Bollywood, or more accurately, Hindi cinema has been a huge part of my life. My love for movies started with Bollywood, long before I ever got into movies in other languages from around the world. The main reason behind it is that I grew up in a traditional Indian family and I spent the majority of my formative years during my early teens in India. Although I have fallen in and out of love with Bollywood during different phases of my life, it is something I always found myself drawn towards eventually. Here are five of my favourites from Bollywood…guaranteed to make you appreciate the filmmaking in India.
Before I get started with my list, I have to preface this post by saying that I was born in the late 80s and I am a child of the 90s. However by the time I was old enough and able to appreciate the nuances and layers to a movie, I was well into my teens and it was the mid 2000s. Therefore, my memorable experiences of hindi cinema started from the mid-2000 period. I should also confess that this is by no means the pinnacle of what Bollywood has to offer; it is simply my favourite five movies to come out of Bollywood.
3 Idiots (2009)
3 Idiots is loosely inspired by the book Five Point Someone by Chetan Bhagat. Here is a synopsis as provided by IMDb: Two friends are searching for their long lost companion. They revisit their college days and recall the memories of their friend who inspired them to think differently, even as the rest of the world called them “idiots”.
This is by far the most complete movie I have seen from Bollywood. It has equal parts of comedy, drama, a moral message and the long standing staples of Bollywood, bright colours and a few musical dance numbers. The movie delves deep into the pressure that the youth experience in India due to the educational demands they are burdened with; in many cases students are driven to commit suicide for fear of failure and disappointing their family. There are many countries around the world who can relate to this. 3 Idiots does a masterful job at tackling this important subject in a very entertaining yet informative manner. It challenges the social norm and implores the audiences to do the same.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011)
On the surface, this movie is a story about three friends who go on a trip across Spain which serves as a bachelor’s trip after one of them gets engaged; however I got a lot more out of it.
To me, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (which translates to ‘You only get one life’) is a bundle of life lessons told through cinema. Many people live their lives based around social constructs that revolve largely around financial success and settling down with a life partner; there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, it is simply a choice many people make. However, I am of the belief that there is more to life than financial success. This can include soaking in new experiences through new activities, vibrant cultures across parts of the world that are largely unknown to yourself. You never know when a particular excursion will change your perspective on life and change you at the core as a result.
This movie is about three friends breaking through the mould of their daily routines and experiencing new adventures, as a result growing as human beings and closer to one another as friends. With that in mind, I hope you can see why this movie holds a very special place in my heart.
There is an old saying, “Love is blind”…if there was ever a movie that encapsulates that phrase, it would be this one. Barfi! tells a story of three young people who learn that love can neither be defined nor contained by society’s definition of normal and abnormal. (IMDb)
This movie shows how pure love can be. It doesn’t matter if you are deaf and mute (like the main character, named Barfi), love can be expressed in many different ways and experienced by anyone (as portrayed by an abandoned autistic girl). Barfi! shows how anyone can find happiness in the little things in life despite the appearances of handicaps such as disabilities or financial constraints. This movie goes a long way to showcase that the expression and the understanding of love does not necessarily require language.
Even on the more technical aspects, Barfi! has a very dream like quality to it; largely down to the direction of Anurag Basu and the cinematography by S. Ravi Varman. It is a very apt fit for the style of storytelling and the subject matter.
The trailer above unfortunately doesn’t do the movie justice in terms of showcasing the plot or the purpose; it was the best one I could find. However, it does a good job at giving you an idea of the tone and the feel this movie is going for.
PK is my favourite movie to ever come out of Bollywood. I have watched it close to 15 times and it was only released just over two years ago. This movie challenges your way of looking at this world and the social norms most people are used to….you may notice a theme emerging from this post. PK specifically focuses on having a discussion about religion and how man corrupts religion. The movie asks questions through its savant protagonist with child like logic and curiosity but does not attempt to give the audience a facile, definite answer; which makes it all the more effective. I grew up very religious and have moved away from it as I’ve grown older; so it was very easy for me to relate and have the discussion the movie wants you to have.
Overall, PK is a movie that will entertain you every minute along the way with its sheer creativity in conjuring an atmosphere of humour and exuberance all the while asking the audience to take part in intellectual discussion. It is out to provoke but not to shock.
Taare Zameen Par (2007)
Taare Zameen Par (which translates to Stars on Earth) is a movie about an eight-year-old boy who is thought to be a lazy trouble-maker, until the new art teacher has the patience and compassion to discover the real problem behind his struggles in school. (IMDb)
That real problem is that of dyslexia amongst children and the reluctance of the Indian society (at the time) of understanding this learning difficulty that can affect anyone. This movie tackles the issue of how most so called ‘normal’ people will shun these kids aside as lazy or stupid and write off their potential of becoming a fully functional adult. Taare Zameen Par in particular looks at the effects of such neglect from a child’s perspective; it does an amazing job at describing the depths of depression even children can find themselves in when devoid of proper care and attention.
On a more macro level, this movie challenges the current education system around the majority of the world and how the system is unable to understand and accommodate the fact that everyone learns at a different pace and in different ways. The education system isn’t really a conversational thing; the norm is that kids just sit behind a desk and are told what to learn without much back and forth. Moreover, it shows the that every child is special in their own way and they can all blossom with the right direction in life.
There you have it. These are my five favourite movies from Hindi cinema. While writing this post, I have also come to a self realisation of sorts. Movies that have a moral message for the betterment of us as individuals or us as a society really have a strong lasting impact on me. I am certain my mannerisms and perspective on life has been affected over time through movies such as these; they play a part in making me who I am today.
Have you seen any of these movies? Does your interpretation relate to mine? Let me know and I would love to have a meaningful conversation with you. If there are other titles that leave such an impact on you, let me know.
If you are new to Hindi cinema and like what you have read here. Please let me know what your experience has been with these titles.