The best 30 Indian films that every photographer should watch

We’ve cherry-picked the best 30 Indian films which are most artistically crafted, just for you!

Every photographer looks for inspiration from many different sources including films, and learning from the works of those who are the masters of their own art-form, is a fantastic starting point. This article brings together 30 of the best artistically created Indian fictional films, that you should analyze in detail to understand the use of art behind them. These best 30 Indian films can be watched online (Netflix/ Amazon Prime/ Youtube).

If you ever dreamt of being a great photographer, traveling the world shooting the covers of Vogue, or documenting for TIMES, or making a great photograph, grab this list!

Here are the best 30 notable Indian films of all time that every photographer should watch… in no particular order.

1. The World of Apu (Bengali)

The World of Apu (Bengali: অপুর সংসার Apura sansāra; Apur Sansar) is a 1959 Indian Bengali-language drama film written and directed by Satyajit Ray. It is the third part of The Apu Trilogy, about the childhood and early adulthood of a young Bengali named Apu in the early twentieth-century Indian subcontinent.
Based on‎: ‎Aparajito by ‎Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay
Produced by‎: ‎Satyajit Ray
Language‎: ‎Bengali

2. Jonaki (English & Bengali)

Poster of Jonaki By Aditya BIkram Sengupta

Jonaki (Firefly) is a 2018 Bengali-language psychological drama film directed by Aditya Vikram Sengupta, while Jonaki, an 80-year-old woman, searches for love in a strange world of decaying memories, her lover, now old and grey returns to a world she is leaving behind. Production.
Language‎: ‎Bengali
Release date‎: ‎25 January 2018
Production company‎: ‎Magic Hour Films
Cinematography‎: ‎Aditya Vikram Sengupta‎ , Mahendra Shetty.

3. Barfi (Hindi)

In the tradition of films such as Forest GumpBarfi tells the story of the deaf-mute son of a chauffeur. The film follows the ways in which he deals with the circumstances of daily life, his love for a woman he meets, and his autistic childhood friend. The freewheeling, happy-go-lucky lead character played by Ranbir Kapoor wins hearts for his purity of soul and determination to be accepting and happy – whatever life brings. The film had the tagline, ‘Don’t Worry Be Barfi’.
Story & Directed by‎: ‎Anurag Basu
Cinematography by: Ravi Varman
Produced by‎: ‎Ronnie Screwvala‎; ‎Siddharth Roy

4. USKI ROTI (Hindi)

Too overawed for words right now. Uski Roti (literally “Her Bread”) feels so delightfully Bressonian at every turn that one could almost wager that the man himself flew down to Haryana and ghost-directed it. Instead, it turns out that it was made by a certain Mani Kaul, fresh out of college, in what was only his first feature film! A study in faces and shadows. Calm and quiet, poignant, and soft. The film has beautiful cinematography.
Directed by: Mani Kaul
Produced by‎: ‎Rochak Pandit
Written by‎: ‎Mohan Rakesh‎ (original story, dialogue
Cinematography‎: ‎K. K. Mahajan

5. PAKEEZAH (Hindi)

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A Muslim prostitute, Sahibjaan (Meena Kumari) yearns to escape the brothel in which she was brought up, much like her mother Nargis (also Kumari) before her, who also lived the life of a courtesan. But, when a young man from a respectable family, Salim Ahmed Khan (Raaj Kumar), hears her sing and dance, he falls in love. Unfortunately, his wealthy parents are against any relationship between them, so Salim abandons his family in order to be with Sahibjaan, even after he finds out about her past.
Produced & Directed by‎: ‎Kamal Amrohi
Language‎: ‎Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu)
Written by‎: ‎Kamal Amrohi
Cinematography‎: ‎Josef Wirsching

6. LAGAAN (Hindi)

The film is set in the Victorian period of India’s colonial British Raj. The story revolves around a small village whose inhabitants, burdened by high taxes, find themselves in an extraordinary situation as an arrogant officer challenges them to a game of cricket as a wager to avoid the taxes.
Story & Directed by‎ ‎Ashutosh Gowariker
Produced by‎: ‎Aamir Khan
Language‎: ‎Hindi
Cinematography: Anil Mehta

7. Killa (Marathi)

Avinash Arun’s Marathi movie Killa unfolds during the monsoon in some of the most picturesque locations in the Konkan region. The sun is nearly absent, there are frequent spells of rain, the ponds and the sea are swollen, and the whole place heaves with the beauty of freshly bathed greenery.
Directed & Cinematography by Avinash Arun
Language‎: ‎Marathi
Music by‎: ‎Naren Chandavakar; ‎Benedict Taylor

8. Gamak Ghar (Maithili)

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Achal Mishra’s confidently directed debut feature (which he also has written, edited, and produced) is set in his ancestral home in Madhopur village near Darbhanga in Bihar. Gamak Ghar (meaning, the house in the village) unfolds over three phases – 1998, 2010, and the present. The members of the clan live elsewhere and reconvene in the house on festivals. They make trips to their mango orchard, catch up on the gossip, watch television together and take dips in the local pool for Chhath Puja celebrations.
Direction, Screenplay, and Story: Achal Misra
Cinematography: Anand Bansal

9. Utsab (Hindi)

The story is about a courtesan, Vasantasena (Rekha), and her chance meeting with a poor Brahmin man, Charudatta (Shekhar Suman), in Ujjain.
Utsav saw Rekha in her full glory after Umrao Jaan. Perhaps there was something about this actress, which made her perfect the role of a courtesan. She struck a pose of seduction in every scene and came out with one of the greatest performances of her career. Ashok Mehta’s camera caught her in her resplendent beauty like it captured the India we had only read about. Art directors Nachiket Patwardhan and Jayoo Patwardhan showed an amazing sense of history and quite successfully recreated the streets, brothels, and townships of the period and won a well deserved Filmfare Award for the same.

Director: Girish Karnad
Producer: Shashi Kapoor
Music director: Laxmikant Shantaram Kudalkar, Pyarelal Ramprasad Sharma
Cinematography: Ashok Mehta

10. The Seventh Horse of the Sun (Hindi)

Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda (1992) is a rare instance of two great minds from Indian cinema and literature coming together to create something extraordinary, with no hint of rancor or regret on either side.
Shyam Benegal’s complex and multi-layered film is based on a 1952 novel by renowned Hindi writer and playwright Dharamvir Bharati. After seeking Bharati’s permission to adapt the novel, Benegal kept asking the writer to have a look at Shama Zaidi’s screenplay. Such was Bharati’s confidence in Benegal’s craft that he refused to look at the screenplay or offer any suggestions.
Directed by: Shyam Benegal
Produced by‎: ‎National Film Development Corporation
Music by‎: ‎Vanraj Bhatia
Narrated by‎: ‎Raghuvir Yadav
Cinematography by : Piyush Shah

11. Meghe Dhaka Tara (Bengali)

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To Ritwik Ghatak film was not merely a form of entertainment, but a weapon, a medium to portray the struggle of the common man. He was successful neither in his career nor could he become a good family man or husband. Still, he was an artist who never compromised for personal gain, fame, or profit.
The film also shows the atmosphere of Bengal during Tebhaga and Naxalite movements. A scene has been shown in the film was a book named “How to be a good communist?” is burning. This scene symbolizes Ghatak’s dissatisfaction with India’s communist politics.

Story & Directed by‎: ‎Kamaleswar Mukherjee
Music by‎: ‎Debojyoti Mishra‎; ‎Salil Chowdhury‎; Tagore
Cinematography‎: ‎Soumik Halder

12. Devdas (Hindi)

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Devdas makes his way back home to India after spending 10 years studying in London. He plans to marry Paro, his childhood best friend, but his parents do not want Devdas to marry her. They believe that Paro’s family, who descend from a line of dancers, is of a lower class than their own. Eventually, Paro marries another man, and the despondent Devdas descends into life-threatening alcoholism.

The direction of this whole scene is so remarkable, with each frame depicting a past sequence and connecting it to the present. The way Sanjay (Leela Bhansali) has weaved the dramatic scenes is remarkable.
Directed by‎: ‎Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Cinematography: Binod Pradhan

13. Ghasiram Kotwal (Marathi)

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Ghashiram Kotwal is a Marathi play written by playwright Vijay Tendulkar in 1972 as a response to the rise of a local political party, Shiv Sena, in Maharashtra. The play is a political satire, written as historical drama. It is based on the life of Nana Phadnavis (1741–1800), one of the prominent ministers in the court of the Peshwa of Pune and Ghashiram Kotwal, the police chief of the city. Its theme is how men in power give rise to ideologies to serve their purposes, and later destroy them when they become useless. It was first performed on 16 December 1972, by the Progressive Drama Association in Pune. Jabbar Patel’s production of the play in 1973 is considered a classic in Modern Indian Theatre.

Language‎: ‎Marathi
Written by‎: ‎Vijay Tendulkar
Directed by‎: ‎K.. HariharanMani KaulSaeed Akhtar MirzaKamal Swaroop
Cinematography: Rajesh Joshi, Binod Pradhan, Manmohan Singh

14. Mughal-e-Azam (Hindi)

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Set in the 16th-century Mughal court of Emperor Akbar, heir to the throne, Prince Saleem, falls in love with the beautiful commoner Anaarkali. Saleem’s father, Emperor Akbar, refuses to let his son marry below his status and a mighty battle of wills ensues. Underpinning this doomed story of love is the troubled relationship between father and son.

Directed by: K. Asif
Cinematography: R. D. Mathur
Produced by‎: ‎Shapoorji Pallonji
Music by‎: ‎Naushad
Written by‎: ‎Aman; ‎Kamal Amrohi‎; ‎K. Asif‎; ‎Wajahat Mirza, Ehsan Rizvi

15. Labour of Love (Bengali)

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Set in the crumbling environs of Calcutta, Labour of Love is a lyrical unfolding of two ordinary lives suspended in the duress of a spiraling recession. They are married to a cycle of work and domestic routine, and long stretches of waiting in the silence of an empty house. They share each other’s solitude in pursuit of a distant dream that visits them briefly every morning. Incorporating poignant political undertones, director Aditya Vikram Sengupta creates a stylistically beautiful film that depicts the challenges of sustaining love in a fast transitioning world via a simultaneous sensation of breathlessness and space

Music by‎: ‎Alokananda Dasgupta
Written and Directed by‎: ‎Aditya Vikram Sengupta
Cinematography: Mahendra J. Shetty, Aditya Vikram Sengupta

16. Dil Se.. (Hindi)

Dil Se’ is said to be a journey through the 7 shades of love that are defined in ancient Arabic literature. Those shades are defined as attraction, infatuation, love, reverence, worship, obsession, and death. The character played by Shahrukh Khan passes through each shade during the film and Manisha Koirala had a backdrop of terrorism and insurgency, beautifully weaved into a tragic love story. The intense political agenda of the film, the love story, and the fact that it coincided with the 50th Independence Anniversary celebrations became a major factor for its success.

Story & Directed by‎ ‎Mani Ratnam
Produced by‎: ‎Mani Ratnam‎; ‎Ram Gopal Varma, Shekhar Kapur
Cinematography: Santosh Sivan

17. Tumbbad (Hindi)

Greed, gold, and the curse of a demon god — the rich visual storytelling in Tumbbad encompasses all that and more. Set in Maharashtra, between 1918 and 1947, Rahi Anil Barve’s directorial debut follows three generations of a Konkanastha Brahmin family who seek an ancestral treasure that has been jinxed by the gods.

Directors: Rahi Anil BarveAnand Gandhi
Produced by‎: ‎Sohum Shah‎; ‎Aanand L. Rai
Cinematography: Pankaj Kumar

18. Ship of Theseus (Hindi)

An experimental photographer, an ailing monk, and a young stockbroker explore identity, justice, beauty, and the meaning of life and death.

Mesmerizing stories converging in a more beautiful way to render an intricate message of life, harmony, and sense of beauty, as a whole. Larger than minute life and feelings take over the wholesome idea of the movie. When a person undergoes a change in his/her sense, ideology, or thinking does it still remain the same person? Change is the main question and dilemma explored here through 3 delicate stories.

Story by‎: Anand Gandhi‎; Khushboo Ranka
Music by‎: ‎Benedict Taylor‎; Naren Chandavarkar
Cinematography: Pankaj Kumar

19. Raincoat (Hindi)

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Manu (Ajay Devgan), who recently lost his job, is trying to secure funds to start his own business. With this in mind, he seeks out a former flame, Neeru (Aishwarya Rai), who now lives in Calcutta, India, with her husband. When Manu finds Neeru, the two walk through the city and reminisce about old times — Neeru had called off her engagement to Manu in order to marry a richer man. But as Manu’s visit extends, he learns that his long-lost love’s life is not as perfect as it appears to be.
Based on‎: ‎The Gift of the Magi‎ by ‎O. Henry
Written by‎: ‎Rituparno Ghosh‎; ‎Usha Ganguly
Director: Rituparno Ghosh
Music director: Debojyoti Mishra
Cinematography: Aveek Mukhopadhyay

20. Nayakan (Tamil)

Whether it’s the story of Caesar or Gandhi or the Rotary Club, it starts off as something very small, without the respect it deserves. Nayakan was no exception. We never thought it would be selected as one of Time magazine’s 100 greatest films of all time, or that people will remember it after 25 years. We just wanted to be different.

Nayakan’s fame lies in its gritty, realistic portrayal of the rise and fall of a self-made man. He is a gangster to many, a saviour to others, and a flawed, broken man himself. Inspired by Varadarajan Mudaliar, the Tamil don who ruled the Matunga-Dharavi-Antop Hill area of central Mumbai in the 1970s and 1980s, Mani Ratnam created a film that stood out for its cinematic, visual and story elements.

Produced by‎: ‎Muktha Srinivasan
Written and Directed by‎: ‎Mani Ratnam
Music by‎: ‎Ilaiyaraaja
Cinematography: P. C. Sreeram

21. Padma nadir Majhi (Bengali)

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A Hindu fisherman from a village along India’s Padma River faces a decision that could drastically change his family’s destiny when a wealthy Bengali Muslim trader invites him to move to the utopian island he has created.
Director & Cinematography: Goutam Ghose
Story by: Manik Bandopadhyay
ScreenplayManik BandopadhyayGoutam Ghose

22. Jallikattu (Malayalam)

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The plot follows a bull that escapes from a slaughterhouse in a hilly remote village and the entire village men gathering to hunt down the animal. Jallikattu premiered in Toronto International Film Festival and received widespread critical acclaim.
DirectorLijo Jose Pellissery
Cinematography: Girish Gangadharan
Screenplay: Hareesh S.R. Jayakumar

23. Satranj Ke Khiladi (Hindi)

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One of the best historical period drama ever made. It so meticulously shows the Policy of Annexation by Lord Dalhousie & the times of Wajid Ali Shah revolving around the story of two chess addicts.

Music and Directed by‎: ‎Satyajit Ray
Story: shatranj ke khiladi, a short story by Munshi Premchand
Cinematography: Soumendu Roy
Narrated by‎: ‎Amitabh Bachchan

24. Black (Hindi)

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Debraj, a stubborn teacher, helps Michelle, a girl with visual and hearing impairment, explore her potential as she takes on the challenge of graduating college. This movie broke all barriers and showed us a movie that led our cold heart melt. Black is one of those movies that no matter how many times you have watched it, it will move you.

Based on‎: ‎The Miracle Worker
Produced & Directed by‎: ‎Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Cinematography: Ravi K. Chandran

25. Natsamrat (Marathi)

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After retirement, Ganpat Belwalkar, a Shakespearean actor, divides his property amongst his two children. However, their ungratefulness leaves Ganpat and his wife homeless during their old age.

Produced by‎: ‎Nana Patekar‎; Vishwas Joshi
Directed by: Mahesh Manjrekar
Story byKusumagraj
Cinematography: Ajith V. Reddy

26. Dev D (Hindi)

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Sent to a boarding school in London, for being insolent, Chandigarh-based slacker, Dev, leaves his childhood-sweetheart, Paro, behind. When he returns his father hopes he will marry Paro, but Dev has other ideas.

Directed by: Anurag Kashyap
Story by:  Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
Cinematography: Rajeev Ravi

27. Bahubali (Tamil)

In the kingdom of Mahishmati, while pursuing his love, Shivudu learns about the conflict-ridden past of his family and his legacy. He must now prepare himself to face his newfound arch-enemy.

Directed by: S. S. Rajamouli
Story by:  K. V. Vijayendra Prasad
Cinematography: K. K. Senthil Kumar

28. 1942 a love story (Hindi)

The son of a politician, loyal to the British rule, romances the daughter of a freedom fighter. They are separated during the revolution when her father plots to assassinate a British general.

Produced and Directed by: Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Story bySanjay Leela Bhansali, Kamna Chandra
Cinematography: Binod Pradhan

29. Bhumika (Hindi)

A talented girl from a poor family becomes a successful singer and actress. Being married and having a girl, she has an affair with her co-star, producer, and a wealthy married man who has a son.

Directed by: Shyam Benegal
Story byHansa Wadkar
Cinematography: Govind Nihalani

30. The Namesake (Hindi)

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The Namesake is the story of two generations of the Ganguli’s, a family of Indian immigrants to the United States. When we first meet Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli they are living in a small apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts, about to welcome their first child into the world.

Directed and Produced by: Mira Nair
Story byJhumpa Lahiri
Cinematography: Frederick Elmes

compiled by WOWDINGS

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