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Lead for coming-of-age films list
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When times are tough, all a person sometimes looks for is a glint of hope, of inspiration. Watching films then becomes an act of finding solace, in a character that resembles us; that reminds us of our own struggles; that gives us an intangible morale booster as we seek a better tomorrow.

Here’s a list of coming-of-age films and web shows – across languages, across platforms – that’ll make you nostalgic, and in the process, give you a sense of upliftment that you might be looking for.

Udaan

Streaming On: Netflix

Directed by Vikramaditya Motwane, Udaan is the sensitive story of 17-year-old Rohan (Rajat Barmecha), who is forced to return home after getting suspended from his boarding school. The problem? Home doesn’t feel like home when your father is cold and condescending, and your room is now taken over by a half-brother whose existence you were never aware of.

Wake Up Sid

Streaming On: Netflix

Ayan Mukerji’s directorial debut revolves around Sid (Ranbir Kapoor), a privileged, lazy college boy who refuses to take life seriously till he is left with no other choice. Enter Aisha (the ever-gorgeous Konkona Sen Sharma), who is the exact opposite – ambitious, driven and trying to earn every penny she spends. What happens when they meet, and start a friendship that leaves them surprised?

Aparajito (Bengali)

Streaming On: Amazon Prime Video

The second instalment in Satyajit Ray’s moving Apu trilogy, Aparajito revolves around a now teenaged Apu (Smaran Ghosh) who moves to the city of Calcutta for further studies. While he grows and starts getting acquainted to the city life, his mother’s health back in his village deteriorates, as she makes every effort possible to keep Apu unaware of her struggles.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

Streaming On: Netflix

The story revolves around a young Charlie (Logan Lerman), who nervously enters high school, hoping to put his past trauma behind him; hoping to be accepted. He writes journal-like letters to a ‘friend’, talking about his emotions, what bothers him, what stays with him, and soon, we become a part of his little world, his new-found friendships and never-felt-before feelings that help him sail through.

Dil Chahta Hai

Streaming On: Netflix, YouTube Movies

The ultimate buddy film, Dil Chahta Hai was not just about road trips and chilling with friends. It was also about growth, and accepting one another, irrespective of the differences. It was also about coming to terms with what life had to offer – the good and the bad. And more importantly, it was about friends that became family.

Bulbul Can Sing (Assamese)

Streaming On: Netflix

In Rima Das’ poignant tale of adolescence, Bulbul and her friends face the challenges of their teenage years, and their new-found realisations of themselves. As they cope with a range of emotions, warped with familial and societal expectations, they yearn to find a way to remain together and true to themselves.

Lakshya

Streaming On: Amazon Prime Video

Starring Hrithik Roshan as Karan, an aimless, rich kid with no ambitions, Lakshya is one of the go-to textbook coming-of-age films in Hindi cinema. Karan decides to join the army, following a friend’s lead, but decides to quit soon after, finding the training to be too rigorous. A twist of fate sets in a harsh realisation, bringing him back to the army, as he grows and matures into a soldier.

Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar

Streaming On: Zee5

The cult Mansoor Khan film, starring Aamir Khan, explores the ideas of first love, long-lasting friendships, and college rivalries. In a classic tale of the underdog rising, college boy Sanjay, otherwise a slacker, decides to participate in the next inter-college cycle race after his brother, the original participant, suffers brutal injuries in an accident.

Rang De Basanti

Streaming On: Netflix

Revolution starts at home, they say. And director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra agrees. In the ever-inspiring film, a set of college-going students, while playing revolutionaries and freedom fighters of the past, find their voices in their characters as they battle with hurdles of their own against a corrupt society.

Spirited Away

Streaming On: Netflix

Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar-winning animated film revolves around a 10-year old who gets stuck in the world of the supernatural. With the help of an unlikely friend Haku, she then fights to keep her identity, her spirit, and ultimately find a way to save her parents from a world completely strange to her.

Premam (Malayalam)

Streaming On: Disney+ Hotstar

As its name suggests, Premam is the story of finding love. Directed by Alphonse Puthren, the story takes its audience on a time travel journey, as the protagonist, George (Nivin Pauly) grows from a 16-year-old boy to a 30-year-old man. He stumbles upon three women in different phases of life, learning and re-learning the concept of love.

Juno

Streaming On: Amazon Prime Video

Starring Elliot Page in the titular role, the film delicately chronicles the life of a 16-year old, who finds herself in the middle of an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy. She decides to put her unborn baby up for adoption, and finds a couple suitable to provide her child a happy home. In the next few months, as she prepares for her delivery, she not only discovers love, but also comes into her own as a person.

Bangalore Days (Malayalam)

Streaming On: Disney+ Hotstar

The story of three cousins, almost as close as siblings, move to Bangalore – their dream city – to pursue their respective futures. A freshly graduated Divya (Nazriya Nazim) gets married to Das (Fahadh Faasil), who is currently working in the city, while Kuttan (Nivin Pauly) and Arjun (Dulquer Salmaan) start their new jobs. Together, they face all hurdles that come their way, becoming each other’s pillars of support.

Boys (Tamil)

Streaming On: MX Player, YouTube

A group of teenagers, often procrastinating and fooling around, hit a roadblock after one of their friends falls in love, and decides to elope. The group then tries their best to show solidarity, and together, start a music band to make their ends meet. Starring Siddharth and Genelia, the film was directed by Shankar.

Gantumoote (Kannada)

Streaming On: Amazon Prime Video

Directed by Roopa Rao, Gantumoote is a hard-hitting tale of a 16-year-old girl who experiences love for the first time, and along with it, a baggage of trauma, societal pressure and expectations – all while trying to understand and find herself.

Killa (Marathi)

Streaming On: Netflix

The National Award-winning film tells an endearing story of an 11-year old, who is struggling to come to terms with his father’s death. After his mother gets transferred to a new city for a job, he faces the challenge of coping with his family’s loss, adapting and making friends in a new school environment.

Rock On!!

Streaming On: Amazon Prime Video, YouTube Movies

Farhan Akhtar’s debut film as an actor is based on four friends and their band, which they start with a lot of heart and hope, only for it to fail. They grow apart, and years later, reconnect to give their lost-lost dream, and friendship, one more shot.

Call Me By Your Name

Streaming On: Netflix

Directed by Luca Guadagnino, the Oscar-winning film traces the life of teenager Elio (Timothee Chamalet) in the early 80s. He discovers the many shades of first love – including lust, longing, and heartbreak – after falling for his father’s assistant, and grapples with coming to terms with his sexual orientation.

This Is Us (series)

Streaming On: Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar

Created by Dan Fogelman, the sensitively-narrated series revolves around the Pearson family, starting out as a family of five with triplets – Kevin, Kate and Randall – and witnesses their journey across different time spans. During this time, they undergo their own struggles of loss, race, identity, trauma and mental health, in an ever-evolving world, as their individual families grow.

Clueless

Streaming On: Netflix

The classic comedy starring Alicia Silverstone as Cher, revolves around the life of a rich and popular teenager who has a hard time thinking beyond her luxuries. While match-making two of her teachers to get them to relax her grades, she realises her love for doing the ‘good deed’ and ends up taking a project that turns her own life around – making her value the people she took for granted.

10 Things I Hate About You

Streaming On: Disney+ Hotstar

The classic rom-com, starring Julia Stiles and the late Heath Ledger, is the love story of two people who are poles apart. Set in a high school, a student, unable to ask out his crush because she can’t date unless her sister Kat does, is willing to pay a mysterious ‘bad boy’ Patrick to woo her. Patrick reluctantly agrees but soon finds himself falling in love and transforming himself.

The Edge Of Seventeen

Streaming On: Netflix

Things are not going well for high school junior Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld). Growing up feels harder than ever with her best friend falling for her popular older brother. She is socially awkward, and unlike her brother, far from being ‘perfect’. She struggles to make new friends, and feels completely alone before stumbling upon an unlikely friendship.

Dead Poets Society

Streaming On: Disney+ Hotstar

Starring the late Robin Williams as Professor John Keating, the Peter Weir film is a beautiful story of an English teacher trying to break his students free of norms and societal expectations, and become the real, true versions of themselves. He inspires them to value poetry and art, love and friendship, and break the barriers of conditioning.

The End Of The F…ing World (series)

Streaming On: Netflix

This British dark comedy is centred on two 17-year-olds, Alyssa – a rebel who struggles to fit in – and James – who is convinced that he’s a psychopath. They embark on a road trip to find Alyssa’s estranged father, and end up getting entangled in a series of confusing, dreadful events.

Mukkabaaz

Streaming On: Zee5, YouTube Movies

Anurag Kashyap’s film is an inspiring tale of a man going against all odds to follow his passion and pursue his love. Shravan (Vineet Kumar Singh) wants to become a boxer. He’s talented and determined too. His only problem? His biggest enemy is the head of the boxing federation, and is the uncle of the woman he is in love with.

Moonlight

Streaming On: Amazon Prime Video

Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight is a remarkable tale of a boy’s journey of understanding and accepting himself. Spanning three phases of Chiron’s life – childhood, teenage, and adulthood – the film deals with the aftermath of his encounter with Juan, a drug dealer who goes on to become his mentor, who tells him to live his life his own way, and not let anyone else make decisions for him.

Guddi

Streaming On: Amazon Prime Video, YouTube

Hrishikesh Mukherjee‘s Guddi is like any other teenager you will come across. A young schoolgirl, she is obsessed with a film star. She idealises him, crushes on him, and makes his on-screen persona the standard for everything she sees in life. A life-changing meeting then makes her realise the difference between reel and real life.

Yeh Meri Family (series)

Streaming On: TVFPlay, YouTube

Set in the late 90s, the series is a nostalgia trip as it looks at the world from the eyes of Harshu, a 12-year-old boy growing up in a middle-class family of five. As time passes by, his outlook and understanding of his family, school life and friendships develops in the backdrop of old-world charm.

Love, Simon

Streaming On: Disney+ Hotstar, YouTube Movies

Simon is a young boy who feels ‘stuck on a Ferris wheel,’ unable to find the courage to come out to his family and closest friends about his sexual orientation. Just when things start looking up, and he finds himself connecting with someone potentially special, an unexpected twist in events pushes him to prematurely reveal his truth.

Chhichore

Streaming On: Disney+ Hotstar

This Nitesh Tiwari film could’ve been another version of Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. But it wasn’t. It chose a different way of playing out a college rivalry – this time an intra-college one – and yet managed to make it inspiring. It shed light on how the society equated marks with success, and how diabolic and destructive a measure that could be on a child’s mental health. At the end of the day, winning isn’t important, growth is. And the film celebrated that.

Atypical (series)

Streaming On: Netflix

Sam, a teenager on the autism spectrum, is ready for love. He wants to start dating, and someday, fall in love. His over-protective and loving family then struggles to give him the independence he seeks, and find themselves re-learning the dos and don’ts, adjusting and evolving with the passage of time.

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