India is a multi-cultural land and it's been time and again, how mainstream Bollywood and Hollywood movies tend to submerge the indigenous talent. However, over the years the so called vernacular languages have given so many movies that have left us stirred on the inside that it now seems criminal to overlook them. From Nagraj Manjule to Vetrimaaran to Kaushik Ganguly, quite a few clear-headed directors have cropped up in the regional space making films many notches above the drab mainstream.
We've made a list of 12 unmissable regional movies which deserved an audience the size of Diwali blockbusters since they were SO MUCH MORE engaging than anything Bollywood and Hollywood serves us.
1. Court (Marathi, 2014)
Chaitanya Tamahane's debut film paints a vivid, frighteningly real portrait of Indian judiciary. The film follows the court case of a folk singer as he stands trial for the suicide of a BMC sewage cleaner. The film is comical, farcical and so raw in its treatment that it leaves a massive hole in the conscience about the misplaced priorities of system empowered to give the death sentence to a citizen. The film is a slap, one that most of us need. It opened at MAMI 2014 and then traveled the world. Watch the trailer here.
2. RangiTaranga (Kannada, 2015)
Based on the folklore of a Brahmarakshasa, and using bygone elements like past life, rebirth - this film follows a novelist who has to tackle absurdities when he moves back to his ancestral village. It was credited with single-handedly raising the bar for supernatural thrillers in Kannada cinema. Watch the trailer here.
3. Shwaas (Marathi, 2004)
India's entry for the Oscars in the year of its release, the film follows the last day of a child before an operation which would lead him to lose his sight, as his grandfather attempts one final time to show him the beauty of life. Shwaas also proved to be a highlight for some its cast members like Sandeep Kulkarni and Amruta Subhash who went on to make a big name for themselves in the Marathi movie industry. Watch the full movie here.
4. Harishchandrachi Factory (Marathi, 2009)
Paresh Mokashi's debut feature took a behind the scenes peek at India's first feature film Raja Harishchandra and its director Dadasaheb Phalke. The film chronicles the man's fascination with cinema in one iconic scene when everyone's watching the film while Phalke's character is the only face looking back at the projector trying to understand how the technology works. Watch the trailer here.
5. Kanchivaram (Tamil, 2009)
The Priyadarshan film which got veteran actor Prakash Raj his fourth national award, tells the story of a silk weaver and his dream of saving enough to see his daughter dressed in a silk saree on her wedding day. The film's tragic last scene is one of the many reasons why it needs to be seen. Watch the trailer here.
6. Thithi (Kannada, 2016)
Endorsed by Aamir Khan on a social media platform, Thithi was 2016's break-out hit for the Kannada film industry. Featuring non-professional actors, the film follows 3 generations of sons as the 101-year-old patriarch dies in a rural district of Karnataka. The film opened at the 2015 MAMI and then went on to win big the Locarno Film Festival, Shanghai Film Festival and first BRICS festival where it won Best Film. Watch the trailer here.
7. Kaaka Muttai (Tamil, 2015)
Vetrimaran's Visaaranai might have been India's entry to the Oscars this year, but his 2015's Kaaka Muttai which he co-produced with Dhanush, is a much more well-rounded film. It follows two kids from the slums who desire to eat a pizza. It premiered at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and won widespread acclaim. Watch the trailer here.
8. Shabdo (Bengali, 2013)
Kaushik Ganguly's 2013 concept movie has a foley artist at the heart of its story. A foley artist is someone who recreates ambient sounds to give the film more depth. Shabdo which literally translates to sound, focuses on this special protagonist who gets distracted by the littlest of sound and wants to recreate them and doesn't seem to register people and conversation anymore. The film won the national award for Best Film. Watch the trailer here.
9. Sairat (Marathi, 2016)
Nagraj Manjule's blockbuster became the first Marathi film to gross Rs 100 crore at the box office, but that's not why the film needs to be celebrated. Following the story of two lovers who elope, the film touches upon issues of caste, honor killing in rural Maharashtra. The film was screened at the Berlin Film Festival and then went on to win a Special Jury Award at the National Awards. Watch the trailer here.
10. Asha Jaoar Majhe / Labour of Love (Bengali, 2015)
Directed by Aditya Vikram Sengupta, the film follows the story of an unnamed man and woman who both work hard and then get to spend one brief moment with each other. Starring Shabdo's Ritwick Chakroborty (the man) and Basabdatta Chatterjee (who plays the woman), the film went on to premiere at the New York Indian Film Festival, Venice International Film Festival where in both festivals it won Best Film. Watch the trailer here.
11. Lucia (Kannada, 2013)
Pawan Kumar's sophomore effort follows Nikki, an usher in a local theatre who suffers from insomnia and consumes a pill which results in a fascinating lucid dream. The film won words of encouragement from famous Bollywood filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, which led to more people finding out about this little gem from Karnataka. The film was picked up by Tamil actor Siddharth who went on to star in the remake called Ennakul Oruvan. Watch the trailer here.
12. Chauthi Koot (Punjabi, 2016)
Chauthi Koot literally translates to the fourth direction is a film which is set in post-Operation-Blue-Star Punjab where a family is caught between Khalistani terrorists and para-military security forces. And in a parallel narrative we see two characters who forcefully get onto a freight train to Amritsar. Chauthi Koot directed by Gurvinder Singh, won the Best Film at Singapore International Film Festival and was also screened at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section. Watch the trailer here.
Watch these over the week, you will not be disappointed.