Excellent Indian Movies that Don't Necessarily Fit the Mold

These are movies that aren't quite standard Bollywood for one reason or another. Some are not made by Indian directors, but a movie about India made in Hindi or another Indian language seems to me to deserve consideration here. Some of these are closer, and others farther from the "Bollywood" masala model. All are movies that I consider excellent.
View:
Log in to copy items to your own lists.
1.
Religion (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
The movie is about a Hindu priest Pandit Chaturvedi (Pankaj Kapur) who is one of the most highly respected priests in the entire city of Varanasi... (105 mins.)
Director: Bhavna Talwar
“ A character study of a narrow but sincere Brahmin priest as he grapples with situations that stretch his understanding of his faith. ” - RRHowell41
 
2.
Dev (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Joint Commissioner of Police Dev Pratap Singh, a duty-bound, self-righteous officer, and Special Commissioner Tejinder Khosla... (172 mins.)
Director: Govind Nihalani
“ A policeman grapples with truth and justice in the face of riots, political pressures and the memory of his son's death. ” - RRHowell41
 
3.
Firaaq (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Chronicles the devastating impact on vulnerable Muslims in Gujarat after riots. (101 mins.)
Director: Nandita Das
“ A look at the aftermath of the Gujarati riots. ” - RRHowell41
 
4.
Amu (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
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. (102 mins.)
Director: Shonali Bose
“ An American college girl seeks her roots in India. ” - RRHowell41
 
5.
The Pool (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
A boy in abject poverty works in a hotel and becomes obsessed with a swimming pool in the opulent hills of Panjim, Goa, India. His life gets turned upside-down when he attempts to meet the mysterious family who lives at the house. (98 mins.)
Director: Chris Smith
“ I came very close to not watching this movie, because the synopsis of the plot sounded somewhat boring, the picture was drab, and the movie was made by an American director who didn't even speak Hindi. This is a wonderful movie about friendship, poverty, dealing with tragedy and mentoring. ” - RRHowell41
 
6.
Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa (1998)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Dibyanath Chatterji, his bank-employed wife, Sujata, and only child, a son, Brati, live a middle-class existence in Calcutta... (186 mins.)
Director: Govind Nihalani
“ A woman struggles to make sense of the death of her son. ” - RRHowell41
 
7.
Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
During a bus journey, a devout Hindu Brahmin woman protects a Muslim man when communal rioting breaks out. (120 mins.)
Director: Aparna Sen
“ An eventful bus trip. ” - RRHowell41
 
8.
Shadow Kill (2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
(90 mins.)
“ A hangman's life. ” - RRHowell41
 
9.
The Damned Rain (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Farmers held hostage by the weather often despair, and yet there is resilience to be found in the communities that depend on the damned rain. (95 mins.)
Director: Satish Manwar
“ A farmer struggling with life. ” - RRHowell41
 
10.
Pinjar (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
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. (188 mins.)
“ A movie about partition and the difficulties of kidnapped women.

I had a hard time with this movie, because at a number of points the tension got too high for me, and I couldn't believe I wanted to live with watching what would surely happen. Without spoiling anything, I think I can say I was very glad to have finished it, and that having finished it, I have wanted to watch it more than once. ” - RRHowell41
 
11.
Vanaprastham (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A depressed Kathakali artist falls in love with a member of an aristocratic family. (119 mins.)
Director: Shaji N. Karun
“ Amazing story about a Kathakali dancer. This is about the distinction between art and reality, on a number of levels.

It is very slow paced, but it also about Kathakali dances, which traditionally took all night to perform. ” - RRHowell41
 
12.
Ants (2004 Video)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
''Ants'' follows the bus journey of 27 different passengers who each represent a different section of Indian society... (92 mins.)
Director: Sunil Babbar
“ Follows the stories of numerous people on a bus trip. ” - RRHowell41
 
13.
Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Geeta Rao has two admirers - one is Siddharth Tyabji and the other is Vikram Malhotra circa 1969 West... (120 mins.)
Director: Sudhir Mishra
“ Powerful story set against political activism in India in the 1970's. ” - RRHowell41
 
14.
Dhobi Ghat (2010)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
The lives of four people intersect in Mumbai: a washer-man who wants to become an actor, a banker-turned-photographer, a painter looking for inspiration, and a newly-married immigrant who journals her experiences on home video. (100 mins.)
Director: Kiran Rao
“ Four lives interwoven, a loving view of poverty in Mumbai. Subtle and slow. I thought it was excellent. ” - RRHowell41
 
15.
Monsoon Wedding (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
A stressed father, a bride-to-be with a secret, a smitten event planner, and relatives from around the world create much ado about the preparations for an arranged marriage in India. (114 mins.)
Director: Mira Nair
“ A fun comedy/family drama that is perhaps also a subtle critique of some standard Bollywood blockbusters which have shown a more romanticized view of large Indian family weddings. Much more realism than your average commercial Indian movie. ” - RRHowell41
 
16.
I Did Not Kill Gandhi (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Widowed Uttam Chaudhary lives a comfortable lifestyle with his college-going son, Karan, a daughter... (100 mins.)
Director: Jahnu Barua
“ An elderly man whose grip on reality is fading becomes convinced that people are punishing him for killing Gandhi. His family struggles to cope and understand. Excellent performance by Anupam Kher, and a great movie that is a bit about the impact of Gandhi, and some about dealing with aging relatives. ” - RRHowell41
 
17.
Road, Movie (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
A young man's journey across the mythic Indian landscape becomes a life changing odyssey. (95 mins.)
Director: Dev Benegal
“ This is a very stange, somewhat surreal movie. About the power of movies, coming of age... Worth a watch. ” - RRHowell41