India is well known for its rich culture, art, music and dance forms. While on one hand, its culture is widely celebrated, on the other hand some of its rituals and traditions are highly criticized. There are a few Indian filmmakers who have never hesitated from talking openly about the prevalence of patriarchy, gender biasness, casteism and communalism in India.
In the year 2019, the box office revenue of the Indian Film Industry was estimated to be more than 140 billion Indian Rupees. A major chunk of this revenue comes from purely entertainment based movies however, there’s a catena of movies that portray the real picture of social evils prevailing in Indian society. Here is a list of 10 understated bollywood movies you must watch:
10. Masaan (2015)
(Transl. Crematorium, also known as Fly Away Solo in English)
Revolving around the two main characters Devi and Deepak, and set in a small city named Varanasi, on the banks of river Ganga, Masaan displays how premarital sex is still a taboo in India. It portrays the plight of a woman who is harassed by the police officials for having sexual relations outside of marriage. Meanwhile, in the same city, Deepak falls in love with a girl belonging to a higher caste. Watch this movie to know the dynamics of caste and sex in the Indian society.
9. Piku (2015)
A simple and adorable movie based on the relationship of a Bengali father with his daughter, Piku. The story revolves around a single girl, her friend and her father and how they develop a deep bond despite bickering over trivial issues. A sweet movie that will make you fall in love with the father-daughter relationship.
8. Pyasa (1957)
A black and white Indian classic that shows the true nature and colours of the human race. How a simple and a self-less poet is being exploited by his loved ones not just when he’s alive but also after his death. Pyasa is way ahead of its time. For a movie released in the year 1957, the audience of every generation is seen relating to it. Along with starring some of the best actors of all times, it also gave some of the most loved songs ever.
7. Arth (1982)
The journey of a woman who discovers her true identity after she’s been deserted by her husband for another woman. The movie again, is way ahead of its time. While most Indian movies talk about soul mates and true love, Arth draws a picture of a graceful woman who tries to get over her husband and refuses to forgive him for his infidelity.
6. Dor (2006)
Set in a small village in the state of Rajasthan, the movie depicts the life of widow in rural India. See what happens when a city girl, Zeenat meets a girl from a small village, Meera who also happens to be a widow to ask her for the biggest favor of her life. Although the movie has a typical bollywood “running to catch the train” ending, yet it has a much deeper meaning than just running for true love. It is a symbol of hope, selflessness, friendship and freedom.
5. Pakeezah (1972)
Pakeezah, the story of a courtesan, played by Meena Kumari, one of the most beautiful Indian actresses ever, who falls in love with a wealthy man is one the most celebrated Indian movies of all times. Apart from introducing to you the life of a prostitute in India, Pakeezah will also make you fall in love with the Indian jewelry and dance forms. Watching extremely graceful Meena Kumari dance to the Urdu Ghazals is a delight in itself.
4. Rang De Basanti (2006)
(Transl. Paint me in the colours of spring)
The movie opens with an English writer and director begging her agency to let her direct a short film on the Indian fight for independence. The story revolves around a bunch of college kids who hate their country for its large population, poverty and corruption and wish to fly abroad as soon as they graduate. Watch the movie to know how their lives take a drastic turn after the tragic death of one of their friends. Watch till the end to see how patriotism fits in today’s world and for an overwhelming experience.
3. Highway (2014)
Veera, a young girl and also a soon to be bride is kidnapped just a day before her marriage. For an Indian girl, who was brought up in an extremely protected environment, this unexpected journey unravels some life changing experiences. Highway is a must watch for anybody who has heard of or experienced the hypocrisy of Indian society when it comes to protecting and preserving the chastity of a woman. Highway, as the name suggests, takes you on a journey to 6 different states, leading to Kashmir, also known as the ‘paradise on earth’, where Veera discovers a new direction to her life.
2. Matrubhoomi : A nation without women (2003)
Based in a small Indian village that goes on practicing female infanticide for a few generations, Matrubhoomi shows the plight of a woman who is the only girl left in the village. Revolving around life of Kalki, and her 5 husbands, the movie highlights the social evils associated with low sex ratio. Apart from focusing on the condition of women in Indian society, the movie also emphasizes on marital rape and bestiality.
1. Tamasha (2015)
Like Nietzsche once rightly said, “He who has a ‘why’ to live for, can bear almost any ‘how’.” Dev, a guy in his late 20s is in search for purpose of life. When a woman he loves makes him realize that he’s a lot more than what he thinks he is, he goes on a journey to find himself. The movie shows how the race of life makes a man miserable and dejected. He, not only finds his purpose but also finds himself. The movie is a complete package of poetry, music, drama and romance.