Here’s a big one: a rundown of some of the best Bollywood comedies of all time. From timeless classics such as Padosan (1968) that have stood the test of time to modern gems like Oye Lucky Lucky Oye (2008), these films not only leave you in stitches but also serve as a mirror reflecting the idiosyncrasies and complexities of Indian society.
Now, the genre has evolved over the years, moving beyond slapstick humour to incorporate social satire and clever storytelling but the choices are still sparse. Nevertheless, we bring you films, primarily dramas, that seamlessly incorporate humour into the narrative. The titles on here range from the big, blockbuster, laugh-out-loud variety to films where a simmering comic undercurrent proves to be plenty. Some were total box office bombs at the time of their release, even receiving mixed to negative reviews, but with time and copious word of mouth, have become household names.
The enduring popularity of such films can be attributed to their ability to cater to diverse tastes. There is a timeless appeal to these films. The laughter continues to resonate across generations, offering a unique blend of humour and social commentary. Quickly then, here are 15 films widely regarded as some of the greatest efforts in the Bollywood comedy scene.
Best Bollywood Comedy Films
1. Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958)
Directed by Satyen Bose, the film features the iconic trio of Kishore Kumar, Anoop Kumar, and Ashok Kumar, along with Madhubala, in prominent roles. A great showcase for the versatile artist that Kishore Kumar is, the film exudes a romantic charm that’s equally hard to resist thanks to Madhubala’s enchanting presence and her chemistry with Kishore Kumar. S.D. Burman’s music adds to its enduring legacy.
2. Padosan (1968)
This celebrated classic, boasting a great ensemble including Kishore Kumar, Sunil Dutt, Saira Banu, Mehmood and Om Prakash, is a heart-warming ode to love and friendship. The chemistry between the actors lends the film a steady charm. R.D. Burman’s music for the film has also become iconic at this point, particularly the songs Mere Samne Wali Khidki Mein and Ek Chatur Naar.
3. Chupke Chupke (1975)
Just one of the many on the exemplary roster of Hrishikesh Mukherjee, the film, penned by Gulzar, Chupke Chupke is renowned for its brilliant blend of situational comedy and witty dialogues. Its strength lies in its stellar cast, including Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan, whose impeccable comic timing and natural performances bring the script to life. The humor, rooted in misunderstandings and impersonations, remains relatable and fresh even decades later. The film’s ability to evoke laughter without resorting to slapstick or vulgarity makes it a timeless masterpiece in the comedy genre.
4. Gol Maal (1979)
Another Hrishikesh Mukherjee classic, Gol Maal delivers exactly what it advertises in the title and follows Amol Palekar as Ramprasad Sharma, a young man who lands a job under false pretences and the hijinks that ensue. The film is satirical and deftly addresses the clash between conservatism and modernity. The supporting cast includes Utpal Dutt, Bindiya Goswami, and Deven Verma.
5. Angoor (1982)
Writer-director Gulzar masterfully adapts Shakespeare’s play The Comedy of Errors. We follow the lives of two identical twins (impeccably played by Sanjeev Kumar and Deven Verma), separated at birth. Gulzar transports the audience into a world of mistaken identities and slapstick. The clever script and situational humor resonate universally, making it a memorable classic in Hindi cinema. R.D. Burman’s music compliments the film at every turn.
6. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (1983)
This riveting, absurdist piece was the first in director Kundan Shah’s rather short oeuvre. The filmmaker brilliantly satirizes the pervasive corruption in Indian politics and media and the society’s moral decay. The humour is dark and the message poignant and hard-hitting.
Featuring stellar performances by a cast of veterans such as Naseeruddin Shah, Ravi Baswani, Om Puri, Pankaj Kapur, and Satish Shah, the film, despite its lukewarm box office performance, has garnered a cult following over the years.
7. Andaaz Apna Apna (1994)
Saying that this film has a cult following sounds like an understatement. It’s now become part of the cultural zeitgeist. The strength of Andaz Apna Apna lies in how it pokes fun at and satirises film conventions while at the same time celebrating them. Aamir Khan and Salman Khan, as two hapless friends, shine in the lead roles.
8. Hera Pheri (2000)
This Priyadarshan film needs no introduction. The iconic trio of characters played by Paresh Rawal, Akshay Kumar, and Sunil Shetty remains etched in the memory of Indian moviegoers. The brilliance of Hera Pheri lies in its ability to turn a simple story of mistaken identity and a kidnapping gone wrong into a laugh riot. Full of sharp, witty dialogues quoted by fans even two decades later, the film and the talent associated with it made it pretty much a shoe-in for comedic success.
9. Munna Bhai, MBBS (2003)
Rajkumar Hirani’s debut followed the titular Munna Bhai, a lovable goon portrayed by Sanjay Dutt, whose life takes an unexpected turn when he enrols himself in a medical college. Featuring a vibrant cast of characters, including the now iconic Circuit (Arshad Warsi) as Munna’s sidekick, which adds to the hilarity. The film also reveals itself to be quite touching in an unexpected turnaround.
10. Khosla ka Ghosla (2006)
Dibakar Banerjee’s directorial debut won him the national award for best feature film. It followed Kamal Kishore Khosla (Anupam Kher) and his efforts to secure a plot of land from a cunning land grabber, Khurana (Boman Irani). The film’s poignant, albeit comedic, portrayal of the struggles of the Indian middle class instantly struck a chord with the audience and made the film an enduring success.
11. Oye Lucky Lucky Oye (2008)
The second Dibakar Banerjee project to have made the list, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, follows a small-time criminal Lucky (Abhay Deol) through the various phases of his life. The film treats its characters with empathy despite their quirks, rather than just punchline dispensaries. The backdrop of Delhi’s diverse socio-economic landscape lends the film plenty of satirical scope.
12. 3 Idiots (2009)
An instant classic, 3 Idiots seamlessly blended humour and societal critique in a way that has become a hallmark of Hirani’s work. It followed the trials and tribulations of three engineering students, Rancho, Farhan, and Raju, as they navigated the absurdities of academic pressure and societal expectations. The film instantly struck a chord with viewers, making it a raging success both critically and commercially.
13. Delhi Belly (2011)
This film was unlike anything the Indian audience was used to at that point. The madcap comedy follows three roommates, played by Imran Khan, Kunnal Roy Kapoor, and Vir Das, as they get entangled in a series of unfortunate events. With its irreverent brand of humour, the film marked a departure from the usual Bollywood fare, both in terms of form and content.
14. Vicky Donor (2012)
The theme of sperm donation was entirely uncharted territory for an Indian film, and Vicky Donor, directed by Shoojit Sircar, handled it with wit and sensitivity, challenging societal taboos in the process. Ayushmann Khuranna plays the titular donor in a turn that’s simultaneously daring and effortless. The supporting cast, especially Annu Kapoor as the eccentric Dr. Baldev and Kamlesh Gill as Vicky’s grandmother nailed it.
15. Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015)
This film takes a well-worn premise and makes it fresh again. Set in the 90s, it’s a love story between misfits (played by Ayushmann Khurrana and Bhumi Pednekar), that challenges societal norms around beauty and relationships. The stellar cast knocks every scene out of the park with indelible comic timing. Helmed by Sharat Katariya, who wrote films like Bheja Fry (2007) and Titli (2015), this one’s a must-watch for its charming simplicity and powerful message, woven effortlessly into the narrative.
Sometimes all we need is a good laugh, and these films pack one hell of a punch to your funny bone. As is the case with the best comedies, every time you watch one of these, you find something new to appreciate. Whether you’re a long-time fan or new to the genre, these films offer a delightful escape.
Over to you now! What are your favorite comedy films, not necessarily from this list?