For those who prefer to watch movies in the comfort of their living room without having to venture into the world of piracy, global giants such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix have a robust list of classics, off-beat entertainers, blockbusters and documentaries. Niche websites like Mubi too, stream lesser-known gems from all over the world. In 2013, the National Film Development Corporation launched its online streaming website, Cinemas Of India, which features a delightful collection of rare classics and award winning indie films that one might not find elsewhere.
Here is a list of feature films and documentaries worth your time, that are streaming on Amazon Prime Videos/Netflix/CinemasOfIndia.
Trader (Short Documentary, Georgian, Netflix)
This Georgian short documentary directed by Tamta Gabrichidze handles a subject that is so universal – poverty. Gela, a trader who deals in second hand clothes, cheap plastic toys and essential goods, travels to a remote mountain hamlet every now and then, and waiting for him there are a handful of families who depend on their year-round potato harvest to buy things from the trader. Poverty is intense, and you see it everywhere. The 25-minute film captures some harrowing images of the impoverished village. An old woman begs with the trader to give her a grinder for free, for she has no one to take care of her needs. The crew asks a young boy about his career ambitions, and he stares back at the camera quietly, unable to find anything to say. An old farmer reminiscences about his childhood when he had dreamed of getting educated, finding a job and escaping the village. “Now I just hope to survive every day,” he says. The film won a jury award for non-fiction at Sundance in 2017.
Sang-E-Meel Se Mulaqat (1989, Documentary, Cinemas Of India)
Produced by NFDC, Sangeet Natak Academy and Indian Council Of Cultural Research, and directed by Goutam Ghose, this film documents the life of Shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan, one of India’s greatest cultural icons. The film follows him in Benaras, his favourite town where he spent the major part of his life. It features insightful interviews and discussion sessions with the musician. The film is shot masterfully. It opens to some stunning images of the temple city, and it captures the maestro in his practice sessions with his team. The beautiful visuals ably add to the magic of Khan’s music.
Ask The Sexpert (2017, Documentary, Indian, Netflix)
One of the funniest (and immensely insightful) documentaries India has ever produced, this film by Vaishali Sinha garnered cheers and love during its India premiere at Mumbai International Film Festival 2017. The film features 92-year-old Mahinder Watsa, the gynaecologist and obstetrician who has been running a popular column for Mumbai Mirror since 2005. In a society suffering from a high degree of sexual repression, Watsa is an oddity, imparting the much essential sex education to confused adults. The film captures him in his counselling sessions where he earnestly listens to his patients, at his work table where he reads emails from anguished readers of his column and promptly replies to them, and in routine things like his daily evening walk.
On Body And Soul (Feature Film, Hungarian, Netflix)
This Hungarian film written and directed by Ildikó Enyedi is an intense romantic drama set against the backdrop of a slaughterhouse. Maria and Endre are two entirely different kind of people on an average day. She suffers from a minor version of autism; he is a lonely old man. But at night, they are linked by a common dream in which they are a pair of deer in love. The film, marvelously shot, explores the quiet life of people who are popularly branded odd-balls. In a very slick cinematic format, the film makes a point about dreams, soulmates, and difficult love.
Classics and Indies on Amazon Prime Video (Various Languages)
Amazon Prime Video, the streaming website with the highest number of subscribers in India, has a huge collection of popular commercial cinema from many languages. Alongside Bollywood blockbusters, the website features films from regional industries such as Marathi and Kannada. Apart from recent releases, there are vintage hits from every featured language.
Prime Video also has a fantastic collection of classic and indie films, featured in a category called Hidden Gems. Mira Nair’s iconic Salaam Bombay, Kamal Swaroop’s indie classic Om Dar b dar, Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali, Chiriyaghar and Sonar Kella are some of the movies available for viewing. There is also a documentary, Music Of Satyajit Ray, directed by Utpalendu Chakraborty, that explores a lesser known side of Ray, as a musician with a refined taste.