There is much more that comprises Indian cinema than just Bollywood. Sadly, we still don't pay as much attention to regional cinema as we should.
But as Assamese movie Village Rockstar's entry to Oscars this year proves, regional cinema has movies that are absolute gems and deserve to be enjoyed by lovers of good cinema. Movies like these:
1. Maj Rati Keteki: Assamese
Starring Adil Hussain in the lead role, this is a story of a writer who reevaluates his inspiration for becoming a writer - while pursuing a future where he rejects appreciative audiences for a truth he wishes his writings to expose. The movie won the best Assamese feature film in the 64th National Film Awards, and the same year Adil Hussain bagged the Special Mention Award for Maj Rati Keteki and the Hindi movie Mukti Bhawan.
2. Dhappa: Marathi
This little gem, written and directed by Nipun Dharmadhikari, went on to win the National Award for the Best Film on National Integration. The story revolves around a small group of children who in their innocence, question the religious boundaries being placed on them, proving a simple point - that hatred is always taught, no one is born with it.
3. Village Rockstars: Assamese
One of the finest coming-of-age dramas that Indian cinema has seen in the recent times, the movie is not only India's official entry to Oscars but also the winner of the Best Feature Film ‘Swarna Kamal’ Award at the 65th National Awards. The movie is a beautiful tale of the personal and societal problems that a young girl faces while chasing her innocent dreams.
4. Kaccha Limbu: Marathi
With a powerful starcast that included Ravi Jadhav, Sonal Kulkarni and Sachin Khedekar, the movie had made waves ever since the trailer released. Dealing with the sensitive subject of a child with special needs and how his family deals with his requirements, the movie was the directorial debut of Prasad Oak. It won the National Award for the Best Feature Film in Marathi.
5. Aalorukkam: Malayalam
Directed by debutant V. C. Abhilash and starring Indrans as the protagonist, the movie won the National Film Award for Best Film on Other Social Issues for its sensitive yet bold take on a father's search for his missing son, and the shocking (for him) result he encounters. The movie managed to avoid stereotypes and present a heartwarming story, especially because of Indrans' flawless performance as the grieving father.
6. Nagarkirtan: Bengali
The movie that won 4 National Awards, including the Special Jury Award for Feature Film, represented an issue that many mainstream movies shy away from - the traumatic lives of the gender non-conforming communities. The movie starred Riddhi Sen, who also won the National Film Award for Best Actor.
7. Bhayanakam: Malayalam
This period drama directed by Jayaraj and based on the epic novel Coir, won 3 awards at the National Film Awards, including Best Direction and Best Adapted Screenplay. Starring Renji Panicker and Asha Sarath in the lead roles, the movie is set in central Kerala during the World War II and shows the story of a postman who regretfully becomes an omen of death.
8. Hello Arsi: Odia
With an unusual yet relatable take on the modern troubles of industrialization and land acquisition, the movie won three National Awards and was praised for it abstract concept but strong dialogues. Sadly, the director and dialogue writer of the film, Sambit Mohanty passed away months before the awards were announced. He had also conceptualized and written the story.
9. Mhorkya: Marathi
This beautiful coming-of-age drama talks about the story of a young boy fighting personal liabilities, and school bullies, to become his school's leader at the Republic Day marching parade. The warm tale is expertly interwoven with humorous incidents and hard-hitting realities, that stay with you long after the movie is over. The film won 2 awards at the 65th National Film Awards.
10. Take Off: Malayalam
A political drama thriller, the movie was based on the 2014 ordeal of Indian nurses in Iraq. The movie starred Kunchacko Boban and Parvathy (who made her Bollywod debut with Qarib Qarib Singlle) in lead roles, and the latter became the first Malayalam actor to win the award for the Best Female Actor at the 48th International Film Festival of India. The movie also won two National Film Awards.
11. Dhh: Gujarati
Starring Naseeruddin Shah in the lead role, the movie was selected for the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival in the kids' category. It even won the Audience Choice Award at 2018 UK Asian Film Festival, as well as the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Gujarati. A beautiful story of children and their universal fear of examinations, the movie has received positive feedback from all corners.
12. Ishu: Assamese
Produced by the Children's Film Society of India, this movie is again a beautiful example of the purity of a child's innocence and how it is the adult beliefs and superstitions that change that. Based on Manikuntala Bhattacharjya’s popular novel Ishu, the movie explores the inhuman practice of ‘witch hunting' prevalent in parts of Assam and won the National Film Award for the Best Feature Film in Assamese.
13. Mayurakshi: Bengali
This movie beautifully explores the strong yet sensitive bond that a father and son share. The movie won the National Film Award for the Best Feature Film in Bengali. The performances by the starcast were impeccable, to say the least, and even when the writing falters in parts, the overall story is one that is a delight to watch.
14. Hebbet Ramakka: Kannada
The movie that won the National Award for the Best Feature Film in Kannada is a political drama starring Tara in the lead role along with Devaraj. The movie explored the concept of political reservation for women and advocated the thought 'equal life and equal rights'.
15. Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum: Malayalam
Despite a simple story, the engaging performances and expert direction won the movie three awards at the National Film Award, including the Best Original Screenplay and the Best Feature Film in Malayalam. Starring Suraj Venjaramoodu and Fahadh Faasil (who won the National Award for Supporting Actor), the movie was praised for its intelligent comedy and graceful flow.
16. To Let: Tamil
The beautiful story said to be inspired by real-life incidents, won the National Film Award for the Best Feature Film in Tamil. It throws light on a young couple's plight who are forced to leave their home and find alternative accommodation in just 30 days. Their plight makes this family drama a relatable and heartwarming story.
17. Sinjar: Jasari
This woman-centric movie is a must watch for everyone who wants to understand the plight of women caught in situations they have no control in. The movie explores the journey of two women forced to become a part of a terrorist group, and the societal stigma they have to face when they finally get released. The movie went on to win two National Film Awards, including the award for the Best Debut Film of a Director.
18. Gulabjaam: Marathi
This is a movie that will whet your appetite for both - a good movie and the joy of a good meal. Starring Siddharth Chandekar, Sonali Kulkarni and Samar Nakhate, the story revolves around a young man's desire to learn cooking. Marathi food plays an important role in the movie, taking up the role of being an intrinsic character. However, it is the simplicity of the movie that wins your heart, despite its slow pace.
19. Walking With The Wind: Ladakhi
Technically not a coming-of-the age drama the movie is still a look at the journey from being a child to an adult. The movie is charming for its performances and storyline, but most importantly for bringing alive a region that is still unknown, despite being a tourist favorite - Ladakh. No wonder it bagged the National Film Award for the Best Feature Film in Ladakhi.
20. Chumbak: Marathi
This is the movie that turned renowned lyricist Swanand Kirkire into an actor, and that too as the protagonist of the movie. Originally released at the MAMI 19th Mumbai Film Festival, the movie also marked actor Akshay Kumar's debut as a presenter. The story brings together a simple middle-aged man and a young restaurant worker, and the strange circumstances they attract form the crux of the story.
21. Paddayi: Tulu
A romantic drama, Puddayi is a modern day take at the classic tale of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Starring Mohan Sheni and Bindu Raxidi, the film won the National Film Award for the Best Feature Film in Tulu and explores the common and not-so-common aspirations of the common men and women.
22. Nude: Marathi
The movie is an exploration of a mother's professional choices, the unnecessary stigma that affects certain professions in India, and the struggles parents to provide their children a better life. The movie faced many controversies but was ultimately released without any cuts and with an A certificate.
Know of any other great regional movies that should be on every cinema lover's list? Let us know in the comments section below.