Introduce me to the best of Indian film

I did search before posting, and was rather surprised not to find an old thread - if that means I missed one, my most heartfelt apologies.

My friends and I had been long aware of the massive Bollywood film output, but we just realized we had never seen an Indian film. Which is kind of surprising, for us. We were strolling the aisles in Blockbuster and picked up Asoka, which struck our eyes, and said “Man, I could really go for a historical epic in a language I’m entirely ignorant of all about people I’m supposed to have heard of but haven’t! Do you imagine they still do crazy musical interludes and all in their serious historical dramas?” Answer: yes. And yes, we were so ignorant we sat through the whole movie thinking this was, like, the 14th century or so. Well, we were only off by about a millenium and a half or so, not so bad, right? :smack:

Anyway, we really enjoyed it. Crazy dance scenes and all. So I was hoping somebody here could give a few reccomendations for the best of Indian film? Particularly that which I can find here in South Carolina (which does not have a huge Indian population) subtitled (DVD would also be nice). I enjoy the historical drama setting, but was given to understand in the “making of” extras that they don’t do a whole lot of those. So what would I probably really enjoy that’s more or less accessible to me?

The gold standard of Indian cinema are films directed by Satyajit Ray. No dance scenes here–just a handful of the best movies ever made. A few off the top of my head:

Pather Panchali
The World of Apu
The Music Room
The Big City

Those sound good, but any reccomendations for the “best of the typical” - films that exemplify the genre?

Zsofia… I had replied to a post on similar lines… here is a link…

I highly recommend The Terrorist , although I doubt it would be considered “typical” of Indian film–far more arthouse than Bollywood. The cinematography is gorgeous and there’s very little dialogue, but quite an intense story nevertheless

Another great drama without crazy musical interludes is Salaam, Bombay about the street children of that city.

These are both fairly depressing films, but I would consider them essential viewing if you are really interested in getting a decent crash course in Indian cinema.

hi Sofia,as an indian i guess i should be putting in my two cents of just going by the genre here.

1.Padosan starring Sunil Dutt, Kishor Kumar and Mehmood
2.Golmaal starring Amol Palekar.
3.Pushpak starring Kamal Hassan (this is a fantastic movie in which not even a single word is spoken)


  1. Sholay which is a mega mega blockbuster, a 70`s movie, pretty much like a western flick.
    2.Satya- a relatively new movie exploring the underworld and its effect on normal people

i would pretty much go with what Sattua has recommended.

also try to get Lagaan,Mother India,Pyaasa ( a great black and white 50`s flick),Deewar,Andaaz Apna Apna.

hope you like the reccomendations. Do let us know how u liked them.
Happy viewing!!

I don’t know if they really count because I don’t believe they’re Bollywood, but the same Indian director made the movies Kama Sutra: A Love Story, Fire, and Monsoon Wedding, and all of them are absolutely beautiful films about Indian life and culture. I would highly recommend any of them.

maleinblack has sort of touched on this, but if I may, I’d like to ask somewhat of a hijack:

A lot of people speak of Indian film as if it is a monolithic genre. I’m wondering if that is truly the case. It seems more likely that Indian moviemaking covers as much of the gamut as do Hollywood films.

For instance:

  • are there Indian equivalents to movies like Diehard, Scarface, or The Terminator?

  • is there much Indian big-budget sci-fi/fantasy available?

  • are there Indian equivalents to Kevin Smith’s or Adam Sandler’s movies? I can imagine a Waterboy about a trod-upon loser joining the university cricket team, or a Clerks about young, jaded Indian kids pontificating about life while working some kind of menial labor.

  • is there an Indian Jon Waters? I can imagine movies in which flamboyant hijras (sp?) play central roles.

  • how about sports movies? Any important cricket or field hockey movies? The Himalayas are right there … perhaps there is an Indian equivalent to Cliffhanger or Vertical Limit?

  1. Andaz (1949)
    …aka Beau monde (1949)
    …aka Matter of Style, A (1949)
    2. Aparajito (1957)
    …aka Unvanquished, The (1957)
    3. Apur Sansar (1959)
    …aka World of Apu, The (1959)
    4. Ashani Sanket (1973)
    …aka Distant Thunder (1975) (USA)
    1. Awaara (1951)
      …aka Tramp, The (1951)
      …aka Vagabond, The (1951)
    2. Baiju Bawra (1952)
      …aka Baiju the Poet (1952)
    3. Charulata (1964)
      …aka Lonely Wife, The (1964)
    4. Jalsaghar (1958)
      …aka Music Room, The (1958)
    5. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
      …aka Paper Flowers (1959)
    6. Khalnayak (1993)
      …aka Khal Nayak (1993)
    7. Komal Gandhar (1961)
      …aka E-Flat (1961)
    8. Kummatty (1979)
      …aka Bogeyman, The (1979)
      *13. Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960)
      …aka Cloud-capped Star, The (1960)
      …aka Hidden Star (1960)
      *14. Monsoon Wedding (2001)
    9. Mother India (1957)
    10. Mughal-E-Azam (1960)
      …aka Emperor of the Mughals, The (1960)
      …aka Great Mughal, The (1960)
      *17. Pakeezah (1971)
      …aka Pure Heart (1971)
      …aka Pure, The (1971)
    11. Pather Panchali (1955)
    12. Pratidwandi (1970)
      …aka Adversary, The (1970/II)
      …aka Siddharta and the City (1970)
    13. Purab Aur Paschim (1970)
    14. Pyaasa (1957)
      …aka Eternal Thirst (1957)
      …aka Thirst (1957) (USA)
      …aka Thirsty One, The (1957) (UK)
      *22. Salaam Bombay! (1988)
    15. Sant Tukaram (1936)
      …aka Saint Tukaram (1936)
    16. Shatranj Ke Khiladi (1977)
      …aka Chess Players, The (1977)
      *25. Sholay (1975)
      …aka Embers (1975)
      …aka Flames (1975)
      …aka Flames of the Sun (1975)
  • Available on DVD.

Sheesh. I come in all ready to post about Satyajit Ray, and the very first response beats me to it. Guess I’m not as iconoclastically original as I’d thought.

I’ll second it anyway: The “Apu Trilogy” is fabulous, especially Pather Panchali.

I’m sure there are, but you’ll have to look hard. And even then you’ll find that they’ve been turned into semi-musicals :wink:

Not at the moment, I don’t think. At the moment the majority is of the Love/Romance/Crime/Comedy genres. The Indian public will probably be a bit skeptical when the first big budget sci-fi movie comes out as they’re not used to seeing ‘out of the ordinary’ movies.

One of my favourites is Lagaan (Link). Language: Hindi/English…


I found it in my local Blockbuster, so I don’t think you’ll have to look too hard to find it.

I always liked the original Mera Naam Joker, from 1970- directed by Raj Kapoor…


Indian film? Check
Historical drama? Check
Great movie? Check
Probably available - should be


Its directed by Deepa Mehta (the director **El Elvis Rojo ** mentioned) who’s apparently Canadian but the film is pretty much as Indian as you can get.

Any Best Film Winner from the Filmfare Awards will do you quite nicely. Things like Hum Aapke Hain Kaun from 1994 are real Bollywood action, drama, tragedy, comedy and all with songs.

I’ll second Lagaan as an amazing film, Asoka is very good also.

Monsoon Wedding, Earth, Fire, are very good, although Monsoon Wedding and Fire are seen as a tad controversial. As is Chandani Bar, which is very very good, if controversial. Lajja is another fantastic film, and tells of the way, even in this day and age, how women are treated in this culture.

A lot of Indian films, especially the mainstream ones are formulaic, however there are some real gems. For funnies, the oldies are best, but Jodi No. 1 (starring Govindha and Sanjay Dutt) is quite good, just don’t wonder too much about hte purpose of an egg :slight_smile:

Khal Nayaka is another good film, based on Hand That Rocks the Cradle, and conveys the darkness of the original.

Right, enough from me, I’m going to work now.

Monsoon Wedding
Monsoon Wedding
Monsoon Wedding


Yes, Monsoon Wedding is EXCELLENT.

Mother India is the Gone with the Wind of India and the sub-continent, very famous, about tenant farmers before WWII.

Satyajit Ray’s The Chess Players is another fave.

Bollywood films with high production values, lots of color and good-looking stars:

Devdas (which really is one of my favorite films, Bollywood or not)
Dil Se
Bombay (as distinct from Salaam, Bombay, which is also very good)
Vanaprastham (“The Last Dance”) (a film set in South India, giving it a distinctly different character than films set in the north)

Western films concerning Indian ex-patriates:

Bend it Like Beckham

Finally, I really, really enjoy Indian films, and wish I could speak Urdu or Hindi.

I studied a subject called India in Literature and Film at uni several years ago. In addition to the films listed we also watched:

Bhaji on the Beach, which I really enjoyed, it is directed by Gurinder Chadha who also directed Bend It Like Beckham.

Bandit Queen, bloody, gory, sexually violent. As I saw it a couple of weeks after being sexually assaulted I found it to be a particuarly horrific movie and have repressed most of it. We have it on DVD but I can’t bring myself to watch it.

So, India has a clearly well-developed movie industry. My question concerns to how big a chunk of this market has Hollywood managed to corner. Are Hollywood films actually shown in India on a mass scale, or are they an odd curiosity? Do Indians preffer their own cinema over Hollywood’s FX-laden extravaganzas?

Has an Indian film ever won an Oscar for best foreign film? Any recommendation on a nice website presenting the history and evolution of Indian cinema? Do other Asian countries have such a prolific film industry, or is India an isolated phenomenon in this regard?

(Sorry for the overabundance of questions; I’ve never imagined India as a “cinema powerhouse,” and this thread has certainly peaked my interest).



quasar let me assure you that nearly all of Hollywood blockbusters are shown in India.More so in the metros and larger cities than small towns.
The situation with the screening of Hollywood movies has improved a great deal over the last 3-4 years due to the abolishment of an archaic Indian law which asked for a certain time delay for a foriegn film release in India after it was released abroad.
There is no doubt that the most popular movies in India are Hindi movies but Hollywood movies are getting very popular due to the reason that these movies are being dubbed in various regional languages, thus widening the audience base.
Alas till now no Indian film had won an oscar, although Lagaan did very come close to winning one in 2002 in the foriegn film category.Although Satyajit Ray had won a lifetime achievement award (im not sure about this) in the 90s.
AFAIK India is the only country to have such a prolific film industry(It holds the record for most number of movies made in a year).Neighbouring countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh have a fledgling industry at best.I am not sure what is the scene in China but once upon a time there were a lot of movies being made in Hongkong.