Best English Movies based on India or with Indian Themes
There are so many English movies that come out of India every year. Some equally beautiful movies based on Indian culture originate from other parts of the globe. Here are 20 best stand-outs:
1 Gandhi (1982): This Internationally acclaimed movie needs no introduction. The film stars Ben Kingsley as Gandhi, a brilliant actor by any measure. Amongst much recognition home and abroad, the film bagged the Academy Award for Best Picture, winning eight Academy Awards in total.
2. City of Joy (1992): The social drama is based on the life of a farmer who moves to Kolkata with his family and finds out that life is nothing but simple in the city. Patrick Swayze, Om Puri, Shabana Azmi and Art Malik lead the brilliant cast. This is one of best movies that use talents from India as well as Hollywood.
3. Monsoon Wedding (2001): Directed by Mira Nair, this is romance, comedy and drama – all together – depicting the lives of NRIs and the NRI weddings. An extravagant Punjabi wedding and the family traditions are beautifully depicted throughout this movie. Naseeruddin Shah’s acting is solid once more, and plays a father who is organizing an enormous, chaotic, and very expensive wedding that involves NRI families and joint families coming together from different parts of the world.
4. A Passage to India (1984): This classic drama is one of the most memorable English film based on the Indo-British relationship and their impacts on the day-to-day life during English Rule in India. Written and directed by David Lean, the screenplay is based on the 1924 novel by E.M. Forster. The acting, the direction and the beautifully landscaped scenes equally contribute to this masterpiece. The film has won various awards included Academy Awards and Golden Globe Awards. The brilliant acting comes from Judy Davis, Victor Banerjee, Peggy Ashcroft and James Fox in the key roles.
5.Being Cyrus (2006): This is one of the best Indian films in English. It is a psychological drama revolving around a dysfunctional family. The acting is led by Naseeruddin Shah and Dimple Kapadia; the well told story is narrated by none other but Saif Ali Khan in the role of Cyrus Mistry.
6. Bride and Prejudice (2004): This is a Bollywood style adaptation of the novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen. It is filmed primarily in English, with some Hindi and Punjabi dialogue. The lead cast of Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson, Nadira Babbar, Anupam Kher and Naveen Andrews plays well in this desi adaptation of an old classic story from west. The wedding and party scenes, the complicated feelings of love, the dance numbers and culture depiction…are all nicely integrated
7. East is East (1999): This is a very comic and funny movie with a dark side of an NRI story based out of England. Om Puri delivers one of the best acting of a conflicted father with double standards. Married to a white woman, the father forces his kids to live the traditional and strict desi lifestyle. The children, born and grown up in UK, see themselves as British and reject their father’s rules on dress, food, religion and arranged marriage.
8. Bend it like Beckham (2002): Starring Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley, the title comes from the soccer player David Beckham’s skill at scoring from free kicks by “bending” (curving) the ball past a wall of defenders. It is a beautiful depiction of a Punjabi family’s life in England. The film explores the lives of Indians abroad and how NRIs ‘bend’ the social and traditional rules to adapt to the local culture. It has a lively music, with a touch of folk genre.
9. Parzania (2007): Translated – Heaven and hell on earth, this is an Indian drama catering to the extreme human emotions. It is a terrific story of the struggles of a family after they lose their 10 year old son during the racial riot. The film featured Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika in the lead roles. This low budget drama has lovely acting and beautiful direction.
10. Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002): Another great creation and direction from Aparna Sen, supporting by equally brilliant acting from Rahul Bose and Konkona Sen Sharma. The movie features the September 11, 2001 events as the backdrop for the racial riots and violence. This is a romance, drama and emotional conflicts – all in one. This Indian English movie has won international acclaim all around the globe.
11. Bollywood Hollywood (2002): A relatively low budget movie based out of Canada, with lots of NRI appeal. Deepa Mehta made this comic drama as a satire or spoof on Bollywood movies. The story revolves around Indo-Canadian families’ life-style and the double standard lives of younger generation to satisfy their traditional family at home and the western culture outside the house. Rahul Khanna, Lisa Ray, Moushumi Chatterjee and Kulbhushan Kharbanda are the main cast.
12. Fire (1996): This gutsy and controversial film is directed and written by Deepa Mehta. The key stars include Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das. The movie explores the topic of same sex female relationships in Indian society. It is the first of Deepa Mehta’s Elements trilogy, followed by Earth (1998) and Water (2005).
13. English, August (1994): Do you think in English? Indian film directed by Dev Bengal, this film ignited the next generation of Indian cinema and is acknowledged as a landmark in contemporary Indian cinema. This humorous movie won several awards at international film festivals. English, August was a low budget film that eventually became quite popular.
14. Amu (2006): This is lovely movie about culture shock and social adaptation. Amu is the journey of Kajori Roy (Konkona Sen Sharma), a 21-year-old Indian American woman who has lived in the US since the age of 3; and after graduating from UCLA, she goes to India to visit her relatives. Directed by Shonali Bose, based on her own novel, the film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival in 2005.
15. Mitr, My Friend (2002): The film is a lovely depiction of women’s plight, sacrificing their lives for the sake of family. It also touches on the social issues of cultural differences experienced by a small town girl moving to a foreign place. The movie won the Best English Film of the year award at the National film festival.
16. Heaven on Earth (2008): A.k.a. Videsh, is a Canadian film directed and written by Deepa Mehta. Preity Zinta plays the leading role of Chand, a young Indian Punjabi woman who finds herself in an abusive arranged marriage with an Indo-Canadian man, played by Vansh Bhardwaj. The film released in India dubbed into Hindi under the title Videsh.
17. Hyderabad Blues (1998): Directed by Nagesh Kukunoor, the film is about an NRI vacationing back home in Hyderabad and finding difficult to adapt to his own place. This is a light, naturally flowing and realistic film about NRIs returning to India and finding themselves out of place. This low budget movie connects with everyone who lives abroad.
18. 36 Chowringhee Lane (1981): This touching film. exposing double standards in close-knit relations. is written and directed by Aparna Sen. It stars Jennifer Kendal in a critically acclaimed role of a quiet lonely teacher, along with Debashree Roy.
19. Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love (1996) : This is NOT a family movie and is rated adult. Starring Rekha, Indira Varma, Naveen Andrews and Sarita Choudhurya, this controversial romantic drama is directed by Mira Nair. During filming in India, the name of the project was not revealed to government officials who would have denied the petition to film in India had it been called “Kama Sutra.” Instead, it was called “Maya and Tara.” Upon completion, authorities screened the film and it was subsequently banned in India.
20. The Great Indian Butterfly (2010): This Bollywood English film is written and directed by Sarthak Dasgupta. The movie is all about finding inner peace, love and happiness in our life. This slow-and-steadily evolving movie has some of the most beautiful scenery depicting Goa; the story revolves around a modern Indian couple vacationing on the resort.
Other English movies worth mentioning are:
The Last Lear (2007); Electric Moon(1992); In Which Annie gives it Those Ones (1989); The Householder (Hindi title: Gharbar) (1963); Loins of Punjab Presents (2007); 15 Park Avenue (2005)
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