Mar 20 2016

The most iconic sets of Hindi cinema

by   Shriram Iyengar

The set is the most important space within which the life of a film takes place. Often the unsung heroes of our films, production sets are a combination of innovative art and architecture. If you are as much a fan of film sets as Sanjay Leela Bhansali, these film sets will leave you spellbound.

12 Bajirao Mastani (2015)

Sanjay Leela Bhansali was at it again in 2015. Bajirao Mastani was his dream project, one that was being delayed over 10 years. After his huge hit Ramleela, Bhansali painted a grandiose picture on an epic scale. The film, quite deservingly, won the Filmfare Award for Best Production Design in 2016. 

11 Jodha Akbar (2012)

Ashutosh Gowariker's magnificent Mughal epic was noted for its awe inspiring sets. Apart from the Mehrangarh fort, a huge set was erected at Karjat by the ace set designer Nitin Desai to act as Akbar's palace. The set still stands as a testament to the imagination and skill of Bollywood's architects.

10 Devdas (2002)

A hard taskmaster, Sanjay Leela Bhansali is known for his detailed sets. When he decided to remake the legendary Devdas, he designed one of the most opulent sets of the decade. From palatial houses to beautiful fountains, Bhansali ensured that the sets were equal to the beauty and grace of his two heroines - Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit.

9 Razia Sultan (1983)

Kamal Amrohi's iconic status is based on three films - Mahal, Pakeezah, and Razia Sultan. Each an improvement, his legendary attention to detail acquired epic dimensions with the Hema Malini starrer. Amrohi spent 5 years working on the film, only for audiences to reject it. But the magic of Razia Sultan's palatial opulence continues to awe film critics across the world. 

8 Sikandar (1941)

When Sohrab Modi sought to make an epic on Alexander The Great's India expedition, he chose the regal Prithviraj Kapoor to play the Macedonian king. But it was his sets that caught the attention of the audience. In 1941, sets of this scale and splendour had never been attempted. 

7 Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)

The writer-director Guru Dutt went all out for Kaagaz Ke Phool. The story of one man's life experiences in the film industry, many of the film's scenes were shot within the Mehboob Film Studios. Sadly, the film did not make much of an impression on its release, but remains a classic of Indian cinema. 

6 Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

K Asif. Dilip Kumar. Madhubala. The greatest film ever made. Mughal-e-Azam's reputation as the greatest Indian film ever is certain. One of the reasons for its popularity is the lavish set design. K Asif spared no expense in recreating the entire set, tile by tile, for one song. It cost him Rs 10 lakh! 

5 Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje (1955)

V Shantaram trained as an artist before he turned to filmmaking. In Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje, he tuned into his finest artistic sensibilities to create a memorable set. The lavish designs and dance stages for the film are mesmerising as they are staggering. 

4 Raj Nartaki (1941)

Starring the pair of Prithviraj Kapoor and Sadhana Bose, the film was praised for its effusive production designs and set decorations. Ornate, artistic and gorgeous, the film was one of India's first bilingual films - made in English and Hindi. 

3 Aan (1953)

A film of technicolour vibrance, Aan was a swashbuckler film starring Dilip Kumar, Premnath and Nimmi. With spectacular sets, it is one of the most popular Indian films till date in Europe and Russia. Directed by the great Mehboob Khan, the film is a reminder of times when the set was just as important as the hero of the film.

2 Chandralekha (1948)

The most expensive Indian film of its time, Chandralekha was an epic that was an lesson in the art of set designed. The final sequence of dancers atop drums is considered as one of the most iconic sequences of Indian cinema in the last 50 years. 

1 Prithvi Vallabh

Released in 1943, this epic film was directed by a man known for his larger than life production sets, Sohrab Modi. For the climax of the film, Modi hired a troupe of elephants that almost destroyed the sets. Beautiful, regal and intimidating, Sohrab Modi's sets do justice to his title as the 'Great Moghul' of Indian cinema.