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10 films that showcase India in 10 different ways

Last updated on: August 14, 2014 18:59 IST

10 films that showcase India in 10 different ways

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Sukanya Verma/Rediff.com

On the eve of Independence Day, Rediff.com looks at films which show India's many extraordinary facets.

iconIndia is an endless sea of diversity, disparity and differences. Even everyday sights and experiences here overwhelm the senses with their unique metaphors and unforeseen conclusions.

Despite its exasperating extremes and delightful contrasts, a shared love for cinema binds the nation as it gathers to applaud inside dimly lit movie halls. At this point, all social distinctions disappear and an unexplained wave of solidarity takes over.

While our cinema continually evolves and filmmakers aspire for international scale finesse in thought and treatment, others choose to tell a story about India and Indianness -- capturing its vivid fantasies, heightened emotionality and rudimentary morality like the triumph of good over evil.

Here's a look at the 10 celebrated contemporary Hindi films that embody India's many extraordinary facets -- heartening, bleak, poignant, explosive and sublime.

Swades

Ashutosh Gowariker's Swades examines the gap between modern and rural India through an NRI NASA employee (Shah Rukh Khan) and his experiences when he visits an electricity-devoid Indian village to meet his nanny and convince her to return with him.

Instead the extent of paucity and discrimination his homeland tolerates on a grass-root level unsettles SRK's Mohan Bhargav so much, he resolves to come back and facilitate its progress and upliftment.

Its restrained and realistic nationalism, credible depiction of what plagues the interiors of India and the visionary message of bringing about change inspires and impresses.

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Image: In Swades, SRK's Mohan Bhargav returns home to India from USA to facilitate the upliftment of a village.


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Sukanya Verma/Rediff.com

Rang De Basanti

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Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's influential Rang De Basanti shakes the modern-day apathetic youth out of its comfort zone dubbed as the RDB effect.

Mehra constructs parallels between five carefree college-goers and eminent freedom fighters, as they revolt against the heavily corroded 'system' in a manner most volatile while taking full responsibility for the tragic consequences to follow.

The metamorphosis of Rang De Basanti's care-a-damn bunch of merrymaking Delhi University students to secular, solid and justice-seeking comrades is what's most thought provoking.

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Image: In Rang De Basanti five carefree college students revolt against a heavily corroded 'system'.


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Sukanya Verma/Rediff.com

Chak De! India

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Triumph of spirit, exhilarating sportsmanship and thrilling finish are keywords to Shimit Amin's deft Chak De! India.

But the reason this sports drama is special in more ways than one is because of how it addresses everything Bollywood typically shies away from -- being a Muslim in modern India, the state of women athletes and, of course, hockey.

A former hockey player doesn't get the benefit of doubt on a bad day at the field because he's playing against arch rival Pakistan and his only shot at vindication is his coaching a team of diamond-in-the-rough girls to victory. Its greatest appeal is summed up in this dialogue from the movie -- Mujhe na kisi state ka naam sunai deta hain aur na hi dikhai deta hai. Mujhe sirf ek hi naam sunai aur dikhai deta hai, woh hai I-N-D-I-A.

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Image: Chak De! India addresses everything Bollywood typically shies away from.


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Sukanya Verma/Rediff.com

Lagaan

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Who doesn't like to watch the underdog win? Especially if the team India is trying to crush happens to be England in the time of the British Raj. All the more if it results in tax-free existence for the next three years.

Aamir Khan's Oscar-nominated Lagaan combines two of India's beloved pastimes -- cinema and cricket to deliver one of the most entertaining and accomplished films of the last decade.

From its detailed illustration of life in the 19th century village, a farmer's faith in the gods for rains and the making of a local team unfamiliar with the concept of cricket, this fictional reimagining hits the boundary from the word go.

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Image: Lagaan hits the boundary from the word go.


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Sukanya Verma/Rediff.com

The Lunchbox

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Ritesh Batra's The Lunchbox is one rare film that bothers to scrape beneath the surface of an average officer-goer and a housewife in Mumbai.

Or that the monotony of this relentless, rushing city, its seemingly plain inhabitants concealing a world of loneliness can sometimes be broken by an unexpected, everyday magic -- the lunchbox.

Batra employs the workings of Mumbai's famed dabba delivery, its crammed local trains, congested government offices and a sprinkling of relatable faces and voices that not only allow the viewer to touch The Lunchbox but savour it too.

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Image: The Lunchbox is one rare film that bothers to scrape beneath the surface of life in Mumbai.


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Sukanya Verma/Rediff.com

Highway

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A young bride-to-be gets kidnapped but mid-way through the trip decides she is safer in the company of a brooding hoodlum and his fellas -- forms the far-fetched plotline of Imtiaz Ali's Highway.

What follows is a journey to self-healing as Alia Bhatt's character comes to terms with past demons while discovering the breathtaking landscapes of Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttaranchal and Himachal. Travel is the core of Highway's structural narrative and soulful exploration.

One may argue over the rationality of the script but not its virginal visuals and rare portrait of locals, which are sheer poetry and befittingly underscore the 'Incredible' in India's tourism campaign.

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Image: Travel is the core of Highway's structural narrative.


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Sukanya Verma/Rediff.com

Eklavya

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Royalty may be redundant, but the rich nostalgia of grandeur, tradition and history it conjures still holds attraction.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra';s striking Eklavya marries the sacrifice-at-all-costs archer philosophy (from the Mahabharata) in a contemporary context against a rotting royal family of Rajasthan and questions the ethics of blood over blue blood.

Its opulent production design doesn't distract from the underlining commentary on inheritance politics, prevailing caste system and old-school servitude.

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Image: Eklavya portrays the rich nostalgia of grandeur, tradition and history.


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Sukanya Verma/Rediff.com

Munnabhai MBBS

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Munnabhai MBBS's 'medicine cures but affection heals' ideology may find some of its roots in Patch Adams, starring the late lamented Robin Williams.

But the 'jadoo ki jhappi' concept Sanjay Dutt inherits from his screen mom Rohini Hattangady and passes on to every needy in sight is purely desi at heart.

As is Munnabhai's tapori lingo that celebrates the colourful slang spoken in Mumbai's zany culture like no one else.

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Image: 'Affection can heal' forms the core of Munnabhai MBBS.


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Sukanya Verma/Rediff.com

Gangs of Wasseypur

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Anurag Kashyap's Gangs of Wasseypur, spanning three generations through the 1940s and 2000s, may draw comparisons to The Godfather, but except its graphic notes of violence, the revenge drama set against the backdrop of the coal mafia is a semi-realistic account of events as they occur according to its writer Syed Zeeshan Qadri.

Considering that its 320 minutes running time, split in two parts, covers the gradual change in outlook and outfit, the flavours of the Northern region, its dialect, attire and body language are keenly exhibited in the taut, well-acted tale of retribution.

What renders it edgier is Kashyap's clever sprinkling of pop culture references at strategic places, which effectively showcase the innate influences of cinema in small-town India.

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Image: Gangs Of Wasseypur is a revenge drama set against the backdrop of the coal mafia.


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Sukanya Verma/Rediff.com

Dor

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Nagesh Kukunoor's tender Dor deals with emerging women power in far-off villages. But what lends it heart is empathy.

Gul Panag plays the fiery Zeenat, the sole provider of her resentful husband's family in his absence. Her real mettle shines through in the face of the ultimate misery -- the threat of losing her husband if she cannot procure a pardon from his victim's young wife Meera (Ayesha Takia).

The journey she undertakes from the lush landscapes of Himachal Pradesh to the barren spaces of Rajasthan not only tests her mettle, but also marks the awakening of the other woman's soul who emerges from a docile, resigned-to-her-fate widow to a ready-to-takeoff free spirit.


Image: Dor deals with emerging women power even in far-off villages.


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