From ‘Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham’ to ‘Gully Boy’, here are some films you can watch when you’re in the mood for some desi entertainment.
They say that you can take the ‘desi’ out of India, but you cannot take India out of the ‘desi’. The jury’s still out on exactly who says that, but sometimes, even though you could be living in the United States, all you want is something that’s familiar, comforting, and reminds you of home. You know, the same way that chai can feel like a warm comforting hug, but a café latte only feels like a pat on the back?
And one thing that can provide you comfort in such times is cinema. If you’re grown up watching Bollywood films and like them, they are a sure shot way to bring back some nostalgia.
Whether you want drama, cheesy romance or Bollywood’s trademark song and dance routines to groove to, we have compiled a list of films available on Netflix (N) and Amazon Prime Video (APV) you could watch to soothe your desi heart.
Romance and drama
Veer Zaara (APV): ‘They don’t make ‘em like that anymore’ is probably a phrase that can best describe this romantic drama. With Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta in the lead, this is an interfaith love story of two people from India and Pakistan respectively. While some notions of romance may be outdated for current times, there is something about the Veer and Zaara chemistry and their decades-long, old school love for each other that still tugs at the heartstrings. In a polarised world, this film is a reminder of times when we celebrated what brings us together than what sets us apart.
Band Baaja Baaraat (APV): Few things say ‘desi’ like the Indian wedding, and here’s a film that is full of exactly that. Starring Anushka Sharma and then debutant Ranveer Singh, the story revolves around the duo’s characters who run a wedding planning company. Lots of song, dance, romance and drama and a colourful palette make this film an enjoyable and entertaining watch.
Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham (N): With a mammoth run time of three hours, the film remains a classic despite its flaws. There are overused and sexist tropes when it comes to representing women, as well as fat-shaming, but you have to give it to Karan Johar for creating undeniable drama in the film. A star cast of Kajol, Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan, Kareena Kapoor, Shah Rukh Khan and Jaya Bachchan also makes it an appealing choice if you have time to kill and are looking for some nostalgia feels.
Kapoor and Sons (N): A rare contemporary gem from Bollywood, this film looks at the Indian family like few others have. It deals with several pertinent issues like infidelity, sexuality, sibling rivalry and so on, but all of it blends seamlessly into the plot. This film will make you laugh, cry, and probably call your parents. It also boasts of an ensemble cast of Siddharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt, Fawad Khan, Rishi Kapoor, Rachna Pathak and Rajat Kapoor.
Gully Boy (APV): The Ranveer Kapoor-Alia Bhatt starrer made waves when it released and many would find it worth the hype too. If you want to hear some Bombay slang and want an engaging story with great characters and elements of coming-of-age, romance, drama, and good rap music, Gully Boy is a great choice. While Ranveer Singh is great, watch out for a fiery Safeena (Alia) and MC Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi) who will stay with you after the film as well.
Hera Pheri (APV): There may be a lot of ‘intelligent’ comedies out there, but there is something about a comedy of errors that is purely situational and accidental that makes it hilarious like nothing else. Hera Pheri a cult classic for the same reason, and Akshay Kumar, Paresh Rawal, and Suniel Shetty’s comic timing is perfect in this film. From Babu Bhaiya’s (Paresh Rawal) Marathi twang and accent to the landlord-tenant banter that the trio have, watch Hera Pheri if you’re in the mood for some desi humour that will definitely make you LOL.
Hindi Medium (APV): This Irrfan Khan-Saba Qamar dramedy is not only a good entertainer but also manages to be a commentary on class, privilege and English-elitism. The film unfolds with a businessman, Raj Batra, trying to get admission for his five-year-old daughter Pia into a prestigious English school. The rate race that follows makes Hindi Medium a full family entertainer.
Three Idiots (N): Based on Chetan Bhagat’s book Five Point Someone, watch the Aamir Khan, Sharman Joshi, R Madhavan and Kareena Kapoor starrer film if you want some college days nostalgia and comedy. The film is also relatable because it shows a still common obsession in Indian households – that their children will pursue engineering.
Chak De India! (APV): Few things unite Indians as much as sports like cricket. But Chak De India! is not about cricket, it’s about a women’s team that plays hockey, India’s national sport. They are coached by Shah Rukh Khan, who plays a disgraced former player. The film will appeal to those who like sports dramas, and want to feel national pride while watching a film that is tied together by a strong and uncomplicated plot. Watch out for some female women characters as well.
Dangal (N) – This 2016 films is the story of the Phogat sisters Geeta and Babita, and their father Mahavir. Set in rural Haryana in the early 2000s, Mahavir is a man who hopes to see his sons win a gold and while we all know it’s his daughters that end up doing it, the journey from a dejected father to a proud one is quite thrilling to watch. We watch with awe Aamir Khan as the taskmaster Indian dad and his two daughters as they create a niche for themselves in the wrestling in India. Dangal makes you nostalgic about home, and of India’s place in the world.
Lagaan (N): Another classic in the list, this Oscar nominated film won hearts when it was released in 2001. The Aamir Khan-Gracie Singh starrer is set in 1892, when India was under the British Raj. Lagaan brings together cricket, drama and social commentary in one film which will definitely remind you of home, its historic defiance of colonial rule and of course, make you cheer for team India!
Newton (APV): The Rajkummar Rao-starrer film revolves around a rookie and diligent government clerk posted in a polling booth in a Naxalism-affected area of Chhattisgarh. Newton does a good job of weaving an engaging plot with commentary of caste, institutional apathy, red tape and democracy in India without getting too heavy.
Rang De Basanti (N): This 14-year-old film remains relevant in recent times, and will probably continue to as long as there is dissent. It follows six college students (Aamir Khan, Kunal Kapoor, Sharman Joshi, Siddharth, Soha Ali Khan and Atul Kulkarni) on their journey from cynicism, to action, and to their quest for justice. Watch if you’re looking to reminisce about college days, a coming-of-age story and socio-political commentary all rolled in one.
Haider (N): Arguably Shahid Kapoor’s best performance till date, Haider is an adaptation of the Shakespearean drama Hamlet. The film does a great job of representing trauma and fear in the Kashmir valley in 1995, when the erstwhile state was grappling with a separatist movement as well as a repression from the armed forces. With powerful performances as well as music, this Vishal Bharadwaj film makes a layered and compelling watch.
Swades (N): It doesn’t get more relatable than this. Based on a real story, Shah Rukh Khan plays an NRI who returns to his village in Uttar Pradesh and learns that they do not have a consistent power supply. He then works to set up a hydroelectric power generation facility. While there are a lot of good things about the film, it is his interactions with his roots, the community he came from, and his yearning for this familiarity that will appeal most to Indians living outside the country.