Netflix: Hidden Gems from Bollywood
Since Netflix was launched in Australia, weekends have never been the same. With countless hours of content, from all over the world, waiting to be binged, Netflix offerings can get overwhelming. So, to make your lives easier, we have curated lists of foreign or Bollywood films to watch out for.
Based on an incredible true-story, Dangal is a sports-drama film based on the Phogat family, portraying the story of Mahavir Singh Phogat, an amateur wrestler, who trains his daughters (Geeta Phogat and Babita Kumari) to become India’s first world-class female wrestlers. At its core, the film beautifully depicts the father-daughter bond as it tracks the daughters’ journey from being teenagers to winning the gold medal for India. Starring Indian superstar Aamir Khan as Mahavir Singh Phogat, the film was a record-breaking critical and commercial success, winning several accolades in India and abroad and became the highest grossing Indian film and the fifth highest grossing non-English film ever made. Inspirational, emotional, humorous and a complete entertainer, Dangal is the perfect film for people of all ages.
Rang De Basanti (2006)
Another film starring Aamir Khan, this film tells the story of a British documentary filmmaker named Sue Mckinley, who is determined to make a film based on the writings of her grandfather, a British police officer in India under British Imperial rule, who wrote about the Indian Freedom Fighters and their struggles. Upon her arrival in India, she meets a group of five young Indian friends, develops a close friendship with them and asks them to act in her film. The film draws parallels between Imperial India and present-day India and beautifully merges the two time periods together. It highlights the plight of the country, the bureaucracy and corruption and essentially shows that although Independence has been achieved, nothing much has changed, and history repeats itself once again. A massive commercial and critical success, this film won several awards in India and overseas and was India’s official entry to the Oscars in 2007. With music by Oscar winning maestro A.R. Rahman, this is a must-watch for every film enthusiast.
Another one starring Aamir Khan, Lagaan is set in the Victorian period of India’s colonial British Raj. The film revolves around the people of a small village town, who are burdened with the high tax rates they need to pay every month and who enter into a wager with the British officers that will eliminate their taxes for three years. The wager is to beat the British in a game of cricket, a sport which at the time was alien to Indians. Thus, begins the journey of these simple villagers as they try to learn this alien game well enough to beat the inventors of the sport. With outstanding cinematography, elaborate dance sequences, outstanding music by maestro A.R. Rahman and a story unlike any other, Lagaan is regarded as one of the best films ever made in Indian cinema and is a true entertainer. The film was listed on Time Magazine’s list of All Time 25 Best Sports Movies and became the third Indian film to be nominated for best foreign film category at the Oscars.
Taare Zameen Par (2007)
Marking the directorial debut of Aamir Khan, Taare Zameen Par tells the story of eight-year-old dyslexic kid, Ishaan Awasthi. Performing poorly in academics, his parents send him to a boarding school and there he meets his next art teacher, played by Aamir Khan, who helps him embrace and work around his dyslexia to excel in art and academics likewise. The film is a hard-hitting depiction of the kind of neglect and criticism faced by kids with disabilities and focuses on the beautiful mother-son, father-son and teacher-student bond. Being India’s official entry to the 2009 Oscars, this film won several awards and is surely going to make you reach for the tissues.
Delhi Belly (2011)
India’s first black comedy film, Delhi Belly revolves around the lives of three friends, a journalist, his photographer and a graphic artist and how unknowingly they get caught up in a chase with global crime – due to a simple stool sample mix-up. Yes, the film is as hilarious and absurd as the plot sounds. In true Guy Ritchie style, this film is highly entertaining with different characters and seemingly parallel plot lines merging together, you will undoubtedly be laughing your guts out. Warning – this is a R Rated film and the trailer below contains adult themes and swearing.
The Lunchbox (2013)
The film revolves around Ila, a neglected housewife, and Saajan, a widowed office worker nearing retirement. When Ila’s lunchbox, that she prepares for her husband, is mis-delivered to Saajan, they strike up an unusual friendship that is carried forward by the same lunchbox and a handwritten note inside it, without actually meeting each other. In the words of the director, Ritesh Batra, the film is a story of what big cities do to people and how they turn everyone into the same person and this story is about two people who become something other than lunch boxes. With stellar performances from the cast, this film depicts the famous Dabbawallas of Mumbai and conveys pure emotions of love and friendship, and the lost art of letters in a way that touches your heart.
Screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2015 Cannes Film festival and winning two awards, Masaan is set in the Indian Holy city of Banaras and follows two seemingly separate stories that converge eventually. This drama is a hard-hitting depiction of corruption and the cruel caste system and tells a riveting story that leaves one teary eyed.
Premiering in the Directors’ Fortnight section at the 2013 Cannes Film festival, Ugly, as the name suggests, depicts the ugly side of humanity and depicts the deepest, darkest and ugliest version of each person. When a 10-year-old girl goes missing, everyone around her takes advantage of the situation, including her own parents, for their own selfish reasons, and an investigation is carried out to find her in a masterpiece thriller. The film is dark, gritty and raw in its depiction of human flaws and emotions. If you enjoy thrillers, then this one is a definite must-watch.
Filmed in the beautiful valleys of Kashmir, India, Haider is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, set against the backdrop of violence and unrest in 1995 Kashmir where civilian disappearances were commonplace. The stellar performances from the cast, along with beautiful and colorful cinematography makes this crime tragedy one you just can’t miss out on. Haider was the first Indian film to win the People’s Choice Award at the Rome Film Festival and also won five National Film Awards in India.
This thriller revolves around Vidya Bagchi, a pregnant woman, who comes to the city of Kolkata in search of her husband who went missing and, in the process, gets caught up in bureaucracy, corruption and gets a lead on dangerous criminals who are after her life. The film won several awards and was massive box-office success. However, the main character in this film has to be the city, Kolkata. The filmmaker employed guerrilla filmmaking techniques on the busy roads of the city and captured the city at the festive time of Durga Puja celebrations. In the process he brought life into the city to an extent where Kolkata is as much of a character in the film as the actors. Moreover, this film has one of the best plot twists in its climax, which we believe is at par with that of David Fincher’s Fight Club. Intrigued yet?