The online streaming platform has done a brilliant job lately collecting Indian films from diverse genres. Not all of these, however, get talked about as often as the mainstream ones. If you’ve exhausted all your options and are looking beyond the regular bollywood staple, here are some under appreciated gems on Netflix you probably haven’t heard of. Add them to your watchlist:
1. Bombay Rose (2021)
A festival favourite, Geetanjali Rao’s feature debut has been garnering attention and rightly so. Featuring painstakingly hand-painted frames, Bombay Rose is a spellbinding journey into the Mumbai of old. The narrative combines the familiar beats of Bollywood romance with a sense of nostalgia of a simpler time. There’s also an immensely talented voice cast boasting of names like Anurag Kashyap and Virendra Saxena. Do not miss out on this gem which is currently streaming on Netflix.
2. Meel Patthar (2020)
Meel Patthar or Milestone paints the life of a truck driver whose position is threatened when he’s asked to train an intern. The character struggles to stay relevant in a time where he longer feels indispensable. Director Ivan Ayr plays with themes of loneliness and despair masterfully. She’s evenly matched by Angello Faccini’s rich visuals. Watch Meel Patthar for its all-around excellence.
3. Yeh Ballet (2020)
I don’t recall a single good dance film to have come out of Indian cinema in a long time. And Yeh Ballet is an unassuming, astounding winner. A heartwarming, uplifting film, Yeh Ballet is a story of hopes and dreams, desires and deviance, ambitions and struggles, failures and triumphs. A fitting ode to dance as an artform, Sooni Taraporewala’s film trails the journey of young, passionate dancers Asif and Nishu, as they fight their way through religious and class confines. Watch it!
4. Bulbul Can Sing (2018) – Assamese
The narrative unfolds in an unhurried, organic manner. The film tackles social issues in a manner that is emphatic, without being didactic. In fact, it’s the subtle, restrained treatment that renders it more effective. The characters are introduced to us with minimal dialogue and most times, through quiet, unspoken moments. Exquisitely shot, Bulbul Can Sing also features some of the most breath-taking cinematography. This is cinema that pierces through and rises above the commonplace; that transcends genre boundaries. This is cinema that mirrors our world and aspires to make a difference.
Popularly known for Village Rockstars, National Award winning director Rima Das’ sophomore feature is also streaming on Netflix.
5. Once Again (2018)
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. [Related: 21 Best Romantic Movies Of The 21st Century]
6. 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! [Related: Inspiration Behind ‘Loev’: Director Sudhanshu Saria Writes]
7. 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. [Related: “This is One of The Most Underrated Films Of Its Times,” Writes Director Milind Dhaimade]
8. 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. For a grave theme, the director keeps the treatment light, in a tone un-preachy. Narasimhamurthy is in complete control never manipulating viewers’ emotion or forcing 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.
If you don’t have Netflix, the film is also streaming on YouTube.
9. Dhanak (2015)
Nagesh Kukunoor holds us captive with his storytelling skills and his perceptive eye for detail. He weaves them beautifully in his stories. There’s something equally majestic 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. [Related: 64 Best Bollywood Movies On Netflix]
10. Maroon (2016)
A dark psychological drama about a man whose 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. [Related: The Birth Of ‘Maroon’: Filmmaker Pulkit Writes]
11. Thithi (2015) – Kannada
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.
12. Liar’s Dice (2013)
Marking writer-director Geetu Mohandas’ feature film debut, this road drama follows a woman’s journey in search of her missing husband. Along the way, she is forced to take help from an ill-natured stranger. Exploring the thematics of exploitation and empathy alike, this film makes for an offbeat road movie narrative. Starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the role of the misanthropic ally, the film relies on the brilliant performances by both him and Geetanjal Thapa, along with child actress Manya. It was a recipient of two National Awards for Cinematography as well as Best Actress (Geetanjali Thapa) among other accolades. In 2014, Liar’s Dice screened at the Sundance Film Festival.
13. Maj Rati Keteki (2017) – Assamese
Starring the very brilliant Adil Hussain in the lead, the Santwana Bardoloi directorial follows the journey of an author who returns home, the place that formed the background of his successful writings. Dealing with themes of and around nostalgia, the film delves into the many complexities and meta-narratives of missing. The film, in its truest sense, travels across time and blurs the boundaries between the past and present. A blend of autobiography and observation in equal measure, it is truly a director’s film. Adil Hussain won a National Award for his superlative performance.
14. Anhey Ghorey Da Daan (2011) – Punjabi
A winner of three national awards, Anhey Ghorey Da Daan is based on the eponymous novel by author Gurdial Singh. It follows a day in the life of a family in the rustic countryside of Punjab, revealing the plight of farmer families along with rural working class. The film is a rare offering of cinema, embedded with mastery of the craft. It also radically moves away from the Bollywoodized representations of Punjab. Structured much like a jigsaw puzzle, the film reeks of pure dissonance. The film’s aesthetic makes it evident that it’s an insider’s perspective, and director Gurvinder Singh delivers the story with finesse.
There we are! These are some of the lesser-known Indian films on Netflix streaming right now that are worth your time. Your turn! What are you binge-watching on Netflix? Send us your recommendations at [email protected]. Head over to our Submit section to know more.