performance that adds the warmth to this cold bitter backdrop of  post  world war II Italy. A film that has been a huge inspiration for filmmakers right from Satyajit Ray to Anurag Kashyap.

7. Les quatre cents coups (“400 Blows”) (1959) – François Truffaut

The personal becomes art and how. The Antoine series ( 4 other films by Truffaut with the same actor  Jean-Pierre Léaud ) by Truffaut is one of its kind where the actor and character merge and filmic reality takes on another dimension. The two worlds of the reel and the real merging was very interesting for me personally to experience as an artist and audience.

8. Mirror (1975) – Andrei Tarkovsky


Seeing a film by this director needs you to be ready and attentive not tired from a long day with the medium of film to entertain. This director’s art is sacred and needs to be experienced like prayer with patience and total surrender. Deeply rewarding to be patient is my experience with this director.

9. Rashomon(195o) – Akira Kurosawa


An Auteur who is troubled by the dark side of human nature  and uses the medium of film to express his pain and share his insights.  The film journey’s into the dark forest exploring an unconventional narrative structure that takes the world by storm. The film was not a mere story but a philosophical exploration and that was the feeling that the film left me with wanting to explore as an artist, somewhere in my subconscious it connected.

10. Jules et Jim  (“Jules and Jim”) (1962) – François Truffaut

The character of Catherine played by the talented actress Jeanne Moreau fascinates me, not that I identify with her but the magic of her lives on. The spirit of freedom of the French New Wave is all over the film. And the cinematic treatment made me enjoy the characters and the story in a detached fashion not making me part of the narrative but like an observer. This is not to say that the emotions or actors were not powerful but the treatment was non classical  and did not allow you to slip into the indulgence of emotion.

11. Charulata (“The Lonely Wife”) (1964)– Satyajit Ray

A film adaptation from Rabindranath Tagore’s novelette “The Broken Nest” that is not limited to but surpasses an adaptation and stands alone as a masterpiece where Charulata, here is the hero of the film. I seem to identify with Charulata’s spirit and the scene on the swing is memorable when the camera merges and becomes one with the character and the audience experiences the world from her viewpoint.

12. Salaam Bombay (1988) – Mira Nair

What excited me about the film was the realistic character details and nuances along with the story. Realism that was fresh in India and spoke a million words. Most of the young actors who appeared in Salaam Bombay! were actual street children and much earlier than the recent “Slumdog Millionaire”. The film won the Audience Cannes Film Festival award in 1988.

13. The Apple (1998) – Samira Makhmalbaf

Real life and Fiction merge and each help to reveal the other. A critically acclaimed Iranian film  by a young woman director made at the age of 17 years is special to my heart and my representation of Iranian cinema.

14. MughalEAzam (“The Greatest of the Mughals”) (1960) – K. Asif

The sheer poetry of the dialogues and the beauty of Madhubala made me a fan of the film. Before I

saw the film I was not sure if I would like it, if it would seem dated but I was taken by surprise and loved it.  That the director wanted the classical arts part of his mainstream film and went to the extent of offering Ustad Ghulam Ali Khan fees of Rs 25,000 per song when the running rate was Rs 300 speaks of his respect for the artist. (Ustad  was trying to get rid of Asif by  demanding  such an exorbitant price  but it could not deter the director’s desire for including high art in his love epic  film)

15. Taxi Driver (1976)– Martin Scorsese


Noir in colour with Robert De Nero taking you to the depth of loneliness in the back alleys of America with an end that is unforgettable  jazz. The silent scream, that’s what the film is like, which is violent yet not raw.

16. Det sjunde inseglet (“Seventh Seal”) (1957) – Ingmar Bergman

Death can be a character beyond ‘ Yamaraj’  is what the film powerfully revealed to me.

Death personified and a powerful cinematic moment of ‘ the dance of death’ so simply and spontaneously brought to life and remain unchallenged in time and an inspiration for many filmmakers to strive for including myself

17. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – Stanley Kubrick

Kubrick says the film is, ” basically a visual, nonverbal experience”

The language of silence and the drama of the beginning chords of music(from Richard Strauss’s classical piece) stand witness to a landmark film about the journey of man from the primal to the space age …imagery from the mysterious monolith to the fascinating star child floating in space are iconic. I experienced fear very deeply as an emotion when a character in the film is lost in space, that silence for those few seconds was like forever and very powerful for me where the filmmaker went beyond a mere narrative but tapped into something beyond.

18. La vita è bella (“Life is Beautiful”) (1997) – Roberto Benigni

The heights of tragedy can be reached with comedy and such depth is experienced with this film where the story of the Nazi concentration camp is told yet again, but how, is what makes all the difference.  The film was a moving experience.

19. Meghe Dhaka Tara (“The Cloud Capped Star”) (1960)– Ritwik Ghatak


Melodrama in its poetic form where suffering takes on an epic scale and goes beyond the human to  mythic dimensions.  Nita’ s last cry for life in the hills  perfectly brought to a climax by the actress Supriya Choudhury  is still echoing in my subconscious.

20. Easy Rider  (1969)– Dennis Hopper

One of the pioneering films of the Hollywood new wave, breaking the rules and opening up new horizons with a spirit that wants to be free and unbound. To me there was a kind of purity of experience shared, feeling of un adulteration in the film as its shot and presented.