Over roughly a century, India has developed perhaps the largest film industry outside of the United States. In the 1930s, during what is considered to be Hollywood’s “Golden Era”, the Indian filmmaking industry was established in Bombay (now Mumbai). Thus, the many movies made here earned the business the name Bollywood, a portmanteau of Bombay & Hollywood.
Numbers-wise, due to India’s humongous population & cultural diaspora, Bollywood remains one of the most prolific national film industries in the world. On average, Bollywood puts out around 1,000 movies a year. The Hindi-language films have crossed borders to reach audiences in South Asia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and many more countries.
Some signifiers of Bollywood movies are predictable narratives, meticulously choreographed fighting, over-the-top musical numbers, melodramatic sequences, and heroes of mythical proportions. The new historical epic RRR is no exception, as so far this year, the film has earned 1133 Crore at the box office. We’ll tell you how to stream it & other Bollywood films online.
RRR: An “All Time Blockbuster”
Though RRR may feel like many Bollywood movies, it’s a Telugu-language film instead of a Hindi-language one. Nevertheless, RRR operates on a grand nationalistic scale, telling the fictionalized story of two Indian revolutionaries. The film is directed by S. S. Rajamouli, who is known for his high fantasy & period films such as 2009’s Magadheera.
The two insurgents in question are Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan) & Komaram Bheem (N. T. Rama Rao Jr.). Set in 1920, only a few years after one million Indian men were conscripted to fight for the British Empire in World War One, RRR captures a period of political turmoil in India. Rama Raju & Bheem are at the front lines of opposition against the British Raj.
The film chronicles an undocumented period of Rama Raju & Bheem’s lives where they chose to go into exile before fighting for India’s independence. While Bheem & Rama Raju were real people who helped India gain its sovereignty, there’s no evidence that the two knew each other. Rajamouli apparently found their stories & imagined what would’ve happened had they been close.
Not only is RRR’s over three-hour runtime a journey, but the movie’s production is as well. Principal photography began in November 2018 & lasted until August 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to being filmed in India, some sequences were shot in Ukraine & Bulgaria. You can stream RRR on Netflix on June 2nd, 2022.
Other Indian movies available for streaming
The great thing about the Indian film industry is that there’s something for all tastes. For those looking for a period piece like RRR, there’s the 2001 romantic sports musical Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India. The film is set in 1893, a time when India is under heavy British occupation.
In Lagaan, the sociopathic Captain Russell (Paul Blackthorne) has effected a steep land tax on the residents of a small village. The defiant farmer Bhuvan (Aamir Khan) gets the village together to oppose the taxation. The British captain proposes a way to end the squabbling: he challenges Bhuvan & the villagers to a game of cricket, a sport they know nothing about.
Lagaan fulfills all of the Bollywood requirements: it’s melodramatic, huge in scope, highly choreographed, and a crowd-pleaser. You can stream Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India on Netflix. For those that want a more auteurist approach to Indian filmmaking, there’s lauded Kolkata filmmaker Satyajit Ray.
Japanese film master Akira Kurosawa once said, “Not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon.” That’s high praise coming from the director of Seven Samurai. You can watch Ray’s arthouse movies like The World of Apu & Pather Panchali on the likes of HBO Max & Amazon Prime.
From the grandiose spectacle of RRR & Lagaan, to the reserved movies of Satyajit Ray, Indian cinema has something for all viewers. The good news is that due to Bollywood’s popularity, the films can be found almost anywhere online. What’s your favorite Indian film? Let us know in the comments!