Films Featuring India

The following films about India try to give accurate accounts of the historical period or contemporary life. They are excellent films in their own right, but anyone interested in India will want to check them out.

Gandhi, an Oscar winner, will doubtlessly top any list of fine films, but it really should not be missed for the wonderful job it does capturing the life of one of the world’s greatest peacemakers and world leaders. Ben Kingsley, who starred as Gandhi, is joined on film by Candice Bergen, John Gielgud, and Martin Sheen. The conflict between India and Great Britain is portrayed with great historical accuracy and poignant details about the culture as well as the man. This film will not soon be forgotten for its historical value, but it is a riveting portrayal of a country fighting peacefully for its independence.

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A Passage to India, based on the E. M. Forster novel of the same name, might as well have been the prequel to the time of Gandhi. It depicts the prejudice of the British against their Indian colonial subjects and points toward the growing conflict. A young English woman imagines she is attacked by her guide in the Great Caves of India. The film goes on to depict a trial with frequent flashbacks to the caves. Also an Oscar winner, the cinematography is breathtaking and accurately portrays the throngs of Indian streets and the exotic beauty of its country. The film stars Peggy Ashcroft, Judy Davis, Victor Bannerjee and Alec Guineness.

Heat and Dust is based on the novel by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and stars the lovely Julie Christie and Greta Scacchi. It is the double story of a contemporary English woman (played by Christie) traveling through India and searching for details of her relative’s story that happened long before during British colonial days. Scacchi plays a woman unhappy in her marriage who falls in love with an Indian. It is a fascinating portrayal of colonial life and a fine film to gain a sense of India at that time in its history.

Bride and Prejudice is a Bollywood film that is a contemporary and Indian take on Jane Austen’s English classic Pride and Prejudice published in the early nineteenth century. Aiswarya Ray, Martin Henderson, Madira Babbar and Anupam Kher star in this delightful take on a great novel, though the inherent message takes it a step further by demonstrating how the rest of the world doesn’t know the real India. This film tries to demonstrate what a typical—even suburban-like—India actually is and depicts a fun double love story at the same time.

While you cannot learn everything about a country simply by watching movies about it, you may be able to get a decent idea simply by choosing films that aim for accuracy in their depictions. Indian life is varied region by region and they are one of the most populated nations in the world. These films simply show a slice of Indian life at a specific time in the country’s history—but they portray that bit of India well and to great acclaim from international audiences. See them for yourself! Also, find out more about Bollywood films centered around India for further enjoyable viewing.

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