Jan 01 1970

Bolly-ception – 23 Times when Bollywood went meta-cool

by   Shriram I

If Christopher Nolan were to sit down to watch any of these movies, he'd be surprised at the level of meta-references present in them. From Hrishikesh Mukherjee to Sriram Raghavan, directors have doffed their hats to the film industry in seemingly unsubtle fashions. Here are some insider references that are part of the Bollywood lore.

1 Johnny Gaddar

A brilliant neo-noir film, Johnny Gaddar established Sriram Raghavan's position as the leading noir filmmaker in the industry. True to his ilk, Raghvan put in references to the films that were catalytic to his style. The scene where Johnny (Neil Nitin Mukesh) walks into the Pune hotel, the clerk at the desk is watching the film, 'Johnny Mera Naam', on which the plot of the film is based. In another scene, there is a reference to the Amitabh thriller 'Parwana'. If that weren't enough, Dharmendra's Sheshadri is fond of listening to the song 'Mora gora ang lai le', which is from the film 'Bandini' and had Dharam paaji in the lead.

2 Ajab Prem Ki Gazab Kahaani

Rajkumar Santoshi created the 'baap' of all meta films in 1994, but his return was no less sparkling. 'Ajab Prem ki Gazab Kahani' was a spectacular and fun filmi riot. Take the scene where Ranbir Kapoor delivers Prem Chopra's inimitable 'Prem naam hai mera'. In one scene, Ranbir pretends to be a friend of Salman, to impress Katrina's character in the film. Katrina was then dating Salman, and would soon turn her affections to Ranbir later. Now, that is another level of self referencing.

3 Phata Poster Nikla Hero

As if one self-referential movie wasn't enough, Santoshi followed it up with another. 'Phata Poster Nikla Hero' might not have made the same splash in the theatres as 'Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani', but it had some classic tips of the proverbial hat. In one chase scene, Shahid Kapoor spots Salman Khan, who is on his way to Rajkumar Santoshi's house for a reading of Andaz Apna Apna 2. Also, Shahid is a wannabe actor, dressed as a cop, and a fan of the 'Dabanng' star. Steady yourself there, Nolan!


Talking of 'phata' posters, this is the movie that made the line immortal. Remember Naseeruddin Shah breaking out of a film poster and uttering 'Phata poster, nikla hero'. At the peak of his parallel cinema adventures, Naseeruddin Shah starred in Ketan Mehta's Alice in Wonderland-esque story about an auto-driver who falls in love with a starlet and discovers the real Bollywood. Complete with a special appearance by Amitabh Bachchan, this is a must watch film!

5 Andaz Apna Apna

The baap of all cult classics, Andaz Apna Apna was born out of sheer brilliance and accidental genius. A plotline riddled with film references, it is a movie buff's treasure. Mogambo's bhatija, a 'Loin' imitator (played incidentally by Ajit's own son), and the brilliant cameos by Mehmood (as a casting director) and Deven Verma, not to forget Juhi Chawla and Govinda, are just one part of the cult history in this film. Having attained legendary status, it has become a reference point for filmmakers on the the wittiest way to pay respects to older cult classics.

6 Bombay Talkies

'Bombay Talkies' was a film that examined the outsider's perception of the reel world. An accidental extra dreams of becoming a hero, a young man travels to Mumbai to give his father's murabba to the Big B, the song 'Ajeeb dastaan hai ye' puncturing the facade of love in a family, cinema was the backdrop against which these short stories were set. But it was the special appearances of actors like Macmohan and the late Sadashiv Amrapurkar which shed light on the graft behind the celluloid. Here is the brilliant Sadashiv Amrapurkar stealing the scene as he teaches Nawazuddin what is wrong with his acting.

7 Choti Si Baat

Basu Chatterji's universe of middle class, normal people might seem far away from the spotlights of films. Yet, some of his best movies include a sly nod to the filmic world that surrounds his characters. For instance, in the wonderful tale of love 'Choti Si Baat', we have an innocent Amol Palekar bumping into Amitabh Bachchan, at his first meeting with Ashok Kumar, a superstar of another era. Bachchan's films make an appearance too. In the song, 'Na jaane kyun', Zarina Wahab is shown standing at a bus stop that carries a poster of the Bachchan starrer 'Zameer'. Incidentally, B.R.Chopra was the producer of both films. The song 'Ye din kya aaye', has a blink and miss appearance of the poster for one of Shabana Azmi's early films, 'Parinay'.

8 Rangeela

Maybe it was Ramgopal Varma's Tarantino connection, but the reference to a fake film in a movie that bypasses Bollywood is uber cool. Aamir Khan's introduction sequence has him selling tickets to a fake Jackie Shroff film 'Mr. Bond'. The title itself was from a 1992 Akshay Kumar flop. The scene, meanwhile, was an homage to Dev Anand's 'Kala Bazar', which had Dev Anand essaying the role of a ticket seller outside the 'Mother India' premiere.

9 Duplicate

Not all stars in the Indian film industry have the wit or the funny bones to crack a joke at themselves. In the little known dud 'Duplicate', King Khan does it with elan. Worrying about his mother's constant nagging, SRK proposes to a passing girl, Kajol, on the railway station. Kajol's natural reaction and the DDLJ reference make it the best scene in the movie, which says a lot.

10 Om Shanti Om

Yet another film that was almost an insider joke was Om Shanti Om. Rebirth, romance, and films made up the crux of this blockbuster debut by Farah Khan. From the choreography that was borrowed from films like 'Amrapali' and 'Humjoli' to the cameo appearances by yesteryear legends and current heartthrobs, the film is replete with insider references. From 'maa' references to the rebirth and revenge plotline, Om Shanti Om is the perfect tribute to the massive industry known as Bollywood.

11 Dostana

The film that birthed a thousand parodies, Dostana was a pioneer for its lead heroes agreeing to play Bollywood's first, albeit pseudo-gay, couple. Cue the arrival of the melodramatic Kirron Kher screaming 'Naahiiii' to her son's decision. In one scene, Kirron Khen crams in decades of melodramatic mothers and some seriously tight slaps to make for a hilarious riot. You can't help but feel sorry for her at some level. After all, maa to maa hain na.

12 Entertainment

If you don't remember this film, don't worry; Akshay Kumar won't remember it either. The Khiladi Kumar has delivered some iconic duds in the past (Mr.Bond, anyone?) and this was one more addition to the bag. But Entertainment had some moments that induced involuntary laughter. For instance, Prakash Raj and Sonu Sood play villains named 'Karan Arjun'. In one scene, Akshay's groupie walks up to him and asks 'Don't these two look like the villains from Dabanng and Dabanng2?' referencing Prakash Raj and Sonu Sood's earlier roles.

13 Gol maal

Utpal Dutt with his moustache. Amol Palekar without one, or with one. 'Golmaal' is another cult comedy that has crossed generations without turning into a bore. The main catalyst in the film is Deven Verma, who plays himself, and is the common man's only connect to Bollywood. During his meetings with Deven, Amol Palekar finds himself face to face with Amitabh Bachchan. A brilliant film, it is a reminder of the times when cinema was accessible, simple, and filled with people who could laugh at themselves.


Hrishikesh Mukherji was known for his sense of humour. Through his sensitive films, he would often show audiences a glimpse of the face behind the make up. 'Guddi' was one such film that satisfied a film buff's curiosity for tinsel town. Kusum's obsessive fascination with reel life forces her uncle to resort to some creative measures and show her that life under the spotlight is no different than working anywhere else. The film was a sensitive and humorous glimpse into the workings of the massive factory known as Bollywood. Watch out for special appearances by several leading actors of the day: Pran, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Vinod Khanna, and the director himself.

15 Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Gham

Aamir Khan is as shy as a rabbit when it comes to special appearances. But when the Big B calls you, you have no choice. In 'Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham', Amitabh Bachchan brought in Aamir Khan for a special appearance, although not literally. At the end of the lavishly choreographed song 'Say shava shava', Amitabh woos a miffed Jaya with his own rendition of Aamir's 'Aati kya khandala'. Incidentally, 'Aati kya khandala' was picturised on Aamir and Rani Mukherji, who is also present in this song.


'Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron'. 'Nuff said. Kundan Shah's film is a laugh riot that goes from being ridiculous to awesomely bizarre. In one scene, the two photographers played by Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Baswani, walk into 'Antonioni Park', named after legendary Italian auteur Michelangelo Antonioni. Antonioni directed 'Blow Up', a film about a photographer who accidentally discovers a murder during a photography session in a park. Of course, the climax scene begins with the Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Baswani wheeling in the corpse for a dress change at Maganlal Dresswala and Co – The famed costumers of Indian cinema.

17 Kala Bazaar

A wonderful noir-film that was ahead of its time, Kala Bazar was a film about a young man turning to black marketing film tickets. There are hints about movie references littered throughout the scenes. Dev Anand discovers the profitable business of black tickets at a theatre showing 'Do Aankhen Baarah Haath'. In another scene, as he follows Waheeda Rehman, a poster of Alfred Hitchcock's 'North By Northwest' hovers in the background. Finally, Dev Anand sells black tickets at Liberty Theatre in Mumbai at the premiere of 'Mother India'. Guru Dutt, a fellow at Navketan cinemas, makes a special appearance during the screening.

18 Agent Vinod

No, not the Saif starrer; but this one was just as bad. A camp-esque parody, or what we hope was a parody, of the Bond genre, Agent Vinod is another film that ranks high on the list of Indian cinephiles. The story of a super agent in the search of a scientist, Agent Vinod has a brilliant supporting cast in the form of Jagdeep. Playing 'Agent Bond', Jagdeep does a brilliant parody of India's perception of the famed superspy from Her Majesty's Secret Service.

19 Dabanng

One actor we can't tire of in special appearances is Salman Khan. Considering 'Bhai' is so similar in his reel and real roles, his special appearances are quite memorable. But he pulled a brilliant inception-al reference in the opening scene of his mega hit 'Dabanng'. In the middle of bashing goons to pulp, Salman starts dancing to the tunes of his hit song 'Jalwa' from 'Wanted'. Salman played a cop disguised as a rowdy in 'Wanted', while he played a rowdy cop in 'Dabanng'. Uber cool, we say!

20 Gangs of Wasseypur

The cinematic love of Anurag Kashyap traces its roots to the pulp classics of the 70s and 80s. Nowhere is it more evident than in his magnum opus, Gangs of Wasseypur. In this epic, Kashyap throws in a movie reference every scene. Whether it is Ramdhari Singh's son watching DDLJ, or the 'Muqaddar ka Sikandar' soundtrack to a romantic scene, the film could have a back story to its backstories. A good homage is one that requires no explanation. So when Faizal Khan utters 'Hum to samjhe the Sanjeev Kumar ke ghar hum akele hi Bachchan paida hue hain. Par aaj pata chala, hum to Shashi Kapoor hain, Bachchan to koi aur hai.', you know exactly what movie he is talking about.

21 Luck By Chance

In one brilliant scene, as the writer goes on passionately about a potential climactic in a film, Rishi Kapoor's sarcastic producer butts in 'Oi Institute, main ye film festival ke liye nahi bana raha hu.' There is a level of meta-cinema in Zoya Akhtar's 'Luck By Chance' that makes it a wonderful watch. Dimple Kapadia does a hilarious turn as an ageing actress, Hrithik Roshan's vainglorious hero are among some of the off kilter roles that light up the movie. Oh! The 'Institute' Rishi Kapoor was referring to was Bollywood's neo noir auteur, Anurag Kashyap.

22 Mohabbatein

You just can't put Helen at the end of a dance number and not have her shake a leg. When the vivacious actress makes an appearance as a strict girls' hostel warden in Mohabbatein, it feels weird to have her play the one trying to stop the dance. But then, the riff of 'O haseena zulfon waali' wafts through the air, and out come the dancing shoes! By the way, Helen is also named Mrs. Monica in the film, a sly tribute to the evergreen Monica of Bollywood.

23 Naseeb

They don't call Manmohan Desai is not the 'baap' of blockbusters for nothing. In Naseeb, Amitabh's character plays a waiter at the golden jubilee of the year's superhit 'Dharam Veer'. The film was directed by Manmohan Desai and starred Dharmendra and Jeetendra. Throughout the song, Amitabh thrills his peers from the film fraternity. It does not get more meta-cinema than getting the greatest star of Indian cinema serving drinks at a film premiere.