While there are a surprisingly small number of Indian films on Netflix to stream instantly (billboards scattered across New Jersey and other areas of the country with large South Asian communities remind us that the satellite companies are serving up the most Hindi films and other Indian films to U.S. audiences), we were able to find five films to accompany our guide to Indian cinema.
If you’ve got a Netflix account and you want your contemporary Hindi film primer, these are the five films to take a look at first.
This 1995 international love story is a Hindi romance classic, and once you see it and start talking about it, you should know it popularly goes by “DDLJ.” The film, whose title translates to “The Brave Hearted Will Take Away the Bride” is directed by top tier director Aditya Chopra (“Chakde! India,” “Veer-Zaara”) and stars Bollywood mega superstar Shah Rukh Khan (“Kal Ho Naa Ho,” “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai”) and Kajol as star-crossed lovers who meet in Switzerland but whose love is thwarted by her father’s request that she head back to India to meet the man she was promised to.
One of the first Hindi films to make a mainstream splash in the US was Ashutosh Gowariker’s 2001 “Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India,” which was the third Indian film to be nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. The film tells the story of Indian villagers who make a bet with their British colonial rulers that if they beat the Brits in a game of cricket, the colonizers will get rid of the land tax, which the Indians are finding impossible to pay because of low agricultural production. The film stars Bollywood star Aamir Khan, who is one of the most active global producers of Indian cinema, as the hero.
The ensemble cast of this 2001 Indian buddy comedy is impressive. Three dudes, played by stars Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, and Akshaye Khanna, learn to settle down with the help of each other and three lovely ladies, played by Preity Zinta, Sonali Kulkarni, and Dimple Kapadia. The film is standard coming-of-middle-age fare, but it’s definitely an example of how fun films like this can be.
Lying slightly outside of the mainstream Hindi films are films like Anurag Basu’s 2007 “Life in a….Metro.” The film shows off a side of Mumbai that isn’t often shown in contemporary mainstream fare: in “Life in a…Metro,” we see realistic relationships that explore infidelity, challenging relationships, homosexuality, and long lost love. The film weaves multiple narratives to give an incredibly vivid picture of Mumbai life in the 21st century.
In the new Indian multiplex culture, some Hindi films without megastars are able to make a splash, and that was exactly the case with the 2008 film “Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na.” The romantic comedy follows two young people (Imran Khan and Genelia D’Souza), best friends, try to set each other up. The film features music by famed “Slumdog Millionaire” composer A.R. Rahman, including the incredibly fun “Pappu Can’t Dance.“