Anudeep KV's picks for must-watch films
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Anudeep KV, director of the 2021 blockbuster Jathi Ratnalu, looks back in time to revisit some of the films that inspired him as a movie buff, and as a filmmaker. He recalls the story of a film he watched just for its background music – even when he thought he wouldn’t like it – only for it to leave him pleasantly surprised. He also speaks about how some of these films inspired little moments in his own movie.

City Lights (1931)

Director: Charlie Chaplin

Streaming on MUBI India

I remember watching Chaplin’s comedy films in black and white when they’d come on TV every Sunday. When I decided to become a filmmaker, I went back to Chaplin to study his work. I realized that everything could be told through humour. Usually when I watch a comedy, I’m too busy laughing, but with City Lights, I was struck by how he created something that had so much empathy and innocence. I couldn’t understand how he made us laugh and then cry the very next second. There was a lot of humour in the film that I didn’t immediately get at the first viewing. I learnt that humour could also be told with intelligence, and that was very new to me.

Shree 420 (1955)

Director: Raj Kapoor

Streaming on YouTube

As a child, I used to listen to the song Ramaiya Vastavaiya a lot, but wasn’t aware which film it belonged to. When I was watching Shree 420 and it suddenly came on, I got very excited. This film is a commentary on how a common man reacts to sudden fame and money. I was amazed at how Raj Kapoor could get into the head of a person like that, and understand his emotions because their lives are so different. I don’t know how he achieved that because I can only write about the people that I know or experiences I’ve been through myself.

Jagte Raho (1956)

Director: Amit Maitra and Sombhu Mitra

Streaming on YouTube

The film begins with a simple villager, who enters a building society looking for a glass of water but everyone pounces on him thinking that he’s a thief. I was amazed at how such a simple premise – a man looking for a sip of water – could be used to say such deep things about the society and its people.

Aatma Bandhuvu (1962)

Director: P. S. Ramakrishna Rao

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video 

This was originally a Tamil film, which I later watched the Telugu version of. It’s a very sensitive film with great music. I highly recommend it.

Koshish (1972)

Director: Gulzar

Streaming on YouTube

I saw this film pretty late in life. I happened to stumble upon it on YouTube one day, and it just blew my mind. Jaya Bachchan’s performance is simply brilliant in the film. There is a scene where she realizes that Sanjeev Kumar’s character too, like her, is deaf and mute. I’ll never forget her expression in that scene. Sanjeev Kumar is equally sensitive. There is so much pain in his eyes. Every time he laughed, I ended up crying.

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Idi Katha Kaadu (1979)

Director: K. Balachander

It has been a while since I last saw this movie, but there’s a scene towards its beginning that has stayed with me. The female protagonist of the film is in a train and she’s reading a magazine. Suddenly, there’s an accident and everyone runs out to see what has happened, but she calmly continues to read. Her fellow passengers are surprised by her reaction and ask her how she didn’t feel scared. That was the director’s way of saying that this woman has already seen so much in life that she’s now unfazed. I thought it was a great way to set up a character.

Swathi Muthyam (1986)

Director: K Viswanath

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

The first thought I had after watching this film was that if every person was like Kamal Haasan’s character in this movie, the world would be such a nice place. His character, Shivaiah, is autistic and marries a widow with a child — shocking the people of his orthodox village. The innocence of this film left a deep impact on me.

Chitram! Bhalare Vichitram!! (1991)

Director: P. N. Ramachandra Rao

Streaming on Voot

This is a great Telugu comedy with extremely popular dialogues. The actor who plays the girl’s father in Jathi Ratnalu, Naresh, is the hero of this film. The first time I met Naresh sir, we talked about this film in detail because it was so entertaining and influenced me greatly.

Thalapathi (1991)

Director: Mani Ratnam

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video 

The most important element in a film, for me, is its background music. It’s the first thing I notice. The BGM of this movie by Ilaiyaraaja is unforgettable. I noticed all the other elements later. The film starts in black and white and then moves to colour. Mani Ratnam shows us how you can push storytelling ahead with cinematography. Santosh Sivan’s work here is brilliant. Each shot is beautiful, like the early morning shots near the river. I think I started falling in love with the craft of filmmaking with this film.

Damini (1993)

Director: Rajkumar Santoshi

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

I saw this film right after Andaz Apna Apna and I couldn’t believe the same person made both these movies. Damini was a great feminist film of is time and the character was written with a lot of empathy. This film is also a great example of how to write your heroes, and how to introduce them in the story. There’s a scene where Damini is in trouble and is running away — that’s when she bumps into a man who happens to be Sunny Deol. By that time, you’re so relieved to see him, and you know that the story is going to change from thereon. And of course, who can forget Deol’s famous ‘tareekh pe taarekh’ scene in the court?

Hum Aapke Hain Koun (1994)

Director: Sooraj Barjatya

Streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video

I learnt from HAHK that it’s possible to tell a story with almost no conflict. It’s a three-hour film with no major twists and turns, and yet you can’t stop watching it. I was just admiring the costumes, the music and watching Madhuri Dixit dance. I’m such a big fan of Madhuri that I added a big poster of her in Jathi Ratnalu.

Andaz Apna Apna (1994)

Director: Rajkumar Santoshi

Streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video

I identified very strongly with this film. Like the characters in this movie, I also take everything very lightly. No one is serious in the film. There are no negative emotions like jealousy or hate. Even the villains are loveable. I think it takes a lot of guts to make a film with two big stars and then give them such silly things to do. I’ve taken so much inspiration from this film for Jathi Ratnalu. For example, in Andaz Apna Apna, there’s a scene where both Aamir Khan and Salman Khan keep putting each other’s photo on the police notice board. I’ve used something similar in my film. Then there’s a scene where Aamir tells his father that he wants to open a bangle shop for women. In my film too, the hero works in a ladies emporium.

Bharateeyudu (1996)

Director: S Shankar

Streaming on Voot

When this film released, I was in my village, Narayankhed, and it was only playing in Hyderabad, so I couldn’t watch it immediately. But whoever I’d meet, would say, ‘What? You haven’t seen Bharateeyudu yet?’ So the film caught my imagination even before I saw it. I kept thinking what is this film that the audience loves so dearly. I also remember there was a popular music request show on TV at that time, and there came a point where the anchor would beg viewers to request anything apart from songs from Bharateeyudu. That’s how popular it was.

Satya (1998)

Director: Ram Gopal Varma

Streaming on Sony LIV

One of the biggest mistakes of my life is that I waited years before getting down to watch Satya. I kept saying that I didn’t want to watch a film about guns, violence and gangsters – it was just not for me. But if a film has a great background music, I am sold. My friends told me to watch Satya for the background music, even if the rest didn’t appeal to me. That’s how I ended up watching it, and was just left amazed. I have to say that apart from RGV, had anyone else made this film, it would be 10 hours long. He packs in so much in such a short time. The story moves from one thing to another so swiftly, and the film is never predictable. I could never guess what would happen next.

Tholi Prema (1998)

Director: A. Karunakaran

Streaming on Voot

This is a must-watch Pawan Kalyan film. All heroes in Telugu films usually have some common traits: they’re always heroic, and there has to be a fight scene in which they warn the villain. But here, Kalyan plays a relatable, middle-class man. There’s nothing typical about him. In fact, in most of these films, the hero gets the girl easily, but here, his friends keep teasing him that the girl is showing no interest in him.

The Road Home (1999)

Director: Yi-Mou Zhang

This is a Chinese movie, but the visuals of this film are so strong that even if you switch off the sound and watch it, everything will still make sense. It’s a love story set in a village. By the time you are done, you’ll be so satisfied that you’ll end up crying. The art direction is amazing. The performance of the actress in the film is also next level.

Shaolin Soccer (2001)

Director: Stephen Chow

I’ve had a fascination of martial arts movies since childhood. I would watch dubbed Jackie Chan movies on Set Max. However, when I watched Shaolin Soccer, I was, at first, very disturbed. I wondered how they had, so convincingly, pulled off things that completely defied logic — like people flying in the air, or the ball reaching out of the stadium with just one kick. It’s a great example of how we can do anything if we want to give the audience thrills and satisfaction.

My Sassy Girl (2001)

Director: Kwak Jae-yong

This film has the most unusual female character — she was unlike anyone I had seen before. The film also had the most innovative love scenes. Unlike most young couples in movies, the characters here aren’t shy. In fact, the girl is dominating, violent at times, and gives the guy a really hard time. It’s really one of the most entertaining loves stories I’ve seen.

Lajja (2001)

Director: Rajkumar Santoshi

Streaming on YouTube

There is a situation in the film where a parent tells her married daughter that the reputation of her family and her in-law’s family rests on her shoulder. In response to this, the daughter — played by Manisha Koirala — says, ‘Everyone’s reputation is on my shoulders, but how is it that no one cares about respecting me?’ I think this line wholly sums up what this film is about.

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The Pianist (2002)

Director: Roman Polanski

I understood suffering only after watching this film. Through The Pianist, I learnt about the holocaust and how dictators used their power. I felt such deep sadness while watching it that the morning after, I felt low and depleted of energy. It completely changed me. I went back and read more on World War II and saw other videos of the holocaust.

Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War (2004)

Director: Kang Je-gyu

I’m the kind of person who cries very easily in movies. This is a movie that not only moved me to tears but also scared me. This is a story of two brothers in the South Korean army during a war. I cried so much in this movie, especially after the climax, that it kept haunting me for days. Till date, if I hear the theme music of the film on YouTube, my eyes well up.

A Bittersweet Life (2005)

Director: Kim Jee-woon

This was the first foreign-language film I ever saw. This film is about a man who works for a dangerous gangster. He is given the task of following the gangster’s mistress and find out if she’s having an affair, and if she is, he must kill her immediately. Through the film, we see that the mistress is having an affair and just as the man is about to inform his boss, we see an intercut after which he changes his mind. My biggest takeaway from this film is the power of intercuts — how you can use them smartly and say so many things in just 5 seconds. The film also has a beautiful ending that made me emotional. I was amazed that a gangster film could make you feel that way.

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Anukokunda Oka Roju (2005)

Director: Chandra Sekhar Yeleti

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

The idea of this film is brilliant. A girl who is under the influence of drugs, can’t remember an entire day of her life. She has no memory of what happened to her, but slowly, as odd things start unfolding, she’s forced to piece together the events of that day. It’s a thrilling film where you can’t predict what will happen next.

Chennai 600028 (2007)

Director: Venkat Prabhu

Streaming on DisneyPlus Hotstar 

This is a lovely, heart-warming film about gully cricket. It captures small emotions like what you go through if you’re not selected in a team, or if you don’t get to bat. The entire mood of the film is joyful. It has lovely music, background score and fantastic intercuts. I wish I could show the director, Venkat Prabhu, my film because this movie has influenced me a lot. It taught me that you can make a film on the small moments of life too.

CJ7 (2008)

Director: Stephen Chow

This is the story of an extremely poor, ordinary man and his son. All this father wants is to be able to provide his son a good education. As they’re struggling to make ends meet, an alien enters their life, leading to hilarious situations. The alien is becomes a part of the family and even saves the father from dying. The scene in which the alien dies because he’s used all his energy to revive the father is heartbreaking and really stayed with me.

Pasanga (2009)

Director: Pandiraj

The film is about three school kids. It reminds you of your school days and takes you back to little moments like standing in front of the calendar and counting the holidays of the month. I really liked the climax of the film, which took me by surprise and made me cry like a baby.

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3 Idiots (2009)

Director: Rajkumar Hirani

Streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube Movies

I could really relate to this movie, especially Madhavan’s character. I could totally understand the philosophy of the film and what it was trying to say about societal expectations. In fact, this is something all filmmakers can relate to. Even when I told my family that this was the line I wanted to get into, they just didn’t understand it.

Bol (2011)

Director: Shoaib Mansoor

Streaming on Voot, YouTube 

If art has the power to change people, I would say Bol is a great example of that. From the first scene to the last, the intention of the director was clear — he wanted to heal people. After watching Bol, I realised how powerful a good movie with the right message can be. It can actually change minds.

Train to Busan (2016)

Director: Yeon Sang-ho

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video, YouTube

We’re often told that one of the rules of writing is to never make the protagonist’s journey easy. Train to Busan is a masterclass in achieving that. The experience of watching this film is truly exhilarating. You’ll constantly be at the edge of your seat. Also, I don’t think you’ll ever find a zombie film with such a high level of emotion.

Okja (2017)

Director: Bong Joon-ho

Streaming on Netflix

I remember when I was reading up on the holocaust, I learnt that many survivors turned vegetarian or vegan because they saw first-hand how poorly animals were treated. Then I read up more on this subject — that’s how I came across Okja and was so moved. It’s a perfect movie. This is how you send a message through a movie. The film is about a young girl and her love for an animal. There’s a scene where a pig saves a child from falling off a cliff; if I can create even one scene like that in my life, I’d consider my work as a filmmaker complete.

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