Every once in a while, a Bollywood movie surprises us with its depth and meaning.
Whenever we think of Bollywood movies, three things automatically come to mind: unexpected singing and dancing without context, dramatic thunder, and a superhuman hero who manages to wipe out 20 armed men with his bare hands.
However, every once in a while, a movie comes along and surprises us with its depth and meaning; unfortunately they often get overshadowed and undermined by the industry. Below are some hidden gems of Bollywood which truly deserve more recognition than they get and will certainly warm your heart.
Stanley Ka Dabba
This movie revolves around the lives of a bunch of fourth grade boys and their school days and how they put up with teachers of various personalities while remaining loyal to each other. Sir Babubhai Verma – the Hindi teacher, and fourth grader Stanley, couldn’t be more different.
Stanley is talented, charismatic, and creative and his friends love him; whereas Verma Sir (nicknamed Grumpy) is grumpy, gluttonous, and unkind. One thing which ties them together is the fact that neither of them ever bring a lunch box to school. While Stanley is invited by his friends to share their food, “Grumpy” has to resort to stealing, and using transparent tactics to mooch food from his colleagues, as well as the students.
This is a truly touching movie which will make you laugh, cry, and teach you a valuable lesson at the same time. The movie makes subtle hints towards a few issues including how different teaching styles can effect children psychologically and how children don’t care about social status unless they are taught to.
One message which stood out me consistently throughout is that “Everything is not what it seems”. This is portrayed perfectly by Stanley – a happy-go-lucky boy who is always smiling and never lets anyone get a whiff of his troubles. Later on, it is also expressed through Verma Sir’s repentant behaviour which shows that people are not simply greedy and selfish, but here is always more to it than meets the eye.
Different types of teachers — portrayed by the kind and loving Rosy Miss, and the strict and unyielding Ms Iyer, took me straight back to my school days. The film is so raw and real that it feels more like a documentary than a movie. The children are all captured in their natural essence and are unapologetically themselves; they fell naturally into their roles, almost as if they weren’t acting at all.
The story of why Stanley goes to school without a lunchbox is withheld until the very end which adds to the mystery element of the movie. The ending is heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time. It is amazing that a little boy can have so much wisdom to share with the world. One thing I would’ve really enjoyed seeing is, a more detailed backstory about Verma Sir — why he is the way he is, and why he never brought his lunch to school. Albeit being a bit slow-paced and repetitive at times and lacking fancy technology, there is a simplicity in the movie which is heart touching.
Ship of Theseus
As opposed to the previous movie, Ship of Theseus is one which captured my heart with its cinematography and the director’s work behind the lens. Despite winning awards and praise, this movie was not a box office success and deserves far more recognition than it has received.
The movie has three parts. The first concerns a blind photographer who relies on her other senses and intuition to capture images, the second is about a monk who is against animal testing, and the third is about a stock broker who finds himself unintentionally affiliated with an illegal organ trade.
All of the parts have either had or needed organ transplant, and at the core of the movie is the ancient Athenian Paradox – “As the planks of Theseus’ ship needed repair, it was replaced part by part, up to a point where not a single part from the original ship remained in it anymore. Is it then, still the same ship?”
Each story is beautiful, heart-wrenching, and brimmed with food for thought. We see the protagonists struggling with themselves and their beliefs. We feel as though they were no longer at home in their bodies. In the process, each character shares their wisdom with us for us to delve in.
With philosophical sub-themes and visual metaphors, the movie is a delicious serve for art and philosophy lovers. The characters and the plot itself are multi-layered and complex, you will find yourself immersed in a completely different way of thinking.
Although some parts of the movie seemed a bit too stretched out, it helps one to completely lose themselves in that world. Surely, it is not for those who are looking for a typical Bollywood movie, with a singing and dancing; rather for the patient, thoughtful ones who want to lose themselves on a thought-provoking journey of self-discovery and introspection.
Trapped, surely, is one of a kind. When a man locks himself in his new apartment in a deserted building, the month-long journey he has ahead of him is sure to be excruciating. Without a phone, electricity, water or food, Shaurya (Rajkumar) slowly starts to lose his mind and strength, and resorts to desperate measures to survive.
Rajkumar Rao’s acting in this movie is sensational, and you will find yourself holding your breath, feeling claustrophobic, and an insatiable hunger as if you were there with him. You will feel his frustration, desperation, and every emotion to the core. The film is fuelled mainly by the character’s despair and is an amazing work of characterisation. Instead of using a deserted island, the director turns a very usual, day to day setup and turns it into a hellish place — which is a very simple and effective way to have the audience squirming in their seats.
This movie is definitely not for the weak-hearted. there are too many squirmy scenes where the desperate man driven wild by hunger, resorts to eating some unappetizing meals and using hair-raising tactics to attract attention. We see the transformation of a timid, gentle vegetarian into a wild, untamed hero who will do anything to survive.
Although the movie is sure to test your patience and isn’t unusual to question the reliability of the situation. Is it really possible that no one hears his blood curdling screams of anguish? Even fire doesn’t attract any attention? Do none of his kindred manage to sniff out his whereabouts?
Even if it seems a tad bit unbelievable, the director has thought of every possible way to make it convincing for us by making sure Shaurya tries everything to break out. The circumstances are so relatable that it is utterly easy to see ourselves in Shaurya’s shoes, which makes it even more horrifying.
This movie effortlessly brings our worst fear to life: Being surrounded by thousands of people, yet being alone.
Kashfia Hassan loves to write professionally and for fun.