(Updated: April 14, 2020) In trying times, films can provide us the perfect escape. Here are some feel good movies to lift your spirits and help you look away, if only for a few hours. These Bollywood movies will leave you with a smile while endear you to their heartwarming characters and stories.
1. Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015)
Director: Sharat Katariya
Dum Laga Ke Haisha weaves, with love and dedication, a heartwarming story inspired by the reality of ordinary individuals.
It breaks Bollywood stereotypes and how! Dum Laga Ke Haisha creates some semblance of true love. And this love is more spiritual than physical; more organic than glamourised. It relays a potent message through its extremely witty comedy and the heart-touching emotions. The overall movie revolves around a journey of finding love and companionship in a relation that is assumed dysfunctional even before it is put to the test.
2. Wake Up Sid (2009)
Director: Ayan Mukerji
A modern classic that refuses to grow stale is this coming-of-age drama-comedy. Wake Up Sid is a story of young, carefree, urban boy Siddharth Mehra (Ranbir Kapoor). His life transforms after falling in love with a woman, who happens to be a writer. A woman with dreams, aspirations and a path cut out for herself. Unlike Sid, who’s still lost and hasn’t tried to figure out life yet. Not until he meets this woman. She gives him a new perspective on life. A reason to live. With believable characters and an indie flavour, Wake Up Sid feels fresh in every viewing.
The real magic of the film lies in the multidimensional characters who can be identified as real, breathing people. But more than that, Wake Up Sid pulsates with a heart.
We witness an unlikely romance and a form of character development that is rarely seen in Bollywood films marketed as romantic comedies. The movie develops on the unlikely couple dynamics with an amazing pacing. It masks itself as a journey in search of oneself. But while finding one’s soul, one is often brought to the door of one’s soulmate.
3. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011)
Director: Zoya Akhtar
Most, if not all, multi-starrer films in Bollywood end up being just that. It becomes all the more challenging to deliver when you’re working with big stars. Zoya Akhtar takes the challenge head on, giving us real, relatable characters – characters we care for, in a story that keeps us constantly engaged.
Zindagi Ne Milegi Dobara is a simple story with its heart in the right place. Zoya Akhtar skilfully marries artistic and mainstream sensibilities to create this gem. Poems by Javed Akhtar aid the narrative. We find a little bit of ourselves in all the characters. Characters with simple aspirations. Characters that speak our language. They along with a simple, relatable story elevate this film to a cult level.
4. Filmistaan (2012)
Director: Nitin Kakkar
In times of hatred and conflict between the two warring nations, this cinematic gem starring Sharib Hashmi, 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.
5. 3 Idiots (2009)
Director: Rajkumar Hirani
3 Idiots refuses to grow stale even after repeat viewings. A timeless comedy that exudes the same freshness each time.
The modern philosophy towards education coupled with extremely fun and intelligent comedy leads to the formation of a plot that is both engaging and inspiring.
It’s Rajkumar Hirani’s simple yet emotionally enticing stories that touch a nerve with audiences. Here too, Hirani manages to regale us with his simplistic storytelling and promises oodles of laughter in a film that has us constantly rooting for its characters.
6. Jab We Met (2007)
Director: Imtiaz Ali
A gem from the great storyteller, Jab We Met was the defining film of Imtiaz Ali’s career. It had everything going for itself. Well-written characters, memorable performances, crackling chemistry and a solid script that was well narrated.
Most importantly, it had a heart!
Kareena immortalized Geet (which was at one point the title of the film) and Shahid Kapoor delivered in a restrained act.
The film spawned several remakes and clones, but nothing matched the success of this modern love epic.
7. Tu Hai Mera Sunday (2017)
Director: Milind Dhaimade
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.
8. English Vinglish (2012)
Director: Gauri Shinde
Gauri Shinde’s debut feature marked late veteran Sridevi’s return to films after 14 years. A delightful and tenderly crafted piece of work, English Vinglish was a landmark film in her 50-year spectacular career.
A strong yet subtle message against the ‘judgemental’ prejudices while also breaking the patriarchal mindset without ever sermonising, English Vinglish is a beautifully-realised effort. It’s magic lies in its warm, gentle tonality that conveys so much saying very little.
9. Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya (2014)
Director: Shashank Khaitaan
Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya is a light, breezy entertainer you can afford several viewings of, without getting bored.
A modern spin on the classic Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge it has all the elements of a Bollywood romance. Varun Dhawan and Ali Bhatt share a warm, easy chemistry that’s visible in their performances and have you rooting for them and their love story. The entire cast brilliantly supports the film.
Debut director Shashank Khaitaan hits all the right notes, keeping us involved in the proceedings throughout. The humor is never overdone or repetitive.
This is mainstream Bollywood romcom done right.
10. Band Baaja Baraat (2010)
Director: Maneesh Sharma
From writer Habib Faisal and first-time director Maneesh Sharma came a film which will be remembered long beyond the films of its decade. A well-written script engagingly screenplayed and honest performances from Ranveer Singh and Anushka Sharma make this a winner.
Add to it the Delhi milieu which comes alive as another character in the film. Even repeated viewings don’t dilute the initial impact of the film. Debutant Ranveer Singh carried the ‘newcomer’ title with ease and pride, nearly owning the film. Little did we know this was just the beginning for this abundantly talented actor.
11. Socha Na Tha (2005)
Director: Imtiaz Ali
Socha Na Tha is a simple film at its core. Our leads Viren and Aditi, through the arranged marriage route, are set up for a date. It’s not love at first sight for them. But there’s a spark ignited. Over the passage of time, the film explores that spark until they eventually do fall in love.
The story is ultra-simplistic. The magic lies in the masterful execution. Imtiaz Ali has outdone himself with this film as he portrays a seemingly minimalist story with such charm and honesty, it stays with you long after you finish watching it.
12. Queen (2013)
Director: Vikas Bahl
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. Dhanak (2015)
Director: Nagesh Kukunoor
Nagesh Kukunoor’s storytelling skills and his eye for the tiniest of detail make him one of the most influential directors in Indian cinema. 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.
Dhanak looks like the kind of film straight out a children’s novel. Fairy tale, dream-like, magical and deeply satisfying.
14. Vicky Donor (2012)
Director: Shoojit Sircar
How often does mainstream Bollywood give you a film that is bold, funny, entertaining while making you think and question your beliefs along the way? Vicky Donor was a breath of fresh air and a lesson in how mainstream cinema can entertain while being meaningful. And Ayushmann Khurana was a pioneer of sorts for this new wave of cinema. Solid, realistic performances all round add to this well-written and executed comedy-drama.
15. I Am Kalam (2010)
Director: Nila Madhab Panda
A tribute to Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the Missile Man, I Am Kalam follows a young boy who is rightly inspired by this great man, changes his name to Kalam and aspires to achieve his dream of meeting the great personality.
The movie is wonderfully written and clearly reflects the love that has been poured into it. With an inspirational story and inspired storytelling, Kalam surely makes a place for itself in the hearts of its audience as one of the best tributes that could have been paid to Dr Kalam. The spirit of the movie is deeply rooted in Kalam’s philosophy as we see the goal of education being an ultimate achievement for the young and ambitious Kalam depicted in the film.
16. Gattu (2011)
Director: Abhishek Kapoor
Gattu is a tale of an inspirational youth who fights against the odds of social stigma and poverty in order to conquer his dreams that are beautifully symbolised in the movie through an unconquered black kite that flies high above his reach.
The movie weaves a heartening story of a boy who is ready to go to all and any lengths to keep his dreams alive.
17. Hum Tum (2004)
Director: Kunal Kohli
There is a certain spark which endures between people who just seem to have a connection. Hum Tum is a dramatic and romanticised recreation of a love story using real and life-like characters. The film is about finding the love that is often right in front of your eyes. It alludes your perspective only due to the way in which you behold.
18. Badhaai Ho (2018)
Director: Amit Sharma
Having a good story is one thing and a knack to tell one, another. It’s a double delight when a film promises both. It isn’t just a fresh idea and a compelling narrative that works for Badhaai Ho. The modern-day rom-com drama fires on all cylinders: taut writing, crisp editing and superlative performances (Ayushmann Khurana, Neena Gupta, Sanya Malhotra, Gajraj Rao) all round make it one of the best viewing experiences of the year. And while it ticks all boxes, what rounds it out is its genuine, engaging charm, a scarce screen commodity in Hindi cinema.
Badhaai Ho stays true to and well justifies its genre. It doesn’t solely rely on barbed, punchy one-liners to bring in the humour. Writer Akshat Ghildial intelligently and subtly infuses humour into the narrative; director Amit Sharma effectively recognises and pulls it off while the characters comfortably lend themselves it. The beauty of the film lies in how it manages to keep the humour alive even in the most emotional moments. The film flows organically thanks to a talented ensemble.