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My Top Indian Movies

Here are my favourites from two decades of Indian movie watching.

In the past two decades, I have watched hundreds of Indian and Bollywood films.

From Sholay to DDLJ, I have seen classics, drama, comedy and tragedy.

It's fair to say that the traditional song and dance style movies are not my regular viewing.

I'm not crazy about musicals from Hollywood either.

However, millions of people in traditional NRI countries, and new fans in places like China, Taiwan, Egypt and Peru, prove I'm the odd one out!

I have compiled a list below of my favourite Indian films over the past 22 years.

These are the ones that left a mark on me.

I hope you enjoy my brief 'filmi' moment below:

1. Earth 1947 (1999)

I enjoyed everything about this film.

By renowned director Deepa Mehta, the mood of this film is haunting.

The film's storyline focuses on the 1947 Partition in India.

The tension in the film builds as the terrifying circumstances escalate.

While the horrors surrounding Partition are in the consciousness of most Indian people, the tragic circumstances are not well known outside India.

Watching a whole country torn in two is eye-opening and shocking.

The film illustrates with skill the fear, confusion and interrupted lives of a group of unexpected friends.

It was easy to sympathise with the decisions the characters made to survive.

A memorable film with a matching soundtrack.

2. Monsoon Wedding (2001)

One of my favourites, Monsoon Wedding is another sensational film by the noted director Mira Nair.

This film is fun, depressing, lively and poignant.

Although it tackles heavy subjects, the essence of a 'wedding-as-celebration' (and also massive stress!) is what this film is all about for me.

The cast and performances are great, and so is the entire film production.

I will never forget the character 'PK Dubey,' played by one of my favourite Indian actors Vijay Raaz, casually popping marigold flowers into his mouth.

A repeat watch for me.

3. Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)

Wow, wow and wow! This film (in two parts) was compulsive viewing.

In some of the best acting I've seen in India, this film depicts personal struggles, crime and corruption over decades in a small town.

I loved the soundtrack, the tense scenes, the acting and the entire film production.

You leave the film understanding each character's life dilemma despite not relating to them in the real world.

A superb and memorable film.

4. Lagaan (2001)

I watched Lagaan at its Melbourne premiere in Australia. Melbourne is a cricket-loving town.

In the audience that evening was a state-level Australian cricket side.

I'm not sure how many of the team had seen a Bollywood film before.

They laughed a lot, but not necessarily at the right moments in the film.

But by the end of the film, they were cheering for the right team to win!

I could do without the foreigner 'memsaab' singing number, but it remains one of my favourite storylines and a rare feel-good movie I could stomach.

Again, more great music.

5. Salaam Bombay (1988)

Another stunning Mira Nair film (her first), Salaam Bombay is an epic and moving feature film.

If you have ever wondered how people get stuck in a life on the street in India, this film will explain a lot to you.

I love everything about the city of Mumbai (Bombay), so I'm partial to any film with a Mumbai backdrop.

As I watched the film, I remember walking down the same laneways for years.

The film is excruciating at times yet compels you to understand the lives of the street kids along with the characters and experiences that determine their future.

6. Dhobi Ghat (2010)

This film has a 'slow burn' appeal and depicts Mumbai across its complex social strata.

I felt the film didn't resort to cheap stereotypes as it portrayed characters from the poorest to the richer inhabitants of Mumbai.

In fact, Dhobi Ghat treats the characters and their lives with such a level of compassion and insight that you forget all about their backgrounds.

The performance of one of the lead male actors is one of the best I have seen. I was sure he was a real street kid!

This film is basically a sad film, yet I didn't feel this way in the end.

From the first time I landed in Mumbai, I admired the stoic nature of the people.

I felt this film captured the struggles and the acceptance in Mumbai.

Each character had their own isolation, their own life struggle.

* * *

I have definitely forgotten more films than I remember, so I will probably update this post in future.

Honourable mentions to Maqbool, Pink, Badlapur, anything with Naseeruddin Shah, anything with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Kahaani, Delhi Belly, The Lunch Box, Mom, NH10, and Bandit Queen.

Let me know your favourite Indian films. Comment below.

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Thank you :)


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