10 Indian films that deserved an Oscar nomination
The 94th edition of the Oscars is all set to premiere this weekend on March 28, at 5:30 AM (Indian Standard Time) and it’s finally time for the global film industry to celebrate their achievements in person as the awards night sheds its virtual avatar. As we cross our fingers in hopes that India’s record-breaking Writing With Fire will take home the award for the Best Documentary Feature, we also take a trip down memory lane to highlight some of the gems of Indian cinema that had Oscar potential but sadly never made it to the nominees’ list. From Irrfan Khan’s highly acclaimed The Lunchbox to Sanjay Mishra-led philosophical drama, Ankhon Dekhi, these feature films stood out from the competition and exuded excellence in various aspects of filmmaking. Below, we round up the 10 Indian films that deserved an Oscar nomination but were snubbed
Black Friday (2004)
An adaptation of Hussain Zaidi’s novel, Black Friday: The True Story of the Bombay Bomb Blasts, this film charts the events leading up to the devastating blasts of 1993 in Bombay that killed 257 people and wounded 1400. The plot centres around a terrorist, Tiger Memon, who calls for a meeting of underworld leaders in Dubai due to Muslim minorities being victimised during the 1992 riots in the city. They decide to carry out the explosions to send a stern message of retribution. The film then covers police and CBI investigations post the attack, eventually showcasing how Tiger’s brother, Yaqub, turned himself in and divulged vital information to the authorities.
A Wednesday (2008)
A story told from two sides of the law, this thriller takes place between 2 pm and 6 pm on an ordinary Wednesday. Mumbai Police Commissioner Prakash Rathod (Anupam Kher) receives a surprising and life-altering phone call from an unnamed person (Naseeruddin Shah) just as he is set to retire from the force the next day. He informs Rathod that he has positioned five bombs in spots throughout Mumbai and has timed them to explode simultaneously in four hours. To stop the explosions, he demands the release of four terrorists and also alerts news channels to cover the story. As Rathod orders his teams to find the explosives and trace the location of the caller, the plot takes an unexpected twist. A Wednesday is a stellar depiction of the common man’s fight against the country’s incompetent governing administrations.
A coming-of-age drama, Vikramaditya Motwane’s directorial debut encapsulates the relationship between a troubled son and his abusive father. When Rohan (Rajat Barmecha) is expelled from boarding school, he is forced to return to Jamshedpur and live with his father, Bhairav Singh (Ronit Roy) and a younger half-brother, Arjun (Aayan Boradia). The former is an alcoholic who constantly belittles Rohan for his aspirations to become a writer and forces him to work part-time at his metalworking factory while studying engineering. With time, Rohan’s patience runs dry, and he decides to break free from this caged existence to achieve his dreams
Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)
This Anurag Kashyap-helmed two-part crime drama is a crude and visceral portrayal of Dhanbad, Jharkhand’s coal mafia, and focuses on a pestilential rivalry between three families. Chronicling generational violence spanning 68 years (from 1941 to 2009), Gangs of Wasseypur begins with a pre-independence power grab over the region’s coal reserves that slowly develops into a tale of gang wars, dirty politics, betrayal and vengeance. The film boasts a spectacular cast featuring Jaideep Ahlawat, Richa Chadda, Manoj Bajpayee, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Pankaj Tripathi, Huma Qureshi and others.
Vidya Balan spearheads this gritty thriller that sees her play a pregnant software engineer searching for her missing husband in Kolkata during the Durga Pooja festivities. She receives assistance from police officer Satyaki “Rana” Sinha (Parambrata Chatterjee), who aids her in her quest only to realise that the woman is not who she claims to be. The film, despite being a suspenseful story, underscores themes of feminism and motherhood in a patriarchal Indian society.
The Lunchbox (2013)
An error in lunch deliveries by a Mumbai dabbawala sparks an unlikely friendship between Ila Singh (Nimrat Kaur) and a widower, Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan khan), in this heartfelt and cosy drama. Ila intends to infuse romance back into her marriage by preparing delicious meals for her husband, but when Saajan is the one who accidentally receives it, the two start conversing via letters and food. They bond over their respective life stories until Ila discovers that her husband is having an affair. This incident paves the way for the friends to plan and move away from the city together. However, when the moment arrives for them to finally meet, fate has other plans.
Ankhon Dekhi (2014)
A whimsical story embroidered with rich philosophical tones, Ankhon Dekhi takes you to a middle-class locality in New Delhi and introduces you to Rajesh Bauji (Sanjay Mishra)—an ordinary man in his late 50s. After a minor incident involving his daughter and the man she’s dating, Bauji vows to only believe what he sees with his own eyes and nothing more. This simple decision triggers a domino effect that causes him to quit his job and stop worshipping God, among other things. The narrative presents a thought-provoking argument via Bauji’s interactions and monologues about existentialism and the various forms it can take.
An unapologetic commentary against stereotypes, outdated norms and oppression, Parched sheds light on the tragic lives of four ordinary women residing in a remote village in Gujarat. Burdened by the demons of patriarchy, Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee), Lajjo (Radhika Apte), Janki (Lehar Khan) and Bijli (Surveen Chawla) bond over their respective miseries. Their interactions act as a means for the audience to understand the consequences of these widely prevalent social evils that eventually force the ladies to take a stand for themselves.
Based around an ancient myth in the titular village of Maharashtra, Tumbbad is a testament to what can be achieved in the horror genre in Bollywood, if executed correctly. The plot unravels the tale of an unnamed Goddess of Prosperity who gave birth to 160 million deities. In a fit of greed, her eldest son, Hastar tried to loot her unlimited gold and grain but was caught and cursed to stay inside her womb, never to be worshipped. However, when a family builds a temple for the evil god and endeavours to get their hands on his cursed fortune, they face disastrous consequences. The film deftly blends elements of mythology with horror, using it to depict the extent of human greed, and is one of the most worthy Indian films that deserved an Oscar nomination.
Bombay Rose (2021)
An animated film made with a frame-by-frame digital painting technique, Bombay Rose comes from the brilliant mind of Gitanjali Rao, who has written, edited, designed and directed it. An innocent tale of love lies at the heart of the plot that tries to analyse the complexity of human life. It follows a Hindu flower seller, Kamala, who develops a romantic bond with Salim, a refugee from Kashmir. They both strive for better lives and are forced to take questionable steps to make ends meet. Moreover, their religions are another barrier they need to overcome if they hope to end up together in a city that doesn’t show anyone mercy.