From traditional dacoits on horseback to tech-savvy thieves to small-town knaves, Hindi cinema has had its share of a heist, happy deceivers. And by pulling off their sometimes far-fetched plans and sometimes downright funny schemes, they have entertained us thoroughly and often made us burst into laughter. Here is our pick of five heist films that also had a sense of humour!
1. Bunty Aur Babli
This 2005 Shaad Ali directorial and Yash Raj production was one of the finest depictions of small-town aspirations gone wrong with a hugely amusing episode about the 'sale' of Taj Mahal to a clueless foreigner. With the comic timing of its formidable lead cast, superhit music and a palette bursting with colour and details, this is one film that popularised street smart characters who see the economic divide between where they live and big cities and want to bridge it by hook or by crook. The film starred Abhishek Bachchan, Rani Mukerji and Amitabh and is still as entertaining as when it was first released. And now we hear, a sequel is underway.
2. Dhoom 2
This 2006 Sanjay Gadhvi directorial, produced by Yashraj is possibly the most entertaining of the franchise, thanks to its casting, music and a comedy track that grew old in subsequent instalments. Starring Hrithik Roshan as an international scam artist and an impossibly charismatic thief along with Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Uday Chopra and Bipasha Basu, the film took audiences across scenic locations in Durban and Rio de Janeiro to follow one riveting heist after another. Packed with scintillating music and buoyed by slick special effects, this film was pure escapist gold and remains one of its kind in its genre.
3. Bahut Hua Sammaan
This 2020 Yoodlee caper, directed by Ashish Shukla was acclaimed at the time of its release for its comic book style edit and a lot of incisive socio-political commentary. It follows the travails of two hapless college dropouts, Fundoo (Abhishek Chauhan) and Bony (Raghav Juyal) on their luckless journey to rob a bank. Along the way, the film touched upon issues like custodial torture, political corruption, greed and the unfulfilled dreams of the young without ever forgetting to see the quirky humour in the plot. Gritty and rib-tickling in equal measure, this was one of the most cleverly written and staged heist films of our time where a lot more is going on than is visible on the surface. It also starred Sanjay Mishra, Ram Kapoor, Namit Das and Flora Saini.
4. Special 26
Many would say this 2013 heist drama directed by Neeraj Pandey, glorified scamsters but it was still a compelling study of an almost unbelievable crime. Inspired by the 1987 Opera House heist where a group of ‘pretend’ CBI officers raided a jeweller, the film demonstrated how easy it is to game the system, subvert law and order machinery and get away with fraud and even robbery. And it thoughtfully threw in some laughs too to liven up the proceedings. It starred Akshay Kumar, Kajal Aggarwal, Manoj Bajpayee, Jimmy Sheirgill, Anupam Kher and Divya Dutta.
5. Oye Lucky Lucky Oye
Director Dibakar Banerjee truly broke into the independent cinema stream in India with this slice-of-life film in 2008. Inspired by the brazen and often comical thefts of Devinder Singh alias Bunty, a real-life thief from Delhi’s Vikaspuri locality, the quirky film did not rely on cinematic tropes to either glorify or demonise the protagonist. He steals and robs compulsively and is a small part of an essentially corrupt society where everyone in some way is stealing something that doesn't belong to them. The film also established Abhay Deol as a dependable middle-of-the-road star and also starred Paresh Rawal, Neetu Chandra, Manu Rishi, Richa Chadda, Manjot Singh and Archana Puran Singh.