Over the last few years, Bollywood has seen a positive change in the kind of films being produced. The ‘formula’ for making a ‘hit film’ has seemed to stop working. That being said, it is also true that the sleazy item numbers, unnecessary plot points and misrepresentation of women are factors that have still not found a way out of most of the Bollywood movies yet. Bollywood films today are more content-driven, with stories that are more attractive than the stars acting in it. However, owing to less budgets and the absence of a star that could be the face of the film, these movies hardly manage to grab the attention of people. In some cases, the movie does have a star that manages to lure people into the theatres. But yet, these ‘content-driven’ movies fail to be loved by people. The reason for this is that people are more accustomed to the fantasy world most of the commercial films showcase.
This decade did see many movies rake in huge numbers at the expense of a rather average script and below average performances. However, there were a few films that not only had brilliant storylines, but also some of the best performances. Unfortunately, these movies could not manage to attract the masses and as a result, didn’t stay in theatres for too long. Here is a list of the most underrated Bollywood movies of this decade that hardly got noticed.
Most Underrated Bollywood Movies of the Decade
Dhobi Ghat (2011)
Dhobi Ghat traces the stories of 4 Mumbaikars whose lives are interconnected to each other in distinct ways. This movie marked the directorial debut of Kiran Rao. The 4 principal characters of this movie are played by Aamir Khan, Monica Dogra, Prateik and Kriti Malhotra. It is a very subtle, slow-boiling drama that showcases relationships and the pertinent class conflict in a very realistic way. By focusing on the lives of the 4 characters, Dhobi Ghat paints down the most significant character of this movie. This character is the city, Mumbai. Kiran Rao beautifully portrays the impact of socio-economic divide on the relationships between people. Even the presence of Aamir Khan could not help as this movie did not stay in the theatres for too long.
Director – Kiran Rao, IMDb Rating – 7/10
Anurag Kashyap is known to showcase stories that involve a lot of grey, negative characters. But he went a step ahead with ‘Ugly’, in which all the characters are grey and morally corrupt. The plot of this movie is very simple. A girl goes missing and the movie traces the journey of how the search work goes about. Initially, you are tricked into believing that this movie is about how the police find out the missing girl. But no, a few minutes into the movie and you soon realize, this is something different, something ‘Ugly’. None of the characters in the movie are likable. Kashyap manages to show you the greedy, the dirty of society with such conviction that you are left self-introspecting. It’s a shame actually that the movie managed to make a really meagre sum at the box office, making it one of the most underrated Bollywood movies.
Director – Anurag Kashyap, IMDb Rating – 8.1/10
After the overwhelming success of Udta Punjab, Abhishek Chaubey returned with another brilliant thriller in 2019. ‘Sonchiriya’ follows the story of a group of baaghis (dacoits) during the emergency period. Soon after their leader is hunted down by the police, the baaghis split up and start running for their lives. Chaubey not only takes us on a fascinating ride in the Chambal Valley, but also manages to make the unapologetic, fierce world of dacoits seem believable. With amazing screenplay along with brilliant performances by Manoj Bajpayee, Ranvir Shorey, Sushant Singh Rajput, Ashutosh Rana and Bhumi Pednekar, ‘Sonchiriya’ really manages to make this a very satisfying movie going experience.
Director – Abhishek Chaubey, IMDb Rating – 7.5/10
Stanley Ka Dabba (2011)
Stanley is a young orphan boy who has to fend for himself by working at a restaurant. As a result, he cannot bring a tiffin to school unlike his classmates. He makes up for this by being the popular kid and getting to eat from his friends’ tiffins. But this doesn’t go well with his Hindi teacher, who himself forces kids to share their tiffins with him. The Hindi teacher thus, warns Stanley that he cannot come to school unless he brings his own tiffin. This is the plot of the movie and it’s quite simple. And it is this simplicity and authenticity that stands out. Amole Gupte, who also wrote Taare Zameen Par, writes and directs another magical children film that manages to stay with you for a long time. However, it is unfortunate that it could not connect with the masses like Taare Zameen Par could do. It is one of the most underrated Bollywood movies on children.
Director – Amole Gupte, IMDb Rating – 7.8/10
Nil Battey Sannata (2015)
This is a heart-warming tale that talks about the importance of education and female emancipation. This movie marks the directorial debut of Ashwini Iyer Tiwary, who gives out a strong message through the film. The film also showcases the best performance of Swara Bhaskar till date. The movie traces the journey of a mother-daughter duo wherein the daughter decides to give up on her studies because she knows her mother cannot provide for her further education. On the other hand, the Mother does not give up on her daughter’s education, inspiring her to follow her dreams. Although this movie was praised by critics and it even went on to win a few awards, it didn’t manage to lure in people in big numbers to the theatres.
Director – Ashwini Iyer Tiwary, IMDb Rating – 8.4/10
Delhi Belly (2011)
Delhi Belly, directed by Abhinay Deo, is one of the finest comedies and probably the best dark comedy Hindi film industry has ever produced. Bollywood had hardly explored the dark comedy genre as most of the fun movies made until then were slapstick comedies. The movie traces the lives of three roommates who unknowingly misplace a parcel of diamonds that is supposed to be delivered to a local gangster. What follows is sheer madness, a comedy of errors accompanied by an hilarious climax. Delhi Belly helped the audiences get acquainted with a dark comedy that had the same level of madness as that of the slapstick comedies on offer, except that it had a much better story. The performances by Imraan Khan, Vir Das and Kunaal Roy Kapur are fascinating. But the writing of this film is what ultimately, steals the show. With the kind of story on offer, it is obvious that this film was supposed to cater to only a specific set of audience. As a result, this was one of the most underrated movies of Bollywood this decade.
Director – Abhinay Deo, IMDb Rating – 7.5/10
Ship of Theseus (2013)
Ship of Theseus is the complete opposite of what a mainstream commercial Bollywood movie should be like. Anand Gandhi presents the stories, the beliefs and the struggles of a blind photographer, an ailing monk and a young stockbroker. The title of the film is derived from the Theseus’ paradox. The ship is a metaphor for the human body. The screenplay of the movie moves forward at a rather steady pace. It very organically explores the questions of identity, justice, death and ultimately, the meaning of life. In one of the scenes, a young boy asks the ailing monk that how does him not taking any medicines, stop animal violence. To which, the monk ( Neeraj Kabi ) responds explaining that every action and inaction of ours has some impact on the universe. If there isn’t, then what is the purpose of existence? It is conversations like these and the silences, showcasing the struggle of a character with his/her own beliefs, that stay with you even after the movie. Clearly, this is one of the most underrated Bollywood movies of all times.
Director – Anand Gandhi IMDb Rating – 8.0/10
Do Dooni Chaar (2010)
Do Dooni Chaar is a heartwarming story about a middle-class family that is keen on buying a car. Starring Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh in pivotal roles, this movie showcases the daily lives of the Duggal family, that is crazy, loud and everything a middle-class family usually is. Writer and Director Habib Faisal manages to impress us in his first venture itself. Although the film garnered a lot of critical acclaim and was also declared a hit, it didn’t manage to seep into people’s minds the way it should have. With Rishi Kapoor’s great performance and a very well written script, this was one of the most underrated Bollywood films of this decade.
Director – Habib Faisal, IMDb Rating – 7.6/10
Tumbbad is the kind of horror movie which is quite new for the Indian audiences. The movie does not have scary ghosts or spirits jumping in front of the characters from no where. It does frighten you with the scary looking cursed monsters. But it also shows us the monstrous side of humans that greed can bring to the surface. Directed by Rahi Anil Barve, this movie starring Sohum Shah has brought about a kind of revolution in the horror genre for Indian cinema. However, due to a lack of promotions, the movie didn’t perform well at the box-office. Tumbbad truly is one of the most underrated Bollywood movies in the horror genre.
Director – Rahi Anil Barve, IMDb Rating – 8.2/10
Udaan follows the story of a teenager who is thrown out of his school and has to return to his arrogant, abusive father. The film marked the directorial debut of Vikramaditya Motwane, who has weaved a very sensitive and inspiring story. Rajat Barmecha is very convincing as the oppressed teenager but Ronit Roy steals the show with his impeccable acting skills. His portrayal of the cold and abusive father is on point. The music by Amit Trivedi takes this movie to a whole new level. Also, the amazing lyrics penned down by Amitabh Bhattacharya make the songs even beautiful. With the movie having so much to offer, it is a real disappointment that the movie couldn’t even recollect the amount invested in the movie, let alone make any profits.
Director – Vikramaditya Motwane, IMDb Rating – 8.2/10
A Death in the Gunj (2016)
A Death in the Gunj is a unique thriller set in McCluskiegunj where a family is on vacation. The film begins with Gulshan Devaiah and Jim Sarbh’s characters staring at the boot of a car and discussing if they’d be able to carry the ‘body’ all the way to Calcutta. The movie then shifts back one week where the members gathered for a family reunion are introduced. While there is joy and smiles on the surface, we slowly and very steadily are exposed to the multiple layers these characters possess. Also, the tension concerning the ‘body’ exists throughout the course of the movie. Konkona Sen Sharma, in her first ever directorial venture, shines bright and showcases her understanding of the craft very well. Vikrant Massey, after many promising performances as the second fiddle, finally gets to be at the center of a story. Unsurprisingly, he performs his role with great care and convinction, and makes you want to empathize with him. His portrayal of Shutu, a shy boy who is at the butt of everyone’s jokes, is probably one of the best and most underrated performances of this decade. Made on a meagre budget and released on limited screens, the movie didn’t really manage to reach the masses. As a result, many people got deprived of what was, one of the most underrated Bollywood movies of this decade.
Director – Konkana Sen Sharma, IMDb Rating – 7.5/10
So, which of these movies are you going to watch first? Grab onto your popcorn, start bingeing and let us know what you think of this list. Also let us know in the comments below if you know of any movies that could be added to this list!