This week we have the docu-series The Hunt for Veerappan streaming on Netflix. If handled with conviction and care, the docu-series genre can be as compelling, and the fact they are based on real-life incidents adds an extra layer of interest.
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In India, the trend of such documentaries is a recent phenomenon. But the OTT platforms already have plenty of such convincing documentaries. We have compiled many such series that could be worth your time.
Best Indian documentaries
The Elephant Whisperers
Year: 2022 | Platform: Netflix
This is an obvious choice because it won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short earlier this year. Produced by Achin Jain and Guneet Monga, and directed by Kartiki Gonsalves, the 41-minute short follows a husband and wife duo from Tamil Nadu’s Mudumalai Tiger Reserve who adopt two orphan baby elephants. The fact this was filmmaker Gonsalves’ directorial debut made it all the more special. Bellie and her husband Bomman, who were featured in the 40-minute Oscar-winning short, showed how the couple reared abandoned elephant calves Raghu and Amu.
Indian Predator: The Butcher of Delhi
Year: 2022 | Platform: Netflix
Indian Predator is a Netflix series on the theme of famed crime events that happened in India. This particular instalment, produced by VICE India and directed by Ayesha Sood, is about the police investigation and the motives and methods of the serial killer Chandrakant Jha, who in 2006-07 left three decapitated victims outside the Tihar Jail accompanied by mocking notes. The three-episode true crime docuseries features interviews of people involved or close to the case, such as officers and journalists, interspersed with the dramatization of police exchanges, archival photographs and recreations.
Supermen of Malegaon
Year: 2012 | Platform: YouTube
The Supermen of Malegaon has a pleasant twist, as it is a real-life documentary that entertains and educates. It narrates the unique story of wannabe filmmakers, writers and actors in small-town Malegaon who wish to make it big someday. With just 60 minutes of odd-run time, the film leaves you hungry for more. Directed by Faiza Ahmad Khan, Supermen of Malegaon revolves around the passion the residents of Malegaon, a town in Maharashtra, have for filmmaking. The residents take to making spoofs on Bollywood movies, and this documentary is a journey through that movie-making process.
Secrets of the Koh-i-noor
Year: 2012 | Platform: Discovery+
Actor Manoj Bajpayee and director Neeraj Pandey collaborated for this sequel to the Secrets franchise. Directed by Raghav Jairath, the documentary—90-odd minutes broken into two episodes— allows for an entertaining historical approach. The first episode follows the legendary diamond, passing through a succession of Mughal owners and stewards. The second episode is about the Kohinoor during the days Maharaja Ranjit Singh wore it and how it ultimately ended up in British hands. It makes for a riveting watch.
Bhuj: The Day India Shook
Year: 2021 | Platform: Amazon Prime Video
This documentary highlights the story of bravery, heroism, miracle rescuers, misfortune, tragedy and hope around the cataclysmic earthquake that devastated Bhuj, Gujarat, in 2001 that killed over 20,000. The tumultuous events are retold through veteran actor Anupam Kher. The series documents the survivors of the quake and gathers eyewitness accounts and first-hand footage of the event.
Year: 2017 | Platform: Netflix
Deepika Kumari has put India on the world map in the sport of archery. She has won many top international competitions in archery. This series on her life, directed by Uraaz Bahl and Shaana Levy Bahl, throws light on her journey from Jharkhand to later getting enrolled in the Tata Archery Academy and representing India at several international tournaments. Deepika Kumari came from a poor family. Her dad was an auto driver, and her mom was a nurse. She took up archery just because food and shelter were provided there at the Tata Academy. It makes for a poignant and inspirational watch.
Year: 2021: | Year: Amazon Prime Video
The series chronicles some of the most intriguing and shocking con stories which involve money in India. The series delves into scams, from Ponzi schemes and cyber fraud to call centre scams and banking scandals. Based on white-collar crimes in India, the series is among the most popular ones and is already in the third season.
Season 2 delved into various subjects, including identity theft, a $300 million fraud case via fake calls and a Kerala-based gold loan fraud case. These were followed by the stock market scam by the trader and CA Ketan Parekh, who Harshad Mehta mentored. The third season’s episodes dealt with the notorious gold smuggling of the 1960s and the 1993 blasts and masterminds of money laundering rackets via diamond trade, cryptocurrency, banks and UPI. A series that can shake you up.
Beyond All The Boundaries
Year: 2013 | Platform: YouTube
Set in the backdrop of India’s victorious 2011 campaign, the series looks at the epoch-making triumph through three characters. One, Sudhir K Gautam, paints his body with the Indian tricolour and is easily one of the most recognizable Indian fans across the globe. Two, Akshaya Surve, a cricket fan and a female cricketer. Three, Prithvi Shaw, a budding player then and an international player now. Kunal Nayyar, who was a part of the popular American TV sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, is the film’s narrator. The documentary also portrays the fans’ addiction to the game, their desperation to win a World Cup after 28 years.
House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths
Year: 2021 | Platform: Netflix
House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths follows the formula of Netflix’s other popular series like Indian Predators and Crime Stories: Indian Detectives. In 2018, 11 members of the Chundawat family were found dead in their house in Sant Nagar, Burari, Delhi, with their eyes blindfolded. This gruesome incident forms the premise of the three-episode docuseries House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths. The series is directed by Leena Yadav and Anubhav Chopra. A. R. Rahman and his ensemble of musician group, Qutub-E-Kripa, composed and produced the score for the docuseries.
Year: 2019 | Platform: Disney+ Hotstar and Netflix
Directed by Svati Chakravarty Bhatkal, narrated by Aamir Khan and produced by him and Kiran Rao, the series deals with three real-life high-profile stories in a first-person account of both the victims and the perpetrators of violence. It covered the high-profile Lalit and Geetanjali Maken murder case in 1985, Sister Rani Maria’s senseless stabbing in 1995 and the 2008 Mumbai attacks. All three parts are connected via the common thread of forgiveness. As the victims recount the tragedies, they also tell why they chose to forgive the killers who took the lives of their loved ones.
Those were our picks for the best Indian documentaries on Netflix and other streaming services. Have you seen any of them? Is there one that you like that we could have included? Hit us up with the comments below.