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Now that Victoria and Abdul is a such a talked about film, thanks to the sparkling chemistry between Dame Judi Dench and India heartthrob Ali Fazal, it is time to ask the question- why the buzz? Is it because the film is amazing or is it also because India has participated in Global cinema? Maybe both, but certainly the latter is not the first time this is happening. And so today we are going to discuss 16 such films from world over in which India played an important character. These are the Hollywood movies based on India (atleast some part)
List Of Best Indian Hollywood Movies based on Indian Culture and History
This is one of the those very regular ones on Star Movies. A 32 yr old American must come to India and train those who have replaced his colleagues back home. What follows is culture shock inevitably a cross cultural love story. A timely romance tale that deals with the then hot topic. Breezy and well cast, this film is quite predictable for the most part, but in a good way. Sometimes you watch a movie because you want something to unfold exactly like you think it will. And this movie delivers.
2. Million Dollar Arm
A baseball sports agent comes to India to recruit a new pitcher for his team. The idea is unconventional but that’s where it stops being something new. What follows are tried and tested sports movie tropes. Nevertheless, the movie rides on John Hamm’s (Mad Men) charm and Disney’s over the top but trustworthy melodramatic moments. This on-trick sports drama affair is not truly missable but rather entertaining.
Not a very faithful adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’, this movie is still quie a compelling watch. This love story of a poor Rajasthani girl and a rich British businessman looks at caste discrimination in India from a fresh point of view. The story is sad and quitean exaggeration towards the end. But the detail and empathy that the film infuses is quite amazing and makes it a must watch. Freida Pinto is quite a fit here and so is Riz Ahmed (The Night of). Watch it for their performances if not for anything else.
4. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
When all the biggies come together- Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, you expected to be wowed. But very few films like these actually deliver on their promise. This one does and how! Retirees from Britain arrive to Jaipur stay in a hotel that ’s not as good as advertised. The film, comically but deeply tackles with all their pasts as they try to get used to the place. The manager of the place is Dev Patel and along with the biggies, he gets shine his talent quite a few times. This is a humorous affair you must not miss.
Dev Patel again. But this time he is much grown up and looking for the family he had lost when he was a kid. This film was in the list of final nominees at Oscar and it so deserves to be there. Poignant as hell, this one touches all the sentimental chords in the right measure. Dev Patel turns in a formidable performance that makes a seemingly tiring plot, exciting and profound.
6. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
A-wilder-bond-with-mud-on-his-face Indiana Jones tackles the best villain that ever existed- Amrish Puri. Spielberg had to come down to India to exploit this great talent that is still irreplaceable. This is arguably the best movie in the series if you try to ignore the hyper exotic portrayal of India. Sadly, you can’t.
7. Life of Pi
Once again a movie based in India that was one of the favourites at the Oscars. Let’s just say Ang Lee did deserve the Best Director Academy Award that he received, totally. This philosophical film is nothing short of wonderful and profound. Irffan Khan is in top form here and makes you cry multiple times just by saying his dialogues right. He is quite without a doubt one of the best talents in the global film industry. Not to mention that the cinematography itself here is tear-jerking, and the plot makes it better.
8. The Darjeeling Limited
Wes Anderson was smitten by Satyajit Ray and wanted to amke a film based in India. And here it is, truly one of his many masterpieces. Funny, heart-warming and the right amount of indulgent Introspection happens when a trio of brothers does a cross country tri in India after the death of their father. India is quite a character here but in a Wes Anderson fashion. It’s our country but in his world.
The story of an American actress who gets smitten by the Bollywood bug. One of the most embarrassing collaborations between the west and India. But it’s too noticeable a disaster to not mention in this list. This cross-cultural love story was made when Salman Khan used to sleepwalk through his movies. Although he somehow fits into the plot here, because the screenplay of the movie is no different. Boring and laughable at the same time, depends in your mood.
10. Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol
The climactic action scene set piece is set in Chennai, although it has been shot in Vancouver. The whole garage fight to avoid evilness to spread through Sun-Tv was too funny a premise for Indians to enjoy the movie, seriously. Nevertheless, this one brought the series back into its zone. Tom cruise climbs, runs, rides, fights, jumps. Anil Kapoor, embarrasses.
11. Bourne Supremacy
Jason is hiding along with his girlfriend in an exotic country where he hopes to not be found. Good for him that he is in Goa, where he somehow seems to not have much fun. How is that possible? And then within a few minutes his girlfriend dies and of course he’s gotta leave the place and get to spying in Europe again. Jason, you gotta give Goa another try. When you get over your girlfriend and have your own Aadhaar Card.
12. The Hundred Foot Journey
In France, Kadam family opens an Indian restaurant right opposite Hellen Mirren’s quite reputed eatery. What follows is amazing chemistry between Om Puri and Helen Mirren and a lot more of that, which never disappoints. The movie is comic and profound. And deals with the loss of each character with tear-jerking empathy. The Screenplay has been really well written by none other than Steven Knight. Peaky (fokin’) Blinders, anybody?
After escaping from the deadly Khan’s palace, Bond makes his way to Udaipur. Bond faces culture shock but then he gets back to his chauvinistic escapades and you know soon that he is accustomed to India now. But we will never be accustomed to Roger Moore as Bond, will we? Is that a parody or the original film?
14. Slumdog Millionaire
Probably one of the best titles on this list. India here was not an object of study, but a canvas for adventure. And my my my, what an exciting adventure that was. Pumped by Rahman’s music and Danny Boyle’s electric as ever direction, this movie was unique and heart-poundingly so. Of course there were a lot of controversies in terms of the portrayal of India as a poor place. I maintain along with the makers that it didn’t show that India was poor, just showed a poor part of India. And plus, the film was based on an Indian novel, so we can’t really blame them can we?
15. Eat Pray Love
Julia Roberts embarks on a journey to find herself after a devastating divorce back home. THree different countries, three different reasons- Eat, Pray and Love. Of course, the Pray part happens in India because we are such peaceful monks out here. The movie was a commercial success but mostly nobody liked it, except the ones who were so overwhelmed by the vague idea itself that they did not practise any objectivity thereof. A missable affair that doesn’t add anything to the plot except the stereotypes that it clings to. But Julia Roberts is awesome. Anywhere.
This Richard Attenborugh’s telling of Gandhi’s story is a big daddy of biopics. Ben Kingsley slays it as Gandhi, although the casting would have been termed as whitewashing if the film was attempted in contemporary times. But then you realise that Ben Kingsley is actually Krishna Pandit Bhanji born to an Indian father! Who cares. He did a great job. And this film was so well made that it’s taken as seriously as real history. Isn’t that scary? Again, who cares.
All these films hardly cover the entire participation of India in Global Cinema. But it does give us an idea of how India is perceived by industries and societies other than the local ones. These films are a great tools to analyse how they see us. Are they stereotyping us? Are they telling us the truth? How has the perception changed over time? And are we doing enough with our own resources to study our country? These listed films are spread across genres and they prove that India has always been an interesting subject for filmmakers from world over to dwell about.
Also check out the List of Must Watch Hindi Movies of All Time.