More often than not, when it comes to watching movies, we stick to mainstream Bollywood, because regional and indie cinema either does not get enough attention or does not always get the right kind of attention.
But, it’s time we cross the barrier of subtitles. From Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali to Chaitanya Tamhane’s The Disciple, regional-language cinema has been making us proud globally with brilliant, intelligent, and novel stories.
Here are regional films released in recent past, that deserve our attention:
1. C U Soon (Malayalam)
Shot entirely under lockdown, C U Soon is proof that we don’t always need big budgets to make impactful stories. Starring Roshan Mathew, Fahadh Faasil, and Darshana Rajendran, this is an intense, emotional thriller, that also happens to be India’s first computer screen film.
2. Angamaly Diaries (Malayalam)
Directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery and written by Chemban Vinod Jose, this action thriller may appear to be yet another gangster film. But, Jose’s filmmaking style is unique, and the film is especially memorable, thanks to its cinematography and the amazing climax shot you just can’t look away from.
3. Natsamrat (Marathi)
The highest-grossing Marathi film at the time of its release, Natsamrat stars Nana Patekar in the lead role. It presents the angst and trauma that an aged, veteran theatre actor faces at the hands of a dying industry and ungrateful children.
4. Court (Marathi)
Chaitanya Tamhane’s directorial debut is a deeply moving legal drama, that won him the National Film Award. It also won him the Best Film in the Horizons category and the Luigi De Laurentiis awards at the 71st Venice Film Festival. An examination of India’s legal system, through an aging protest singer, Court is one of the most relevant films released in recent years.
5. Super Deluxe (Tamil)
Yet another film that crossed the subtitle barrier and emerged as one of the most popular comedy-dramas in recent history. Super Deluxe is one of the most well-made and well-performed films, that redefined what ambitious filmmaking means.
6. Bulbul Can Sing (Assamese)
Rima Das’ Bulbul Can Sing, which won the National Film Award, is an insightful take into the life of three adolescents, that people across the globe would relate to. However, apart from its realistic depiction of first love and friendship, the film’s subtle take on patriarchy also sets the film apart.
7. Uyare (Malayalam)
Before Chhapaak, it was Manu Ashokan’s directorial debut Uyare that talked about the evils of acid attacks and the prevalent toxic masculinity in a patriarchal society. Starring Parvathy Thiruvothu in the lead role, Uyare is the kind of inspiring drama you want to cheer for.
8. Nagarkirtan (Bengali)
To those who felt that Bollywood has merely scratched the surface when it comes to presenting LGBTQ+ stories, Nagarkirtan should be an ideal pick. The winner of 4 National Film Award, Nagarkirtan tells the story of a trans woman from rural Bengal, bringing to light the struggles of a community unfairly ostracized by society and severely underrepresented in movies.
9. Cat Sticks (Bengali)
The Kolkata of Ronny Sen’s Cat Sticks is not the same city that Bollywood unabashedly peddles for ‘cinematography’. But, it feels all the more real, because of his nuanced, heartbreaking but honest look into the life of addicts. It offers neither judgement, nor condemnation, but simply tells a story – one that may be fictional, but holds elements most people would relate to.
10. Nathicharami (Kannada)
The winner of 5 National film awards, Nathicharami offers a question on patriarchy, through the eyes and desires of a widow. It may not be in-your-face about topics like masturbation and female sexual desires. But, considering the Indian society and Kannada cinema’s general offerings, the subtle approach might actually get the point across better.
11. Mahanati (Telugu)
Step away from the dramas that Bollywood has been serving in the name of biopics, and you’ll come across Mahanti, the biographical drama on the life of actor Savitri, played by Keerthy Suresh. Suresh won the National Film Award for her brilliant performance, and the film earned critical acclaim for its poignant depiction of an era long forgotten.
12. Moothon (Malayalam)
Nivin Pauly starrer Moothon was a revelation in how, even an action thriller, could makes a case for ‘letting love be’. It’s the undercurrent of romance that leaves you unexpectedly delighted and emotional at the same time. The film’s music, especially the song Bikhre, deserves a special mention.
13. Aamis (Assamese)
The depiction of love has been so uni-dimensional in our films, that topics like platonic love or unexpressed desires rarely become the subject of a film. But Aamis attempts to do just that. A genre-defying film that swiftly moves from a romantic drama to a horror-comedy, to plain horror, Aamis unveils a bizarre, engaging journey in its depiction of two unexpected friends and their love for meat.
14. C/O Kancharapalem (Telugu)
This slice-of-life anthology is the perfect pick-me-up for those who’re looking for good, old-fashioned romantic drama. However, unlike the larger-than-life romances that hardly ever feel real, Kancharapalem manages to build an immensely relatable story, that, at the same time, stays true to the community it is set in.
15. Mallesham (Telugu)
Mallesham is a biopic that does not just tell us the story of its protagonist, school dropout Chintakindi Mallesham, but also treats us to a story of hope, and perseverance. It’s a shame that the film did not earn as much recognition as it deserves, even though Mallesham’s invention changed the lives of thousands of women.
16. Sillu Karupatti (Tamil)
Love is a topic that you can explore in a million different ways, and yet it never feels old. At least that seems to be the case with this anthology. The film, that won Halitha the JFW woman director of the year 2020 award, is a perceptive, endearing tale of romance that makes for a delightful viewing experience.
A special mention to Hindi-language films like Axone, Tumbbad, Bhonsle, etc., which have also pushed the bar when it comes to presenting original content. But the range and quality of cinema that regional-language films have presented deserve far more attention than they receive.