15 Brilliant, Award-Winning Indian Films That You Haven’t Heard About

So I’m going to start this with a confession: I wasn’t always a big movie buff. In fact, me falling in love with movies is quite a recent happening, mostly because I discovered that Indian movies are so much more than the commercial blockbusters that I’ve been put through. And when I found that out – well, there was no turning back. The most heartbreaking bit? So many Indian movies are stunning works of cinema, so many of them get recognised abroad. But they remain unknown to a vast majority. Because who said the best India can produce is Bollywood Masala Flicks?

Titli (2014)

A story about a man trying to escape his family’s violent line of work, Titli is a movie that’ll keep you engaged throughout. It’s not your usual gangster drama – it’s about a million times better than that. The movie won multiple awards in New York, Spain, Brazil, and Paris, to name a few places.

Parched (2015)

Possibly one of the most powerful Indian movies I’ve ever come across, Parched stars Radhika Apte, Tannistha Chatterjee, Surveen Chawla and Lehar Khan. Set in a village in Rajasthan, the movie tells the harrowing tales of the things women go through there. The movie has a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was showcased at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival.

Ugly (2014)

This Anurag Kashyap thriller tells the story of corruption, despair, fear and indifference when the daughter of an aspiring actor disappears. In true Kashyap style, this movie will keep you at the edge of your seat throughout and will leave you more than a little shaken. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and received as many at 9 international awards and nominations.

Lucia (2013)

The first ever crowd-funded Kannada film, this movie tells the story of Nikkhi, an usher with insomnia who consumes a pill that starts changing his reality. The movie premiered at the London Film Festival and won the Best Film Audience Choice Award there.

Court (2015)

This powerfully heartbreaking movie will open your eyes to the legal system of our country. The film examines the Indian Legal System through the trial of Narayan Kamble – an aging folk singer who is accused of encouraging a worker to commit suicide through his songs. Brilliantly made and enacted, this movie premiered at the Venice International Film Festival and won as many as 19 international awards.

Matrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women (2003)

Written and directed by Manisha Jha, this movie talks about the gender imbalance in Indian society. It showcases a terrifyingly realistic dystopian future: a country without women, a country where the girl child never really survives. It’s the wake-up call we still need, 14 years after the movie has been released. The film was showcased at the Venice Film Festival, presented in The Critic’s Week, and later won 7 other international awards.

Gandu (2010)

This remarkable Bengali film tells the story of a lonely and angsty teenager whose state of mind is shown with him rapping in Bengali. The movie is known for its powerful narrative and stunning visuals, and was the official selection at the Berlin International Film Festival. It was heavily praised by critics around the world and eventually went on to win the Jury Award for best film at the South Asian International Film Festival.

Killa (2015)

This Marathi film tells the story of a 11-year-old boy as he struggles with the death of his father while simultaneously trying to make friends in an unfamiliar place. I’m not one for subtitles, but this movie with its powerful story-line and incredible acting kept me (a perennial English-speaker) hooked. Killa was not only officially selected for the Berlin Film Festival, but also won 2 awards there. It went on to win a National Award as well.

Mr. And Mrs. Iyer (2002)

An incredibly thought-provoking and emotional movie, Mr. And Mrs. Iyer is Indian film-making at its best. Konkana Sen Sharma plays Meenakshi Iyer, a Tamil Iyer Brahmin, while the talented Rahul Bose plays Raja Chowdhury, a Bengali Muslim. Two people with drastically different upbringings form an alliance to get through the carnage that comes with communal violence in India – together. Mr. And Mrs. Iyer won 3 National Awards and 5 additional awards internationally.

Labour Of Love (2014)

I didn’t know what to make of this movie when I first saw it. See, it’s a movie without any dialogues, a movie that relies solely on its background score and incredible acting. Labour Of Love is a Bengali movie that follows the life of a young, married, working class couple and their struggles. It’ll move you to tears. The movie premiered at the Venice Film Festival and went on to win an award for best director there.

Jai Bhim Comrade (2011)

I don’t say this often, but this documentary film is an absolute MUST WATCH for every Indian. Jai Bhim Comrade begins with the police violence of the 1997 Ramabai Killings, and goes on to explore Dalit life in India. The film took 14 years to produce, and once you watch it – you’ll understand why. It won awards at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, the National Film Awards, and the Jean Rouch Film International Film Festival.

Firaaq (2008)

The directional debut of Nandita Das, this political-thriller is set one month after the 2003 Gujarat riots and looks at the terrifying aftermath of the violence. The film is apparently based on “a thousand true stories”. It won 2 National Film Awards, 2 awards at the Asian Festival Of First Films, as well as an award at the Kara Film Festival in Pakistan.

Liar’s Dice (2014)

This Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Geetanjali Thappa starrer deals with the issue of migration and the price innocent citizens who are simply trying to make a living have to pay for it. The movie was India’s official entry for the Oscars, was screened at the Sundance Film Festival, bagged 2 National Awards, and a special jury award at the Sofia International Film Festival.

Ghatashraddha (1977)

The oldest film on this list, Ghatashraddha is an Indian, Kannada film that tells the story of an aristocratic Brahmin school student who fails at concealing his friend’s pregnancy. It won 3 National Awards and is the only Indian film to be chosen for The National Archive Of Paris.

Kharij (1982)

I’m not going to lie – this movie will probably leave you feeling slightly guilty. Kharij is a Bengali-Indian movie that explores the exploitation of a child worker by a middle class family. It was nominated for the Golden Palm award and won The Jury Prize at The Cannes Film Festival.