In Hindi Cinema, we rarely have such gems which either create a new genre for themselves or turn into a cult. In a country like India, where we’re all born movie buffs, there is room for every kind of cinema.
Unfortunately, filmmakers do not understand this fact and base their stories and direction on certain set formulae and fixed themes which are redressed and refabricated again and again; instead of getting creative with their themes and perspectives. There is no such clear demarcation between a mainstream film and an offbeat one. Any movie which is ‘safe’ in terms of storyline can be said to be made for commercial purposes while the opposite is what we can call ‘offbeat’ cinema. Here are five such great films that I could think of right now, although I am sure the list is much longer-
1. Chupke Chupke (1975)
Here we have two actors in their primes, playing ordinary characters. It is a comedy of errors and a gem from Hrishikesh Mukherji’s stable. It was based on Upendranath Ganguly’s Bengali story Chhadobeshi. The humour is so effortless and is picked up from our day-to-day lives. It was so uncharacterstic of all the larger than life movies of those times. The English Literature Professor Sukumar Sinha played by Amitabh Bachchan is more of a cameo but steals the show with his amazing comic timing and unique mannerisms. Dharmendra’s Professor Parimal-cum- driver Pyaremohan is his finest comic act till date. He is not punching goons or flexing biceps here. Here, we have Dharmendra donning the shoes of a Botany professor who just wants to pull a prank on his wife’s jijaji played by the ever so amazing Om Prakash. The dialogues are picked up from everyday conversations and that’s why the film has an earthly feel to it. Many movies came later, trying to copy the themes or situations but the magic could never be recreated.
2. Taare Zameen Par (2007)
This is one offbeat film that achieved commercial success too. The plot was about Ishaan Nandkishore Awasthi (Played by Darsheel Safary), a dyslexic kid who fights his way in school with Indian education system expecting nothing less than genius from the poor kid. Creative director “Amol Gupte” whose “Stanley Ka Dabba” is another marvellous offbeat film and director Amir Khan bring the problems of the child to the fore in such a way that the child in each one of us cried while watching the movie. The scene where Amir discovers the child’s flipbook and notices how he had depicted the pain of feeling cut off from his own family left a lump in all our throats. In a world of movies about mindless action and romance, this film was a fresh breeze.
3. Go Goa Gone (2013)
Directed by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D K, this movie should be applauded for its utter weirdness. ZomCom or Zombie Comedy is a concept which was unheard of in India until this movie came. In the age when people were trying to make money out of scaring people in the name of mindless thrillers like Murder, Jism and Raaz, these people tried to make us laugh on the same theme. There are certain scenes which are so witty that you need a funny bone in your head to catch them. The scene where Anand Sharma’s character justifies that he would die soon just because he looks like a “hero ka dost” or sidekick and that’s what sidekicks do in horror movies is pure gold. The scene where Vir Das tells his girlfriend to f*** off after she admits to cheating on him, the scene where Saif Ali Khan admits to his desi roots are again very fresh and original vis-a-vis contemporary Indian cinema. I hope Indian cinema wakes up to this form of “in-your-face yet subtle” humour and we get to watch more such movies.
4. Sadma (1983)
This is a clear case of a film being better than whole of it’s cast added together. It breathed like an organic whole and had a life of its own. Directed by Balu Mahendra, it is a story of a school teacher Somu (Kamal Hassan) and a young woman Nehalata (Sridevi). Kamal Hassan is capable of making you laugh and cry at the same time. Another movie of his- “Pushpak” can be said to be a testimony to his skills. His performance at the climax of “Sadma” can bring every soul who has felt helpless in love to tears. Unlike the happy ending romances, this was a story of nuances. The characters fell in love with each other in due process of time, there are so many sweet moments in the story where their “puppy love” fills your heart with love, makes it worry, want to snuggle and be a kid in love again. But the real show-stopper of the movie is Sridevi. Her performance as the amnesia patient who behaves like a child after memory loss is remarkable. She dropped her sexiness for just this one and went all artsy for this one. This is how the thinking man fell in love with Sridevi.
5. Swades- We The People (2004)
Ok, this one had to be in the list. Directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar, this movie is a connect between today’s man and his roots. Shahrukh Khan held back all his mannerisms (we had forgotten that he could) and slipped in a pair of jeans and some simple shirts to give us this eye-opener of a film. The conversations between the female protagonist (Gayatri Joshi) and him, his views on the conservative, rural India; all those and multiple frames of Indian landscape, calling out to its sons and daughters- make it a great movie. It tanked on the box office which is a shame but, it did get the respect that it deserved ultimately. The naive villagers played by myriad character artists are endearing and certainly add spunk to the film.
There are various other films which equally deserved to be in the list. Most Irrfan Khan movies, especially Pan Singh Tomar, most Amol Palekar, Farooq Sheikh movies; Rajnigandha, Golmal, Chashme Baddur and suchlike could have easily been included here. But for now, I’ll close the list and pray to the Cine Gods to bless us with more such gems!
P.S. Here’s a poster of Miss Lovely. Seems like an interesting one. 🙂
Now the trailer–