8 Amazing South Asian Movies That Flew Under the Radar in 2019

It has been an interesting year for South Asian movies. Movies with big stars and huge budgets have disappointed and faded into oblivion, while indie films and movies grounded in realistic and fleshed out characters have dazzled viewers. In the midst of these diverse array of movies that have graced the big screen and streaming services this year, a few projects might have slipped under your radar. Here are 9 amazing South Asian movies you probably missed in 2019 and absolutely need to check out before the biggest releases of 2020.

1. “Kumbalangi Nights”

Language: Malayalam

[Photo Source: Screenshot / YouTube]

This movie is not underrated for a typical Malayalam movie buff, but in the big picture of Indian movies it is possible that this beautiful film might have been overshadowed by the glitz of Bollywood. “Kumbalangi Nights” follows four brothers of a dysfunctional family who navigate love, grief and regret in the gorgeous landscape of Kumbalangi – a small town in Kerala. It is a poetic tale that establishes and undermines toxic masculinity in one stroke, and explores what it is to be a man and the meaning of family.

The movie is available to rent on YouTube.

2. “Peranbu (Compassion)”

Language: Tamil

[Photo Source: Screenshot / YouTube]

“Peranbu” tells the story of a man and his daughter who has cerebral palsy. The movie focuses on the glossed over elements of life with no melodrama or judgement. A father who has been away for years and thus struggles to bond with his teenage daughter. His wife who leaves an absent husband and a disabled daughter yet is never judged or criticized for her actions. A young girl’s exploration of her sexuality and a film that understands that her disability has nothing to do with her feelings or desires. “Peranbu” is a heartbreakingly beautiful and honest portrayal that will leave a lasting impact on the viewer.

The movie’s streaming on Amazon Prime.

3. “Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota”

Language: Hindi

If Deadpool was South Asian, this would have been his tale of origin. “Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota” follows Surya, who has a rare condition called congenital insensitivity to pain. While the disease is actually rather dangerous, Surya and his optimistic grandfather transform his illness into a superpower, thanks to the aid of all the martial arts movies they binge-watch. This movie is hilarious and so much fun, and is very self-aware of the cliches of superhero movies, and offers a meta-narrative that is a delight to watch.

The movie’s streaming on Netflix.

4. “Gantumoote (Baggage)”

Language: Kannada

“Gantumoote” is all about 90s nostalgia and teenage love. It is a coming of age film told in the eyes of Meera and the female gaze and voice is what makes this movie so unique. We’ve seen so many movies about young boys exploring their lust, falling in love, making dirty jokes with their friends and dreaming about their first kisses. It is treated as a rite of passage in most Indian movies, but in “Gantumoote”, it is the girl who gets to explore her desires and urges. The movie is blunt, sensitive, mature and authentic, which is helped by the fact that it is directed by a woman.

The movie is streaming in Amazon Prime.

5. “Mallesham”

Language: Telugu

This biopic tells the story of Chintakindi Mallesham, who invented the Asu machine that processes yarn for sarees mechanically. This machine did not just transform the industry of weaving, but also bettered the lives of so many women whose bodies were constantly scarred and overwrought by the traditional method of weaving that existed before. “Mallesham” is “Padman” without all the glamour and politics. It does not pretend to tell a larger than life tale, rather presents the story of a simple man and his ambitions, and his efforts over multiple years to bring his dream to reality. It is honest, intimate and the sweet love story is an added bonus.

The movie is streaming on Netflix.

6. “Jallikattu (Buffalo Hunt)”

Language: Malayalam

“Jallikattu” is probably one of the most mesmerizing South Asian movies I have watched in a while. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen, which was a good thing because every single second and frame of this offbeat movie counts. An experimental feature which tracks a buffalo on the loose that sends an entire village into a frenzy and chaos is technically brilliant with stellar characters and subplots. The film explores human violence, mob mentality and paints a picture of the human psyche in a bold and haunting take that is stunning and infinitely memorable.

The movie’s streaming on Amazon Prime.

7. “Oh! Baby”

Language: Telugu

As I watch more of her movies, I am convinced I am in love with Samantha. She is a treat to watch in this fantasy comedy that tells the story of Baby, a 70-year-old woman who is bestowed with a Cinderella-like transformation which turns into a 24-year-old woman. She chases her lost dreams and enjoys life as she has always wanted, and of course, there is a lot of confusion, a cute but ill-fated romance and heartwarming moments. “Oh! Baby” assures that age doesn’t restrict one’s dreams and speaks to the young at heart.

The movie is streaming on Netflix.

8. “Suttu Pidikka Utharuvu”

Language: Tamil

[Photo Source: Screenshot / YouTube]

A solid thriller that keeps one on the edge of your seat. A group of bank robbers are on the run and a police officer is ordered to catch them. The cat and mouse game culminate in a crowded colony building. On the other hand, a bunch of terrorists are also hiding in the same colony, with the threat of bomb blast looming over the city. One of the residents of the colony becomes the chief informant for the media to cover what’s happening. All these events and people come together in a thrilling and satisfying climax that follows a tight knitted plot and tense moments.

The movie is streaming on Amazon.

By Mishma Nixon

Mishma is an extroverted, loud and ambitious Sri Lankan who is an undergraduate student at The University of Iowa. Double … Read more ›

‘The Romantics’: Revisiting the Legacy and Grandeur of Yash Chopra With Filmmaker Smriti Mundhra

The Romantics

If you are a South Asian, born in the ’80s or the early ’90s, chances are your ideas of love and romance are heavily influenced by Hindi films — that first gaze, the secret love notes, that accidental meeting somewhere in Europe, over-the-top gestures and dancing around trees. While reality may have been far from what was promised on reel, you still can’t stop pining over a hopeless romantic, with chocolate boy looks, chasing you across the earth and many universes; in the life here and the ones after. Somewhere deep down, you still dream of that possibility despite your husband sitting and sipping his morning coffee right next to you. And much of the credit for weaving this dreamland, that we can’t resist happily sliding into, goes to the legendary Yash Chopra. Award-winning filmmaker Smriti Mundhra’s docu-series, “The Romantics,” that released on Netflix on February 14, chronicles Chopra’s prolific career; offering an illuminating look into the highs and lows of his journey, his unblemished vision for Hindi cinema and sheer love for filmmaking. 

I wanted to look at Indian cinema through the lens of it being a major contributor to the global cinema canon and Yash Chopra seemed like the perfect lens to explore that because of the longevity of his career and the fact that he had worked across so many different genres. His films, for so many of us, defined what Hindi cinema is.

— Smriti Mundhra

As “The Romantics” unveils, in a mere episode — a challenging feat in itself — Chopra did experiment with multiple genres as a budding filmmaker, initially under the shadows of his elder brother B.R. Chopra. From the religiously sensitive “Dharamputra” and the trendsetting “Waqt” to the action-packed and iconic “Deewaar.” It wasn’t until later on in his career that he set a precedent for a Hindi film having a wholly romantic narrative; though “Waqt” did offer the perfect glimpse into what would go on to become Chopra’s cinematic imprint. And then came “Chandni” which ushered in a new era for Hindi cinema; defying the formulaic approach to box office success and making love stories the golden goose.

In the words of more than 30 famous faces, a host of archival videos and interviews, and personal anecdotes, audiences get an extensive insight into the life and career of Yash Chopra and the evolution of his vision through the business acumen and genius of his polar opposite son and a famous recluse, Aditya Chopra. “The Romantics” is not a fancy portrait of a legendary filmmaker but an exploration of what goes into making a successful film family and a path-breaking production house. As viewers, we not only get a peek into the making of a fantasy creator but also learn of the many failures, hurdles and uncertainties that the business of filmmaking comes packaged in, the impact of socio-political shifts on the kind of content being produced and demanded, and just how much control we have as an audience over the fate of the film and the filmmaker.

For both the uninitiated and fanatics, there are some interesting revelations like Shah Rukh Khan’s lifelong desire to become an action hero as opposed to a romantic one and the creative conflict between Aditya Chopra and his father Yash Chopra on the sets of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” — a project that, surprisingly, did not seem too promising to the latter. Mundhra penetrates deep into the family’s history and industry relationships evoking some really candid conversations; almost as if these celebs were eagerly waiting for their moment to speak. With one appraising interview after the other, it’s a panegyric that does border on being a tad tedious but there is enough depth and fodder in there to keep one hooked. Kudos to Mundhra for managing to achieve cohesion despite there being more than enough material to chew on. In the process of bringing this project to life, Mundhra also ends up achieving a number of milestones: one that the series features the last of actor Rishi Kapoor’s interviews and two, it brings Aditya Chopra, who, it appears, can talk a blue streak contrary to popular belief, to the front of the camera after almost two decades. The moment when he puts the nepotism debate to rest by referring to his brother’s catastrophic attempt at acting is quite the show-stealer.


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At some point during the four-episode series, you might question if it’s fair to credit the Yash Raj family for being the only real changemakers of the Hindi film industry and for picking up the baton to get Hindi cinema the global recognition that it has. But then there is no denying the Chopra clan’s body of work, their ability to understand what pleases the crowd and their commitment towards growth and progress amidst changing times and technology — Yash Raj Studios is in fact the only privately held and one of the biggest, state-of-the-art film studios in India. Chopra’s career and legacy are in no way under-lit that Mundhra can claim to throw new light on with “The Romantics.” But what she really has on offer here are sheer nostalgia, some fascinating discoveries and an ode to a cinephile and his art with a bit of fan service.

In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Mundhra discusses why it was so important for Chopra to be the subject of her docu-series, her own learnings during the series’ research and creative process and her accomplishment of getting Aditya Chopra to talk, and that too, at length.

By Nida Hasan

Editor by profession, writer by passion, and a mother 24/7, Nida is a member of Brown Girl Lifestyle's editing team … Read more ›