Here’s the thing, life as we know it, it is hard. Everyone’s fighting with one thing or the other, and everything you do is a battle. Nothing comes easy, and things that do come easy leave you in a pool of self-doubt. It isn’t a surprise then that millennials are increasingly finding voice in films that talk about these struggles. With films like Gully Boy coming up, the air is streaked with a sense of excitement and viral energy, because we all so firmly believe “Apna Time Aayega”.
Anyway, if you’re like me and have at this point memorised all those songs (what an album!!), kill some time and prep yourself with these Bollywood underdog films. While Bollywood is, most times, superficial and animated, sometimes it does hit reality. The reality of people like us - with big dreams and bigger hearts. Who knows, maybe a movie or two, a little dose of encouragement, and we might just make it, huh?
Mary Kom (2014)
Described by critics like Subhash K Jha as a “motivational masterpiece”, this film saw one of the greatest weekend box office openings for a female lead. Based on the life of one of India’s leading names in boxing, the film has you rooting not just for Mary Kom (who became a household name after the film, even though she had a number of incredible accomplishments to her name already), but also, for hardworking common people who may not have been served with privilege at birth, but fight to death to make the best of themselves anyway.
Taare Zameen Par (2007)
Made of stone is the man who did not cry big tears of relatability watching this beautiful film. Everything from the direction to the acting (it is kinda really good) grabs you by the very heart. How many people do you know who wanted to be painters or singers or writers - but got stuck taking up things their parents thought they should do? How many children have you met who didn’t excel at traditional school but are brilliant brains anyway? This timeless film is basically the movie-version of Albert Einstein’s memorable quote: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Miss it for basically nothing.
The story of a middle-class man with big dreams and a fire to achieve them. What’s better? He doesn’t just stop at success, but is driven to give back to everyone who helped him get there. It is essentially the kind of drive most of us sitting behind desks aspire to have (hey, its not an attack if I include myself!) Jokes apart, the brilliant cinematography, and of course, Ser Rehman’s tunes get you all charged up, ready to take the world by the collar. Don’t be surprised if you walk into office the next day feeling like “Guru Bhai Guru Bhai” is your own life’s background music. Personally, I think God should have given us all a life OST, but anyway, I digress.
I want to know why you haven’t watched this if you haven’t watched this? Lagaan is, and will always be, one of Bollywood’s defining films. You don’t just get one person to play the underdog, I am talking an entire community. You’ll relate to each character on different levels, and find yourself at the edge of your seat, rooting for strength an resilience embodied by different characters and their stories. Generally, a wholesome experience is more or less guaranteed. Also, screw colonialism, huh?
A truly sincere film, this is a movie made with soul. Following 17-year-old lead character Rohan, who is thrown out of boarding school and sent off to become and engineer and work in his father’s factory - all this, when he wants to be a writer. His suffocation hits you in the face, so real is his discomfort, so real is his struggle at pleasing a strict father and living with broken dreams - Udaan is perhaps one of the best films to have come out of Bollywood. Yeah, I said that.
Iqbal - another story of a little boy who had a (not-so) simple dream: to be part of the Indian cricket team. It is well known that cricket isn’t just a sport in our country, I’ve heard of actual temples where cricketers are prayed to(?) Basically, being a part of the Indian cricket team is no joke (just like everything else in India, ‘cuz you know, COMPETITION) - but things get harder if you cannot see or hear. You’ll find yourself connect to the little boy, and at the end when the black screen sows up, you’ll be filled with inspiration. Feeling low? This is definitely for you.
Chak De! India (2007)
Were you missing SRK? I was. Anyway, SRK and “underdog” aren’t a thing you can make convincing, but this excellent film is about the girls. Simple girls from different backgrounds coming together to build on a dream that is mocked, ridiculed, ragged. A group of women who fight all odds, and leave everything behind (even family) to prove the world wrong. Oh, and also SRK.
Y’ALL. Where do we begin? Doesn’t the name itself just get you SO ready to charge at the world? Be it Aamir, Fatima, Sanya or the extremely-talented Zaira Wasim...the actors in this film delivered and HOW. Based on the story of the Phogat sisters, the resilience and perseverance of the characters will remind you of your own weak moments, and how always you made it through.
Wake Up Sid (2009)
Thing with India is, parental expectations get to all of us - broke or not. Wake Up Sid is a depiction of just that - a rich “cool boi” who has it all - except he doesn’t have his dream. The film follows the character as he moves from failing at everything he does, to leaving his father’s business and finally establishing himself as a photographer. Sid will remind you of all the times in your life you had to fight to prove your worth, take tough decisions, and refuse to be a part of the rat race. While he may not have been the textbook underdog, his struggles make him just another friend you find yourself wishing the best for.
Rocket Singh: Salesman Of The Year (2009)
First of all, how cute was Ranbir in this movie? Didn’t you just want to...be friends with him?! Anyhow, if you’ve missed this super-entertaining film, I feel a little bad for you. Not just was the film well made, but it managed to show you life’s full circle. While Ranbir starts off as a classic underdog who builds his way up (using other people’s resources, tsk tsk) he does eventually have to stop - and that’s the beauty of the film. That not everyone takes the good road, but you can always stop to fix things if you falter. Rocket Singh is the good guy whose mistakes will teach you. Do not miss it!
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