17 South Asian-Themed Films That Have Global Appeal

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Give your movie list a South Asian twist.

1. Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

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Fox Searchlight Pictures / Via movies.film-cine.com

Why everyone should watch it: It’s a funny, quirky film about an Indian girl who is obsessed with playing soccer. Parminder Nagra (of ER fame) plays the lead with Keira Knightley and Jonathan Rhys Meyers in supporting roles. No kidding! This also happens to be the movie that catapulted Knightley onto the world stage.

2. Monsoon Wedding (2001)

Monsoon Wedding (2001)

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Mirabai Films / Via blog.dolidiaries.com

Why everyone should watch it: Basically My Big Fat Greek Wedding but Indian, it gives you a picture of what a typical upper-middle class Indian family is like with its interesting blend of modern Western and traditional Eastern values. The film won a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2001. Mira Nair, the director (New York, I Love You) is the second Indian to win this honor.

3. Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002)

Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002)

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MG Distribution / Via origin-budget2008.moneycontrol.com

Why everyone should watch it: The film tackles stereotypical religious biases when it comes to Hindu-Muslim relationships and is quite an eyeopener. Also, the background score is composed by Grammy Award-winning percussionist Ustad Zakir Hussain.

4. Bollywood/Hollywood (2005)

Bollywood/Hollywood (2005)

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Deepa Mehta / Via answers.com

Why everyone should watch it: It doesn’t take itself too seriously as it is styled as a parody of Bollywood films and traditional Indian stereotypes. Jessica Paré (who plays Megan Draper in Mad Men) makes a cameo in the movie!

5. East is East (1999)

East is East (1999)

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Channel Four Films / Via flickfacts.com

Why everyone should watch it: It’s a hilarious comedy about the cultural clashes in a British-Pakistani family living in England. This movie won best British Comedy Film at the British Comedy awards.

6. Namesake (2006)

Namesake (2006)

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UTV Motion Pictures / Via filmgordon.wordpress.com

Why everyone should watch it: Lovingly known as Nam-a-sake, this movie deals with self-discovery from various characters’ perspectives. And as an added bonus, you get to watch Kal Penn go from basically being Kumar (from Harold & Kumar) to all mature and grown up.

7. Rockford (1999)

Rockford (1999)

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Nagesh Kukunoor / Via webknox.com

Why everyone should watch it: Its a sweet story about a 13 year-old-boy in an all-boys boarding school trying to figure out love and life with the help of his P.E. instructor. Language barriers aside, it also has a stellar soundtrack to boot.

8. The Great Indian Butterfly (2007)

The Great Indian Butterfly (2007)

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Sarthak Dasgupta / Via travelindia-guide.com

Why everyone should watch it: This film deals with the ups and downs of a modern married Indian couple while on vacation to find an elusive, magical butterfly last seen by Portuguese explorer Carodiguez.

9. Mitr, My Friend (2002)

Mitr, My Friend (2002)

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Revathi / Via ki-jaana-main-kaun.blogspot.com

Why everyone should watch it: It’s a story that portrays arranged married life between a small town south Indian girl and a software engineer who lives and works in California. For a movie made in 2002, it manages to broach the subject of online friendships in a very relatable way.

10. Outsourced (2006)

Outsourced (2006)

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ShadowCatcher Entertainment / Via uniquelybrandid.com

Why everyone should watch it: This movie gives you a dramatized, romanticized glimpse into the workings of a call center in India. It also stars Josh Hamilton who played Hank Foxx on American Horror Story: Coven.

11. Before The Rains (2007)

Before The Rains (2007)

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Echo Lake Entertainment / Via mahabore.blogspot.com

Why everyone should watch it: It tackles the subject of adultery between a married white man and an Indian maid in the 1930s. The film was shot with special cameras to specifically be able to capture the beauty of the film’s setting.

12. Chicken Tikka Masala (2005)

Chicken Tikka Masala (2005)

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Harmage Singh Kalirai / Via kenpdsnydecast.blogspot.com

Why everyone should watch it: It’s a British-Indian comedy that deals with three different themes all at once — arranged marriage, homosexuality, and interracial relationships.

13. Today’s Special (2009)

Today's Special (2009)

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Reliance MediaWorks Ltd / Via kahakaikitchen.blogspot.com

Why everyone should watch it: It’s a magical movie because it involves food, glorious food. Delicious Indian food! If you’re a foodie who loves comedy, you’ll most likely enjoy this! Aasif Mandvi, the film’s lead, is a correspondent for Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.

14. Mississippi Masala (1991)

Mississippi Masala (1991)

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The Samuel Goldwyn Company / Via blogg.org

Why everyone should watch it: The film is set in the deep South and it explores interracial relationships between African-Americans and Indian-Americans. Oh and it stars Denzel Washington, y’all!

15. Bride & Prejudice (2004)

Bride & Prejudice (2004)

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Miramax Films / Via hamzaeric.wordpress.com

Why everyone should watch it: It’s exactly what it sounds like! A Bollywood take on the classic Pride and Prejudice, it goes a step further in dealing with not just the issue of class but race as well. Also, Ashanti (the singer) makes a cameo.

16. Delhi Belly (2011)

Delhi Belly (2011)

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Aamir Khan Productions / Via bollywoodstudio.fr

Why everyone should watch it: It’s an edgy comedy that’s inspired by Guy Ritchie’s cult classic Snatch, that starred Brad Pitt and Jason Statham. The film got critical acclaim both in India and outside of it, with The Hollywood Reporter calling it a “sexy, filthy and thoroughly entertaining comedy.”

17. Midnight’s Children

Midnight's Children

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20th Century Fox / Via movie.you2play.com

Why everyone should watch it: The film is based on Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie’s novel of the same name and deals with India’s transition from British colonialism to independence and partition (Pakistan and Bangladesh were a part of India).


The original post said that Kal Penn played Harold in Harold and Kumar, our bad!

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