In a country as large as India, and with such a thriving film industry, it’s no wonder that cinematic gems can often be lost in the proverbial noise. For reasons of language barriers or distribution issues, most of us probably haven’t seen as many, say, South Indian movies as we have foreign films. Luckily, all that has changed with the advent of Netflix which beams the best films on offer straight into our living rooms and onto our Smart TVs, so that we may watch them in the comfort of our own homes.
We’ve gone through Netflix’s library of films to uncover some underappreciated gems that have been waiting to be discovered by a curious audience.
For a debut film, Selvamani Selvaraj has done a spectacular job with Nila. A Tamilian cab driver in Mumbai meets his long-lost childhood love one rainy night in the city of dreams, but something is amiss. We won’t give more away for fear of ruining the film for you, because this is one film you don’t want to miss. The nuanced acting and ethereal shots of Mumbai during the rains will be sure to make an impression on any lover of cinema. Nila is heartfelt and a true labour of love.
If you’ve been paying attention to the world of LGBT-centric cinema in India, you’ve surely noticed that most movies that feature a lead character with uncommon sexual preferences tend to place too much of an onus on the character’s sexual identity. Loev breaks that tradition by focusing instead on the story and allowing the lead characters’ sexuality to paint a backdrop to the tale of two young men coming to terms with their feelings for each other over a weekend reunion in Mumbai. What’s even more unusual about the film is that it’s an Indian English-language movie that manages to sound genuine.
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While you might not have heard of this Malayalam adaptation of celebrated Russian author Anton Chekov’s short story, Vanka, the film is something of a legend in its home state of Kerala, where it became the first ever Malayalam movie to sweep all the top awards in the 20-year history of the International Film Festival of Kerala. A young boy, Kuttapayyi, loses both his parents and ends up in the care of his grandfather on the rain-soaked farmlands of Kuttanadu, where they spend the post-harvest season rearing ducks.
Visaranai (which translates to Interrogation) is a portrayal of how the powers that be – the powerful individuals who make up what we call The System – control every aspect of our lives. After a local big shot’s home is burgled, four migrant Tamilian workers are tossed into a Guntur prison, where they are worked over in brutal fashion by the policemen who only want to extract a confession from these hapless and voiceless men, regardless of what the truth may be. This movie is not for you if you’re faint of heart of accompanied by children.
This simple story of an old man and his vintage valva radio might seem predictable at the outset, but it takes an unexpected step to become a beautiful story about the meaning of family. Debutant director Hari Viswanath made this film as an ode to his grandfather, whose daily routine was set to the timings dictated by the old Murphy wall radio in his possession. Radiopetti does away with the histrionics and instead takes a subtler route with its acting and storytelling, resulting in a film that you’re sure to recommend to your parents.
The Karma Killings (Hindi)
Based on the infamous 2006 serial murders of Nithari, The Karma Killings is a chilling documentary that explores the lives and motivations of some of the principal characters involved in the heinous acts. The hours of pained research that have gone into this film are there for all to see – from the interviews with the families of those who went missing and were likely murdered, to the careful exploration of the intricacies of the case. At times frightening, but with faint glimpses of hope, this documentary may well go down as one of the best to ever be made for an Indian audience.
Lovers of Kannada films, fear not, because we haven’t forgotten about you. This fantastic film is a must-watch and has already been included in an earlier article about the The Best Indian Indie Films.
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Cover Image Courtesy: The Karma Killings