Starter Kit for Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam Films

Okay, Asmita in the comments suggested this, but I am a little nervous about it.  Because I really really don’t know as much as I should about the non-Hindi industries.  And I know SO MUCH about Hindi that I am going to have a hard time limiting myself.  But we will see how it goes.  Oh, and after you watch all of these, you can just put something in the comments if you want more recommendations based on your favorites, I would LOVE to do that.  But this is just the start, I have so much more knowledge to give.

Hindi Beginning Films (this is assuming you have just found Indian film and have never watched anything before ever)

Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham: A bit old-fashioned now, but a perfect example of what people think of when they think “Bollywood” (hate that word).  It will teach you the song styles, the stars, and the basic story template.

(This is essentially all you need to know in one song)

Kal Ho Na Ho: A little more modern (while still a little out of date).  The plot is a tad more complicated, the script is very clever, and the songs are great.

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani: Just so you can see an alternative style of the same kind of film.  Again, great songs, romance, happiness.  But a little more modern, with different stars.


Hindi Intermediate Films (now you have seen the 3 above, and maybe some others, and are interested in going a little deeper)

Ghajini: Still has great songs, but not the plot you think of when you think “Hindi”, or the style, or the script.

Talaash: Another trickier one, very well made and smart, and in the more realistic style that some directors prefer.  And gives you a look at some of the really great art performers.

Dabangg: A big silly cop film, which might seem to tonely strange if it was the first movie you watched, but by now it should be okay for you.


Hindi Advanced Films (now you are several months/several dozen films into your knowledge, you are ready for the classics)

Kaagaz Ke Phool: Brilliant movie about movie making, which is also so beautiful it will make you cry (well, it made me cry).  One of the all time 1950s classics.

Awara: The first massive international hit, complex social statement combined with romance, another 1950s classic.

Sholay: Greatest movie ever made.  Never a dull moment.


Tamil Beginner Films (okay, I am a bit out of my depth here.  Assuming you are a total absolute beginner, and have no one else you can ask, this is the most I know)

OK Kanmani: A great grounded romance with an amazing soundtrack.  Not the best film by the director Mani Ratnam, but one of his most recent, so easy to relate to.

Irudhi Suttru: Let me introduce you to the wonder that is Madhavan!  He stars and produces in this film, which has a female director/writer and an wonderfully strong female character at the heart of it.

Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa: Impossible to spell, but worth the effort.  From director Gautham Menon, a semi-autobiographical film about his first romance.  Not your typical romance in any way.


Tamil Intermediate Films (assuming you started with Hindi films, the movies above should have felt kind of familiar to you.  Now, these are totally different)

Pizza: A horror movie, but a very smart simple one.  I don’t like horror, and I liked it.  And it shows you how out of the box Tamil movies can be (ha, I made a pun!)

VIP (Velaiilla Pattadhari): Ultimately a kind of hero action movie.  But it goes all around the place before it gets there, in a fascinating way.  And this is definitely not the kind of hero you are used to, skinny and funny and likes to watch soap operas.

Kabali: I’m sure you’ve heard of Rajnikanth.  This is his newest big hit, and it’s all about the oppressed Tamil minority in Malaysia (an actual real issue I wouldn’t have known about if it weren’t for this film), from an off-beat kind of out there director, and a lot of great Tamil rap with a Malay influence.


Tamil Advanced Films (Again, I KNOW NOTHING!!!!  This is the very very little I have gathered from my very very small time with this industry)

Moondru Mudichi: Sridevi’s first leading role (age 13!), Rajnikanth’s first big part too, plus Kamal Haasan.  It’s like the whole history of Tamil film in one movie.  Also, made by brilliant director K. Balachander.

Mouna Ragam: Mani Ratnam’s first major film.  A classic post-marriage romance, with a hero and heroine who feel like real average people.

Kandukondain Kandukondain: This is kind of your reward.  A great romance film with an awesome soundtrack, just like in Hindi, but better because it is Tamil.



Telugu Beginner films (Do not trust a single thing I say, I have barely explored this industry, but if you have no other option available to you and feel like a dying man in the desert, I can give you these little drops of knowledge)

Mirchi: Especially if you came in through Bahubali, this is just the best Prabhas film.  And gives you a good sense of the “factionalist” land dispute kind of story lines, and the beauty of machete fights.

Pokiri: The urban version of the gangster film.  With a strong heroine, and a great role for MegaStar Mahesh Babu.  Oh, and if you know Hindi film, it was remade as Wanted.  But the original is much much much much better.

Santosham: Very different from the others.  A sweet romance starring Nagarjuna, a little bit older than the others as well.  But a reminder that Telugu films aren’t just action.


Telugu Intermediate films (Again, these are only slightly more than random guesses.  I know so little it would astound you)

Manam: Warm loving family film, starring a bunch of people who are related to each other, playing people who are related in a different way, and reincarnation is involved.  Trust me, it’s wonderful.

Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana: Really cute romance that feels similar to Maine Pyar Kiya and Pyaar Kiya to Darna Kya, but also different and has Siddharth being cute.

Aarya: Interesting romance about stalking, with a lot of fight scenes.  And Allu Arjun, a very strange and fascinating screen presence.


Telugu Advanced Films (all of these are remarkable brilliant movies.  Don’t know if they are the best the industry has to offer because, again, I KNOW NOTHING.  But they are interesting at least!)

1:Nennokadine: Takes the action film tropes and deconstructs them.  So you have to watch the other movies first, but this is your reward because it is SO SMART.

Eega: Same director as Bahubali, totally different kind of movie.  But equally, if not more, imaginative.  And equally well performed.

(Yes, the hero is a fly)

Maya Bazaar: A fairy tale come to life, based on familiar Puranic tales.  Romantic, pretty, magical, everything.  Oh, and from the 1950s, so prepare yourself for old-fashioned saris and stuff.


Malayalam Beginner Films (I know marginally more about this industry than the last two, but it’s still next door to nothing.)

Bangalore Days: Massive surprise all India hit (well, modified hit, bigger than Malayalam films usually get), brilliant movie, Dil Chahta Hai for a new age, and with a female lead.

Premam: Another surprise hit, a coming of age story told through 3 love stories, way deeper and more sensitive than these films usually get.

Ohm Shaanti Oshana: Amazing romance, in which the heroine is the hero, stalking the guy she likes, slowly wooing him, etc. etc.


Malayalam Intermediate Films (those last 3 are the guaranteed hits that translate anywhere, these get a little more complex)

Celluloid: A very different view of the early years of the film industry from what we usually get.  Also, an introduction to big star Prithviraj.

Ennu Ninte Moideen: Another Prithviraj film, this time a romance, but also based on a true story.  And an introduction to awesome Parvathy.

Charlie: A little unusual, a little magical realism.  But still with Parvathy, and Dulquer who you have seen in other things by now.


Malayalam Advanced Films (there are way way way too many options to include here, most films I have seen went over my head and should go here.  So this is kind of a throwing things at a dartboard approach)

Kammattipaddam: An epic story of a changing neighborhood, Dalit land grants, and growing up.

Manichitrathazhu: Brilliant complex script, and a perfect role for Mohanlal.  And for Shobhana, who is gorgeous, a great actress, and a trained dancer.

Guppy: A film about a child in a way that I haven’t seen in any other industry, in India or elsewhere.



68 thoughts on “Starter Kit for Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam Films

  1. A decent starter pack. Though your bollywood section is very KJO. an idyllic Rajshri romance is definitely missing.

    And instead of mirchi maybe you should have put in Katmaraidu for that village gangster genre but maybe prabhas would work for people just coming out of their BB fever. Also, Bahubali is not in the lists!!!!


    • Bahubali is above all lists! And people just starting out in Hindi films HATE Rajshri. I keep trying to show it at my movie nights, and they are all “this is boring, nothing’s happening, where’s Shahrukh?”


        • Anything! Maine Pyar kiya, HAHK, HSSH, Vivah. not the parrot one, because I refuse to watch that again.

          Vivah works best, but it’s also kind of the tightest one, a little less song heavy. And everyone likes Shahid. But all the others, it’s just been too strange and slow to get into. Definitely would fit in the Intermediate section though, once you get used to the songs and you no longer need Shahrukh to seduce you into continuing to watch, Rajshri is great.


          • Maine Pyar Kiya was sort of progressive for its time you know. I wonder what a Hollywood equivalent of it or the time it represents would be? Maybe that’d help newbs get a sense of what rajashree represents.


          • Hah! It is a good comparison. Also, I just caught Melanie’s Arjun Reddy review. I didn’t watch it because spoilers. Is there going to be a spoiler free review here? I’m so fancrushing on Vijay Deverakonda right now. (fancrushing because I like him as an actor but he’s not my type as a guy you know?)


          • Yep yep. I haven’t written the review yet, but I am planning to put it up one minute after midnight (so it is still Tuesday Telugu because I am a slave to alliteration) And then a spoiler one.

            I was hoping you would ask because I have to tell you, you would LOVE this movie! Very similar to Dev D, but with a hotter hero. Taller, beardier, angrier, and slightly less misogynistic. I was watching it thinking “well, this is maybe slightly too much for me, but I bet Asmita could handle it”. Very “roll out of bed, take a swig of whiskey, go off and have casual sex while bearded and angry”. NOT marriage material kind of guy, but fun to watch. Oh, and the camera super sexualizes him, which I appreciate and is also interesting. Lots of shirtless scenes and so on, and women coming on to him for casual sex.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Oh god!!! I’m so unhappy with my country that this didn’t release in the north!!! I don’t know how long I’d have to wait to watch this with subtitles!! I just read it’s getting remade in hindi and dhanush has bagged the Tamil rights. But dude!!! I’m dying to show this to my cousin who’s already sick of my prabhas and south fever. But I’m hoping she does watch this because I guess I want her to know guys like these. Am I a bad older sister?


          • do you want her to know guys like this so she will get caught up in a passionate co-dependent relationship with a poetic drug addict bent on self-destruction but really good at sex?

            Or do you want her to know about guys like this so she DOESN’T get caught up in a passionate co-dependent relationship with a drug addict bent on self-destruction but really good at sex?


          • Well she did see me go through a relationship with the first kinda guy you described and she sort of idealizes that guy. It’d be the bava thing I guess. But having that guy in my life got the bad guy thing out of my system. So I guess I want her to have a guy like this early on so she finds someone sane later on? She’s 9 years younger to me but I guess she’s not over my bad ex-boyfriend. From the trailer alone, Arjun Reddy has nothing on that guy. Someday i’ll write a book about him. Bastard. I miss him. 😁


          • She wanted to marry Neil Nitin Mukesh after we watched David. 😂 then she watched Players. 😂 but seriously I’m really happy about Vijay Deverakonda though. I’m hoping our telugu speaking friends here can tell us more about the differences between different dialects. Like what’s so wrong with a telangana dialect and why is the godavari one “cute”?


          • Sometimes I feel for India you need like a portal where you can go and make friends with the specific purpose of being able go talk about culture specific things like these. Like I already have a pahadi BFF and a punjabi/Delhi BFF and I have relatives in MP and Bombay so those states are covered and there’s always the odd bengali in every group. But I don’t have friends who would entertain random queries like these. Maybe I need to try quora for this.


    • I am from Godavari district but I have a thing for Telangana dialect. It is not pure Telugu, which is why some people do not like it but not sure why, when Vijay speaks, it sounds really good. Maybe he mixes a little English accent with his Telugu or maybe it is just me. Although Vijay is a Telangana guy, everyone in AP loves him now. Literally, no exceptions. In the US and the UK, they released the film with subs. Not sure where you live Asmita.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Correct me if I got this wrong. This is what I got off quora and I’d love a native telugu person’s take on what quora had to say.

        So Margaret, supposedly telugu people are really particular about accents and diction. The telangana dialect is the one with the heaviest urdu vocabulary. The Godavari one is the one with the least outside influence ie fewer non-telugu words and hence it is considered the purest. Accent wise, the godavari dialect supposedly sounds like the words in a sentence are connected not by spaces but by an “aa” sound.

        I don’t speak telugu at all so please correct me if I’ve got something thing wrong. I find this opposition to urdu peppered native language fascinating since urdu-heavy hindi is prized and thought of as a sign of refinement!!


        • I’m not exactly sure, but I think you’ve got it right Asmita.

          I don’t know what the reason for the opposition to the Telangana dialect is either but from my experience it’s because people don’t consider it to be “real” Telugu. For example, Fidaa, is a love story between a Telangana girl and an NRI boy. I really liked it and my mom liked it as well but some of her friends hated it because of the Telangana dialect. My mom grew up in Hyderabad and she had friends who spoke like this but I noticed that her friends who hated Fidaa were people who grew up in cities or villages in Coastal Andhra like Vijayawada and Vizag where they wouldn’t have been exposed to the Telangana dialect as often.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I don’t know for sure but I think there are some differences between a Hyderabadi dialect and a Telangana dialect as well. But my mom and her parents have always talked about how it’s important to know Urdu when living in Hyderabad.

            But I do agree with you that it’s interesting that a dialect from the inner regional centers are more prized.


        • Yes Asmita, Telangana dialect is mixed with urdu words because the region was ruled by Nizam, while dialect used in Krishna-Godavari delta (comrising four districts in AP) has no influence from other languages, except English. But that is not the real reason why it is “pure”.

          Because the Krishna-Godavari delta is fertile, people living there became prosperous and eventually ventured into all fields…..politics, business and especially movie making. You can see main actors, directors, producers etc originally hailing from these four districts and in turn they favour newbies from thier own places. Good roles are reserved for Krishna-Godavari people and bad/funny roles are reserved for Telangana people. But this trend is changing since state bifurcation because that disrimination was one of the factors that led to state bifurcation. Now younger generation in Telangana is adapting English instead of state imposed urdu.

          I live in the south end of AP that borders Tamil Nadu with heavy influence of Tamil in our dialect. During my college days in Chennai our friends from delta used to make fun of our dialect too and say their dialect is the pure one, or standard one because it is used in movies and books.

          While we living in south AP are happy that we can understand both Telugu and Tamil, people in Telangana are happy that they can understand urdu and Hindi. It is better to see the positive side instead of debating about the pureness of dialect. Aap ko kya lagta hai?


          • My interest in this debate is only to the extent that I want to understand cultural nuances in telugu cinema. Being someone that doesn’t speak the language I have no way of knowing what a character’s dialect means culturally. I may know the history and politics and culture of the south superficially. But it is fascinating to learn about the politics of dialects in the south and the resentments around it. Here in the north, the struggle is just hindi/punjabi vs english. And if you speak English well enough, nobody cares if your hindi/punjabi is weak. Knowing urdu is a sign of refinement but you also need to be equally good ar English to be considered superior. Nobody makes fun of people’s vernacular dialects though. That’s amazing to learn.

            If I sound like a smug hindi speaker who doesn’t know much about other national languages, mujhe maaf kijiyega.


          • The people from Krishna-Godavari delta don’t oppose or resent use of urdu words and there is no politics about it. If they too were ruled by Nizam nawab instead of the British, they would have happily embraced nawabi culture. But just because they happen to be the dominating group in the composite or bifurcated state, they look down other dialects as inferior.

            Using urdu words in the south is not a sign of refinement but backwardness. Jo jeeta wohi Sikandar. Now that Nizam was the loser, the Telangana people are also disassociating from urdu words replacing them with English words. After few generations there won’t be urdu words in Telangana dialect. Since state bifurcation in 2014 Telangana people are already proud of their dialect. That is human psycology and also evolutionery trend.

            If you want to catch the difference between Telangana and Krishna-Godavari dialects, watch the below interview of Prabhas. The anchor uses Telangana dialect while Rana and Prabhas use Krishna-Godavari dialect.


  2. You know which other movie I find good for beginners -Queen. It has both indian and international flavour. And who doesn’t love stories about girls who become better and stronger after break-up?
    And from telugu industry-Bommarillu. I love this movie.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Also dude, because I’m sleepless tonight, I managed to find the trailer for SOLO on YT. I don’t think I’m getting much sleep tonight. That guy is so seriously sexy!! He’s like Keanu Reeves sexy!! But indian and thus better..


  4. I think its always hard to put together a list like this. There’s always that question of I personally like this film but that film is more representative of a genre/type. With the Tamil films, I would maybe put Kandukondain Kandukondain in the beginners list. Only because its one of those films that non-desi (and non-Tamil) Indian film watchers seem to love and relate to very easily but I don’t think was really as big in Tamil Nadu. I kind of see it as a good gateway film for non-Tamil movie watchers but maybe not as representative of a typical Tamil movie. In any case, I think the list is a good start.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly, I just want a start. I also think hopefully that each of these gives a good overview. So you can come out of it going “okay, I really like films like _____”, where can I find more of those?


  5. I think maheshinte prathikaram will be the best introduction to new age malayalam films. Simple plot, relaxed pace, careful deatailing and characterisation, talented but not very glamorous actors etc…typical traits of malayalam filmS


    • Oh that is a good idea! I would probably put it in the intermediate or advanced level, because you need some sense of the industry first. But after watching Bangalore Days, Premem, and some others, it would be really mind-blowing in a good way.


  6. I agree to some of the commenters above “Jigarthanda” and “Parutheeveeran” are good movies you should add to the Tamil Kit.
    For Hindi: Dangal would be a easy watch newbies, was expecting to see Munnabhai too
    As for Malayalam I am actually very satisfied with the movies, but maybe if you are going for classics like “Awaara” in Hindi, there are at least a few like “Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha” (A northern story of valor) that are in recommendable.

    As for your discussion of the parallel to the three khans in Malayalam, you mentioned Nivin & Dulquer, but missed out on Prithviraj & Fahad (so its really a parallel to the 3 khans and a Kumar)


    • I went back and forth with Malayalam classics, because from my own experience, they were soooooooooooo hard to find. I don’t want to make this list impossible. Manichtrathzu (sp?) for some reason is extremely accessible.

      And don’t tell Asmita, but I am trying very hard to get her off Dulquer and on to Nivin (my guy), so I don’t even want her to find out about Fahad and Prithviraj yet.

      On Tue, Sep 5, 2017 at 11:58 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

      • Manichitrathal is a no brainer… if someone is only watching one Malayalam movie, I say it needs to be this one. But offcourse the Newbie movies you listed are a easier watch.

        I myself am a little biased towards Dulquer (after seeing Charlie & Neelakasham….), I like Navin best in “Oru Vadakkan Selfie” and “Action Hero Baiju”.


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  8. Well, this list helps. So, there are many films I gotta watch, gonna start with Bangalore Days. I heard a lot about it. Thanks for this post. Being a Telugu guy below are my recommendations and they will not disappoint you for sure (not including the ones you listed already in your post).
    Beginners: Bommarillu, Arjun Reddy, Gamyam, Vedam
    Intermediate: Ekkadiki Pothavu Chinnavada, Race Gurram (fun film), Khaleja, Manmadhudu
    Advanced: Anukokunda Oka Roju, Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari, Nuvvu Naku Nachav


    • Unless I am forgetting something, the only ones I have seen are Bommarillu and Arjun Reddy, so I have a lot to do! Thank you!

      On Thu, Sep 7, 2017 at 6:43 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • Gamyam is a really good, heart-warming story! I think you would really like it. I would definitely recommend it!

        Race Gurram is super entertaining, the movie that made Allu Arjun a Star.

        Khaleja is a movie that I’ve recommended to you before but I think it’s extremely hard to find online with subtitles. It’s a really fun action comedy starring Mahesh in a type of role that you’ve probably not seen him in. This was his comeback movie after his three year hiatus so the movie ended up flopping due to the high expectations. Similar to 1:Nenokkadine, Khaleja is one of those movies in Mahesh’s career that became highly regarded after it’s theatrical run ended.

        Did you not see Manmadhudu yet? It’s another Nagarjuna starrer from the early 2000s that I would put in the same boat as Nenunnanu and Santosham. This is probably my favorite out of these three movies.

        Anukokunda Oka Roju is a really good movie! I think it was remade into hindi as Sunday. These movie seriously creeped me out when I saw it as a kid.

        Nuvvu Naaku Nachav is a family romance that came out in the early 2000s starring Venkatesh. If you like Manmadhudu, then you’ll like this one since both are made by the same writer-director duo.

        Ekkadiki Pothavu Chinnavada was a fun horror comedy but I didn’t think it was anything more special.

        I still haven’t seen Vedam and Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari though I’ve wanted to watch both movies for a while now.


        • Ooo! another early 2000s Nagarjuna! Looks like the only reason I haven’t seen it is that it is slightly harder to find with subtitles than the other two. But you are encouraging me to buckle down and try harder.


  9. Magadheera has to be in the Telugu starter kit! Every non Desi movie blog that I have come across has them mentioning that this and Arya 2 were their induction to Telugu films 😀 If you haven’t heard of it, it stars Ram Charan(chiranjeevi’s son) and kajal Agarwal and ia directed by THE Rajamouli. It is a full on commercial movie with a reincarnation plot(The makers accused Raabta of plagariasm) I’m sure you would enjoy it. Here is the trailer (though it’s an unofficial one)


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    • Glad you like it! I’ll have to keep it up then, expand to other actors, actresses, genres, and so on.

      On Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 2:10 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



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  13. Fahad and Prithvi are definetely both in a different league than DQ or Nivin. I was hoping you could check out my IG page actually where I do some reviews/opinions. It’s @mallupennu and I really enjoy your page.


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