6 Bollywood Films to Watch Right Now

Posted on June 20, 2016 in Film & Music/ India
Lauren Somewhere Travel and Culture Blog

When I first started getting into Bollywood movies a little over two years ago, I was immediately intrigued. The color. The music. The over-the-top acting. What’s not to like? Well, actually, a lot of things. For starters: the lack of dynamism in female roles, misogynistic undertones, predominantly fair-skinned actors featured, and so on.

The Bollywood industry churns out thousands of movies a year, but not every movie contains these problematic issues (or at least not as heavily). You can find movies that are entertaining, but also deep and astoundingly beautiful in both design and story.

Now I’m no Bollywood expert by any means, but as an American who grew up with Hollywood cinema, I like to think I know a thing or two about what non-Bollywood movie goers would like, especially when they’re first starting out on this cinematic journey. Luckily, most of these can be found on Netflix or your local public library. My library has a whole section dedicated to Indian movies; I was over the moon with happiness when I found out!

Here are some of my favorite Bollywood Movies, but not a definitive list by any means!

Band Baaja Baaraat

Band Baaja Baaraat was the movie that made me fall in love with Indian cinema. Maybe it had something to do with Ranveer Singh’s boyish charisma that’ll melt you on the spot or Anushka Sharma’s extreme likeability, but whatever the case, this movie is one of my all-time favorites.

While not as introspective or ground-breaking as many of the other films on this list, Band Baaja Baaraat is just really good fun with a strong female lead on a mission to fulfill her dreams as a successful wedding planner. Indian weddings have always been fascinating to me, so to see the “behind-the-scenes,” even if fictional, is a delight. Also, the soundtrack is amazing!

Khabi Khushi Kabhie Gham

Khabi Khushi Kabhie Gham (K3G) is Bollywood gold. Starring heavyweights like Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan, this film is an epic love story and family drama. It’s long, it’s emotional and it’s downright heart-wrenching.

The set and costumes are just as much a part of the story as the actors. Throughout the film, clothing, decor and color are used strategically for the purpose of tone setting and character revealing. You can see clearly how the worlds of the two star-crossed lovers differentiate through these cinematic devices.

Also, the soundtrack is iconic and filled with many beautiful and melodic songs. The recurring usage of the movie’s “theme song” (for a lack of a better word) always makes my heart skip a beat, especially when the screen pans to the look on the mom’s face. GETS ME EVERY TIME.

Jab We Met

Jab We Met is a lighter Bollywood dramedy starring Kareena Kapoor as the infectious and stubborn Geet. Also a part of the K3G cast, Kareena’s acting really shines through in this film.

What I really liked about Jab We Met is how it consistently uses the metaphor of a train journey to reflect life’s journey. Aditya, the leading man, has no intended destination when he gets on the train but through several situations way out of the control of himself, he finds a destination has been forced upon him by his new companion, Geet. That’s how life works. When you don’t make a decision, life makes one for you.

My favorite scene in the entire film is watching Geet decide on which “train” (decision) she’ll catch (decide on). The scene is a beautiful medley of visuals and sound that’s more profound than cheesy. Some Bollywood films just cross the line over into kitsch, but the love story in this movie feels a little more organic and subtle than many others.

Queen

Queen is probably one of the most ground-breaking films that Bollywood has produced in the past few years and it’s a movie that I found incredibly enjoyable to watch.

The opening scene is gorgeous as the viewer rejoices alongside Rani during her lively marriage celebrations that come with all the usual pomp and circumstance that traditional Indian weddings have. The fun and happiness of the scene only makes it that much more painful to see the unfortunate turn of events unfold in the following scenes.

This movie is powerful because it’s realistic in the most fanciful of ways — a description I think I can directly apply to the way life works, if you really think about it. It’s not your routine “fish out of water” tale by any means, but more like an endearing coming of age story that’ll have you embracing the twists and turns of your life with a little more excitement!

The LunchBox

The Lunchbox is probably one of the most serious Indian films on this list containing zero musical numbers and not a single ounce of comedic flare found in most Bollywood movies. It’s also one of the most unconventional love stories, even by Bollywood standards.

What makes this movie so great is that the two characters of the film who are both living unhappy lives, but so deserving of happiness, find each other and create a much-needed connection — not based off looks or lust, but of heart.

3 Idiots

Another Bollywood classic on the list, 3 Idiots will have you crying one moment and then laughing the next. It’s profound, comical and one wild ride! Its social commentary is also very unsettling but only because it’s so true.

3 Idiots is credited with being one of the highest grossing Bollywood movies of all time. The film tackles the topics of death, academic stress and the bonds of friendship without coming off tacky or too forced. The actors are brilliant and you can really feel the love between the three “idiots.”

And the most famous line of the movie: “All is well.”

Do you have a Bollywood movie suggestion for me? I’d love to hear it. Let me know in the comments below!

(Original image source credit)

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11 Comments

  • Reply Dara June 21, 2016 at 11:12 pm

    I loved Queen! But my favorites are Highway and Salam Bombay! I lived in India for awhile and I miss it so much. Loved this!

    • Reply Lauren Piraro June 21, 2016 at 11:31 pm

      I’m totally adding those to my (ever-growing) list of movies to watch! Salam Bombay has been suggested to me by so many people, so I think it’s time to have at that one. Thanks for your awesome suggestions, Dara 🙂

  • Reply Marie June 22, 2016 at 6:55 am

    I love this! Thank you for sharing, Lauren. I have only watched a few Bollywood movies, but I have loved them every time! I enjoyed Band Baaja Baaraat, and I’ll have to add the other ones to my list! 😀

    • Reply Lauren Piraro June 22, 2016 at 1:37 pm

      Yay, you’ve seen Band Baaja Baaraat. A classic in the making! I’m totally obsessed with Ranveer Singh. Glad I could help. Enjoy! 🙂

  • Reply RunawayBrit June 22, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    I didn’t watch many Bollywood movies when I lived in India – much to the horror of my students – many of them children of the Bollywood elite. The movies are just so over the top! I did see 3 Idiots though. I’ll watch some on your list to see if I can learn to love it.

    • Reply Lauren Piraro June 25, 2016 at 7:35 am

      Ha ha! The dramatics of Bollywood sure isn’t for every body. In fact, it took me a while to get into it but even now, most of the popular ones now are just way too over the top. The classics are usually the best 🙂

  • Reply Melai June 23, 2016 at 7:57 am

    I used to not take Bollywood films seriously (what’s with all those singing and dancing I see on the trailers) but each time I get to see one, my heart always feels good after. They are actually quite entertaining, and have compelling story line. 3 Idiots had me cried buckets of tears. I also loved Taare Zameen Par, Slumdog Millionaire and Trash (though the last two is Hollywood mixed).

    Thanks for this list! I am interested to see Jab We Met and Queen! 🙂

    • Reply Lauren Piraro June 25, 2016 at 7:37 am

      3 Idiots is fantastic! And Slumdog Millionaire is what brought Bollywood to the attention of millions. I haven’t seen Taare Zameen Par or Trashm though. I have a Netflix queue of movies a mile long haha!

  • Reply Amrine July 6, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    I fell in love with Bollywood films when I was 16 years old after I rented Lagaan from the local public library. From then on I was OBSESSED! I fell in love with the music, the colors, the dance, the stories…everything about it I was in love with. I have seen all of these films except for Lunch Box and Queen. I LOVED LOVED LOVED 3 idiots and I think it is a great film for people to see and to learn about the education system in India. Great post!

    -Amrine-
    http://www.dancinaroundtheworld.com

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