Martial Arts Movies in Bollywood: From 90s to Today

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Bollywood, the vibrant film industry of India, is renowned for its larger-than-life song and dance sequences, dramatic storylines, and iconic stars. But amidst the colorful song picturizations and emotional melodramas, there exists a dedicated space for action-packed martial arts movies.  While not as prolific as Hollywood’s martial arts offerings, Bollywood films have carved their own niche, often blending traditional fighting styles with high-octane action and charismatic heroes.

Some Famous Bollywood Martial Arts Movies

Let’s delve into some of the notable martial arts movies that have captivated Indian audiences:

  • Farz (1980): This classic action flick, starring the legendary Jeetendra, revolves around a cop, Inspector Ravi (Jeetendra), on a mission to bring down a notorious criminal mastermind, Don (Amjad Khan). The film features impressive hand-to-hand combat sequences with influences from Karate and Judo. While the focus is on Jeetendra’s charm and on-screen heroics, the fight choreography adds a layer of excitement.
  • Aag (1984): This Amitabh Bachchan showcases a more brutal and gritty portrayal of martial arts. Bachchan plays Vicky, a former boxer framed for murder and forced to fight his way out of a corrupt prison system. The film incorporates elements of Muay Thai, with its emphasis on powerful kicks and knee strikes, reflecting the harsh realities of prison life.
  • LOC: Kargil (2003): This war drama, based on the real-life Kargil War between India and Pakistan, features realistic portrayals of hand-to-hand combat used in military training. Actors like Ajay Devgn and Sanjay Dutt underwent rigorous training in Krav Maga, a self-defense system focused on practical combat techniques. The film uses fight sequences to depict the intensity and close-quarter battles fought by soldiers on the battlefield.
  • Ghajini (2008): This psychological thriller with a revenge plot stars Aamir Khan as Sanjay Singhania, a man suffering from short-term memory loss. The film features stylish and acrobatic action sequences, with influences from Kalaripayattu, one of India’s oldest martial arts known for its fluid movements and weapon-based techniques. The fight choreography is fast-paced and visually stunning, complementing the film’s dark and intriguing narrative.
  • Rowdy Rathore (2012): Akshay Kumar takes on the role of ACP Vikram Rathore, an undercover cop fighting corruption. The film blends elements of action, comedy, and romance. The fight choreography draws inspiration from multiple martial arts, including Muay Thai and Kickboxing, showcasing powerful strikes and dynamic kicks. The action sequences are well-choreographed and integrate seamlessly with the film’s humorous tone.
  • Agneepath (2012): This remake of the 1990 film features Hrithik Roshan as Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, a man seeking revenge for his father’s death. The film’s fight sequences showcase a blend of martial arts styles, with influences from Krav Maga and Kali (another Indian martial art known for its use of weapons and pressure points). The action is brutal and intense, reflecting the raw emotions driving Vijay’s quest for vengeance.
  • Tiger Shroff Films (2014-Present): Tiger Shroff has emerged as the new action hero in Bollywood, known for his dedication to martial arts and impressive physical feats. Films like “Heropanti” (2014), “Baaghi” series (2016-present), and “War” (2019) showcase his mastery of Taekwondo and other martial arts forms. The fight sequences are acrobatic and gravity-defying, pushing the boundaries of action choreography in Bollywood.

Also Read: Best Martial Arts for Self-Defence

While some Bollywood martial arts movies borrow from established styles, others like “Chandni Chowk to China” (2009) and “The Flying Dutchman” (2010) create a more fantastical world with fictional fighting styles. However, there’s a growing trend of incorporating traditional Indian martial arts like Kalaripayattu and Mardhangkali into mainstream cinema. Movies like “Warrior Savitri” (2016) and “Aadhya” (2019) are bringing these ancient fighting styles to light for a wider audience.

The Future of Martial Arts in Bollywood

As Bollywood continues to evolve, martial arts movies are likely to hold a prominent space. With actors like Tiger Shroff raising the bar for action sequences and a growing audience for high-octane entertainment, we can expect to see more innovative and visually stunning martial arts films emerge from the Indian film industry. These movies not only entertain but also create a platform for cultural exchange, showcasing the rich heritage of Indian martial arts. Here are some additional points to consider:

  • The Influence of Hollywood: It’s undeniable that Hollywood action films have significantly influenced Bollywood’s portrayal of martial arts. However, Bollywood directors and choreographers often adapt these styles to local sensibilities, incorporating slow-motion sequences, dramatic music, and larger-than-life hero worship.
  • The Rise of Female Action Stars: While Bollywood has traditionally been dominated by male action heroes, there’s a growing presence of female action stars like Priyanka Chopra (“Don”) and Disha Patani (“Baaghi 2”). These actresses are performing their own stunts and showcasing impressive martial arts skills, adding a new dimension to the genre.
  • The Importance of Music and Dance: Even in martial arts movies, Bollywood retains its signature touch with catchy songs and elaborate dance sequences. These elements provide a welcome break from the action and add a layer of cultural richness to the films.

List of Best Martial Arts Movies Worldwide

From the adrenaline-pumping action of “Enter the Dragon” to the graceful elegance of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and the inspiring story of resilience in “Ip Man,” these martial arts movies captivate audiences worldwide with their thrilling fight sequences, compelling narratives, and unforgettable characters.

Movie TitleYearDescription
Enter the Dragon1973Bruce Lee infiltrates a deadly tournament on a private island to uncover a drug trafficking operation.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon2000Ang Lee’s masterpiece follows the journey of a legendary sword, intertwining the fates of skilled warriors.
Ip Man2008Donnie Yen portrays the Wing Chun master Ip Man, depicting his struggles during the Japanese occupation of China.
The Raid: Redemption2011A SWAT team battles their way through a high-rise filled with ruthless criminals in this Indonesian action film.
Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior2003Tony Jaa showcases his extraordinary martial arts skills as he seeks to retrieve a stolen statue from a crime lord.
Hero2002Jet Li stars in this visually stunning film, where a nameless warrior recounts his battles with powerful enemies.
Fist of Legend1994Jet Li stars in this remake of “Fist of Fury,” where he seeks revenge against the Japanese who killed his master.
Drunken Master1978Jackie Chan displays his comedic yet lethal martial arts skills as he learns the art of Drunken Boxing to defeat foes.
Kill Bill: Vol. 12003Uma Thurman seeks vengeance against her former associates in this Quentin Tarantino film filled with stylized action.
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin1978A young man trains in Shaolin martial arts to seek revenge against oppressive Manchu rulers in this classic film.

Overall, Bollywood martial arts movies offer a unique blend of action, drama, and cultural identity. They entertain audiences with high-octane fight sequences, showcase the dedication and skill of actors like Tiger Shroff, and contribute to the preservation and appreciation of traditional Indian martial arts. So, whether you’re a die-hard Bollywood buff or a casual action movie fan, give these films a chance – you might just discover your next favorite martial arts hero on screen.

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