Online streaming platform Netflix has been doing a brilliant job lately collecting films from diverse art genres. Here’s a delicious mix of Indian indie films to savor on Netflix (in no particular order).
1. Sulemani Keeda (2013)
Amit V Masurkar’s directorial debut is a refreshing, witty and charming slice-of-life film. The concept is not new but the treatment is delightfully fresh and promises no clichés. The characters aren’t out of a Hindi film. Borrowing an oft-quoted phrase in the film, the characters aren’t ‘boxed up’ to behave or act a certain way. They are one of us. Their conversations are relatable. Their spontaneity, humor, unpredictability make them endearing, believable and their journey easier to connect with. Smart writing, narrative ease, quirky, real characterisations and cinematography elevate this film to a cult level in its genre. (Sulemani Keeda full review)
2. Dhanak (2015)
If there’s one Indian director whose films seem straight out of a novel, it has to be the man who’s won us over with gems like Iqbal and Dor. It isn’t just because of Nagesh Kukunoor’s storytelling skills but his eye for the tiniest of detail. He weaves them so beautifully in his stories. There’s something equally majestic and dramatic about the backdrop he places them in. The settings have a character of their own. His latest title Dhanak looks like the kind of film straight out a children’s novel. Fairy tale, dream-like, magical and deeply satisfying. (Full review)
3. Good Night Good Morning (2010)
Sudhish Kamath’s critically acclaimed indie romance is a night long conversation between strangers Turiya and Moira who bump into each other on a New Year’s night. We rarely do character-driven films well. Good Night Good Morning is a lovely lesson in how to carry such a film with ease and aplomb. (It takes us back to the Before Sunrise trilogy. Except its setting, though, and the fact that it follows two strangers, the two are uniquely different films).
4. Maroon (2016)
A dark psychological drama about a man who’s wife goes missing, Maroon is more of a character study than a who-dunnit mystery. The indie thriller is well written and actualized, mostly because of a remarkable performance from protagonist Manav Kaul. (The latter delivered a memorable brief role in Hansal Mehta’s Citylights (2014)). Shot entirely in a single house, the film is so arresting it puts you inside the protagonist’s head, making you empathise with and feel for him, particularly as the character begins to unpeel, unravel. The climax may leave you with a lot of questions, but look closer. There are enough hints scattered throughout the film. If this a debut attempt of writer-director Pulkit, I can only wonder what more he has in store for us.
5. Moh Maya Money (2016)
A solidly written and narrated script that boasts of brilliant performances in Neha Dhupia and Ranveer Shorey, this indie thriller keeps you on the edge throughout its runtime. It’s an intense plot-driven film that packs enough twists and surprises along the way, while touching several themes of greed, fear, love, betrayal. Choosing a location to tell your story in, is as important as getting the right team to work on your film. But when the makers succeed in making good use of the milieu and bringing out its nuances so much so that it feels like another character in the film, you know the job is well done. First-time Munish Bhardwaj manages to bring out Delhi and its milieu in all its dark flavor, which in turn aids visual storytelling.
6. Thithi (2015)
Raam Reddy takes great interest in providing textures (ingrained with realism) to the frame and imbuing character details rather than chasing greater narrative aspirations. The film does have a central familial turmoil and a string of conflicts. But what Raam wants us to witness is simplicity and purity of character. Thithi may seem a bit hollow for those expecting broader realization of narrative conflicts. The film is anything but hollow. I am not saying the film’s form is utterly flawless. There might be few unsatisfying aspects. But it takes no didactic approach to comment on the inbred patriarchal issues or other social issues, common in Indian villages. That’s what makes Thithi more profoundly layered. (Read full review by Arun Kumar)
7. Filmistaan (2014)
In times of hatred and conflict between the two warring nations, this cinematic gem is a gentle nudge to people on both sides of the border to end the futile war India and Pakistan have been fighting for over half a century now. It’s a heartwarming story of friendship that develops between two youngsters, Sunny, an Indian and Aftab, a Pakistani, brought together by circumstances, who eventually bond over their passion for films aka Bollywood. We have reasons aplenty that divide us. Religion, territory, politics, you name it. Filmistaan, however, is a light, at times funny, other times sad, attempt at presenting all the things we bond over. If there’s only one film you watch in this list, make it this one!