India is the largest producer of movies in the world. It has more than 30 regional film industries, all producing movies in different languages. And yet, India isn’t as prominent on the world cinema stage as it should be. Sure, India still has a lot of ground to cover when it comes to making truly world class films, but that doesn’t mean there is any dearth good movies being made there.
This list of best Indian movies on Netflix is a proof of exactly that. Indian, particularly, Bollywood films are getting better and better.
18. Madras Café (2013)
‘Madras Café’ stands out for its sheer honesty and lack of pretentiousness in portraying a period in Indian political history which has not been dealt with in any mainstream Bollywood film before it. Director Shoojit Sircar holds nothing back in showcasing the complex relationship between India and Sri Lanka and what led to the ultimate assassination of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. It’s a dark, engrossing piece of cinema that entertains as well as it is informative. However it’s the selection of actors like John Abraham and Nargis Fakhri in the lead roles that raised questions but to give credit where it’s due they did a convincing job in playing their parts despite being limited actors.
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17. Special 26 (2013)
This Indian heist crime thriller by Neeraj Pandey was a beginning of sorts of a fruitful cinematic association between Pandey and Akshay Kumar. They are very often referred to as the Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio of India by their hardcore fans. The film was unique in the sense that it had a very indigenous feel to it as it was inspired by the 1987 Opera House heist in Mumbai where a group of fraudsters masquerading as CBI officers executed an income tax raid on a jewelry shop. It had everything that you look for in a heist thriller – a tight narrative, clever twists and turns and plenty of cat and mouse chase. Only an unnecessary love story added to the story slows down the pace of the narrative.
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16. Drishyam (2015)
Vijay (Ajay Devgan) is an illiterate man who loves his family of four – a beautiful wife and two equally gorgeous daughters. Inspite of dropping out of the fourth standard in school he has a sharp mind and learns about everything around him through Cable TV. When her elder daughter gets in trouble with a rich spoiled brat and accidentally kills him, he goes out to do what seems impossible. Vijay sets in motion a well-thought-out plan to evade the police and throw them off their scent. Investigators eventually catch up with them, but even when they are sure they are the culprits, the police can’t find one shred of evidence against them. The biggest mystery of them all: Where did the dead body go?
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15. Baahubali: The Beginning (2015)
S.S. Rajamouli’s magnum opus, Baahubali: The Beginning is Indian Cinema’s answer to the Hollywood’s epics. Made on budget of over 250 crores, Baahubali is one of the costliest films ever made in India. Baahubali is the tale of two brothers who vie for the throne of Mahishmathi Kingdom. Baahubali: The Beginning marked a new beginning in Indian Cinema. Known for its action sequences and extensive VFX, Baahubali broke many nuances on the art of film-making with its never-before-seen computer graphics.
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14. Dangal (2016)
This Aamir Khan starrer was one emotional tale of a father-daughter duo, loosely based on the life of Indian wrestling champion Mahavir Singh Phogat from Haryana and his daughters Geeta and Babita. The film portrays Aamir as the strict father, who once aspired to win a gold medal for his country but failed due to family responsibilities, and how he later materialized his dream by training his daughters in the sport. The film was a smash hit and debutantes Fatima Sana Sheikh, Sanya Malhotra, Zaira Wasim and Suhani Bhatnagar, all of whom earned praises for their respective roles.
13. Neerja (2016)
They say Sonam Kapoor can’t act to save her life, but with this film, she proved them wrong! Based on the life of slain model-turned-flight attendant, Neerja Bhanot, the film won many accolades and a National Award for best Hindi feature film. The movie narrates the story of the 23-year-old head Pan Am flight attendant, who with her grit and determination, foiled a terrorist hijack plan, saving some 300 lives, while sacrificing her own. The tale of a woman’s professionalism and undaunting spirit managed to move the nation to tears.
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12. Talvaar (2016)
Inspired by the real-life baffling case of Aarushi Talwar’s murder, ‘Talvar’ shows three contradicting stories which have circulated about the events which transpired in the case. Penned by Vishal Bhardwaj, the film is as much an account of the case as it is an account of how politics, media coverage, regressive mindsets of law-enforcers and personal rivalries can influence the course of justice. ‘Talvaar’, while showing a bit of a soft side to the convicted parents who are in prison awaiting an appeal to a higher court, tells the story of how the society can make scapegoats of affluent people when given a chance. The verdict on the Talwars might be uncertain, but the film is a certain must-watch for its no-nonsense telling.
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11. Shahid (2012)
Rajkummar Rao is not called an ace for nothing! With this Hansal Mehta flick, he got into the skin of assassinated human rights activist and lawyer from Mumbai, Shahid Azmi, who was shot at in his office for having defended several high-level bombing cases over a period of time in Mumbai. Shahid’s life was replete with controversy, which was ably portrayed by Rao. The film also received national recognition as did Rajkummar Rao, who earned a National Award for his sincere performance.
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10. Masaan (2015)
‘Masaan’, which recently won two prestigious awards at Cannes, is a bold debut from Neeraj Ghaywan — he assisted Anurag Kashyap on ‘Gangs of Wasseypur.’ Ghaywan takes a narrative that could have turned out trite and infuses it with freshness and originality. The film draws the audience in and compels us to care about its characters as they experience love, loss, grief and hope. What is special about ‘Masaan’ is its lyrical quality; everything is understated, yet the film is replete with memorable moments. There are gut wrenching moments as well as wonderfully relatable, humorous moments.
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9. Fandry (2013)
Love. Without a thought of colour, caste, creed or society. That simply is the nucleus of this 2013 film directed by Nagraj Manjule who later rose to fame with the enormously successful ‘Sairat’ (the absence of which from this list is sure to get me death threats!) Jabya lives on the fringes of the village with parents who do menial jobs. He falls head-over-heels for Shalu, whose parents areare saving money to get her married. But their financial gap isn’t the only problem; Jabya is a Dalit whereas Shalu belongs to an upper caste. the failure of Jabya’s innocent attempts to woo Shalu, while being oppressed and humiliated by the society (who call him ‘Fandry’ or a pig), make him reach a boiling point of exasperation post which he hurls a stone at one of the perpetrators, but the stone is shown hurling towards the audience as credits roll, as we are the true perpetrators of the caste system still lurking in our lives. A hard-hitting statement.
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8. Pink (2016)
The makers of ‘Pink’ bided their time and kept the buzz to bare minimum while it was being filmed. And when it released, it broke the floodgates of appreciation and acclaim. It was high time that a film tackled and shattered the stereotypes prevalent in our society. ‘Pink’ deals with the issue of entitlement amongst men and society’s sickening judgmental behaviour. ‘Pink’ has its fair share of flaws too but it also has a solid script, splendid performances and its heart in the right place.
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7. Piku (2015)
‘Piku’ is possibly the only film of the list that proudly wears the badge of feminism and offers us a vision of men in women’s world — and not the other way around that almost all the films show. If you thought ‘Piku’ to be just another comedy film with jokes about constipation and bowel movements, think again. Because it is not that. The central character of ‘Piku’ is Piku — and not Bhaskar as the gravity of the presence of Amitabh Bachchan may lead you to believe. The film breaks so many conventions of story-telling and simultaneously challenges them — especially in the patriarchal Indian context — that it is one of the bravest films made in recent memory.
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6. Khakee (2004)
‘Khakee’ is one of the smartest — if not the smartest — cop dramas ever made in Hindi Cinema. A film so compact that it will leave you gasping for breath. A near perfect knit story of a team of police officials who put their life on the line to accomplish a dangerous mission only to find out that the very system which assigned them the job are against them completing it. ‘Khakee’ deserved numerous laurels but it remains a mystery as to how such a stunning suspense thriller got lost in oblivion and never became a constituent of film conversations.
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5. The Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002)
The film was inspired by Piyush Mishra’s highly acclaimed play and he collaborated with Rajkumar Santoshi in the capacity of a dialogue writer. Together, they explored the chaos of the pre-independence era with utmost sincerity and laid out the triggers, disillusionments and motivations which made an influential freedom fighter out of an impressionable teenager. Each and every constituent of this period film played a significant part in it being the epic it is now. The only authentic film amongst numerous biopics on Bhagat Singh, it boasts off an award-winning performance by Devgn who dispelled all pre-conceived notions about him being a misfit to play the titular role.
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4. Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994)
Shah Rukh Khan himself admits this being his best film till date. He has become an expert at portraying one-sided lovers on screen and this film is just a testament to that. It follows Sunil who loves Anna and tries to separate her from her lover. Later, he instead chooses to help the two reunite. Filled with plenty of twists and heart-touching scenes, ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa’ particularly received praise for its idealistic ending which saw Sunil meet another girl and show that everything becomes alright in the end.
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3. Queen (2014)
To regard ‘Queen’ as just a little comedy would be grossly undermining its nuanced brilliance. Within all its glorious simplicity, lies an incisive, scathing commentary on the mindset of countless Indian men who think their wives to be their property instead of partner. But that’s not all what the film is about. It’s also about friendship, which knows no boundaries and can happen anywhere, with anyone irrespective of the differences we might share. One of the other great aspects of the film is how subtly it encourages racial equality.
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2. Jab We Met (2007)
‘Jab We Met’ is easily one of the best written films of this century and has the single best performance by any Bollywood actress this century – not to take anything away from Kangana’s Queen performance, which I think is the second best. Most of the issues that Bollywood movies face start with writing. And ‘Jab We Met’ is a clear example of how important screenplay is to a film. Imitiaz Ali, in my opinion, is the best screenwriter (along with Anurag Kashyap) working in Bolllywood today. His grip on the nuances of daily life and idiosyncrasies of his characters is amazingly assured. This quality of his is so very evident in the way he creates plethora of memorable characters — especially “Geet” — in JWM that stay with you long after you have seen the film.
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1. Andaz Apna Apna (1994)
Easily the funniest Bollywood movie ever. It will make you guffaw at the antics of its protagonists and with some impeccable comic timing from the leads and Paresh Rawal, it was a brilliant movie. But it wasn’t promoted too well and hence it didn’t do too well. This movie has immense recall value. 23 years have past by since it released but the dialogues of the movie are really fresh in our heads. It is truly an iconic movie.
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