Most Popular Films To Watch To Know India Better

Unlike other art forms in the world, films are the most easily accessible art forms in the world. They have a universal appeal, one that easily surpasses all social boundaries and reaches everyone. Films also tend to project societal values and prevailing concerns, attitudes, and beliefs of a specific country, region, or community rather well.

Films on India are no exception and deeply anchor themselves in diverse cultural traditions and backgrounds. Contrary to popular belief, they are so much more to this genre than musical numbers (though, we do love those too!). They are fun, inspiring, and even therapeutic at times.

The majority of films on India narrate stories that act as a natural extension of our society and often spark a conversation or debate. Whether you are new to Indian cinema or randomly need to catch up on films over the weekend, this list will help you navigate the best films on India:

1. Chak de! India

Starred by none other than Shah Rukh Khan, the King Khan of Bollywood, Chak De! India picturises the Indian National Sport, Hockey in all its glory. It is the story of a coach of the Indian Women’s National Hockey Team, whose dream is to make his all-girls team emerge victorious by overcoming any shortcomings that obstruct their paths.

The film is a cult classic and will make you come to terms with the very roots of Indian culture.

Where to find it: Amazon Prime

2. Swades

One of the most critically acclaimed films made in India, Swades is a compelling and brave testimony to the fact that art imitates life. Set up in modern-day India, the film delves into the complex issues that development throws up at the grass-root level in the country.

It is a slow-burning drama that takes us along the journey of Mohan, a NASA scientist, and an NRI, who returns to India to visit his childhood nanny and in the process, undertakes an emotional and spiritual quest to find that elusive place called “home.”

#1 reason to watch the film? Shah Rukh Khan!

Where to find it: Netflix

3. Jodhaa Akbar

One of the biggest grosser of the Indian film industry, Jodhaa  Akbar, is a magnum opus. If you want to watch a film with beautiful faces, places and more, this film won’t disappoint. Ornate palaces, larger-than-life characters, and a dramatic storyline all come together to weave a story about the greatest Mughal emperor.

The film narrates how he marries a Hindu Rajput princess to foster peace between two warring clans. This historical romance works because it transcends all barriers of caste, creed, and religion and upholds love as a universal religion. 

Where to find it: Netflix

4. Dil Dhadakne Do

This multi-starrer film is a complete Bollywood drama package! India has a unique family culture that is very different from the Western world. This movie would take you through every little detail of a Business-class Indian household to give you grasp on how things function in a typical Indian family.

If you are even slightly interested in Bollywood family drama with a touch of a romantic-comedy storyline, then this movie is a top recommendation!

Where to find it: Amazon Prime

5. Barfi

Emotional and understated, Barfi is perhaps one of the best films produced in India in recent times. It narrates the story of indigent but charming deaf and dumb man ‘Barfi’ who learns the meaning of true love through the eyes of another kindred soul, Jhilmil, an autistic girl. The film captures the heart with its soulful music, stellar performances, and the picturesque Darjeeling of the 70s.

Where to find it: Netflix

6. Lion

Lion is not an Indian production but it is definitely worthy of being in this list. The film narrates the astonishing true story about a child from Madhya Pradesh who falls asleep on a train in India and ends up thousands of miles away in Australia when he is adopted by a couple.

Years later, he embarks on an obsessive hunt to track his real mother and family through the help of google maps. Adopted from the autobiography, The Long Way Home, the film treats the story with an admirably light and artistic touch, and ends on a happy note.

Where to find it: Netflix

7. Pather Panchali

One thing that most foreigners wouldn’t realise is that the Indian film industry is not just about making films in Hindi. Many other regional film industries are flourishing across the country to produce hidden gems that most people are not even aware of.

The Bengali film industry, also known as Tollywood, has been graced with the likes of Satyajit Ray. Ray was the first Indian ever to receive an Honorary Academy Award for his immense contribution in this field.

His debut film, Pather Panchali (literal meaning: the story of the road), narrates the story of siblings Apu and his sister Durga, and their journey through the struggles of poverty. The movie won 11 international awards, including the inaugural Best Human Document award in Cannes Film Festival.

Where to find it: Amazon Prime

8. Padman

Another real-life story from the Indian rural landscape, Padman narrates the extraordinary journey of an ordinary man who takes up a social feminine issue that no one has dared to venture in.

The film narrates the inspiring story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social entrepreneur who invented low-cost sanitary napkins for rural women, in spite of being humiliated and deemed a social outcast for his efforts.

Where to find it: Netflix

Over to you

There is clearly no dearth of quality Indian films in the market. Pick one from one the list or binge-watch them all. By the time you are done, you will feel a closer connection to India. That’s our guarantee! What’s the first film you will watch from the list?

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