The arrival of Adipurush, which is a retelling of the Ramayana, is a good time to revisit some of the popular Indian epics and period dramas on streaming services.
Even though these larger-than-life extravaganzas are meant for larger screens, there is a certain satisfaction in watching these lavishly mounted movies in the comfort of your home. They seem closer and more intimate, and the stories strike a personal chord more than they would if they were watched in cinema halls.
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As ever, this list is a collative exercise and no claim for it to be definitive is made. Also, we have picked the films based on their availability over streaming platforms.
10 best Indian Epics to binge-watch
Year: 2018 | Platform: Amazon Prime Video
The film, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, ran into controversy before its release by the Rajputs. The film, based on the epic poem of the same name by Malik Muhammad Jayasi, is about the Mughal invader Alauddin Khilji, attacking the kingdom of the Rajput ruler Maharawal Ratan Singh, as the former is besotted by the beauty of the latter’s wife, Padmavti. Deepika Padukone plays the queen, while Shahid Kapoor plays Maharawal Ratan Singh.
Ranveer Singh is Alauddin Khilji. Aditi Rao Hydari, Jim Sarbh, Raza Murad, and Anupriya Goenka are also in the cast. The songs of the film were another attraction.
Year: 2008 | Platform: Netflix
Directed and produced by Ashutosh Gowariker, this historical drama is based on the romance between the Mughal emperor Akbar and the Princess Jodhabai who becomes his wife. This period film has Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai and Sonu Sood in the lead roles. Extensive research went into the making of this film. The film is also a musical tour de force from the genius A R Rahman. The songs belong to the hall of fame.
Mangal Pandey: The Rising
Year: 2005 | Platform: Amazon Prime Video
The film chronicles the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, which cast the first stone in India’s fight for Independence from the colonial British forces. One of the men behind the mutiny was Mangal Pandey, an intrepid Indian soldier. Directed by Ketan Mehta, the film has a screenplay by Farrukh Dhondy, while Aamir Khan plays the titular role. Ameesha Patel and Rani Mukherjee are also in the cast. The film premiered at the Cannes film festival and was among the highest-grosser films of the year. A R Rahman’s music is again a standout.
Year: 2019 | Platform: Netflix
The third battle of Panipat, among the epochal wars fought against the Mughals, is the backdrop of the film directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar. Starring Arjun Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt and Kriti Sanon, the film depicts the valiant fight put up by the Marathas under the brave warrior Sadashiv Rao Bhau against the Mughal forces led by Ahmed Shah Abdali. The film captures the royal families’ complex relationships and insecurities and includes a love story between Sadashiv Rao Bhau and Parvati Bai.
Year: 2015 | Platform: Amazon Prime Video
This Telugu period drama is based on the life and valour of celebrated Kakatiya queen Rudhramadevi. Fearing his people may not accept a female successor, King Ganapathideva conceals his daughter’s gender and raises her as a boy. Years later, when trouble brews, Rudhramadevi saves her kingdom from its enemies and is crowned Queen.
The film, written and directed by Gunasekhar, has Anushka Shetty in the titular role. The cast members are Allu Arjun, Rana Daggubati, Vikramjeet Virk, Krishnam Raju, Prakash Raj, Suman, Nithya Menen, Adithya, and Catherine Tresa. The film’s soundtrack and background score are by Ilaiyaraaja.
Ponniyin Selvan 1 and 2
Years: 2022 & 2023 | Platform: Amazon Prime Video
Both parts of Ponniyin Selvan film are based on the 1955 eponymous Tamil book by ‘Kalki’ Krishnamurthy, a historical fiction on the Chola empire in the 10th century BC. The book is the largest-selling Tamil book ever, and when it was serialised in Kalki between 29 October 1950 and 16 May 1954, the Tamil magazine’s circulation reached spectacular levels unmatched since. The film, starring Vikram, Karthi, Jayam Ravi, Trisha, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Sobhita Dhulipala, Vikram Prabhu and Prabhu, among others, is directed by Mani Ratnam. The music is by A R Rahman. Both parts are big theatrical hits.
Tanhaji – The Unsung Warrior
Year: 2020 | Platform: Disney Plus
Directed by Om Rau, who has helmed Adipurush, Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior won 3 national awards: Best Popular Film, Best Costume Design (Nachiket Barve) and Best Actor (Ajay Devgn). Tanhaji chronicles the story of the famous Maratha warrior Tanhaji, who fights to the death against the Mughals.
The plot revolves around Tanaji’s attempts to recapture the Kondana fortress taken over by Aurangzeb, who transfers its control to his trusted guard Udaybhan Singh Rathore. Ajay Devgn plays the lead, and the film also stars Kajol, Saif Ali Khan, Neha Sharma, Sharad Kelkar and Luke Kenny.
Baahubali 1 and 2
Years: 2015 and 2017 | Platform: Disney Plus
Directed by the hotshot S S Rajamouli, Baahubali: The Beginning and Baahubali: The Conclusion, the two parts are already part of the Indian film annals for being spectacular successes across the the world.
The Telugu film combines mythology, fantasy and adventure and follows the journey of Shiva, a prince destined to reclaim his kingdom and the elaborate battle between good and evil. With breathtaking visuals, outstanding performances, and gripping storytelling — all hallmarks of Rajamouli, the film has catapulted the hero Prabhas into national recognition. The cast members include Rana Daggubati, Anushka Shetty, Tamannaah Bhatia and Ramya Krishnan.
Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy
Year: 2019 | Platform: Amazon Prime Video
This film is about the first revolt against the British Raj in India, anchored by Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy, known as the Lion of Renadu (A region in Rayalaseema- Andhra Pradesh). Directed by Surender Reddy, the film stars Chiranjeevi as the title character.
The ensemble cast includes Nayanthara, Tamannaah, Sudeep, Jagapathi Babu, and Vijay Sethupathi (in his Telugu film debut) in supporting roles. Amitabh Bachchan and Anushka Shetty make cameo appearances. Sye Raa Narasimha’s biggest strengths are its visuals, especially the war scenes choreographed by international stunt directors.
Marakkar: The Lion of Arabian Sea
Year: 2021 | Platform: Amazon Prime Video
This lavishly mounted Malayalam period drama is a biopic of Kunjali Marakkar IV, considered one of India’s greatest naval chiefs. It tells the story of the epic warfare against the Portuguese invaders led by this fearless seafarer of the Malabar Coast who later became the naval commander of the Zamorin, the ruler of Calicut.
Marakkar bagged the Best Feature Film, Best Special Effects, and Best Costume awards at the 67th National Film Awards in October 2021. The movie has been adapted from various novels and written texts. Written and directed by Priyadarshan, the film is headlined by Mohanlal. The cast members include Arjun Sarja, Suniel Shetty, Manju Warrier, Keerthy Suresh, Nedumudi Venu and Pranav Mohanlal.