In feature films the director is God; in documentary films, God is the director.
In recent years, Indian documentaries have become more popular than movie feature films and television shows. That is because documentaries are a rich source of information and more hard-hitting as compared to textbooks or newspapers.
Documentaries can be inspiring as they cover real-life stories and can bring sensitive topics to the spotlight. The old boring narrative of tv shows is gone as documentaries are picturesque and often use semi-biographical or personal narratives to engage the audience.
The new era of filmmaking is using documentaries to spread light on social issues, challenging the status quo, and questioning the establishment among many other things.
If you are in the mood for real-life inspiring stories or something that will make you introspect about life and things that matter, watch these documentaries on India!
1.Saeed Mirza- The Leftist Sufi (2016)
Directed by: Kireet Khurana and Padmakumar Marsimhamurthy
The Leftist Sufi is a must-watch, especially given the current political and cultural scenario. Starring the legend himself, this Indian documentary follows the poetic life of Saeed Akhtar Mirza, a renowned screenwriter, director, and poet. The documentary explores his ideologies, a poetic vision that contributed to the cinema of the ’70s to the ’90s, and his quest for truth. This is one of the best Indian documentaries and truly a must-watch.
2.Meet the Patels (2014)
Directed by: Ravi Patel and Geeta Patel
Meet the Patels is not one of your usual Indian documentaries. This one is a light-hearted comedy! Meet the Patels is funny and sweet and will leave you with a smile. It is a light-watch for those days when you just want to unwind on your couch. This Indian documentary film follows the life of soon-to-be-30 Indian American Ravi Patel who is torn between his parent’s and his life choices. The documentary is based on situational comedy and is not exaggerated or melodramatic. It is one of those Indian documentaries that everyone will be able to relate to, and especially if you are a man in your late twenties. It is based on the real-life experiences of actor Ravi Patel.
Directed by: Abhay Kumar
Placebo by Abhay Kumar is one of the most hard-hitting best documentaries on India to ever grace the screen. It is dark and intriguing as it tries to understand the culture behind India’s education system. The story follows the life of a student of AIIMS, India’s most reputed medical college. The is one of those Indian documentaries that dive into the mind of the student who struggles to cope with academic pressures, battles his inner demons, depression, and suicide. It showcases the dark side of prestigious colleges that are usually masked under the pomp.
Placebo spills out harsh truths and is a must-watch Indian documentary film that everyone should watch, from teachers to students to parents.
4.Inshallah, Football (2014)
Directed by: Ashvin Kumar
Inshallah, Football is one of the best Indian documentaries you can watch. The story deals with the issue of Kashmir but from the eyes of an aspirant footballer. While the perils of Kashmir have been highlighted time and again in cinema and filmmaking, this Indian documentary film stands out. The documentary explores the lives of the new-generation Kashmiris who find themselves lost in the prevalent silent war. It also depicts the disconnection between the new generation with the old generation.
5.The 90’s: India Rediscovered (2015)
Directed by: Director’s name not available.
The 90’s in India was a tumultuous decade. It was a mix of good and bad with war, politics, pop culture, Indian women being crowned as Miss World, etc. This is one of the most profound Indian documentaries that explore the lives and important events of the feverish ’90s.
Directed by: Fahad Mustafa and Deepti Kakkar
Powerless or Katiyabaaz is one of the best Indian documentaries to bless the big screen. The story follows the life of Loha, an electrician who emerged as the Robin Hood of Kanpur. On the whole, it talks about the problem of power-cuts in the city. A contradictory and status quo point of view is provided by Ritu, the first female chief of the Kanpur Electric Supply Company who is determined in eliminating illegal electric supplies in the city. Powerless explores the concept of urban decay and is undoubtedly one of the best Indian documentaries ever. It won the Sundance Documentary Film Program Fellowship 2013 as well as the Tribeca International Film Festival.
7.Jareena, Portrait of a Hijda (1990)
Directed by: Prem Kalliat
Jareena, Portrait of a Hijda is one of the most brilliant Indian documentaries that talks about the lives of transgenders. It follows the life of Jareena, a transsexual who lives in the Bangalore Hijda community. It depicts issues faced by them like an identity crisis, being lost and unaccepted in India, etc. It gives an insight into what it’s like to be a transsexual living in India and Bangalore.
8.Gulabi Gang (2012)
Directed by: Nishitha Jain
Gulabi Gang by Nishitha Jain is another hard-hitting Indian documentary. Based on real-life and true events, the film documents the life of Gulabi Gang, a women collective founded by Sampat Pal Devi. The Gulabi Gang is a movement that protests and acts against domestic violence and abuse. This is one of the best Indian documentaries and definitely, a must watch!
9.My friend Hussain (2013)
Directed by: Bhavana Sresht
My Friend Hussain is one of the best Indian documentaries based on the life of internationally recognized artist MF Hussain. MF Hussain was a one-of-a-kind artist who was often called the Picasso of India. My Friend Hussain is a biographical docu-drama of his life. The story follows his life’s journey touching upon his love for art, the struggles he overcame, his achievement, and his relationship with his friends. In the documentary, other artists like Raza, Kishan Khanna, Ram Kumar, and others have spoken about the great painter, Hussain.
10.Bad Boy Billionaires: India (2020)
Directed by: Dylan Mohan Gray
The last one on our list is one of the best Indian documentaries of 2020. Bad Boy Billionaires released on Netflix a couple of months ago and became very famous among the youth circle. The documentary chronicles the journey of four prominent Indian businessman figures whose reputations were soiled after corruption allegations. The four businessmen are none other than Vijay Mallya, Subrata Roy, Ramalinga Raju, and Nirav Modi. This film documents the financial scams they were involved in. This is one of the must-watch Indian documentaries.
This was our list of the best Indian documentaries. Go give your TV a break and dive into the world of real-life stories of documentaries.