Banaras/Benaras is the holiest of the holy city located in the heartland of India in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
Over the years, several filmmakers have attempted to capture the essence of the city in their cinematographic lenses, but not many have succeeded.
Somehow, some filmmakers have succeeded in bringing the true magic of the city in their films and below are some of our best picks among the best films that were shot in or based in the city of Banaras, also known as Varanasi.
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Best Indian films based or shot in Banaras
The first entry in our list is also the best one. Neeraj Ghaywan chose Banaras as the backdrop of his debut feature film called Masaan, a film which made India proud across the world in film festivals. The film starred Vicky Kaushal and Richa Chadda, playing leading parts in two separate stories. In the film, Banaras is not just the place they live in, it’s an emotion that somehow affects film’s tone and brings a unique gloomy charm to it. The film was produced by Anurag Kashyap and is arguably one of the finest Indian films of this decade.
Angrezi Mein Kehte Hai (2017)
Directed and written by Harish Vyas and featuring Sanjay Mishra in the leading role, Angrezi Me Kehte Hai is a heart-wrenching film featuring a middle-aged couple living in Banaras. Sanjay Mishra gives a performance of a lifetime in the ‘slice of life’ film which takes some serious marital issues in consideration while keeping the tone slow and atmospheric. The film was showcased in several international and national film festivals and further established Harish as a young director to lookout for.
Mukti Bhawan (2016)
Arguably the most critically acclaimed Indian film of 2016, Mukti Bhawan or Hotel Salvation starred Adil Hussain in the role of a lifetime. The film focuses on the story of Daya, a dying man who wishes to spend the last few months of his life on the ghats of Banaras to attain salvation. He also brings his young son Rajiv along with him. Daya meets a widow and the ideas of life and death take a whole new meaning for him. The film used comedy here and there to make the overall experience further delightful for the audiences.
Boasting of a cast that has living legends such as Naseeruddin Shah and Dimple Kapadia in the leading roles, there was very little chance that the film could go wrong. Director Pankaj Parashar handled the sensitive topic of casteism very sensibly and offered the viewers a soulful view into the life of an upper caste girl who falls in love with a boy belonging to the lower caste. The film depicts the ‘not so beautiful’ face of the city as the lead characters suffer from the caste prejudices that are prevalent in the Indian society for ages.
Mohalla Assi (2015)
Helmed by Chandraprakash Dwivedi, Mohalla Assi was a satirical film based in the late 80s to early 90s. The film follows the life of a Sanskrit teacher, played by Sunny Deol, and his wife as they go through the socio-political transition of the country back then. The film faced troubles from the censor board owing to some explicit language, but upon being released, the film received unanimous acclaim. Ravi Kishan also played a pivotal role in the film which was appreciated for its extremely realistic portrayal of the city.
Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta chose India to be the center of her film, which dealt with highly taboo issues such as child marriages and premarital sex. The film was banned from Indian screens for a very long time owing to the protest by the right-wingers. Starring Lisa Ray and John Abraham in the leading roles, the film told the story of a widowed child bride who seeks redemption in an ashram in Banaras. The film was appreciated for its performances and the issues it tackled head-on.
Laaga Chunari Mein Daag (2007)
The film featured the most critically acclaimed performance of Rani Mukherjee’s career. Following the tale of a girl from Banaras who goes to Mumbai to support her financially troubled family, the film explored some unexplored territories in terms of openness in Bollywood. Away from the usual tropes of a commercial Hindi film, the film revels in the story of the leading lady who turns to prostitution in order to make the ends meet. The absolute tearjerker film was produced by Yashraj films and was directed by Pradeep Sarkar.
Director Manish Tiwary’s take on the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet, Issaq was a film starring Prateik Babbar and Ameya Dastur in the leading role Based on Shakespeare’s Romeo Juliet. Although the film received not-so-encouraging reviews upon its release, it was noted highly for its music and the leading performances. With Banaras as the backdrop, the film featured two fighting castes as they go through troubles owing to the love brewing between members from each caste. The film is now hailed as one of the best interpretations of Romeo and Juliet in the modern Hindi cinema.
Last but not least, this Anand L. Rai-directed film is the absolute best when it comes to films based in the holy city of Banaras. South Indian actor Dhanush played the leading role in the film along with Sonam Kapoor. He played the role of Kundan, a Brahmin boy who falls in love with a Muslim girl. The story takes several turns and twists to reach its heartbreaking conclusion. The film also starred Abhay Deol in a cameo, whose presence further took the film’s overall impact to another level.
That’s all, These are our favorite film about Banaras, share in the comment section which one is your favorite film shot in Banaras or Based in Banaras.
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