Did you know that Bollywood churns out about twice the number of movies than Hollywood every year? And that’s just a taste of how formidable the Indian film industry is.
While Bollywood is usually known for its lengthy, extravagant films, melodrama, and over-the-top (yet remarkable) song-and-dance numbers, there are plenty of Indian classics out there that are true masterpieces in the world of the film in general. And since this year’s Deepavali celebrations will most likely see many families staying home – why not have some bonding time over a movie marathon?
From heart-wrenching films to inspiring dramas, here are 9 films to tuck into this Deepavali weekend. And if you’re a newbie to Bollywood, consider this your first guide.
It’s no secret that many Asian cultures have their own social pressures under their respective education systems – and India is no doubt one of them. 3 Idiots has been challenging this system since its debut in 2009, taking heavy messages such as academic stress and parental expectations and enveloping them with smart comedy. The film centres around a collective flashback between two college friends, who find their lives completely changed after meeting an eccentric and passionate roommate. Don’t let the title fool you, this is probably one of the most thought-provoking and heartwarming Indian films of all time – and a must-watch if you’re a film junkie.
Cultures clash in this film adaptation of the 2009 Chetan Bhagat novel of the same time. Krish Malhotra, an engineering graduate of Punjabi Hindu heritage meets economics student, Ananya, who hails from a conservative Tamil Brahmin family. After falling in love, they quickly realise that the many challenges a couple has to face when dealing with the families from two different cultures. 2 States brings to light a reality faced by many cultures, and tells its story without sugarcoating the difficult moments.
This classic remembers one of India’s finest actors, the late Irrfan Khan. The Lunchbox is a classic that celebrates the old-fashioned romance associated with letters. A wife writes messages to her husband in his daily lunchbox in hopes of rekindling their marriage, but instead ends up with another man due to a mix-up. The film tells a sweet story of loneliness, love and strength – and comes with the ability to soothe and shock you at the same time.
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Taare Zameen Par
Not many films centre around disability as well as Taare Zameen Par. While 8-year-old dylexic Ishaan may struggle in academia, he excels in art and imagination. After being sent to a boarding school by his parents, Ishaan meets his new art teacher, Ram, who recognises his disability and eventually helps the former and his family understand how to overcome his challenges. Sweet, heartwarming and affectionate, this film will no doubt tug at your heartstrings with its marvellous performances and touching script.
Aamir Khan plays an alien named PK who lands on Earth in Rajasthan as a researcher, but eventually becomes stranded when the amulet that he uses to communicate with his spaceship gets stolen – leaving him at the mercy of the strange ways and horrors of our planet. PK eventually goes on a quest to find God, after being told that only “God” can help find his remote. While this satirical film is lighthearted and fun thanks to PK’s antics and obliviousness, it’s also deeply sentimental while nudging the audience to be more introspective and curious. Like other Aamir Khan films, it’s best enjoyed with an open mind.
After getting her heartbroken one day before her wedding, Rani Mehra decides to take control of her life and her grief by going on a solo trip to her pre-booked honeymoon destinations in Europe. And as you can probably already guess, this trip becomes a life-changing one, where she discovers new experiences, gains independence, and finds herself. As formulaic as Queen sounds, it’s also the perfect remedy for the current times – serving as a reminder that even when everything seems hopeless at the moment, that there are always other possibilities waiting.
If you’re more accustomed to seeing Aamir Khan play socially awkward or amicable characters, get ready as he takes on the role of Mahavir Singh Phogat, pelwani amateur wrestler and coach. After his wife gives birth to two daughters – Geeta Phogat and Babita Kumari – instead sons, Mahavir decides to train them to become India’s first world-class female wrestlers. Gritty, raw, riveting, inspiring, and full of heart – Dangal combines beautiful writing and direction with compelling performances to create this masterpiece. Watch it, and find out why it became the highest-grossing Indian film ever.
Sure, you can provide infographics and lectures on periods and pads – but how about a film about them inspired by the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham? Pad Man follows the protagonist, Laxmi, and his endeavours in manufacturing low-cost pads. The film skilfully brings to light societies and communities that, to this day, still consider periods and the discussion of pads a taboo. It injects humour into a PSA, making this film fun to watch and learn from.
Ever wondered what it would be like if A Star is Born took place in Bollywood? Aashiqui 2 puts the spotlight on the turbulent relationship between troubled singer, Rahul Jaykar, and Arohi Keshav Shirke, an aspiring singer whose singing skill and passion becomes an inspiration to the former. This film doesn’t just bring to the screen a touching story and an amazing soundtrack, it also offers a peek into some of life’s most heartbreaking realities, and that sometimes even love can’t always be our saviour.