Regardless of what a viewer enjoys, Indian cinema has something for everyone. From mixed genres and fanciful musicals to distinctive art films and thought-provoking dramas, the Indian movie industry has it all.

Being among the largest centers of film production in the world, Indian cinema produces tons of movies every year. However, since these films are sporadically distributed across genres and platforms, many fail to reach the public eye, especially the ones that do not belong to Bollywood (Hindi-language cinema). So for those who are keen on exploring mainstream Indian films along with some lesser-known gems, the list of diverse films mentioned below might come in handy.

10 Andhadhun

Andhadhun is a gripping mystery thriller that focuses on Akash, a piano player who pretends to be visually impaired. It’s this act that lands him smack dab in the middle of several trials and tribulations after he witnesses a murder.

Other than being wildly entertaining because of its well-thought-out twists, the film is further elevated by the performances of its cast. It keeps viewers on their toes throughout its runtime and demands a second viewing to fully comprehend its convoluted premise.

9 Taare Zameen Par

For viewers looking for a film that will tug on their heartstrings and take them through a gamut of emotions, this one perfectly fits the bill. Centering on Ishaan, a young schoolboy, Taare Zameen Par walks a viewer through all the troubles that Ishaan faces because of his poor academic performance.

Tired of his low grades, his parents send him to a boarding school where one of his teachers realizes he has dyslexia. This fateful encounter with the empathic teacher marks the inception of Ishaan’s journey towards finding his true potential.

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8 Monsoon Wedding

Premiered in 2001, BAFTA-winner Monsoon Wedding was way ahead of its time. With the capital city of Delhi in its backdrop, the film highlights all the romantic developments and entanglements that brew during a traditional Punjabi wedding. While it’s at it, it explores several themes surrounding the ups and downs of culture, complexities of familial ties, and child-abuse.

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There’s a lot going on in its runtime of two hours, but with its brilliant execution, the film leaves viewers with a lot more than a tear or two.

7 Pather Panchali

Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali has won several accolades since its release back in 1955. Other than winning the Honorary Award at the 64th Academy Awards, it was also included in film critic Roger Ebert’s list of “100 Great Movies” in 2001 and even Christopher Nolan called it “one of the best films ever made.”

It tells the story of siblings Apu and Durga who, despite their impoverished conditions, try to make the best out of what they have. Unfortunately for them, when their father leaves for the city to seek a better life for them, things go gravely downhill and their hope is tested to its limits.

6 Tumbbad

This one is specifically for fans of horror, but can be enjoyed by anyone who can handle a little bit of gore and slimy monstrosities. Tumbbad presents a gripping mythological tale of Vinayak Rao, who is deadset upon getting his hands on the cursed wealth of an evil deity named Hastar. But the more he gives in to the lure of the wealth, the more he digs deeper into his own grave.

Replete with strong imagery, good performances, and allegories, Tumbbad is a perfect gateway film for anyone who wants a glimpse into indie Indian cinema.

5 Anand

At Anand’s fore is a larger-than-life titular character who gets diagnosed with a terminal illness. But refusing to let his illness get the best of him, Anand lives every day like it’s his last. Meanwhile, his doctor, Bhaskar (Amitabh Bachchan), watches him from a distance and goes through major catharsis after being uplifted by his awe-inspiring journey.

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As familiar as its premise may seem, Anand never evokes a sense of mystery for the audience. It, in fact, makes it pretty evident that its main character may have no chance of surviving. But the way it realistically unfolds like a rite of passage is enough to make a viewer stay and even return, time and again.

4 Baahubali: The Beginning

A mishmash of several genres including romance, action, and drama, Baahubali is a visual feast. Be it sword fights, war scenes, or romantic explorations, the film mesmerizes viewers with its stunning aesthetics and production design.

Set in ancient India, Baahubali revolves around Shivudu, a strong warrior who gets imbued in a decade-old war between two parties after he falls for a young woman. While the central appeal of Baahubali lies in its visuals, even its narrative is not short of being thoroughly entertaining.

3 Soorarai Pottru

Among the 366 films eligible for nomination at the 93rd Academy Awards, Soorarai Pottru is an uplifting drama that is partly based on real events. It follows the inspiring journey of Maara, a young man who dreams of starting his own airline service someday. Despite having all odds stacked against him, he follows his dreams and overcomes all challenges that cross his path.

More than anything else, it’s the film’s leading actor Suriya’s performance that makes it a treat to watch. Viewers will find themselves walking with him through all the ups and downs and highs and lows he faces throughout his journey.

2 Jallikattu

Jallikattu ranks among the most talked-about South Indian films of recent times, and rightfully so. The critically acclaimed crime drama surrounds the tale of Kalan Varkey, a butcher who faces dire consequences after his buffalo goes astray.

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As simple as its premise may seem, Jallikattu never leaves a dull moment in a short span of an hour and a half. In its flaccid runtime, it presents an intricate exploration of several dark elements of human nature, including greed, selfishness, and immorality.

1 The Lunchbox

Starring Irrfan Khan from Life of Pi fame, The Lunchbox is a lighthearted drama that has Mumbai’s famous tiffin carrier service as its central plot device. Due to an unlikely loophole in this service, a corporate worker named Saajan Fernandes gets a tiffin from a stranger named Ila. With what follows, sparks fly between the two, but their complex personal lives get in the way of their whimsical relationship.

The Lunchbox is a grounded slice-of-life drama that brings a new take on the romance genre. Its epistolary approach offers a breath of fresh air and its characters are colorful and relatable. What more could a viewer ask for?

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