Recommended Movies about India
Similar to my post about novels and books to read to gain more insight about Indian life and culture, here are a few movies that are worth watching. Of course they are made by Hollywood and the Western world, and the most authentic movies would be from Bollywood. I saw two Bollywood movies while in India and would also recommend giving them a watch (although they are in Hindi with no English subtitles!)
Life of Pi
Similar to the book, Life of Pi tells the story of how a boy survives being stranded at sea with a tiger, after a terrible storm, as Pi’s family tries to emigrate to Canada with his father’s zoo. Directed by Ang Lee, the movie is filmed in 3D and the cinematography is stunning. The story definitely comes alive and the audience is drawn in, as the story is thrilling and suspenseful as Pi learns to survive alongside the ferocious tiger.
Filmed in the early 1980’s Gandhi, is an epic biographical film about the life of Mohandas Ghandi. Clocking in at just over 3 hours, the movie is not for those with short attention spans. It was directed by Richard Attenborough, the famous BBC director, and won 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, for Ben Kingsley’s portrayal of Gandhi. The movie does an excellent job of telling his life story from adulthood until his untimely assassination. Many people do not know that Gandhi was originally a lawyer and spent time both in South Africa and Great Britain before settling down in India and becoming the symbol for non-violent protests. I strongly recommend this movie for anyone interested in learning more about this great man’s life.
The Jungle Book
This Disney classic was one of my favorite movies as a child, along with Robin Hood. My brother and I would watch it countless times, enthralled by the engrossing animals and the exploits of young Mowgli, as he struggles to become a man. While the story is largely concerned with animals and jungle life, there are elements that relate to Indian culture and the songs are very catchy!
I believe that everybody is familiar with this popular movie that won several BAFTA awards and was everywhere in pop culture in the late 2000’s. Now having read the story that the book is based off of, my opinion of the movie is slightly tarnished, as I greatly prefer the book. The movie still does an excellent job of telling the story of Jamal, a boy from the slums of Mumbai in his quest to win the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”. The movie spans a variety of genres from drama to action, to the love story between Jamal and Latika. Plus, the movie introduced the now famous song, “Jai Ho”.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
This movie chronicles the story of several elderly Great Britains, whom due to money problems, choose to retire in India, as it is much more affordable than their other options. When they arrive at their new accommodation, they discover that it has not been kept us as nicely as the photos that they saw online. The characters try to make the best out of their situation and try to adapt to the crazy and frenetic way of life in India, each with varying degrees of success. One by one, they eventually fall in love with the hotel and living in India and all decide to continue to live their retirement years at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I believe that there has since been a sequel released, but I have yet to see it.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
This movie probably provides the least realistic portrayal of India, but I decided to include it anyways. After a plane crash, Indiana and company find themselves in a small village in North India. The villagers are convinced that Indiana was sent there to retrieve the sacred Sivalinga stone that was stolen from them, as well as the community’s children, that have been kidnapped and forced into slavery. Indy agrees to help them, and they travel to a nearby palace, home of the young Maharaja, whom is holding the children captive. What follows is a array of hijinks and gross exaggerations of the Indian culture, including eating monkey brains, voodoo dolls, and cults. Nevertheless, it still is an entertaining movie.
Kapoor & Sons
This was the first Bollywood movie that I saw. While I had expected a cheesy movie filled with music and choreographed dance numbers, the movie was actually more aligned with a Hollywood drama. The story revolved around a family in southern India and starts with the return home of the two adult sons from London and America when their grandfather falls ill. Deep-rooted conflicts soon arise between the various family members, as events from their pasts are unearthed and they are forced to resolve these problems with one another. I was able to follow the plot for the most part, but it wasn’t until after the movie when I read the summary did I realize the amount of drama that was packed into the movie. It has received great reviews from the Indian movie critics and I can see why.
Ki & Ka
This story revolves around the swapping of gender roles between a young couple. Coming from a wealthy family, Ka desires nothing more but to be a “house husband”, and look after the daily chores and cooking. Ki on the other hand is a strong and ambitious businesswoman, who desires to run her own company. The movie details the struggles they endure along the way, but as in any Bollywood movie, the problems are resolved by the end of the movie so it can end on a happy note!
Have you seen any of these movies? Do you have any other suggestions of good movies about India?