Reels Less Travelled: 7 Independent Indian Films You Should Watch
“An intrepid monk speaks of existential euphemisms and internet puns in a single breath. An investment banker, on a self-taken sabbatical, comes to the city of Mumbai, only to fall for a photographer recluse and be persuaded by a Dhobi she earnestly befriends. The sleaze and drama behind the infamous C-grade film industry is laid bare, with no hidden flesh, quite literally. And a man waits, in his could-be-just-about-any job, for the lunch hour to strike, so he may readily consume the dabba that awaits him, even though he holds little or no knowledge of the artist who fervently prepares it.”
Few conscientious filmmakers in the country are trying with extreme passion to break the unrealistic mould of the song and dance routine. While the music may be fun, and the actors’ great looks and drama present attractiveness like no other, reality doesn’t function that way. There is a need for cinema that doesn’t necessarily dumb the viewer down, but one that stretches beyond the usual monotony. The monies may not trickle in for such works more often than not, but there is absolute requirement that a serious change in content is made to please the intelligible. As a passionate voyeur of indie cinema, Nikhil Patil has an apt summation. “Dance numbers, masala elements, musical cues to force-feed emotions and an overdose of Deus ex machina –mainstream Bollywood films aim to titillate maximum possible population. There is a lot of talk about the magical figure of 200 crores. If success is measured by BO numbers, there is little or no room for experimentation in content as well as form. In desperation, the more sensible viewers turn to Hollywood and World Cinema. Independent cinema rids you of the overproduced schmaltz but faces a basic question of coming to life. They strive to get a theatrical release, and depend largely on their subject and choice of content for appreciation to trickle in.”
Indeed, filmmakers like Rutwik Ghatak, Shyam Benegal, Mrinal Sen, Satyajit Ray and Guru Dutt set stone for a more sombre and realistic style of filmmaking, with their cinema quickly being labelled as parallel cinema, that is, cinema that treads a path of its own, much different from, but alongside the more mainstream and commercial Indian cinema. Carrying forth the torch are a new exciting breed of filmmakers who stand on a more solid platform, flanked by production houses ready to invest, film festivals that recognise the ready artist, and more importantly, a group of ready consumers that waste not a moment to absorb and celebrate anything that seeks to remain true to the independence it flaunts.
Here at Homegrown, we prepared for you a list of recent independent films that have successfully broken the mould, and created the right noise, both with their content, and their art.
I. Gandu & Tasher Desh – By Q (Qaushik Mukherjee):
A hope-fuelled rap star wannabe, from the dingy streets of poor Kolkata is induced into a world of hazy drugs with a staunch love for the exotic and the music that drives him into it. One of Kolkata’s most rebellious filmmakers, Q , presents a story of a Gandu so starkly intense that it is impossible to not be affected by it. Continually pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable, Q unapologetically spins a tale around sex, drugs and music, ultimately creating a visual high.
His latest work, Tasher Desh, which Q has gone on to describe as ‘Rabindranath Tagore on acid’ is a hard one to ignore, as well. Taking classic Bengali literature and spinning an absolutely bizarre alternative tripped out take of the same, Tasher Desh is a spiral like none other.
Watch the trailer for Gandu below:
Watch the trailer for Tasher Desh below:
II. Hyderabad Blues – By Nagesh Kukunoor
To be fair, this movie is one of the older ones in this list. It is also more of a personal addition due to my affiliation with the language that most people, but the protagonist speaks. Whoever is aware of ‘Tollywood cinema’ as the telugu industry is referred to would be conscious of the noise, drama, money it generates but taking a massive deflection from the same was none other than Nagesh Kukunoor’s cult indie project, Hyderabad Blues.
A protagonist having just returned from America and trying hard to appease an Indian girl, is caught in the battle between dating and arranged marriage. The movie is close to any urban ‘Hyderabad-ite’ who had been waiting for such a breath of fresh air in cinema. A must watch for Kukunoor’s impressive writing debut and the quirkiness as noticed from the protagonist’s point of view.
Watch the full film below:
III. Qissa – By Anup Singh
The partition that claimed many victims, physical and psychological, remains a subject that is often tread to evoke a sense of drama. In this tale of post partition complexity, Anup singh weaves a tale of a Sikh woman masquerading as a man at the behest of her father, and is then married off to a woman giving rise to a situation that is both unpredictable, and bewildering. A man entrapped by the demons of his lost land, and yearning for a rewarding offspring, leads to a situation that goes to haunt every character.
Watch the trailer below:
IV. Miss Lovely – By Ashim Ahluwalia
Marching the road to unabashed rebellion was Ashim Ahluwalia’s picture of the C-grade sex and horror film industry that ruled the minds of eager voyeurs much before the start of the new millennium. With indie’s poster boy, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, essaying the powerful role of a sleaze filmmaker drawn to his subject, he appears caught up in a world of blatant immorality while Miss Lovely tramples the rules of mainstream acceptability. Watch the film for the boldness one piece of cinema dared to discover.
Watch the trailer below:
V. Ship of Theseus – By Anand Gandhi
Is it the physical firmament that makes an object what it is? And if it were to be replaced, part by part, would the object be the same as what it was? Taking the questions of existentialism to a metaphysical level was Anand Gandhi’s rewarding work of cinema, Ship of Theseus.
With clever, and strong writing, not to mention actors who breathe life into individualistically complex characters, Ship of Theseus challenged the intelligible viewer into asking questions and seeking answers.
Watch the trailer below:
VI. Salaam Bombay – By Mira Nair
The oldest film of the lot, and the movie that catapulted Mira Nair to critical acclaim, Salaam Bombay presented a grim story much ahead of its times. Presenting then Bombay’s stark underbelly of prostitution, crime and free-flowing drugs, that refused to spare even the children, Salaam Bombay is an exceptional piece of work that bought to the forefront some of the best actors of Indian Cinema. Think Nana Patekar, Raghubir Yadav, and even a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance by a much younger Irrfan Khan.
Watch the trailer below:
VII. Black Friday – By Anurag Kashyap
Anurag Kashyap may have safely risen to be the poster boy of critically acclaimed cinema in contemporary Bollywood but much before his ascent, he made a grim masterpiece on the 1993 Mumbai Blasts based on a book by the same name, which was penned by Hussain Zaidi.
Though the film is known for the controversy it generated, it is a fantastic piece of filmmaking, reminiscent of Kashyap’s master Ram Gopal Verma, right from his Satya days. Steering clear of lurid name dropping or cheap gimmicks, the movie stood as clear as reality did–dark, gory, and villainous.
Watch what people call the most hard-hitting scene from the film below:
Words: Meher Manda
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