Beyond Commercial Cinema: Six Art Movies in Indian Cinema

If there is a definition for soulful movies, art cinema defines it the best.

By Saurav Ray

May 9, 2018

Indian cinema is famous for over-the-top action sequences, larger-than-life superstar characters, romantic peppy songs and dance sequences, and, of course, loud and bombastic background scores. However, for every few commercial movies, there is a beautiful and artsy gem of a movie that has not been as widely-viewed as its commercial counterparts for it was made for a particular niche of viewers.

Today, we are going to celebrate some of the jewels in the Indian art cinema in this post. Here’s a list.

Salaam Bombay (1988):

The movie is directed by Mira Nair and it stars Irrfan Khan, Nana Patekar, Raghuvir Yadav, Anita Kanwar, Chanda Sharma, Hansa Vithal, Shafiq Syed, among others. The plot revolves around the day-to-day life of children living in the slums of Mumbai. Apart from bagging the National Film Award (Best Feature Film in Hindi), the movie won the Golden Camera and Audience Awards at the Cannes Film Festival and three awards at the Montréal World Film Festival.

Monsoon Wedding (2001):

Directed by Mira Nair, the movie revolves around a traditional Punjabi Hindu wedding in Delhi and the surprising, and some shocking, incidents unraveling. The movie boasts of a dream cast comprising Naseeruddin Shah, Lillete Dubey, Soni Razdan, Vasundhara Das, Shefali Shah, Ram Kapoor, Tillotama Shome, Randeep Hooda, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Rajat Kapoor, among others. The movie won the Golden Lion award and received a Golden Globe Award nomination.

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (2005):

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi is a movie directed by Sudhir Mishra, starring Shiney Ahuja, Kay Kay Menon, and Chitrangda Singh in the lead roles and supported by Ram Kapoor, Saurabh Shukla, Yashpal Sharma, Sanjay Singh, among others. The movie, set against the backdrop of the Indian Emergency in the 1970s, revolves around the lives of three young people during the turbulent time when the country was going through massive political and social changes. The movie was showcased in 12 film festivals in 6 months and it earned Shiney Ahuja the Best Male Debut Award at the Filmfare Awards function.

The Namesake (2006):

Most movies adapted from successful books and novels fail to make a cut both critically and commercially. This Mira Nair-directed movie, however, is an exception. The movie is a film adaptation of the Booker-prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri’s book bearing the same name. The plot is about an immigrant Bengali family in the US, who are striving to adjust to life in the alien country and struggling with identity crises. It casts Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Kal Penn and Sahira Nair in pivotal roles.

The Last Lear (2007):

This is a movie that was highly acclaimed by some while mercilessly panned by others during the year of its release. However, one cannot deny the fact that this movie is one of the most audacious attempts in the mainstream Indian cinema. Directed by Rituparno Ghosh, helmed by Amitabh Bachchan, and supported by a stellar cast comprising Arjun Rampal, Preity Zinta, Shefali Shah, Divya Dutta, Jishu Sengupta, Prosenjit Chatterjee this is an English language movie, a novelty in Indian cinema. Although the movie is criticized for its slow pace and extensive narrative, it is worth watching for Mr. Bachchan’s acting prowess (one of his finest outings), cinematography, and acting skills of supporting cast. No wonder, the movie bagged three coveted awards in 2009 - National Film Award for Best Feature Film in English, National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress - Shefali Shah, and Star Screen Award for Best Film in English.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012):

Mira Nair repeats her feat of taking a best-selling and critically acclaimed novel and weaving the magic on celluloid. This time she does it with Booker-prize winner Mohsin Hamid’s book bearing the same name. The movie has a stellar cast of Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Om Puri, Kiefer Sutherland, and Bobby Lincoln. The movie is about a bright young kid Changez (Riz Ahmed), who lands in New York from Lahore chasing the American dream. He graduates from Princeton Varsity with flying colors and bags a plum job at a reputed investment bank. His life, however, turns upside down after 9/11 and he no longer feels at home, or even accepted, at the Big Apple. After his bitter experiences in the US, he returns to his hometown and encounters some heart-wrenching situations and events that make him “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”.

These are the six soulful movies in the art cinema category that succeeded to offer something novel, something refreshing, to the Indian cinema lovers all over the globe. If you haven’t watched any of these movies already, watch it in your leisure. You won’t regret doing so.

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