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Best South Asian Movies of the 2010s, Ranked

While Bollywood cinema is arguably one of the best-known entertainment industries in the world, South Asian countries have thriving national cinemas. Even within India, Bollywood tends to only cover Hindi movies; in a country with 447 native languages, it seems only natural for other regional films, especially Telugu and Tamil films, to be out of the limelight. Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka also produce a large proportion of the films. Lollywood, the film industry in Pakistan, is even in the top 20 countries producing films, per culture trip

Whether movies come from Dhallywood, Bollywood or Lollywood, South Asian cinema is on the rise. As government spending on cultural industries increases, so does the presence of the international film festival circuits. In fact, given the region’s deep influences on world cinema – some of the greatest directors, such as Satyajit Ray, have had prolific careers discussing exclusively unique South Asian contexts – the lack of discussion of these films disappointing. That said, these are the best South Asian movies of the 2010s.

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7 Aynabaji / Mirror Game

Aynabajic was released in 2016 but it has now become one of Bangladesh’s most loved movies in recent years. Bangladeshi actor Chanchal Chowdhury plays a struggling actor who is willing to do anything for some quick cash. He couldn’t make it in the film industry, so he chooses something much darker for his career: he impersonates powerful, rich people in prison so they can roam free, and he takes their place. But when he eventually falls in love and decides to leave this life behind, it comes back to drag him deeper into the dark underbelly of modern-day Dhaka.

6 nagarkirtan

nagarkirtan won four awards at the National Film Awards, one of the most prominent awards for Indian cinema. Riddi Sen is Porimal, an intersex woman from rural West Bengal. She runs away from home and starts a new life in a ghetto of people like her. There she falls in love with a boy who works in a Chinese restaurant, but the pressures of a transphobic society continues to diminish her mental health and well-being. although nagarkirtan is in Indian Bengali, with its LGBTQ+ representation, it forces to surface a prominent problem in contemporary Indian society: intersex, transgender and hijra communities have historically existed in South Asia, but their stories are often buried.

5 baajic

The Pakistani Romantic Movie baajic has quite a bit of spice with its universal themes. An aging Lollywood actress (Meera) discovers that she is quickly fading into the background and soon becomes irrelevant to society. Unable to accept her situation for what it is, she tries to find more work, so she hires a salon girl (Amna Ilyas) to become her assistant. baajic is a return to the golden years of Lollywood, but also to what it’s like to be an actor in Pakistan.

4 Visaranai

The Telugu Language Crime Drama Visaranai made its mark on the international film circuit when it first appeared at the 2015 Venice Film Festival. Four Tamil workers living in South India’s Andhra Pradesh state are accused of committing a crime they do not have committed, causing the police to torture them. Their case goes on for months as the police continue to manipulate facts and details about the crime, leading to a series of tragic and cruel events. Though violent, the film’s insight into police brutality in South India and the conditions migrant workers face is critical in today’s world.

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3 Masaan

Masaan takes place in the holy city of Varanasi, which borders the river Ganges. Richa Chadda and Vicky Kaushal star as two young people who live in the city, but their stories are separated until they are no more. Chadda’s character is bribed by a local police officer after she’s caught having sex with a college student, leaving her family in a situation they can’t afford. She dreams of leaving the city and starting over. In the second story, a boy named Kaushal was born into a low-caste family that worked on the ghats, the cremation sites at the foot of the river. When he falls in love with a girl from a higher caste, heartbreak comes in many different forms.

2 1: Nenokkadine

1: Nenokkadine was released to great international acclaim, confirming its status as one of the best Telugu films released in the decade, according to Movie companion† Gauthem (Mahesh Babu) is a rock musician who suffers from schizophrenia and health problems; these lead to him having a series of hallucinations. The story revolves around his search for his parents, who he believes were murdered by a trio of men, but others, including a journalist, believe these are just symptoms of his hallucinations. 1: Nenokkadine shifts between reality and fiction, forcing viewers to question what is really happening.

1 Gully Boy

Released in 2019, Gully Boy shows the power of rap and storytelling to low-income communities worldwide. It was inspired by the lives of two Indian street rappers who made it big despite coming from the streets of Mumbai. Gully BoyThe titular character, Murad, is an engineering student from an abusive household in the slums of Mumbai. To deal with his situation, he turns to rap and finds newfound popularity with his work. The film is a classic tale of climbing your way to the top, especially when Murad fights against those from more privileged backgrounds.


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