The Indian film industry has often been called out for its lack of originality and rightfully so. After all, it's not often that Indian cinema has gone off the beaten path. But the few times that filmmakers took the plunge into experimental storytelling, we witnessed gems likes these:
1. AK vs. AK
Vikramaditya Motwane's latest venture AK vs. AK is a black comedy thriller that treads the thin line between becoming a reality show and an out-and-out fictional thriller. Intriguing, interesting, and undoubtedly entertaining, AK vs. AK is as meta as it gets, completely challenging the notion of convetional filmmaking with every frame.
Though not many people stumbled upon the creative genius of Cargo, its story of a human world run by friendly demons nevertheless remains a rare gem in Bollywood's tiny pool of sci-fi dramas. At times awry, at times unbelievably charming, Cargo was an unusual story, boosted by incredible performances.
3. Aankhon Dekhi
This 2013 drama remains one of the most insightful commentaries on the existential crisis that seems to afflict every second person - perhaps because we're all trying to fit in with what the world expects of us, rather than simply live life the way we want to. A film that highlighted, yet again, Sanjay Mishra's acting prowess, Aankhon Dekhi was unlike any Bollywood drama.
4. Ship of Theseus
Anand Gandhi's Ship of Theseus, starring Aida El-Kashef, Neeraj Kabi, and Sohum Shah, is regarded as one of the most significant films to have come out of Indian cinema in recent years. A literal and psychological exploration of the famous 'Ship of Theseus paradox', this is a movie that redefined what evocative storytelling is all about.
This 1987 comedy-drama is yet another example of Kamal Hassan's genius. But that's not the only reason it has made it to the list. It's also because it's a silent comedy with no dialogues. And yet, the film went on to win the National Film Award and become one of the most entertaining comedies. Filmmakers who still resort to sexist dialogues to evoke laughter can perhaps take a lesson or two from Pushpak.
6. Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota
With an undeniably charming protagonist, a downright eccentric villain, and a motley of memorable 'sidekicks', Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota is easily one of the most novel stories to have come out of Bollywood in recent times. It is not just a love letter to our growing up years and Bruce Lee, but also an example of what experimental cinema should look like.
7. No Smoking
Kashyap may have gained fame with GoW, but he achieved cult status, as a director, because of his unique perspective on storytelling. And John Abraham starrer psychological thriller No Smoking is the perfect example of that. Though No Smoking failed at the BO, it's a worthy addition to the limited pool of neo-noir cinema in India.
8. Love Sex Aur Dhokha
From its music to its shooting style (shot entirely in a digital format), everything about Dibakar Banerjee's anthology drama, Love Sex Aur Dhokha, was unconventional. But the end result was the kind of cinematic brilliance that we've now come to expect from Banerjee. The fact that it translated into a commercial success is just the cherry on the cake!
9. Go Goa Gone
Before directors Raj and DK became household names with Amazon Prime Video's The Family Man, they gave India its first zombie comedy, Go Goa Gone. Despite belonging to a genre that has been over abused by Hollywood, Go Goa Gone was unique, engrossing, and a genuine laughter riot. And Saif Ali Khan's avatar, Boris, easily tops the list of epic zombie hunters.
10. C U Soon
India's first computer screen film, C U Soon was captured entirely on an iPhone and boasts of truly brilliant performances by the entire starcast, especially Fahadh Faasil. However, the film's true win remains in how it reiterated that props, over-the-top budgets, or excessive drama can never replace the importance of a good script.
11. Super Deluxe
Expertly combining elements of fantasy and science fiction, Super Deluxe is unlike any film to have come out of Indian cinema. Littered with pop-cultural references, the film effortlessly combined black comedy with social commentary, ensuring that the story stayed with the audience for long.
12. Bhavesh Joshi Superhero
It may have been a commercial failure, but as far as points for originality go, Bhavesh Joshi gave us a concept that few, if any Hindi language films had explored in the past. Despite how cinema, as an art form, has abused the superhero genre, Bhavesh Joshi managed to still entertain and surprise. And that's the film's true win.
13. Tasher Desh
There are adaptations, and then there is director Q's adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore's drama Tasher Desh, a Bengali fantasy film of the same name, starring Anubrata Basu, Joyraj Bhattacharjee, Rii Sen, Tillotama Shome, and Imaad Shah. Subverting conventional filmmaking, Tasher Desh presents a brave, albeit bizarre form of storytelling, that reveals something new every time you watch it.
14. Glitch from Unpaused
To make a love story unusual in Bollywood is a rare feat indeed. But that's exactly what director duo Raj and DK did with their story Glitch, part of Amazon Prime Video's anthology, Unpaused. Set in an age of Covid-30, Raj and DK weaved a tale where the world was divided between extremes, and yet love found a way. Interesting, unconventional, and hilarious, Glitch is a worthy addition to India's limited dystopian stories.
This 1988 postmodernist film got a theatrical release in 2014, 26 years after it was first made. A film that satirizes mythology, art, politics, but most importantly conventional Bollywood filmmaking, Om-Dar-B-Dar has acquired cult status today. From its non-linear narrative to its fantastical, undeniably confusing storyline, Om-Dar-B-Dar is quite literally one-of-a-kind.
Not your usual Bollywood melodrama.