The big pleasure of subscribing to movie streaming services is their big library of indie films including many in Indian languages. Here’s a line-up of our favourite small budget Hindi films to watch on Netflix, and chill.
Most well-made small budget films, not supported by big studios, suffer from the all too familiar problem of not finding enough cinemas for their screening. And even if they do get lucky and find a good theatre, it is likely that they would be given not more than one or two daily shows, that too at an unreasonable hour, when most people are reluctant to walk into a theatre to watch a movie. And it is more than likely that these films, because of the justifiably thin audience, are arbitrarily replaced by a more `saleable’ movie even before the week is out. The result is that most people who love Indie films tend to miss out on watching these cinematic gems.
The arrival of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, etc. has thus changed the scene dramatically for small budget filmmakers as well as the indie audience. Since these films are cheap to acquire for these streaming services, they invariably find their way into the movie bouquet. In fact, the recent Konkana Sharma film, A Death in the Gunj, was available on Amazon Prime almost simultaneously with its release in the theatre and was able to garner a much larger audience than it would have otherwise. The other plus point for indie lovers is that now they have the opportunity to watch small budget films made in other Indian languages as well, which hitherto was not possible outside of their respective states.
From dozens of Hindi small-budget films that are currently streaming, here’s a list of our favourites that you should consider if you are in the mood to switch on Netflix and chill.
Anarkali of Aarah (2017)
One of the boldest feminist films made in this country, Avinash Das’ debut effort stars the brilliantly defiant Swara Bhaskar tackling the issue of women’s consent when it comes to her body and dignity, even if she is a raunchy dancer. Set in the misogynistic milieu of small town Bihar, the story revolves around her getting groped by the lecherous new university vice-chancellor (portrayed by the ever reliable Sanjay Mishra) at a stage show, her getting slapped with police charges after she protests, and finally, how she gets back at him. Inspired by the life of Tarabano Faizabadi, a Bhojpuri singer from Faizabad, the film is one of the best you will see this year.
IMDB Rating: 6.4/10
Suleimani Keeda (2013)
Another debutant director shines in this off-beat comedy about wannabe screenwriters set in Mumbai. Delightfully unpretentious, the film’s strength lies in the realism that the makers maintained throughout, sprinkled with caricatures of relatable people you run into in any large city. In one of the many praises for the film, Academy Academy Award winner Roger Avary has been quoted as saying how the film reminded him of his early years with Quentin Tarantino when they wrote films like Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs.
IMDB Rating: 7.2/10
BA Pass (2013)
Made on a shoe-string budget, the story revolves around a recently graduated young man and his infatuation with a much older, married woman after she seduces him. The protagonist Shilpa Shukla won the Best Actress Award (Critics) at the 2014 Filmfare Awards, and Mohan Sikka (the film is based on his short story The Railway Aunty) took home the award for Best Story at the Screen Awards.
IMDB Rating: 6.5/10
Ankhon Dekhi (2013)
This award winning gem of a film, written and directed by Rajat Kapoor, portrays the hum drum of daily life of a large family in lower middle-class Delhi of the early 1980s. The story chronicles the life of the patriarch, played by Sanjay Mishra, and his effort to lead life on his own terms, even if others, including the audience, find it highly eccentric. Marvelous ensemble cast performance, outstanding production and costume design, and engrossing music makes it one of the best indie films of the last decade. The film won three Filmfare awards in 2014 for Best Film (Critics), Best Story Award and Best Actor (Critics) for Mishra.
IMDB Rating: 8.1/10
This acclaimed film directed by Hansal Mehta, starring Rajkumar Rao, is based on the real life story of a small time Mumbai lawyer, who was once wrongly accused of terrorism and was later murdered. Made on a shoestring budget, the film went on to become a box-office success. Hansal Mehta bagged the Filmfare Award for Best Director that year, while Rao won the National Award for Best Actor.
IMDB Rating: 5.8/10
Brahman Naman (2016)
Directed by Qaushiq Mukherjee, better known by the moniker ‘Q’ after his notoriety earning underground cult Bengali film Gandu (2010), this movie is based on the lives of young teenage quizzers with raging hormones growing up in the 1980s. Written by author and journalist Naman Ramachandran and based on his own growing up days in Bangalore, the film, though inspired by American teenage sex comedies, does press the right buttons. Like Q’s previous film, this one also never saw an India release, ostensibly because of its overdose of sexual content.
IMDB Rating: 5.8/10
Shot in just 16 days and richly layered, this film explores the tender relationship between a teacher and his girl student. Starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Shweta Tripathi in lead roles, Haraamkhor’s complex narrative tackles a seemingly taboo subject where director Shlok Sharma deftly walks a tightrope, without taking a moral position or passing any judgement. Siddiqui received the Best Actor award for his performance at the New York Indian Film Festival.
IMDB Rating: 6.4/10
So sit back, relax, grab your favourite scotch, and “Netflix and chill” this weekend!
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