Firstly, this is to clarify that we have no intention of putting all South Indian films in a single bracket. We understand each state has its own film industry. Now, getting to the crux of the matter, which is most Bollywood movies are just repetitive song dance crap without any relevance to its audience. So we thought we could provide a list of South Indian movies, that maybe Bollywood can learn a lesson from.
In the local elections of a village, the deciding vote comes down to a small-time barber. The satire is incredibly funny, entertaining and addresses socio-political issues like casteism. It also gives you a glimpse into modern-day elections in Tamil Nadu.
Compared to films like Article 15 which have been shot for an upper-caste audience and never seem to get over its hero-worshipping phase, Mandela actually tells a relevant story, with great acting and writing proving not every film about caste has to be a violent cluster of pity-inducing melodrama.
Based on a real-life incident of a beekeeper who has to carry his own wife to the mortuary for cremation as he could not afford to get a van/ambulance from the hospital. Over the last couple of years, we have seen reports of so many such incidents where people have had to carry their loved ones for miles to hospitals or to the cremation ground. Thaen is a beautiful film that humanises these 'reports', these people who become unnamed subjects for us to rage about for a day and then just move on to the next one.
While the trope of the underdog fighting against corporate greed in not new in Tamil cinema, the acting just keeps you hooked to your screen as you struggle to find enough tissues to dry your eyes.
Not only Bollywood hasn't made a movie like this in years, but its attempts at biopics like Super 30 end up being redundant hero-worshipping dramas that can't survive a minute without over the top dialogues, bad accents and brown face make up.
The political drama tells the story of Sulieman, an ageing patriarch who has achieved a cult-like status for standing up to the corruption in his coastal village. His estranged nephew Freddy, a juvenile criminal, has been assigned to kill him. Fahadh Faasil is just too good in this political thriller.
Again, Bollywood hasn't had a semi-decent political thriller or any political film challenging its audience since Yuva. Instead, we have movies like Rajneeti that present a balancing centrist, sanitised take on North Indian politics without actually saying anything.
4. The Great Indian Kitchen
This movie won the Kerala State Film Award for Best Film for Best Screenplay and Best Sound Designer. It tells the story of a newlywed woman who simply doesn't want to spend the rest of her life as a submissive wife. It's raw and yet precise in the way it describes patriarchy and its implications. The film also provides commentary on an average Indian marriage...
...something that Bollywood hasn't touched upon since the 80s maybe. Hindi cinema has rarely been bold enough to question the great Indian marriage system. So we get films like Veere Di Wedding as a poor excuse for feminism, a superficial film about sisterhood primarily aimed at upper-class upper-caste Tier 1 city audience that nobody can actually relate to.
5. Sarpatta Parambarai
This is our Rocky. This is what a movie about sports is supposed to look like. It tells the simple story of a labourer, Kabilan, who fights for the honour of his coach, his clan and his village while battling many of his own demons. It's well written, well shot and well directed, never tries to be an out of the world experience...
unlike Toofan, starring Farhan Akhtar, who looks like a boxer, talks like a Mumbaikar but that's pretty much it.
6. The Priest
Now, this is a horror movie you want to take an Amazon subscription for. Starring Mammootty, Manju Warrier and Nikhila Vimal, this was the second-highest-grossing Malayalam film of 2021. Horror movies don't necessarily have to be dependant on jump scares and this film is proof of that.
When was the last time we saw a Hindi horror movie that wasn't just a bunch of sex scenes pulled together?
Karnan hits you where it hurts. Its heroes are as flawed as real people are and their issues are as real and complex as you would expect. Dhanush is brilliant as Karnan, who fights against the inhumane treatment meted out to the people of his village due to their caste. The direction is one point, the writing and acting on a whole other level and the imagery used in the film is not only relevant but also important to the story it tells. It's a well thought out, meticulously put film that will haunt you and piss you off at the same time.
In Bollywood, we still just have Article 15!
On the day of a public conference by the state's Chief Minister, his bodyguard and a police officer become stuck in a time loop. This is the official synopsis for the film. It's a very good attempt at sci-fi cinema, given the budget Indian films have to operate with.
Compared to that we have... Robot 2 was released in multiple languages, so it doesn't count. That leaves us with Ra.One.
So, maybe next time Bollywood decides to get 'inspired' to borrow a script from other regional films, they could pick a good one. Although judging from the way Karan Johar butchered Sairaat, I would rather not!
9. Operation Java
This film is based on real life cases undertaken by a cyber cell police station with the help of two engineering graduates in Cochin. The characters are very real and the film tells the story it wants to tell without ever having to resort to jingoism.
Compare it to Bollywood movies about cops and we have Singham, Sooryavanshi and a few other Rohit Shetty movies that might as well have been produced by the police departments across the country but nobody else can actually believe cops are those kind of angels.
#Home is the story of a middle-class family dealing with basic everyday middle-class problems. It's an endearing, well-written script delivered to perfection. Of course, there are problems you might or might not agree with but the film lets you form your opinion about it.
Now, Bollywood, in the last few years has managed to give us some middle-class dramas, courtesy of Ayushmann Khuranna, but every one of them had specific interests that they catered to. Otherwise, we get superficial dramas like Baghban or movies like Student of the Year where the definition of middle-class families is drastically different than what you or we are used to seeing every day.
This Dulquer Salman film is about a wanted fugitive on a mission to find out a man who looks similar to him to falsify his own death and get insurance money. Now, this is a proper thriller.
In Bollywood we have Abbas Mastan having Saif Ali Khan jump off a bloody plane in a car with attached parachutes. Or we have Salman Khan using rocket launchers with his bare hands. That's the level we are operating at right now.
Note: This list will keep getting updated.