‘There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.’
– Stephen Hawking (The Theory of Everything)
As we tide through troubled times, we could all use some inspiration. We all enjoy a bit of an underdog story; there are some that stay with us forever, becoming a perennial source of hope. While the secret lies in keeping the ship sailing amid troubled waters, here are a few films that will keep you afloat and motivated in your lows.
1. Udaan (2010)
Embedded with shades of delicate poignancy and unsettling realism, Vikramaditya Motwane’s debut feature isn’t your typical Bollywood fare. Right from the choice of subject to the execution, Udaan is unconventional, refreshing and thoroughly engaging. Centered around issues of teenage angst and parenthood, the film follows Rohan and his trials and tribulations with his dominating father, until he manages to break free. Almost entirely performance driven, the film stars Rajat Bharmecha and Ronit Roy in lead roles, who deliver tremendously well, creating the most iconic modern father-son dynamic on screen. The film received a standing ovation after premiering in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Udaan completes 10 years today.
2. Iqbal (2005)
Sprinkled throughout with humour and grit, Iqbal is not just another story about cricket. It follows the journey of a boy named Iqbal, who is obsessed with sport, to the extent that he names his buffaloes after famous cricketers. Despite his disabilities and adverse circumstances, he has an inherent determination that leads him to success. Directed by Nagesh Kukunoor, the film is guided by a powerful narrative. Starring Shreyas Talpade in the lead role, the film also features the likes of Girish Karnad and Naseeruddin Shah in prominent performances. Part of the reason this film works is because it is based on cricket, but that works more as an entry point, not as a limiting factor. If you are deep into the blues, this film is for you. It’s sure to stir something deep inside you. The film’s song ‘Ashayein’ will stay with you forever, igniting hopes in your heart.
3. Chak De! India (2007)
Coupling a host of sensitive issues into one film, Chak De! India is inspired by the Indian Women’s Hockey team’s win at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. It follows a fictionalised account of the Indian women’s national field hockey team, that which begins it’s journey in a distorted manner, but ends up united for one goal, courtesy, their coach Kabir Khan ( played by Shah Rukh Khan).
The film could easily be counted as one of Shah Rukh Khan’s best performances, but the ones rendered by the ensemble cast are also noteworthy. Dealing with the themes of sexism, feminism, patriotism, regional chauvinism and discrimination against the minorities, it shoulders relevant ideas in its fold. The film won the National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment.
4. I am Kalam (2011)
Following the journey of a little boy who is ambitious enough to rechristen himself as ‘Kalam’ upon drawing inspiration from the struggles and stories of the then President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, this film is an innocent and sincere attempt at inspiring young minds in particular. Without over-dramatising the narrative, the film remains grounded in the boy’s limited reality. Yet, it doesn’t shy away from emphasising the importance of a dream in keeping us going.
5. Saraansh (1984)
Written and directed by Mahesh Bhatt, the film follows the journey of a couple who must cope with the loss of their only son. Dealing with themes revolving around the anxieties that they are subjected to after the unfair loss, the film shows what happens after they leave out a room on rent and a young actress moves into their home. The film marked Anupam Kher’s screen debut. Besides, it won several awards and was India’s official entry for the Oscars in the Best Foreign Language Film category. In one of the most heartwarming endings possible, the film tells us in a matter-of-fact way, that despite the odds and the losses, life must go on.
6. Koshish (1972)
The film takes a simple proverb ‘koshish karne waalon ki haar nahi hoti‘ and translates it into a pathbreaking film. A beautiful story of courage and survival, Koshish follows the journey of a deaf couple, Aarti and Hari, who go through the trials and tribulations of life only to emerge with a smile. Starring Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bachchan, it’s a heartwarmingly expressive tale of looking the glass as half full. Among the most motivational Bollywood movies and one that is equally well made, Koshish won (writer, director) Gulzar a National Award for Best Screenplay. If you are looking for a feel-good, wholesome watch, this might be your film.
7. Sparsh (1980)
Directed by Sai Paranjype, this film follows the journey of Aniruddh, a blind man who is dealing with an emptiness in his life that is shared by the sighted widow, Kavita. As both start sharing their workspace, they grow close and come to be each other’s companions. What is possibly the best part about this film is its treatment of the subject of disability. Shifting the onus from sympathy to empathy, this film highlights the need for the latter instead of the former. The most inspiring quality is displayed by the characters, who enable each other to grow as partners along with easing each other’s pain and suffering. The film stars Naseerruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi in lead roles. It won Naseeruddin Shah and Sai Paranjype a National Award each.
8. Rang De Basanti (2006)
Blurring the lines between the past and the present alongwith the personal and the political, this film arrives at an interjection of the two through its crisp narrative. As they become one, the yellow and the red mix on the palette to give us the ‘basanti’, the saffron shade. Besides receiving high critical acclaim, this film also won the National Film Award for Best Popular Film. The film follows the journey of Sue, who wants to film a documentary on the Indian revolutionaries during the freedom struggle. In her struggle to find a suitable cast for the roles, she ends up uniting a bunch of friends, who go on to struggle with modern-day injustices together.
It starred Aamir Khan, Siddharth Narayan, Soha Ali Khan, Kunal Kapoor, Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, Atul Kulkarni and British actress Alice Patten in lead roles. With an incredibly noteworthy and inspiring album by A.R. Rahman, it is not just the film’s story that will inspire you, but the songs too.
9. Pyaasa (1957)
A poet’s story is best told poetically. ‘In life, besides poetry and love, there’s hunger’, says Meena, in an incredibly memorable scene from the film Pyaasa. This poignant classic marked the last of the long-standing collaboration of S D Burman and Sahir Ludhianvi. Following an impoverished poet’s quest to getting his poems published, the film centers around the obstacles he encounters and the ghosts he chances upon along the way. One of the most motivational hindi films, Pyaasa was well ahead of time. It is embedded with layers of exceptional storytelling coupled with a seething commentary on the lust for power, success and money that drives people towards exploiting others. The film relies on Abrar Alvi’s brilliant dialogue for most of its inspiration, as it is a lesson about the artist’s life, which is rife with struggles.
By Sanghmitra Jethwani
Recommended: 18 Feel-Good Bollywood Movies To Make Your Day