[Updated: December 18, 2018] The online streaming platform has been doing a brilliant job lately collecting films from diverse art genres. Here’s a delicious mix of Indian films on Netflix (in no particular order).
1. A Billion Color Story (2016)
Adman-turned-filmmaker Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy’s debut feature is a thought-provoking piece, more so, relevant in today’s times. It trails an agnostic Hindu-Muslim couple subject to constant religious prejudice. The theme might be heavy but the treatment is light and fresh; the tone never gets preachy. The director is in complete control but never tries to manipulate viewers’ emotion or force his ideas onto us. Performances are subtle, real and all heart but Dhruva Padmakumar (director’s son), as the narrator, is the real deal here.
Another small-budget film that proves script is king! If you don’t have Netflix, the film is also streaming on YouTube. Or watch it here:
2. Once Again
A beautiful, sensitive film about mid-life romance, Once Again touches an emotive chord with its awkward silences. So much is left unsaid and that’s a part of the allure, and is a celebration of meaningful cinema.
Class act by the two lead protagonists, Shefali Shah and Neeraj Kabi in this Netflix original. Tavlin Singh’s music is sublime.
If you are a Shefali Shah fan, like me, you will know what to do. (Sanjay Trehan).
3. Loev (2017)
While India is still grappling with the political and social reality of homosexuality, few films here dare to graze the subject. Rarer still are those that go beyond the challenges of coming out. A sensitively rendered gay drama, Loev explores the dynamics of love, friendship and intimacy between three men – Sahil (Dhruv Ganesh) Jai (Shiv Pandit) and Alex (Siddharth Menon). The focus isn’t on their sexual orientations and that’s set straight right from the first scene. A great film isn’t just about good content or story. It’s also in the telling. And that’s where Loev succeeds. The film is storytelling at its best — nuanced and seamless — aided also by the chemistry between the characters. Don’t miss it!
4. Tu Hai Mera Sunday (2017)
Milind Dhaimade’s Tu Hai Mera Sunday revolves around a group of friends, from varied walks of life and ages, bound by their common love for football. The film endears us to all the characters (each of which is well written) acquainting us with their worlds – their everyday lives, relationships, fears, insecurities, daily struggles.
Right at the start, the film sets the mood and makes it clear what to expect but don’t be duped by its casual, leisurely pace. Packed with life lessons abound, the film subtly and effortlessly makes its point without getting preachy. The brilliantly done music (courtesy Amartya Rahut) brings out the mood of the film.
The charming little gem is also a sobering reminder to step back from the humdrum of our everyday lives and appreciate and admire the world around us. Tu Hai Mera Sunday is the kind of film you wish would never end.
5. 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)
6. 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)
7. 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.
8. 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 director Munish Bhardwaj manages to bring out Delhi and its milieu in all its dark flavor, which in turn aids visual storytelling.
9. 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)
10. 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!
11. Love Per Square Foot (2018)
Love Per Square Foot is a modern-day rom-com that truly justifies its genre. The film marries mainstream and indie sensibilities to create a realistic and engaging film. A young, urban couple gets into a marriage of convenience to fulfil their dream of owning their own house. The film is well written and with actors like Vicky Kaushal and Angira Dhar and veterans Ratna Pathak, Supriya Pathak, Raghubir Yadav, Love Per Square Foot is in great hands. Actor Anand Tiwari, known for roles like Go Goa Gone (Bunny) assisted in Barfi and President is Coming (mockumentary) before directing his first feature film. It’s an admirable effort with no rough edges. Each scene is well-staged and actualised. The film released on Netflix this Valentine’s. Catch it as soon as you can.
12. Queen (2013)
Queen defied Bollywood tradition in how it wasn’t the usual fall-in-love-and-live-happily-ever-after story. While it did involve falling in love and living happily ever after, it chronicled the journey of a woman falling in love with herself – two elements Bollywood has barely explored. And Kangana Ranaut nailed it with a career-best performance. How often does mainstream Bollywood subvert storytelling norms? It’s an icing on the cake when it gets it right.
13. Swades (2004)
Ashutosh Gowariker started writing Swades at the same time as Lagaan. The latter released first and obviously left the critics and audiences wondering ‘What after Lagaan?’ One of the most defining films of our times, Lagaan had altered the course of modern Indian cinema. Gowariker’s answer was down pat. Nothing better could have followed. It may have taken time for the audience to accept and embrace the film but Swades is inarguably, one of the best made films of our times. Shah Rukh Khan as Mohan Bharghava shone in one of career’s best performances. His subtle, understated style was a delightful break from his larger-than-life onscreen persona. A cult classic, Swades is treasured not just for its impeccable performances but its subject that struck a chord, old-world charm, simple narrative that held us right through the end (despite the three and a half hour runtime) and solid direction.
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