‘Films I Think of When I Think of Music’: Shweta Basu Prasad Picks Favourites

Films on music, films with good music, films that come to our minds when we think of music – actor Shweta Basu Prasad, who is also an Indian classical music enthusiast, picks ten of her favourites from Indian cinema that fit the above description (and beyond). As we begin a new year, may this list help you with recommendations, or take you back to old favourites!

The Disciple

Year: 2020

Director: Chaitanya Tamhane

Perfected by Tamhane’s austere storytelling. The Disciple is a study of the process of learning music and the conflicts that accompany it. It is a silent observation, a very real portrayal of the world of Hindustani classical music from up close, devoid of extravagance.


Year: 1958

Director: Satyajit Ray

In translation, Jalsaghar means ‘The Music Room.’ One of Ray’s masterpieces, Jalsaghar tells the tale of a crumbling zamindar struggling through the ruins of his days of the glorious past. Ustad Vilayat Khan was the music composer for this film. Begum Akhtar’s appearance as herself, singing the thumri ‘Bhar Bhar Ayi Mori Akhiyan’, remains iconic.


Year: 1973

Director: Hrishikesh Mukherjee

Music brings them together, music separates them – or is it something deeper? Abhimaan remains a classic for the acting, the intricacies of the storytelling – and of course, the music.

Baiju Bawra

Year: 1952

Director: Vijay Bhatt

The film recently celebrated seventy years of its release, but Baiju Bawra remains every bit the iconic Bollywood musical that it had been. Emotions run high, but so does the mesmerizing music!

Sang-e-Meel Se Mulaqat

Year: 1989

Director: Goutam Ghose

A documentary on the legendary Ustad Bismillah Khan, this film is an enriching watch. Beyond the life and the shehnai of Bismillah, what stands out are the stunning visuals – the way the filmmaker captures the essence of the city of Banaras.

Khamoshi: The Musical

Year: 1996

Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Bhansali made his directorial debut with this film, which boasted of a beautifully woven storyline and a stellar soundtrack. While the filmmaker has continued to place particular importance on the music of all his films that followed, Khamoshi remains different, and memorable – in its own right.

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam

Year: 1999

Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Yet another Bhansali film on the list, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, on its release in the 90s, challenged the stereotypical ideas of love for the Indian audience. Beyond the film and its story, it gifted its audience with a much-talked-about experimental soundtrack by Ismail Darbar.


Year: 1999

Director: Subhash Ghai

A.R. Rahman received the Filmfare Award for Best Music Director. Taal is undoubtedly one of Subhash Ghai’s best works, but over time, the music of Taal has perhaps grown to become more important than the film itself.

Raga: A Journey into the Soul of India

Year: 1971

Director: Howard Worth

Following Pandit Ravi Shankar in the late 60s, this film remains witness to a few of the maestro’s iconic moments, both on and off stage. We follow his return to Maihar to meet his guru, watch him teach George Harrison the sitar, and hear a few of his famous concerts. The film juxtaposes the East-West, Indian Classical-Rock n Roll themes, with Shankar, who was truly a bridge between the two.

Rock On!

Year: 2008

Director: Abhishek Kapoor

Friendships, love, life, and everything in between – all of which revolve around music. Rock On! has now occupied a sort of a cult status – for the four lives we grew to love, and the music that bound them together.

Shweta Basu Prasad is an Indian actor who rose to prominence through films like Makdee (2002) and Iqbal (2005). She currently works predominantly in Bollywood. Apart from acting, she is passionate about Indian classical music, among other things, and is a student of the sitar.

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