Before Padmaavat, these 15 Bollywood period dramas transported us to another era

Before Padmaavat, these 15 Bollywood period dramas transported us to another era

Padmaavat, the period drama by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, releases today but much before this film, Hindi cinema has made various other period films as well.

padmaavat, period films bollywood
Way before Padmaavat, these 15 Hindi films transported the audience to another era.

After all the hullabaloo around Padmaavat, the film finally hit screens today. With the makers trying to prove that the film is actually a piece of fiction and displays Rajputs in all their glory, Padmaavat is on the verge of winning its battle against all odds. Padmaavat isn’t the first period drama made by Bollywood and in the past, we have seen various films that have been set in different eras and while some aimed at showing historical accuracy, some just used an era to set their story. Here are 15 of the best period dramas made by Bollywood and what worked in their favour.

1. Lagaan (2001)

Arguably the most popular period Hindi film around the globe, Lagaan, was even nominated at the Academy Awards. The film was set during the British Raj and was a piece of fiction. The film wasn’t inspired by a real-life cricket match between the British and a group of villagers but the setting was as real as it could get. The film’s locations, the casting of the British actors and even the power play between the King of the state and the Britishers added authenticity to the film’s plot.

2. The Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002)

In 2002, three films were made on the life of this legendary freedom fighter but the film that stood out amongst them all was Ajay Devgn starrer The Legend of Bhagat Singh. The film was based on real life events of the martyr and captured the essence of the freedom struggle from his point of view. The film even won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi and got Ajay Devgn his second Best Actor award at the prestigious National Film Awards. The film was set during the 1920s and painted a believable picture of the events of that era.

3. Pinjar (2003)

Directed by Chandraprakash Dwivedi, this film was based on Amrita Pritam’s Punjabi novel of the same name. Pinjar is the story of Puro, a girl who gets kidnapped just before the partition and is left in Pakistan, while the rest of her family manages to travel back to Amritsar. The set design, the dialect and even the decision making of the characters seemed aligned with the era they set their story in. This period drama did not get its due at the time of the release but has achieved a following over the years.

pinjar movie

4. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)


K Asif’s magnum opus has become an inspiration for directors and even Sanjay Leela Bhansali has mentioned Asif’s greatness and how he influenced his directorial ethos. Mughal-e-Azam was set during Akbar’s reign and narrated a love story between Salim and Anarkali. The film’s popularity has led many to believe that this was a real story, which it wasn’t. There is no historical evidence of Anarkali’s existence and the film was based on a play that Asif read years ago. The construction of the intricate palaces and the grandeur that was showcased in the film was quite unique for its time and the performances of its lead actors added the much needed gravitas to this historic piece of cinema.

5. Zubeidaa (2001)

The story of this film by Khalid Mohammed was based on real events and he wasn’t afraid to admit the same. The story of an actress who is struggling to break free out of a patriarchal society and ends up being the youngest queen to a Rajput king wasn’t known by many until Shyam Benegal made a film on the same. Zubeidaa was a period drama that told a nuanced story aesthetically and is certainly one of the most respected works by actor Karisma Kapoor.

6. Bajirao Mastani (2015)

This magnum opus by Sanjay Leela Bhansali was dragged through a lot of controversies until it came out as a winner on the other side. The film was the story of Peshwa Bajirao and his love story with Mastani. Many religious and political groups were upset with Bhansali because of Bajirao’s portrayal but it all simmered down after the release of the film.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali directed film Bajirao Mastani

7. Jodhaa Akbar (2008)

This 2008 film was surrounded with controversies for its historical inaccuracy. While Gowarkier was trying to make a film and not a documentary, it was the Rajput Karni Sena that unofficially headed the protests. The period drama was set during Akbar’s reign and explored the political dynamics of the era along with telling the love story between Emperor Akbar and his wife Jodhaa Bai.

8. 1947: Earth (1999)

Directed by Deepa Mehta, this film was based on Bapsi Sidhwa’s novel, Cracking India, that is set during the partition era. While the film was based on a fictional story, it used the elements of the partition era effectively to communicate the story of a tragedy that ensued after people were starting to get divided on religious lines.

9. Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977)

Satyajit Ray’s only work in Hindi was based on Premchand’s story of the same name. The film is set in 1856, when India was just on the cusp of the rebellion of 1857. While two men play the game of chess, it is their chess pieces that act as metaphors for the changing political scenario of the country.

10. Lootera (2013)

Vikramaditya Motwane’s film was based on O. Henry’s short story The Last Leaf. The filmmaker chose to set his story in West Bengal in the 1950s when the zamindari system was still in place. The film used its era mainly for the setting as the original story had nothing to do with Bengal in the 50s but it worked in Lootera’s favour.

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11. Devdas (2002)

Many filmmakers have adapted the novel by Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay but it was Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s version that explored the story with all the grandeur. The film was a complete work of fiction but Bhansali’s sensibility and his keen eye for detail made this a spectacular wonder for cinegoers. Devdas was later adapted by Anurag Kashyap in DevD but the maker chose to set his film in present day.

12. Hey Ram (2000)

Directed by Kamal Haasan, Hey Ram is set in the 1940s, right around the time when the Indian struggle for independence is about to get fulfilled. While the film loosely portrayed Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination on screen, they were wise enough to not use many real names while telling the story. The film ended up winning three National Film Awards.

hey ram

13. Parineeta (2005)

Parineeta is an adaptation of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel of the same name. While Parineeta is essentially a love story, director Pradeep Sarkar set in story in old Calcutta and embellished it with elements that beautified the visuals even more.

14. Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (2015)


The story here is set during 1940s in Calcutta when the city is struggling with war. Byomkesh Bakshi, the fictional detective character, was created by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay and in this film director and writer Dibakar Banerjee added his own elements to create an engaging story.

15. Sardar (1993)

This Ketan Mehta film was the biopic of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, one of India’s most respected freedom fighters. Paresh Rawal played the titular character here and was applauded for his performance. The film chronicles Patel’s journey right from his childhood and narrates his experiences all through the freedom struggle.


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