Indian movies have a reputation for being little more masala with no actual content. While our films sometimes adhere to preconceptions, there have been moments when they have provided something that not only exceeded the expectations of Indian audiences, but also surprised the rest of the globe.
We’ve compiled a list of ten films of Indian origin that have received widespread critical praise not only in India but also around the world, and have performed well at international film festivals.
Here are a few Indian films that have made us proud in the International Film Festivals.
Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se (1998)
Dil Se was the third installment in Mani Ratnam’s terrorism trilogy.
The film was released in 1998 and won the Netpac Award at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1999. At the Era New Horizons Film Festival and the Helsinki International Film Festival, it won awards for cinematography and script.
Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zameen (1953)
The director of the past was well-known for his contributions to realistic and socially relevant filmmaking. His films were commercially profitable and he was an influential voice of the alternative cinema movement in the 1940s and 1950s. Several national and international prizes were bestowed upon them. At the 1954 Cannes Film Festival, Do Bigha Zamin, starring Balraj Sahni and Nirupa Roy, won the International Prize.
Arun Karthick’s Nasir (2020)
Arun Karthick’s debut film explains what it means to be a Muslim in India, captures a day in the life of an ordinary Muslim guy living in Coimbatore. It won the NETPAC award for Best Asian Film at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, as well as the Grand Prix at Russia’s 14th Andrei Tarkovsky Zerkalo International Film Festival.
Nagesh Kukunoor’s Dhanak (2015)
This film directed by Nagesh Kukunoor revolves around a 10-year-old girl and her blind brother. It premiered at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival 2015, where it was awarded the Crystal Bear Grand Prix for Best Children’s Film and a Special Mention for Best Feature Film by The Children’s Jury for Generation Kplus.
Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali (1955)
Satyajit Ray’s 1955 masterpiece Pather Panchali, which inspired a new generation of filmmakers, is a must-see for every fan of Indian cinema.
The film deftly depicts how “poverty does not always invalidate love” and how even the poorest of individuals can appreciate the small pleasures of life.
It was the first film from an independent India to receive widespread critical acclaim, winning the Best Human Document award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1956.
Ritesh Batra’s Lunchbox (2013)
Two strangers fall in love through a lunchbox of letters in this film.
The film, which was made in collaboration with production firms from India, Germany, France, and the United States, was screened at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival’s International Critics’ Week and the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. It earned the Grand Rail D’Or (Critics Week Viewers’ Choice Award)
M Manikandan’s Kaaka Muttai (2015)
This charming movie about two poor children and their simple desire to eat pizza also serves as a scathing critique on our society’s class disparity.
M Manikandan’s debut film, which premiered at the renowned Toronto International Film Festival, was also shown at the Rome Film Festival, Dubai International Film Festival, Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival, and Gold Coast Film Festival. At the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival, it received the NETPAC Award 2015.
Vinothraj PS’s Koozhangal (2021)
AKA Pebbles Internationally. The plot is based on a true story that happened in director Vinothraj’s family and motivated him to direct the film. Newcomers Karuththadaiyan and Chella Pandi feature in a breathtaking drama about a drinking father and his son. It’s the first Tamil film to receive the Tiger Award at the 50th International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2021.
Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court (2014)
Chaitanya Tamhane’s courtroom drama takes a heated look at the huge vulnerabilities in the Indian judicial system. The film received honours in Vienna, Hong Kong, and Minsk, as well as won Best Film at the 71st Venice International Film Festival. It was also India’s official submission for the 88th Annual Academy Awards.
Mehboob Khan’s Mother India (1957)
One of India’s all-time greatest movie office hits was this epic about a poor single mother. It is widely recognized as one of the best films in both Indian and international cinema. The film received accolades at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 1958. In addition, it was India’s first submission to the Academy Awards, for which it received a nomination.
Apart from the above-mentioned Indian films, other honourable works that have received worldwide recognition include:
- Neecha Nagar (1946)
- Killa (2014)
- Karij (1982)
India’s journey in the vast world of international cinema has been long. While Indian films may not always receive enough representation, we hope that better films are produced and recognised on a worldwide scale.
It is fair to argue that the numerous possibilities of this broader cross-border interchange of cinema hold a great deal of promise in future.