Top Ten South Asian Movies (English): Simon Says.. Watch This!

Kal Penn is well known for his South Asian American Movies (The Namesake)
Kal Penn is well known for his South Asian American Movies (The Namesake)

When most people think of South Asian cinema, they oft-times refer to Bollywood films. What many don’t always realize is that there are great South Asian movies—filmed in America or Great Britain.

It’s not always singing and dancing but hard-hitting story lines that are the impetus behind many great films such as The Namesake, Bend it like Beckham and even Slumdog MillionaireSimon Daniel (The only other desi with the same last name as me) is a well known movie critic on the internet. His website, Simon Says Watch This, has impacted the internet—in a good way!  Daniel has written lush yet biting reviews that have inspired more movie-goers to really think and feel about popular (as well as non-popular) movies.

Since I am a hardcore fan of his website, I asked him to write an enriching review on his top favorite 10 South Asian (English) Movies. Daniel performed exhaustive research on this topic and cranked out a heartfelt article that many desis across the globe can relate to. Here’s an excerpt of his article. Remember to check out Simon Daniel’s website here for AMAZING movie reviews!

It is fascinating that South Asia has been influencing the film industry for quite a while, starting in 1951 with a movie called The River. Another movie that was influenced by the Indian culture was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom from 1984, which was actually the reason why the PG-13 rating was created; it was rated PG, because there was nothing between PG and R at that time (even Jaws (1975) was rated PG). But parents started criticizing the system, since Indi’s trip to India was way too scary and dark for a PG-movie. So the director Steven Spielberg suggested the MPAA to ad a PG-14 rating, the MPAA settled for PG-13, and the rest is history. Now you know that, You’re welcome!
And let’s not forget about the two biggest success stories: Gandhi (1982), starring Ben Kingsley, receiving eight Oscars including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role, and recently Ang Lee’s Life of Pi (2012), an impressive book adaptation that has been flood with awards, but unfortunately didn’t enjoy as much popularity at the box office.
I had many movies to choose from, but I have come up with a list of what I believe are the 10 most significant ones, besides the ones I have already mentioned above. Of course these aren’t the only good ones out there. There are so many more movies to enjoy, which is why (English) South Asian Cinema might become a new column on my blog, but I haven’t decided yet.

So, here it goes:

Courtesy of Simon Daniel's website
Courtesy of Simon Daniel’s website

1. Mississippi Masala (1991)Spicy, Sensual, Emotional and Entertaining

Category: Drama/ Romance
Actors: Denzel Washington, Sarita Choudhury, Roshan Seth
Duration: 116 min
Rated: R

You might like this movie if you enjoyed:
Jungle Fever (1991), East is East (1999)

Long Story Short:
Traditions and cultures clash together when Meena, an Indian girl whose parents had to move from Uganda to Mississippi when she was a little child, falls in love with the black Demetrius. What they don’t know: There is an unwritten set of rules they have broken by falling in love with each other. Will they be able to convince their families that they are meant to be together?

Mississippi Masala is a beautiful movie about an Indian family that is forced to move from Uganda to a whole different world: The United States. Not only do they have to get used to a new and more open culture, but they also have to tolerate the hatred and racism that surrounds them, because they end up in Mississippi. Why they end up in Mississippi? – Who knows. But fact is not only Caucasians can be racist. Anybody can be racists towards someone else, and sometimes there is more to it than just plain ignorance.
The chemistry between Denzel Washington and Sarita Choudhury is extremely believable and the love scenes are very steamy, so just be aware: you might have to fan yourself. The rest of the cast is doing a terrific job and we learn a lot about the different cultures: Indian, African, and American. They even watch my favorite Indian movie on TV: Nagina. Well, actually it’s the second part which is not as good as the original, but I can live with that.
Mississippi Masala is one of my all-time favorite American-Indian movies, because it has heart, smart dialogues, and makes you think, laugh, and even cry. We can all learn from it: We were made to love someone, no matter what race, color, religion or gender that person might have.

Rating: 10/10


2. Bend it Like Beckham (2002)Probably the most popular movie amongst the South Asian cinema in English Language

Category: Drama/ Comedy
Actors: Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Duration: 112 min
Rated: PG-13

You might like this movie if you enjoyed:
Mississippi Masala (1991), East is East (1999)

Long Story Short:
Jess has a dream: Becoming a successful soccer player and traveling across the world. But her family thinks she should stop with this foolishness and learn what a traditional Indian woman does: Cooking, taking care of her husband, and raising children. But what’s more important, her family’s expectations or her dreams?

Surprisingly, almost everyone I know has at least heard of Bend it Like Beckham, and it even has been quoted or mentioned in TV Shows and movies (most recently in Hot in Cleveland Season 4, Episode 16), so I would say this fun and very realistic movie made in U.K. has definitely set a trend. It gives a great insight on traditions and values and how important it is to adapt to one’s surroundings, especially when moving to a different country. Parminder Nagra is a wonderful actress, and I actually didn’t even know that Jules was played by Keira Knightley until I recently watched it again. Bend it Like Beckham has romance, drama, comedy, and the most beautiful Hindi version of Jennifer Rush’s The Power of Love. It deserves to be watched more than once.

Rating: 9/10


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