Hindi films constitute a large part of the film market in India. And with all the glamour that is attached with Bollywood, regional films often don’t get as much exposure on the national scale as they probably should. 

But there’s good news! While regional films mainly get promoted only in their respective states, with audiences now looking at good content from across the world, the language barrier is fast diminishing. And what’s better than great cinema from our own country, right?

With a diverse culture like ours, where dialects change every few kilometers, India has a vast resource of stories and characters. But the appeal of these stories isn’t limited to a state alone and appeals to all kinds of an audience.

2016 might not have been a great year for Bollywood but regional cinema produced some great gems. 

Here are 11 regional films from 2016 that every movie lover must watch:

1. Sairat (Marathi)

This one was probably the most acclaimed Marathi film this year. It is the story of a lower caste boy who falls in love with an upper caste girl. The social scenario in rural Maharasthra doesn’t allow the couple to be together and they are opposed in ever possible way. The leads, Rinku Rajguru and Akash Thosar, have given a memorable performance in the film. 

The film has become the highest-grossing Marathi film of all times. Sairat is a must-watch for all regional cinema lovers.

Indian Express

2. Chauthi Koot (Punjabi)

This Punjabi film is set in the 1980s when the state was undergoing a lot of political tension. The film has two parallel stories. The first story highlights the fear that was instilled in the public due to the political events that even prohibited them from keeping pet dogs. The second recounts the journey of a group of Hindu and Sikh men travelling in an almost-empty train.


3. Natsamrat (Marathi)

The story of a fallen theater actor, Ganpat Ramchandra Belwalkar, is as haunting as it is beautiful. Nana Patekar is a great actor and we knew that already but after watching Natsamrat, you’ll have a newfound respect for this man.

Indian Express

4. Thithi (Kannada)

The film stars non-professional actors from the villages of Karnataka. It is the story of a family across three generations, after the patriarch dies at 101. 

The film is a dark comedy which intertwines different stories, across generations, finally culminating with the patriarch’s thithi.


5. Visaranai (Tamil)

This Tamil film is based on the novel Lock Up by M Chandrakumar. 

Starring Dinesh Ravi, Anandhi and Aadukalam Murugadoss, this film deals with police brutality and haunts the viewer for its depiction of violence. The sheer brutality in the system leaves the viewer with a lot of questions. 


6. Kothanodi (Assamese)

This film is a collection of four stories inspired by the folk tales of Assam. 

The stories in the film vary from difficult motherhood to black magic. The film stars Seema Biswas, Adil Hussain, Zerifa Wahid, Urmila Mahanta, Kopil Bora and Asha Bordoloi. 

The film was first screened at the 20th Busan International Film Festival.


7. Kammatipaadam (Malayalam)

This thriller, starring Dulquer Salman in the lead role, is the story of a slum locality in Ernakulam where the Dalit community is forced to give up their land to the mafia. The suffering of the lower caste community is compromised upon for the sake of modernisation and that forms the base of the film.

Indian Express

8. Shankhachil (Bengali)

This Bengali film was made as a joint venture between India and Bangladesh. It is the story of a Bengali couple who visits another town for the treatment of their ailing child. 

The struggles of the family’s relationships form the crux of this film.


9. Wrong Side Raju (Gujarati)

This thriller is inspired by a real life hit-and-run case in Ahmedabad in 2013. 

The film is an edge-of-the-seat thriller. The protagonist, Raju, is a driver by the day and smuggles alcohol in the night which is illegal in the state. Raju is wrongly convicted for the accident and now has to find a way to either clear his name or get out of the scandal unscathed.


10. Maheshinte Prathikaaram (Malayalam)

This comedy film is the story of a man who gets caught between a tussle but ends up getting humiliated in front of his entire village. He vows to not wear his slippers again until he has avenged his humiliation. 

The film is directed by Dileesh Pothan and stars Fahadh Faasil in the lead role.


11. Kshanam (Telugu)

This thriller is the story of a woman who believes her daughter has been kidnapped. She calls her ex-boyfriend to help her with the case but there are various loose ends which don’t seem to come together. 

The thriller has revelations every few minutes and you’ll constantly keep guessing where the story will lead you.


There’s more to Indian cinema than Bollywood!