To the uninitiated, Bollywood is primarily associated with long films featuring dancing and over-the-top action.
But more and more films are coming back down-to-earth with their storylines - taking on themes and narratives that need no translation beyond the subtitles. These films capture your attention, generate conversation, and remind you that the Indian film industry has a lot to offer.
With that in mind, here are 5 entertaining films from 2016 that we highly recommend to anyone new to Bollywood.
Description: Comedy-drama. When their 90-year-old grandfather Amarjeet Kapoor (Rishi Kapoor) suffers a heart attack, man (Sidharth Malhotra) and his brother (Fawad Khan) return to Coonoor, India to find their parents' marriage is on the verge of collapse and the family is undergoing a financial crunch. The family struggles to pull together to take care of Amarjeet even as the two brothers appear to fall for the same woman, Tia Malik (Alia Bhatt).
Why I Love This Film: Kapoor & Sons takes you into the lives of a frustrated family and slowly reveals why it is so dysfunctional. With trust at the heart of every family, this story slowly uncovers the lies each family member lives - and what happens when truths are revealed. In the end, love and truth shine through. Despite the melodrama, the story is told through characters that are real and recognizable. As the love interest, Alia Bhatt is a breath of fresh air in a stifling situation. Rishi Kapoor breaks free of the typical elder role as the wild-and-crazy grandfather Amarjeet whose motto might well be "youth is wasted on the wrong people". Also, Fahim Shaikh is quite amusing in a small but memorable role as Boobly.
- Find out more: A Family Portrait Comes Into Focus in Kapoor and Sons
2. Ki & Ka
Description: Romantic comedy drama. A young, married couple contradict Indian gender roles. Kia (Kareena Kapoor Khan) focuses on her career, while her husband Kabir (Arjun Kapoor) chooses to take care of their home.
Why I Love This Film: Released on April Fool's Day, the film makes a sincere effort to confront gender stereotypes by turning them upside down. The joy and honesty that Kia and Kabir share in discovering they can have it all - a marriage and a fulfillment of their individual dreams - is inspirational. Some of the best elements of the film are the conversations by Kia and Kabir as they navigate this brave new world they have created together. Of course, there are bumps along the way as in any marriage, but there are plenty of surprises - like the cameo appearance of Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan. A delightful film that is a worthwhile contribution to the ongoing conversation about breaking free of stereotypes.
Description: Thriller. Gaurav Chandna (Shah Rukh Khan) is a Delhi-based die-hard and obsessive fan of Bollywood superstar Aryan Khanna (also Shah Rukh Khan).
Why I Love This Film: What makes this film particularly fun is the double role played by Shah Rukh Khan. If you are new to Indian film, you should know that Indian cinema has a lot of films that feature double roles for their stars - look-alike characters, twins separated at birth, individuals reincarnated. However, this double role film takes a different tactic by giving the doppelganger a slightly different look and making him 25 years younger. As fan and mimic of the superstar, Gaurav looks just enough like Aryan Khanna to pass himself off as the celebrity. And therein lies the crux of the film. To what extremes would an obsessed, yet disenchanted, look-alike fan go to make the object of his devotion understand him?
- Find out more: A Poignant Thriller About Fame and FAN: @FANtheFilm
Description: Romantic sports drama. After a tragedy in his family causes him to step away from competition, middle-aged wrestling champion Sultan Ali Khan (Salman Khan) tries to make a comeback through mixed martial arts.
Why I Love This Film: Everybody loves a comeback story and this film tells it with Bollywood style. As Sultan, Salman Khan is rough around the edges. He is like a kite in the wind that doesn't have a real purpose until he discovers love with Aarfa Hussain (Anushka Sharma), a state-level wrestler and the daughter of a local wrestling coach. But after achieving success in the ring, the bigger-than-life wrestler is brought down by his pride and egocentric behavior when he is at the top of his game. Years later when a sports promoter encourages him to step back in the ring, Sultan is an older, wiser, and more focused man who recognizes his strengths and his limitations - and has a new purpose for fighting. While parallels to the Rocky saga can be drawn, Sultan's love story is unique, the fighting sequences intense, and the storyline heartfelt.
- Find out more: Move Over Rocky! Sultan Is In The House! 5 Reasons to Watch Salman Khan in and as Sultan
5. Mohenjo Daro
Description: Epic romantic adventure. In 2016 BC, Indus valley indigo farmer Sarman (Hrithik Roshan) leads an uprising in the big city of Mohenjo Daro.
Why I Love This Film: Like many Indian films, the love story is an important element of the film and the romance between Sarman and Chaani (Pooja Hegde) offers many amusing moments. But soon the love story is replaced by a story of a civilization on the brink of destruction due to evil leadership - and seeing Sarman stand against the entrenched political system is inspiring. It's always fun to see Hrithik get all riled up. Besides providing an introduction to a long-lost ancient civilization, Mohenjo Daro offers the best of Bollywood - an entertaining love story, a satisfying story of victory over evil (with appropriate action sequences), entertaining music and dance performances, delightful costumes, set designs, and pageantry. But this is not just another action adventure in any made-up ancient civilization. What is known about the real Moenjodaro, based on archeological and historical research, is woven into the fabric of the story, providing an interesting interpretation of what life may have been like back in the day.
- Find out more: Mohenjo Daro: An Entertaining Action Adventure
The following playlist features the trailers for each of these films except for Mohenjo Daro, which features the title song from the film in place of the trailer which is no longer available online.
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