In today’s age of blitzkrieg marketing, it is common for a production house to make every effort to make the arrival of its movie frantically visible. From announcements that splash across celebrities’ social media pages eons before the release date, to exclusive merchandise and celebrity interviews – makers leave no strategy unused.
Yet, there exist some producers who will decide to not spend anything at advertising, at all. These movies end up missing the audience they deserve. Though brilliant to experience, these movies get either overshadowed by the release of other big-budget movies around them or suffer from a poor audience reach.
Here, we present a list of movies (from British, American and the Hindi film industry) in no particular order, which would qualify as hidden gems. The audience has missed these splendid works purely because of non-existent commercial advertising.
1. Following (1998):
Jeremy Theobald features as a budding writer struggling to find inspiration for his first novel. He chooses the unique method of following people on the streets to find his plot. In a twist of fate, the subject of his stalking turns out to be a burglar. The thief is happy to take the writer under his wing and tutors him to accompany him on his adventurous robberies. Keen to make a mark in the literary world, the author sneaks in the world of crime and finds himself mired in a thick cloud of serious offences.
The movie is presented in a non-linear fashion which compels the viewer to keep thinking throughout the movie’s 69 minutes. Meaningful dialogues and a raw depiction of London life add to its richness. If a wandering man and non-linear construct ring a bell, well, you are not mistaken. Following is the debut work of this slightly well-known director called Christopher Nolan.
2. Upstream Color (2013):
Director Shane Currath’s second movie arrived nine years after his acclaimed debut – Primer (2004). Upstream Color is a science fiction film whose two protagonists are both affected by a parasite. The culprit, who infests both the protagonists, brainwashes them, steals their money, causes them to lose their jobs and leaves them to find the puzzling parasite. In a way, at the end of your infection, you are no more the person you were.
Besides dealing with the theme of loss of identity, the film also concerns with the environment. The parasite goes through the lifecycle of affecting humans followed by pigs and finally orchids. Let your imagination fly as the movie depicts the parasite to be a common thread between us humans and pigs (often considered the lowliest of animals). Upstream Color is critically acclaimed – notably for not spoon-feeding its audience with a cause and effect relationship between its scenes. As a viewer, you will be rewarded for using your intelligence in figuring out the plot’s nuances.
3. Green Room (2015):
What could go possibly wrong in an innocuous green room meant for a bar’s performing band? Well, as Green Room shows, everything. The punk band at the center of this movie finds itself performing at a neo-Nazi bar. After their show, a member goes to the green room and stumbles onto a dead body – a Nazi has killed a girl. Before the band members could figure their way out, the fearsome Nazi gang shows up and decides to wipe the band off. Whether the band can get out of the club is what makes the rest of the movie.
Many movies have been made on the theme of escaping from a close space. But Green Room deserves accolades for making the movie less about violence and more about its characters. Classified as a horror, it does not aspire to be the next Saw. Instead, it dwells upon the fine aspects of arriving at decisions in a group when it is cornered against a wall. A fair warning for the reader is that the film showcases gruesome violence which can be unsettling if you are not used to this genre.
4. Moon (2009):
If Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity is the kind of cinema that you enjoy, Moon by Duncan Jones will surely leave you amazed. It introduces Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell) working on a mine on the moon. He is employed by an energy corporation that has stumbled upon a lunar reserve of Helium-3. Sam is in the last two weeks of his three-year-long solo mission. If the idea of the moon is an isolated one, imagine the loneliness of Sam as he works alone in the company of a robot.
While the plot sounds eerily similar to Castaway in the expanse of space, isolation is where the similarity ends. In a scenario that does not seem too far away in the future, it is revealed that Sam is being kept in isolation by his employer. His memories are tampered with and he is fed instances from his life on earth to keep him enthused. The movie is not high on visual effects but instead focuses on presenting a philosophical narrative. Sam’s isolation and his attempt at getting back on earth make for an enriching viewing – one that would inspire you to fathom the spirit of life.
5. Ink (2009):
Has it ever happened to you that you were so tired, sleepy or high that you could not tell reality from dreams? Jamin Winans’ Ink aims at taking the viewer on a wild ride that attempts to find a common ground between reality and dreams. The premise is straight out of a fairytale book in which an ugly monster from nightmares, Ink, kidnaps the soul of an eight-year-old girl. As an effect of this abduction, the girl is stuck in a coma in her real life.
It is now up to the Storytellers (bringers of sweet dreams) to call upon the girl’s father and save her soul. Sadly, the father is fighting his battles post a troubled marriage. He has lost himself to being a workaholic with no time for his daughter. It is often said that villains in nightmares stem from negative characters in real life. It is this relationship and the grey area between the good and the evil that Ink aims to bring forth to its audience.
6. Sulemani Keeda (2014):
Before he set the world talking with his Newton in 2017, writer-director Amit Masurkar announced his arrival with Sulemani Keeda. The movie could have been partly inspired by Masurkar himself as it depicts the lives of two struggling Hindi movie writers. The plain lives of the writers (played brilliantly by Naveen Kasturia and Mayank Tewari) are laced with simple dialogues and strike a humble cord with the viewers. The duo of writers is not shown to be especially talented and the movie is certainly not a rags-to-riches cliché.
Sulemani Keeda will speak especially well to someone who has experienced the struggle of the Hindi film industry up close. With guest appearances from B-town celebrities, it is easy on the mind thanks to its comic undertone. It also deals with the subject of that confused state of mind in the age of youth when one is lost on the path of finding a professional calling and a love interest. The perfect movie has adorable characters played by rather unknown faces. Keep an eye out for Aditi Vasudev as she dazzles in her role as the free-spirited photographer, Ruma.
7. Mukti Bhawan (2016):
Varanasi (Benaras) is well-known for offering hostels or lodges for people who want to attain salvation. The idea behind these salvation homes is that when one dies in this holy city, he attains moksha or mukti – freedom from the cycles of life. It is with this inspiration that Mukti Bhawan tries to find a balance between the promise of freedom after death and the experience of life itself.
Acclaimed actor Adil Hussein (Ishqiya, Life of Pi) plays the role of an overworked yet obedient son – Rajiv. Daya, Rajiv’s father, has an epiphany that he must leave for Varanasi to take his last breath to attain salvation. Torn between the demands from his work and obligation towards his father, Rajiv dutifully takes Daya to Varanasi. At Varanasi, the duo moves into a hotel – Mukti Bhawan – aimed at serving people who wish to die in Varanasi and, thereby, attain salvation. Death and religious emotions are difficult to depict. Yet, Mukti Bhawan achieves this feat along with showcasing the joys and sorrows of sudden turbulence that has hit a family.
8. 15 Park Avenue (2005):
If you are looking for a powerhouse of splendid actors, look no further than this National Film Award winner. The trio of Konkona Sen Sharma, Shabana Azmi, and Waheeda Rehman lead the pack in this Aparna Sen-directed and –written movie. The movie deals with the intricate issue of schizophrenia and how a family comes together to overcome the troubles of a patient.
Konkona plays the role of Mitali (a schizophrenic) who is having difficulty trying to separate her imaginations from her real life. Mitali is under the able care of her sister Anjali (Shabana) along with their ageing mother (Waheeda). While Mitali believes that she is married and lives with her husband and children, the reality is that her fiancé (Rahul Bose) broke off the engagement when Mitali had her first bout of trauma. Besides mental illness, the movie touches upon the importance of sacrifice. It is by forgoing her personal life that Anjali tirelessly works towards the closure demanded by Mitali’s mental state. A rich ensemble and a fantastic story-line make this movie an unmissable one.
9. Hamid (2019):
Movies made in Kashmir are often considered to have been made to make a political statement. But Aijaz Khan’s Hamid is a welcome departure from this assumption. The movie depicts the hardship faced by a war-torn family and especially a young child in coming to terms with the death of a kin. It successfully keeps itself aloof from taking any side and effortlessly achieves the motive of telling a humane tale.
The movie begins with introducing us to seven-year-old Hamid whose father has gone missing. His mother is bereft and inconsolable herself. To seek out his father, Hamid dials a repetition of 786 (the number of God) from a telephone. In a tryst of fate, the call is answered. Hamid engages in a conversation with the stranger (a CRPF soldier) and opens up to him about his missing father. The phone conversations brilliantly capture the essence of how a patient listener can be the guide to a sad person instead of letting despair rule his fate.
10. Matrubhoomi (2003):
Indian filmmakers seldom dare to venture into the dystopian genre and first-time director Manish Jha deserves praise just for doing this. Matrubhoomi translates to “the motherland” in Hindi and is synonymous with Bharat Mata (Mother India). Ironically, even though the country is symbolically depicted as a mother, India fares dismally in terms of treatment to women. Female infanticide, rapes and domestic violence are disgustingly rife throughout the country. Matrubhoomi is based against this backdrop of crimes against women in India.
The story revolves around a village in the future India which has no women left in it. A wealthy man in the village has to get his five sons married and, to this end, he buys a girl named Kalki (Tulip Joshi) from a neighbouring village. Kalki is married off to all the five men together. What follows is a series of ill-treatment meted out to Kalki – by the entire village of men.
Throughout its running time, Matrubhoomi presents a grim mirror of the horrors faced by India’s women. It also aims to dissect the psychological impact of letting the men loose without boundaries. Even though the movie was released in the last decade, given its social relevance, it is a timeless classic.
We tried to do justice to some movies through our list. Please suggest some movies that you feel should make the list.
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