10 Of The Best English Language Films That Are Still Very Much Made In India
India loves English. A lot.
As a post-colonial country with one of the largest crushes on the “west”, a certain pocket of India has always done everything in its power to appeal to foreign sensibilities. But weirdly, that doesn’t cross over into our movies too often. English language films made in India are pretty rare even when mainstream Bollywood loves to focus on the stories of the rich and wealthy.
But in this mix, you’ll find some brilliant English films that our audiences were treated to. And they’re no less Indian for it.
#1 Morning Raga
Shabana Azmi and Perizaad Zorabian have some brilliant chemistry throughout this film. Morning Raga follows this lives of a prodigal classical singer suffering from PTSD (following the death of her son and her best friend) and a western singer who wants to learn her craft.
The film is quite dramatic but retains subtlety throughout especially in Azmi’s and Prakash Kovelamudi’s performances. A must watch for music lovers, Morning Raga mixes rock and Carnatic stylings to an entertaining effect.
#2 Being Cyrus
Remember when the trailer for this released and everyone was taken aback by the potency of Saif Ali Khan‘s dramatic stare?
Being Cyrus was a rare thing in its day. Dark and quiet without a lot of flash or noise running through the film. A grim murder mystery/ comedy set amongst Parsi families in Panchgani as well as Mumbai, the film uses the general perception of the Parsi community as kooky and turns it firmly on its head. It also gave a pre-Omkara Saif Ali Khan much more serious material to work with.
#3 Delhi Belly
Of all the Hindi movies that insist on capturing “the youth”, Delhi Belly is one of the very few that managed to actually do it. A comedy of errors with a distinctly caustic tone, the film managed to do extremely well commercially mainly through word-of-mouth recommendations.
Written by Akshay Verma and featuring a cast just famous enough to get butts into seats but not overshadow the film, Delhi Belly remains one of India’s best and least snooty comedies.
#4 Jhankaar Beats
A musical where the music actually has business being in the film is rare. But Jhankaar Beats did it with finesse.
Celebrating the genius of RD Burman without a thousand and one unnecessary remixes coupled with sexually charged music videos is tricky. But Jhanlaar Beats is happy to just have three couples and their lives play out with the big concert thrown in at the end.
If Delhi Belly was good at showing us what our 20s are like, Jhankaar Beats perfectly captures the frustration and professional stagnation urban 30 somethings have to deal with.
#5 15 Park Avenue
Aparna Sen‘s psychological drama portraying the struggle of a schizophrenic patient unable to let go of her imaginary family was done just right. 15 Park Avenue boasts of a stellar cast including Rahul Bose, Shabana Azmi, Konkona Sen Sharma and Waheeda Rehman.
The relationship between an older sister and her dealing with her sibling’s break from reality is beautifully realized without any melodrama or sweeping score. And the ambiguous, bittersweet ending highlighted the sensitivity that should be used while depicting people with psychological disorders. Something mainstream cinema is not that adept at so far.
Winner of two National Awards, Parzania had the challenging task of humanising one of India’s most publicized tragedies – the Gujarat riots. The film follows a Parsi family’s journey in search of their lost son.
#7 Mr and Mrs Iyer
The reason for a film set in the backdrop of Hindu and Muslim violence being scripted in English was a pretty unique one. Aparna Sen wanted to honour the linguistic diversity of the characters and yet have the film be universally understood, so she chose English spoken with regional accents.
The film surrounding a religiously diverse group travelling by bus does not spare the audience any of its disturbing details – including murder and assault solely based on communal differences. The movie even hints at some sort of connection between its two leads but intelligently keeps it from becoming romantic.
#8 Loins Of Punjab Presents
Of all the movies targetted at NRIs, Loins of Punjab Presents emerges as an outright winner. Especially if you’re looking for something that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Surrounding a group of Indians who try to organize a Bollywood themed singing competition in Jersey, the movie takes on all the expected things you might imagine. Overt love for the motherland coupled with an increasing attachment to the materialistic pleasures America does tend to provide, there’s not much to explain with Loins of Punjab. It’s an entertainer with heart and brain.
#9 The Last Lear
A sharp turn from fun and frolic into deep, contemplative and mildly pretentious but intentionally so, The Last Lear is a heavy watch perfect for a rainy day.
The divide between good and bad art is more relevant to India than most countries. Mainly because of the qualitative differences between mainstream and indie art, especially cinema. And watching a Shakespearean actor grumpily criticise modern cinema is satisfying, much more so because that grumpy soul is played by Amitabh Bachchan.
#10 The President is Coming
The film is a mockumentary surrounding 6 characters all vying to meet George Bush on a visit to India. Directed by Kunal Roy Kapur, the movie is based on Kapur’s play of the same name.
The President is set to meet one person on his visit who will represent the “New India” and the six contestants have to perform increasingly weird tasks to be the lucky chosen one.
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