10 Underrated Bollywood Movies You Must Watch
Sometimes the best of movies are the least recognized ones. Here's a list of 10 Bollywood movies (not in any particular order) that deserve more attention and praise.
1. Socha Na Tha (2005)
Directed by - Imtiaz Ali
Cast - Abhay Deol, Ayesha Takia, Suresh Oberoi, Ayesha Jhulka
I have watched Socha Na Tha several times and I am certain that I'll watch it many more times. You will be instantly drawn into the story as you start watching the film. There's not a dull moment in this exceptionally underrated film. It's a shame that a brilliant movie like this bombed at the box office while some other forgettable ones go on to join 100-crore club.
While known as Abhay Deol's launch vehicle, not many know that Socha Na Tha is also Imtiaz Ali's directorial debut. With his unusual flair for telling a story differently, Ali breaks all the clichés that other boy-meets-girl stories have formed in Bollywood. Viren (Abhay Deol) is a rich, confused bachelor who is forced to meet Aditi (Ayesha Takia), an orphan who lives with her Aunt, for an arranged marriage.
It is hard to miss the sparkling chemistry between the lead pair and one can literally see their eyes do the talking more often than not. Abhay Deol and Ayesha Takia looked so comfortable in their respective roles; each and every scene between them is a treat to watch.
2. Main, Meri Patni... Aur Woh! (2005)
Directed by - Chandan Arora
Cast - Rajpal Yadav, Rituparna Sengupta, Kay Kay Menon
Following a typical arranged marriage-style rendezvous between their families, a short, mediocre-looking librarian from Lucknow University, Mithilesh Shukla (Rajpal Yadav), gets married to a tall and exceedingly beautiful woman, Veena (Rituparna Sengupta).
Mithilesh strongly believes that luck finally favored him on this occasion as he was able to get himself a wife who is way out of his league. Mithilesh's low self-esteem paves the way to insecurities and jealousy when Veena's charming childhood friend Aakash (Kay Kay Menon) enters their life. Veena is a happy soul and loves Mithilesh with all her heart, but Mithilesh's false fears force him to doubt his wife and wreak havoc in their happy married life.
Main, Meri Patni... Aur Woh! is like a breath of fresh air. It's an honest story told in a simple way and is a must-watch for everyone.
3. Aankhon Dekhi (2013)
Directed by - Rajat Kapoor
Cast - Sanjay Mishra, Seema Pahwa, Rajat Kapoor
Aankhon Dekhi is a thought-provoking film that centers around Raje Bauji (Sanjay Mishra), a man in his 50s who decides to act upon the expression, "see it to believe it". He pledges that he will only believe what he sees with his own eyes, thus starting an exciting journey to discover the hidden meaning of life, to learn about the incidents and people around him and to discover himself.
Bauji resolves to not just blindly believe in what others say. He even goes to the extent of reconfirming universal truths and scientific facts by seeing them for himself. He firmly believes that, "Your experience can be different than mine, your truth can be incompatible with my truth".
Sometimes, the best of movies are the least recognized ones. Rajat Kapoor always belts out some of the most unusual stories. Aankhon Dekhi is witty and, without being too preachy, it makes you think hard and reflect upon the importance of self-experience.
4. Nil Battey Sannata (2015)
Directed by - Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari
Cast - Swara Bhaskar, Ratna Pathak Shah, Riya Shukla
Nil Battey Sannata, literally translated as Zero/Zero (0/0), is a story about a poor single mother, Chanda Sahay (Swara Bhaskar), who does various odd jobs and works hard throughout the day with the sole aim of getting her daughter Appu educated.
Appu (Riya Shukla) is not interested in education and is ready to give up her studies at the drop of a hat. Appu strongly believes that she's going to end up being a maid as well and thinks that only the children of rich families stand a chance to become doctors or engineers. With the kind help of her employer Dr. Diwan (Ratna Pathak Shah), Chanda gets a chance to go back to school and continue her own education, which bothers Appu.
I have always loved Swara Bhaskar's work. She is a fine actress who always stands out even in a supporting role. In Nil Battey Sannata, she has lived up to the lead role equally well. Child actress Riya Shukla, who plays Appu, is a great find as well. She gave a fairly impressive performance.
5. I Am Kalam (2010)
Directed by - Nila Madhab Panda
Cast - Gulshan Grover, Harsh Mayar, Hussan Saad
I Am Kalam is an award-winning, critically acclaimed film. I have added this one to the list because it hasn't gained as much of an audience as it deserves. It is the inspiring story of an impoverished boy, Chhotu (Harsh Mayar), who calls himself Kalam. This name is inspired by the then President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam. Chhotu, a bright boy, is a fast learner and quickly gets good at anything he does. He is passionate about education and is determined to get himself educated.
Chhotu's unfaltering zeal and determination to study and make it big someday touched me. It was endearing to watch the charming camaraderie between Chhotu (Harsh Mayar) and his friend, the prince (Hussan Saad).
Beautifully shot in the magnificent deserts of Rajasthan, Nila Madhab Panda's directorial debut celebrates the endurance of hope and human spirit against all odds. With its optimistic storytelling, the film succeeds in driving home the point that one's life is influenced a lot more by one's actions than by one's fate.
6. Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year (2009)
Directed by - Shimit Amin
Cast - Ranbir Kapoor, Prem Chopra, Gauhar Khan
Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year is a refreshing story of a fresh graduate, Harpreet Singh Bedi (Ranbir Kapoor), who jumps into the world of sales to try his hand at an adventurous career. He is neither trying too hard to fit in nor striving to stand out. Harpreet relentlessly keeps following his heart. His luck clicks, his hard work pays off, his world turns upside-down and his career turns right-side-up.
I think Wake Up Sid and Rocket Singh were two films that made me really start liking Ranbir Kapoor as an actor. He slips into each character with remarkable ease. In Rocket Singh, he magically disappears behind the heavy beard and turban and convincingly portrays Harpreet Singh Bedi. Shimit Amin has broken all stereotypes in his honest attempt at storytelling and has introduced audiences to a different kind of cinema. We can see that Bollywood is truly evolving here.
When the film released in 2009, it was overlooked and missed by many. Even today, it is only slowly gaining the viewership it deserves. One can only hope that it eventually goes on to grab the attention and praise it is worthy of.
7. 15 Park Avenue (2005)
Directed by - Aparna Sen
Cast - Konkona Sen Sharma, Shabana Azmi, Rahul Bose, Shefali Shah, Kanwaljeet Singh
15 Park Avenue is a mystic thriller. It tells the story of a young schizophrenic woman, Meethi (Konkona Sen Sharma), and her relationship with her family. In particular, the film focuses on Meethi's relationship with her sister, a physics professor named Anjali (Shabana Azmi), and her ex-fiancé named Jojo, AKA Joydeep (Rahul Bose).
Konkona Sen Sharma is one of the actresses who I truly admire. It is uncanny how she manages to reach the depth of her characters every single time. Meethi lives in a world of her own where she believes she has a family of her own that lives in 15 Park Avenue. It is extremely disturbing to watch Meethi struggle with her mental illness.
Each of Aparna Sen's films, be it Mr. and Mrs. Iyer or The Japanese Wife, reiterate the fact that she is an excellent filmmaker. 15 Park Avenue is a hauntingly beautiful film that does just that.
8. Bombay Talkies (2013)
Directed by - Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee, Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap
Cast - Rani Mukherji, Randeep Hooda, Saqib Saleem, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sadashiv Amrapurkar, Ranvir Shorey, Amitabh Bachchan, Naman Jain
Bombay Talkies celebrates 100 years of Hindi cinema with a collection of four short films by four different directors.
Karan Johar, in his segment Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh, explores sensitive subjects like homosexuality and infidelity with the story of Avinash (Saqib Saleem), a lonely gay man, and an unhappily married couple, Gayatri (Rani Mukherji) and Dev (Randeep Hooda).
Dibakar Banerjee's short film Star is a metaphorical drama that tells the story of Purandar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a poor, failed actor from a lower-middle-class background who is struggling to follow his passion of making it big as an actor.
Zoya Akhtar's entry, Sheila Ki Jawani, is a cute story of a little boy named Vicky (Naman Jain) who wants to become a dancer against the wishes of his orthodox father.
Anurag Kashyap's Murabba is the touching story of a young man from Allahabad who tries really hard to meet Mr. Amitabh Bachchan to fulfill his ailing father's wish.
9. The Lunchbox (2013)
Directed by - Ritesh Batra
Cast - Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Call me old school or whatever, but I totally adore handwritten letters and notes. Not just letters from known people, even random notes fascinate me. I'm talking about notes that I sometimes accidentally find in library books or little messages left by strangers on the flyleaves of second-hand books. The Lunchbox is undoubtedly a fantastic story and a well-made film, but it appealed to me even more because of the charming letter exchange.
Among the other underrated films on this list, this one has been watched by a fairly larger audience. This can be attributed to better publicity or word-of-mouth. Set in Mumbai, with the backdrop of Dabbawalas—Mumbai's boastfully efficient lunchbox delivery service—the movie tells the story of a young housewife, Ila (Nimrat Kaur), and Saajan Fernandes (Irfan Khan), a lonely widower who is soon going to retire from his job. Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays Shaikh, a trainee who is expected to take over Saajan's duties after he retires.
The lunchbox that Ila sends to her husband reaches Saajan instead due to a mishandled delivery. This begins a delightful exchange of notes and letters between them through the lunchbox, which goes on to blossom into an amusing romance. Through their letters, they fantasize about a relationship and weave a world of their own. The Lunchbox is an outstanding film that sensitively delves into various human emotions—love, loss, longing and loneliness.
10. Jolly LLB (2013)
Directed by - Subhash Kapoor
Cast - Arshad Warsi, Saurabh Shukla, Boman Irani, Amrita Rao, Mohan Agashe, Harsh Chhaya
I have always loved courtroom dramas, so this one was a must-watch for me. Thankfully, it turned out to be a brilliant movie. Jolly LLB is the story of a small-time lawyer, Jagdish Tyagi AKA Jolly (Arshad Warsi), who files a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in court against the judgment in a hit-and-run case. This brings him face-to-face in court with his idol, the high-profile attorney Advocate Rajpal (Boman Irani).
Arshad Warsi is such an underrated actor; I feel he hasn't received the credit and recognition he deserves. Put him in the right kind of role and he is bound to churn out an effortlessly flawless performance. Jolly LLB is thoroughly a performance-driven film. With highly engaging court scenes, Arshad Warsi and Boman Irani as the lawyers and Saurabh Shukla as the fairly sane judge, this film delivers top-notch performances.
Jolly LLB is a satire on the highly corrupted state of affairs in Indian courtrooms. It tactfully highlights the plight of the poor and how the rich and guilty exploit the loopholes in the Indian judicial system to turn the judgment in their favor. At the same time, the film also succeeds in restoring the audiences' faith in humanity and goes on to say that, despite the apparent flaws in the Indian judicial system, justice still prevails.