Top 10 Indian Films Of The 2000s

Indian cinema is the biggest producer of film in the world. It is little surprise that its popularity continues to grow in the UK. Raghav Modi looks at ten of the best Indian films from the 2000s.

Indian Cinema has come a long way. Unfortunately, in the western world, there still predominantly exists a misconception that all that is produced in the biggest cinema industry of the world is “musicals”. Music and dance are integral parts of the Indian society and just like cinema from any part of the world, Indian cinema simply reflects the society it originates from. But, to term all Indian films as musicals would be a grave mistake.

I have always been a huge supporter of Indian Cinema that has matured over the last decade or so producing some of the finest films in all possible genres. So, to help you decide on the next Hindi movie to see, here is a list of the top 10 Indian films from the last decade. Just to present a wider range I have decided to take one film from each year, but let me clarify that they are not necessarily the “best” of the year, but rather movies that stood out and should be on any cinephiles must see “world cinema” list.

2001 – Dil Chahta Hai

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A film that modernized Indian cinema right at the turn of the century. Dil Chahta Hai is a typical indian film when it comes to song and dance and drama and romance. What it does different is successfully capture the educated, well traveled, metropolitan youngster, tackling some of the problems they face, something that was never explored before now on film. The movie was a runaway success because like me a number of people living in the metros of India instantly related to it. Starring Amir Khan (Lagaan) and made by a young hip first time director Farhan Akhtar, the movie is a window into urbanized India.

2002 – Kaante

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I’m sure you must have seen Reservoir Dogs. Well, here is the Indian version of the same movie. Not really as gritty as the original and not an exact copy, I appreciated the fact that Kaante was one of the first few movies that took Indian cinema in a new more stylish direction. Its director Sanjay Gupta is one of the first few to give the style of the film an equal and in some cases more importance than the substance. He later on went on to remake Oldboy and U-Turn as well.

2003 – Ek Hasina Thi

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Finding an Indian film with a strong female protagonist can be hard. Take out social issue films, and it’s even harder. Ek Hasina Thi is a and out-an-out revenge film. Seduced and later tricked by her shady boyfriend into harbouring a terrorist, Sarika, played by Urmila Matondkar, is left to rot in jail by the person she once loved, Karan (Saif Ali Khan). How she eventually escapes and plots her revenge is the premise of the film. The film has a very realistic feel to it never over dramatizing the events. Watch it for some brilliant acting by Urmila and a career changing performance by Saif Ali Khan.

2004 – Maqbool

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Macbeth gets the Indian treatment in this well acted ensemble. The success of the film lies in its presentation. Set amidst the Mumbai underworld, the characters created by Shakespeare take on fascinating personas. The witches are transformed into two corrupt cops and Macbeth into Maqbool, a henchman of gangster Abbaji (Pankaj Kapoor) romancing his mistress Nimmi (Tabu). Although Director/Screenplay Writer Vishal Bharadwaj deserves most of the acclaim, the fact that almost all the characters chosen to play the pivotal roles are the best character actors of India, is the other factor that lead to the huge success of the film.

2005 – Black Friday

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Probably the best film having a journalistic approach ever to be made in India. Based on the 1993 serial bomb blast in Bombay, the movie categorically follows the events that lead to the disaster and the repercussions of the blasts from points of view of the police and the people involved. Anurag Kashyap, director, tackles the sensitive issues with with care never judging making the audience think for themselves. Black Friday is must see cinema.

2006 – Being Cyrus

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The second film in the list starring Saif Ali Khan, Being Cyrus is most likely to appeal to people who despise the song and dance sequences in Indian films. Being Cyrus is an intense psychological thriller and con caper rolled into one with hints of subtle comedy. Telling anything about the movie would be giving away the twists, but watch it for Saif Ali Khan who shines giving a performance of a lifetime, once again.

2007 – Manorma Six Feet Under

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If you look at the big picture, you are bound to find similarities between MSFU and Chinatown, but forget about that for a minute because the movie stands out for its stellar performance by Abhay Deol. Add to that Rajasthan, where the movie is shot and takes place, with its dessert landscapes and slow moving life, adds a character of its own to the film. You want intelligent cinema? Manorma Six Feet Under serves up a thinking man’s murder mystery beautifully shot and full of suspense, drama, and adventure.

2008 – Welcome To Sajjanpur

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Ever wondered about village life in India? Welcome to Sajjanpur provides a satirical look at the people that make a village and focuses on their everyday life. Directed by one of India’s most acclaimed directors Shyam Benegal, the film almost light heartedly tackles some of the most prominent social issues faced in India. From honor killings, to migrant workers, to political game plays, the entire story is told from the outlook of an average educated village letter writer. Comical, heart warming, and heart breaking, the movie takes you on roller-coaster ride of emotions as you slowly but surely come to love the different characters.

2009 – Dev D

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The second movie in the list by director Anurag Kashyup, Dev D is modern day storytelling at its best. Tackling the age old story of Devdas by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Dev D is the story of a man who takes on to drinking when he loses the love of his life. Most of the previous cinematic incarnations of the book have tried to stay true to the story in respect of the characters and era, but Dev D modernizes the story by placing it in the present time and sensationalized it with scandalous sex messages, underground bars, and high-end funky brothels.

2010 – Udaan

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Whatever good I may say about Udaan is never enough. Presently, my favourite indian film, Udaan is a realistic coming-of-age story about a boy returning to his authoritarian father after spending 8 years in boarding school and discovering that in that duration his father remarried and he now has a step-brother. Directed brilliantly by Vikramaditya Motwane and featuring great performances by Ronit Roy, Rajat Barmecha, Ram Kapoor, and Manjot Singh, Udaan is cinema that excels in all aspects of film making.

Your turn – which films on this list have you seen, which ones do you want to see, what do you think of the choices made for each year?

Written and compiled by Raghav Modi.

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About the Author
Raghav is an Indian writer based in the northern state of Haryana. He writes about film at his site Ticker Talks Film, while also writing about travel, photography and family at his other sites The Travelling Ticker and Ticker Talks.

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  1. Avatar
    Mette Reply

    I’ve watched 6 of these, excluding Kaante, Maqbool, Being Cyrus and Welcome to Sajjanpur, which have on my watch-list for a long time, though. Love your last choices, Dev.D and Udaan are some of my favorite films, as well as Dil Chahta Hai which you simply can’t miss. However, I thought that both Black Friday and Manorama were quite boring, even though Abhay’s performance in the latter was brilliant, and Black Friday was very realistic and stayed with the facts.
    Ek Hasina Thi is from 2004, by the way – a great film, though.
    In a whole, I like your list.

  2. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Mette: Thanks for the comment – what other Indian films would you recommend from the 2000s?

  3. Avatar
    Andina Reply

    I am intrigued with Udaan, coming-of-age movies are my food. Indian movies I know usually are heartwarming and include dances, nice to know other kinds of them.

  4. Avatar
    markwall84 Reply

    Great list. Never really watched any Indian films, so this will be a good place to start for me 🙂

  5. Avatar
    Raghav Modi Reply

    Mette – Thanks. as for the years, I simply looked at an IMDB list and used that. Sometimes the movies years differ because they might release in India in December but open in the rest of the world in January changing the year. So, there is a good chance you might be right as well. I’m glad to know you have seen so many Indian films.

    Angina – If you like coming-of-age films, then Udaan is without a doubt your cup of tea. Thanks.

    Mark – Start… Start watching them now 🙂 Thanks

    Dan – Thank you so much for the opportunity.

  6. Avatar
    Mette Reply

    @ Dan: Most Indian films I’ve seen are from the 2000s, so there’s a lot I would recommend. From 2011, the best until now is Dhobi Ghat/ Mumbai Diaries – that one I’d recommend to everyone.

  7. Avatar
    Alex Reply

    This is great! I have seen very few Indian films but I would love to become more acquainted with the genre. Unfortunately a few of these aren’t yet available on netflix but I will see as many as I can- thanks for putting this list together!

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    Partha Reply

    I think you missed Bheja Fry. Often a scene-by-scene copy of The Dinner Game, but super execution and great fun. Also Matrubhoomi, Kaminey, Luck by Chance, LSD, No Smoking, Johnny Gaddar, Dabangg have been worthy.

  9. Avatar
    Raghav Modi Reply

    Hi Alex, there are so many I could not possibly fit them in a Top 10. If you get time have a look at my film blog where I have talked about some more Nader the heading ” Articles”

    Partna, I think the list is endless, but I was trying to select 1 from each year that was slightly less popular than most commercial films like say Lagaan. Although your list is quite good, I wouldn’t put Dabangg, LSD, Kaminey, and No Smoking in my list, but then that’s my personal choice. I think LSD, Kaminey, and No Smoking are excellent experiments for Indian films, but they, in my book, aren’t great films.

    Thank you

  10. Avatar
    Jayendra Reply

    Great list. I also think “welcome to sajjanpur” is lucky to find its place here. two of the recent films which deserve to be in the list like this should be “Saheb Bibi and Gangster” and “Delhi belly”. What do you think?

  11. Avatar
    Raghav Reply

    Sorry for the late reply Jayendra. Unfortunately I haven’t seen either of the two movies. I do know that even if I did it would have been hard to replace Udaan for 2011. Thanks

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