Quarantine Watchlist: Serious Bollywood Edition, Part 1

Now is a really great time to overcome the subtitle and language barrier and explore foreign films. You have the time, I have the recommendations. Some of my favorite Bollywood films are ones that don’t hinge on romance as the main plot. Here are some Bollywood movies that stray from the rom-com/musical/pointless action cookie-cutter mold, Part 1: the family drama.

  1. 1. Dil Dhadakne Do (2015, 2 hours and 50 minutes)

    Available On: Netflix (free with subscription), Amazon Prime Video (free with trial subscription to Eros Now), Einthusan (free period)

    Summary: Dil Dhadakne Do, in English ‘Let the  heart beat’, is about the zany misadventures of the Mehra family and their extended relatives as they are all stuck on a cruise. This family drama examines the relationships within the family as each is tested over the course of the trip, bringing to light old drama, business rivalries, and best of all forbidden romance. 

    Ratings: 6.8/10 (IMDb) and 64% (Rotten Tomatoes)

    Best Song: Gallan Goodiyan (link to YouTube video)

    My Thoughts: Although the ratings look rather poor, I thought this movie was alright.It did a good job of examining the existing family dynamics. I like that one of the main characters was a successful career woman, but the movie still managed to address important Indian social issues like traditional gender roles, marriage, and family dynamics. The movie only takes place over a short amount of real time yet still manages to flesh out each character's backstory.

  2. 2. Kapoor & Sons (2016, 2 hours and 18 min)

    Available On: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Einthusan

    Summary: There is nothing as universal to the average sibling relationship than a fight. Two brothers, Arjun and Rahul, are polar opposites in almost every sense down to their careers and success in following their dreams. Though it seems nothing can reconcile their differences they are brought together again after their grandfather suffers a heart attack. In returning to their family home they are forced to confront long held family secrets, hidden jealousies, and their own deeply rooted insecurities. 

    Ratings: 7.7/10 (IMDb) and 100% (Rotten Tomatoes)

    Best Song: Let’s Nacho. I’ll admit I’m biased because I like Nucleya, but the movie only has five songs so I’m not really spoiled for choice. (Youtube link)

    My Thoughts: I actually watched this one relatively recently with my family and it was fantastic. This movie manages to encapsulate every sibling relationship and anyone with a sibling can relate to this. What the movie does best is show-not-tell and a lot of implicit meaning is shown through camera angles or just a look passed between the actors. Every plot twist is well worth it.

  3. 3. Piku (2015, 2 hours and 3 minutes)

    Available On: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Einthusan

    Summary: In what might very well be the road trip from hell, Piku Banerjee is tasked with taking her elderly father with chronic constipation to their ancestral home in Kolkata. While every family has their own unique problems, the eccentricities of both the Banerjees as well as their reluctant taxi driver are more than what can be dealt with in a single ride.

    Ratings: 7.6/10 (IMDb) and 87% (Rotten Tomatoes)

    Best Song: Bezubaan (YouTube link)

    My Thoughts: I haven’t had the time to watch this, but everyone who has come to me was raving about how good it was. Warning: there are a lot of inappropriate humor and bathroom jokes. With this cast, especially Irrfan Khan (RIP), it’s guaranteed to be a good movie. 

  4. 4. Taare Zameen Par (2007, 2 hours and 45 minutes)

    Available On: Netflix, Einthusan

    Summary: Ishaan has always been a little different. The world through his eyes is a fantastical wonderland filled with whimsical creatures created by his colorful imagination. However, the dancing letters he sees are not quite as fun as the adventures he daydreams about, and cause a lot of problems in his school life. In an effort to see Ishaan achieve the same academic excellence as his brother, his parents ship him to a new boarding school. Will he be able to cope with the transition, and will the new art teacher be able to pull him out of his shell and into reality?

    Ratings: 8.4/10 (IMDb) and 91% (Rotten Tomatoes)

    Best Song: Maa (link to YouTube video)

    My Thoughts: This movie and I have a love-hate relationship. I love to watch it, but it’s an absolute tearjerker and I am warning you now, keep a box of tissues and comfort food on hand. The movie is visually stunning and tells the story from a child’s perspective. This is shown through the beautiful animation and cinematography. This is one of the best in Aamir Khan’s career as he both produced and acted in this film.

  5. 5. English Vinglish (2012, 2 hours 14 minutes)

    Available On: Amazon Prime Video, Einthusan

    Summary: Tired of the mockery from her family, housewife and small businesswoman Shashi decides to sign up for English speaking classes. Over the course of four weeks Shashi forms friendships across cultural and language barriers with others in the class. Will she earn the respect of her family and master English in time for a family wedding in New York?

    Ratings: 7.8/10 (IMDb) and 80% (Rotten Tomatoes)

    Best Song: I can’t pick just one! Here is the whole soundtrack (link)

    My Thoughts: Sridevi (RIP) did a wonderful job in this movie, and artfully displayed the struggle of many immigrant parents. It gave me a newfound appreciation for those who travelled miles and left their jobs to secure a better future for the next generation. Indian women are stereotypically the backbone of the household and women in that role are often overlooked and taken for granted. It also has a slightly sad but very endearing and heartwarming ending.

Most of these I have had the pleasure to watch myself, but a few I have not and they are on the list because they came either personally recommended by people I know who have good taste, or they were very well received by critics and the public. I chose not to use Indian film critic reviews as they’re usually somewhat biased and overlook genuinely good movies.