Hope is a strange thing. It keeps you hanging. It keeps you believing that things will get better. Given what Bollywood’s been churning out this past decade or so, I’d say we need all the hope we can find.
Here are 15 movies that give me hope in the creative abilities of Bollywood. Hope that, someday, good stories will mean more than box-office collections.
Two lives intersect in the most unusual circumstances and end up saving each other — from the world and from the harsh rules it imposes upon their kind. ‘Dor’ is that rare story of two people finding true friendship in an otherwise selfish, brutal world.
The story of a mother-son relationship, that unfolds in flashback, in the chaotic aftermath of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. ‘Zakhm’ is, perhaps, Mahesh Bhatt’s best work.
3. ‘Khamosh Pani’
A Hindu woman gets left behind in Pakistan in the confusion and terror that comes with any communal unrest. This is her story. A story of being lost and about finding yourself; and of imaginary lines creating misplaced notions of patriotism. About human relationships losing to fundamentalism.
This is one of the only films that talks about the 1984 Sikh massacre that followed the assassination of Indira Gandhi. It’s a story told through flashes of suppressed memories of a three year-old resurfacing during a visit to Delhi after twenty something years.
Macbeth comes to Bombay and finds that he doesn’t need to be traveling home through treacherous climes to meet the witches who predict his imminent glory but say nothing of the doom it will bring. Maqbool lives and works with his doomsayers on a daily basis, and learns the hard way that the power of suggestion can be a life-altering, destructive thing.
The story of a hijra and the girl child she rescues from a dumpster. A story of two misfits in a phallocentric, patriarchal world. A story of love, hope, and of human connections outweighing blood-ties.
7. ‘My Brother Nikhil’
This film is based on the real life ordeal faced by the first HIV positive person in India. A celebrated swimmer from Goa, he became a social pariah overnight. He was locked up and left to rot in a room unfit for rats. This is the story of his sister’s fight for his dignity and his life.
8. ‘Dedh Ishqiya’
Nothing like its predecessor, and yet deceptively similar, ‘Dedh Ishqiya’ is a story about friendship, love, greed, deception, and the power of suggestion. This movie has done justice to a story written 70-odd years ago.
Revenge dramas are always heaps of fun. And it isn’t often you’ll find a pregnant woman undoing a terrorist plot whilst also kicking some ass.
10. ‘Being Cyrus’
They say one mustn’t talk to strangers. This movie should tell you why. An interesting tale of a family’s encounter with a stranger, ‘Being Cyrus’ is a good, albeit slightly predictable, movie.
A middle class girl from Rajouri, (not Delhi, never Delhi) finds that she doesn’t need a man to “accept” her hand in marriage, just as she finds in herself the courage to be everything (and anything) that she wants to be.
12. ‘Monsoon Wedding’
A gritty, small-budget film that talks about the things that matter, and all of it in the midst of a typical Delhi wedding and the madness it entails.
13. ‘3 Deewarein’
Three death-row inmates meet a reporter who wants to tell their stories — something along the lines of a dying declaration, but with a twist. It’s a simple story. The kind Bollywood stopped making somewhere along the way. More’s the pity.
This is a story of dreams and dreamers. Of a woman who wants her children to have everything they could ever want, a mute son who wants to make his parents proud, and a girl who has unshakeable faith in her older brother and his dreams. It’s a story of cricket, of how this one game makes and breaks people’s lives in India. More than anything, it is the story of hope. And of how hope floats.
This is one of those stories that is bigger than the stars that are in it. It is, in a nutshell, a story of love. Of how absolutely wondrous and uncomplicated and unconditional love can, and should, be. It is, quite literally, the story of two broken people coming together to make one coherent whole. ‘Barfi’ is the story of forever, and of what that means.