Here’s a look back at films that created such a deep impact that they shaped the future of Hindi cinema or film buffs.

Whether super-hits, average grossers or even flops in their time, they became cult classics forever.

Khosla Enterprises’ Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971)
Produced by: Lekhraj Khosla & Bolu Khosla
Directed by: Raj Khosla
Written by: G.R. Kamat & Akhtar Romani
Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Starring: Dharmendra, Asha Parekh, Vinod Khanna, Laxmi Chhaya,
Jayant & others

In a candid admission, Dharmendra laughingly admitted that Mera Gaon Mera Desh (MGMD) was the definite inspiration point for Salim-Javed’s Sholay. And having worked in both films as their biggest star, he should know! It is
another matter that Salim-Javed only credit two foreign films as their inspirations!

MGMD was based on Gandhiji’s famous quote, “If I have to choose between cowardice and violence, I will choose violence.” Dharmendra is Ajit, a petty thief who is arrested thanks to a handicapped Army man (Jayant) who lives in a village. The simple village folk cow down before the ruthless dacoit Jabbar Singh (Vinod Khanna).

When he comes out of jail and goes to the ex-soldier for a job, the latter asks Ajit to help fight the brigands. At one point, the hero wants to deceive his benefactor and run away (as in Sholay again!), but better judgment prevails and he instills courage among the innocent village folk to fight the dakus and destroys the gang.

The extremely gritty script with some fabulous dialogues (Akhtar Romani) and twists was reason enough to make the film run for 50 weeks. Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s parade of rural-flavored hit songs written by Anand Bakshi, led by the cult Maar diya jaaye ke chhod diya jaaye / Bol tere saath kya sulook kiya jaaye (How should I treat you? Kill you or let you go?), helped in a major way.

Dharmendra’s rugged persona, in a spectacular clash of wits with the equally virile Vinod Khanna, was among the USPs of the film, which remains Khanna’s biggest hit as a villain. The common team of MGMD and Sholay included also lyricist Bakshi, art director Ram Yedekar and singer Lata Mangeshkar. Jabbar Singh was too close to ‘Gabbar Singh’ to be a coincidence, and Amjad Khan’s real-life father, Jayant, who was a well-known villain as well as character actor, played the corresponding role to Sanjeev Kumar’s Thakur.

And in both films we had a coin tossed—by Dharmendra in the former and by Amitabh Bachchan in the latter, to make crucial decisions! Finally, both films had its soundtrack albums on Polydor (now Universal Music), the then-new alternative to the reigning HMV (Saregama).

MGMD became 1971’s second-biggest hit (next only to Haathi Mere Saathi). Even today, the atmospheric movie works big-time, and its brilliant background music helped escalate the menacing feel enough to make excerpts from the score to be included in the best-selling music album.

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