Movies for Thinking about Indian Historyby RRHowell41 | created - 22 Sep 2010 | updated - 02 Apr 2011 | Public
My purpose here is to create a list of movies that would help to give a gist of some Indian history. I do not recommend that you rely on these movies for absolute accuracy, though some are better than others. (Gandhi for instance, is much more closely documented than Ashoka the Great, which is a song and dance extravaganza that loosely relates to the life of the subject). I do believe that these movies are useful for introductory purposes. Before accepting anything in these sorts of movies as fact, I recommend doing some background checking. But these movies might motivate you (as over the years they have motivated me) to care enough to do some serious research and reading.
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1. Ashoka the Great (2001)
R | 176 min | Action, Biography, Drama
The epic tale of King Asoka's life is recounted here.
Votes: 11,724 | Gross: $0.70M
A grand scale epic movie about one of India's early great emperors. Historical accuracy was not one of the movie-makers prime concerns (and many details are not available). But it works as an introduction to the broad outlines of the story.
2. Jodhaa Akbar (2008)
Not Rated | 213 min | Action, Adventure, Biography
A sixteenth century love story about a marriage of alliance that gave birth to true love between a great Mughal emperor, Akbar, and a Rajput princess, Jodha.
Votes: 24,040 | Gross: $3.44M
There are problems with historicity on this one, but the broad outlines that there was this guy named Akbar who cared about religious tolerance at some level are valid.
3. Mughal-E-Azam (1960)
Not Rated | 197 min | Drama, Romance, War
A 16th century prince falls in love with a court dancer and battles with his emperor father.
Votes: 4,923 | Gross: $0.16M
Romance of one of the early Mughal emperors.
4. Tulsidas (1954)
Drama, History, Romance
Sage Tulsidas faces challenges when he attempts to translate the Holy Ramayan.
This is an old black and white movie that tells the story of Tulsidas, who wrote the Awadhi (accessible to Hindi speakers) version of the Ramayana.
5. Mangal Pandey: The Rising (2005)
150 min | Biography, Drama, History
This is a film about the leader of the 1857 mutiny and his fight against the British rule.
Votes: 8,143 | Gross: $0.87M
Very nice epic historical romance.
6. Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey (2010)
168 min | Action, Drama, History
Children who are not allowed by the oppressive British colonists to play football decide to join a group of freedom fighters.
About the Chitagong Rebellion in 1930. A patriotic look at a violent part of the Indian struggle for independence. A well-done and thoughtful movie, though it was a box office flop.
7. The Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002)
Not Rated | 155 min | Biography, Drama, History
The story of a young revolutionary who raised an armed resistance against the British rule in India.
Of the three recent movies that deal with this, this one is the best.
8. Gandhi (1982)
PG | 191 min | Biography, Drama, History
Gandhi's character is fully explained as a man of nonviolence. Through his patience, he is able to drive the British out of the subcontinent. And the stubborn nature of Jinnah and his commitment towards Pakistan is portrayed.
Votes: 190,785 | Gross: $52.77M
This one is obvious. If you will only watch one movie on Indian history, this is the one to see.
9. Water (I) (2005)
PG-13 | 117 min | Drama, Romance
A thesis picture. In 1938, Gandhi's party is making inroads in women's rights. Chuyia, a child already married but living with her parents, becomes a widow. By tradition, she is ... See full summary »
Votes: 13,192 | Gross: $3.22M
Widows in Varanasi during the time of Gandhi.
10. Sardar (1993)
175 min | Biography, Drama, History
An account of Vallbhbhai Patel's political life while India was taking first steps as an independent country.
Sardar Patel, focusing on 1945-1950.
11. Gandhi, My Father (2007)
136 min | Biography, Drama, History
The account of troubled relationship between Mahatma Gandhi and his eldest son.
Votes: 1,402 | Gross: $0.24M
About Gandhi's oldest son.
12. Earth (1998)
Unrated | 110 min | Drama, Romance, War
It's 1947 and the borderlines between India and Pakistan are being drawn. A young girl bears witnesses to tragedy as her ayah is caught between the love of two men and the rising tide of political and religious violence.
Votes: 6,424 | Gross: $0.53M
Set in Lahore at the time of Partition.
13. Pinjar (2003)
188 min | Drama
In the days leading up to Partition, a Hindu woman is abducted by a Muslim man. Soon, she finds herself not only forced into marriage, but living in a new country as the borders between India and Pakistan are drawn.
A movie about partition, but particularly about the women who got trapped on one side or the other of the border and the difficulties and issues of repatriation.
14. Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa (1998)
186 min | Drama
Dibyanath Chatterji, his bank-employed wife, Sujata, and only child, a son, Brati, live a middle-class existence in Calcutta, West Bengal, India, circa early 1970s. Sujata is a quiet, ... See full summary »
A mother learns about her son's involvement with the Naxalites.
15. Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (2003)
120 min | Drama
Geeta Rao has two admirers - one is Siddharth Tyabji and the other is Vikram Malhotra circa 1969 West Bengal that is witnessing it's struggle against the ruling Congress party, joining ... See full summary »
Powerful story set against political activism (including Naxalites) of the 1970's.
16. Amu (2005)
Not Rated | 102 min | Drama
Amu is the story of an Indian American woman who returns to India. The film takes a dark turn as Kaju learns that a horrifying genocide that took place twenty years ago turns out to hold the key to her mysterious origins.
Votes: 722 | Gross: $0.01M
A college-aged girl returns to India, where she was born, to reconnect with her roots. In the process, she learns history about Delhi that she never knew. (The Sikh Massacres)