One of our favorite ways to learn about India and her culture is to watch Bollywood films. It also helps with our much-needed language practice (!). Of course, there are a fair share of ridiculous movies, but there are also some very good and fun ones. Check out our favorite Bollywood films, and tell us which one is your favorite!
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1988)
A fun and mischievous story, this one's a classic. Millions of Indians adore this movie and know all the songs by heart.
It begins with a special friendship between Rahul (Shah Rukh Khan) and Anjali (Kajol). Their friendship is disrupted with the arrival of a lovely new student, Tina (Rani Mukerji). Things progress quickly. Rahul and Tina decide to marry, and Anjali, in her broken state, flees. Rani never recovers after the birth of their first child, Anjali. On her deathbed, she writes eight letters to little Anjali, one for each birthday. In the eighth letter, she challenges her to find her daddy’s old friend, Anjali (her namesake). From this point, an adventure unfolds.
Three Idiots (2009)
Three Idiots is a favorite for many middle-class Indians and foreigners. It focuses on the insanely high pressure situation that college students face in India.
This film follows the story of three engineering students as they pursue excellence in their field. One of the students has a passion for science and invention and irritates the staff by his non-conventional answers and ideas. He challenges the traditional ideas that force students to live for the purpose of passing exams, getting high paying jobs, or pleasing their parents. This film presents the serious impact that these societal pressures can have on students. It is profound and hilarious at the same time.
Chak De India (2001)
This movie is fun for the whole family and deals with the tension between regionalism and national loyalty in sports.
Kabir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan), who plays India’s field hockey team captain, has missed his opportunity to score a penalty shot in the Pakistan vs India world cup match, which cost his team the victory. His reputation is muddled as people accuse him of siding with Pakistan, a life long rival of India in more than just athletic fields.
Several years later, after an extended break from field hockey, Khan is given the opportunity to prove himself by coaching an Indian national women field hockey team. The development of the team from a bunch of disconnected individuals proud of their different states to a cohesive India team is quite amusing. A unified group is more than just the sum of its parts.
Black and White (2008)
This is a powerful film set in New Delhi, India. An Afghan suicide bomber arrives in the city pretending to be an Indian who had lost his parents in communal (Hindu/Muslim) riots when he was a child.
A Hindu University professor, who teaches Urdu, takes him under his wing and promises to help him adjust and find work. As Independence day draws closer, and the plan for the bombing solidifies, the suicide bomber finds his beliefs and ideas challenged by the love he sees between the professor's family and their Muslim and Hindu neighbors in the old city. He begins to see that everything is not as black and white as he had supposed.
Barfi is a heartwarming story of a dumb and mute boy (Barfi) and two women that he cared for. In the beginning, Barfi falls in love with Shruti, a wealthy engaged woman, who also comes to love him. However, she continues with her family’s plan for her to marry an unpleasant rich man. Her mother assumed that Barfi, as a man with special needs, could not provide for her, and he would be an embarrassment to her family.
Years later, she reenter’s Barfi’s life and finds him caring for Jhilmil, his childhood friend who has Autism. Jhilmil, who loves Barfi, is threatened by Shruti’s reappearance and grows jealous of Shruti. She disappears. As Barfi ad Shruti search for Jhilmil, Shruti can see that she missed her opportunity of a pure and beautiful love. Barfi now loves Jhilmil.
This movie reminds us that wealth, status, and the approval of people do not create happiness. Sometimes those with simpler lives and thankful hearts turn out happiest!
Jodha Akbar (2008)
This film is based off of 16th Century history. The colors and scenes are brilliant in their attempt to portray what royal life in the northwest Indian state of Rajasthan would have looked like.
During the Mughal Empire, the Muslim Emperor Akbar (Hrithik Roshan) was known for his kindness towards his Hindu subjects. In order to forge an alliance with the established local Rajput leadership, he married a Hindu Rajput princess (Aishwarya Rai). This film paints a beautiful picture of how that relationship may have developed.
Bajrangi Bhaijan (2015)
This is a powerful film that has just come out this year. Highly recommended!
Shahida is a Pakistani girl who has been mute her whole life. In a last ditch effort to find healing for her daughter’s infirmity, her mother makes a bold decision to take Shahida into the mysterious and foreboding land of India. After the visit, during their train travel back towards Pakistan, Shahida is separated from her sleeping mother. When her mother awakens near the Pakistan border, she is horrified to discover Shahida is not on the train.
A sweet story unfolds as Shahida is discovered by Pawan Chaturvedi , AKA Bajrangi (Salman Khan). Initially, Pawan tries to rid himself of the nuisance. However, he soon realizes that he and the little girl, whom he dubbed “Munni,” have formed a bond. Over time, Pawan, and his Fiance, Rasika, discover that Munni is not Indian but Pakistani. This creates a stir in Rasika’s family. From this point, Pawan commits himself to returning Munni to her mother and father in Pakistan, inspite of great financial cost and risk to his life. This is a beautiful movie that could stir up emotion even in the toughest hearts.