Friends, family, love, life, light; though it may seem like a bit of a generalization, the essence of India’s biggest and brightest festival each year can be summarized in those few words. Cinema has always been deeply rooted in the modern and popular culture of India. Year after year, its stars are worshiped, its movies are memorialized and its songs become lifelines. The spirit of India is the spirit of cinema. 
At their best, the movies are filled with dazzling music and musical numbers, sweeping sets, epic action sequences, emotional melodramas and romances for the ages. The following films may all be fairly recent — some more than others — but they have no doubt solidified themselves in the modern Hall of Greats. They’re perfect not only for the holiday season, but also for any newcomer’s introduction to what Indian cinema is all about.
Celebrate… Friends
To say that director Ayan Mukerji resurrected the great Bollywood rom-com of a bygone era for the next generation with “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani” may sound like a bit of an exaggeration, but after watching it, you just might see what I’m talking about. It was a film that quickly solidified itself in Bollywood pop culture history. There can never be such a thing as too many love stories. 
Nearly 10 years later and every song has still maintained its status as an all-time hit — seriously, the soundtrack is legendary. A coming-of-age musical about growing up, growing apart and growing together — and such a blast to watch every step of the way. The best way to describe this film is this: It’s one big, grand, happy party. Prepare to be energized and electrified by the power of friendship and love.
Celebrate… Family
The 2016 dramedy “Kapoor & Sons” is a classic dysfunctional family story. Beyond being an impeccably paced, genuine laugh-out-loud comedy, it is a celebration of brotherhood and an emotionally deft and complex exploration of love, grief, fidelity and sexuality. Loads of surprises and a rollercoaster of emotions await you. It’s a shockingly relatable film too — you’re sure to find yourself or someone you know amidst all the craziness. All in all, it’s a story so sweet, it hurts. This Diwali, fall in love with the Kapoor family.
Celebrate… Love
If you’re looking for the quintessential Bollywood melodrama, look no further than 2007’s “Om Shanti Om.” An epic tale of love and reincarnation set amidst the backdrop of the classic Bollywood film industry, it is everything I love about Indian cinema and cinema at large. Emotional, wholesome, hilarious and utterly show-stopping and mesmerizing at every turn. With a movie that celebrates art and life, you’ll want to sing, dance, laugh, boo and cheer. 
Celebrate… Life
Do not let the poster or the plot synopsis fool you, if no other film on this list makes you cry, then “3 Idiots” is the one that surely will. Immensely entertaining and emotionally staggering, it is a film that I think every student must see. Let it speak to you, and listen carefully. Brilliant messages are delivered beautifully with heart and humor. This film is the equivalent of a long, warm, comforting hug. The beauty of life is in the little things. Enjoy the little things, and enjoy “3 Idiots.”
Celebrate… Light
The 2022 (yes, 2022) Telugu-language regional film “RRR” is the only film I would be confident enough to throw on this list and declare as an instant Indian classic this early on in its run. It is three hours of pure insanity. Maximalism galore. Taking not only all of India but even Hollywood by storm this year, it is a rip-roaring, action-packed, emotionally-charged epic musical melodrama for the ages. The kind of movie you and a few friends will sit down to watch and end up screaming and cheering and losing your minds over. 
Believe me when I say that director S.S. Rajamouli knows how to work a crowd, be it two or 200. Call it hyperbole, but “RRR” is the very concept of action cinema ascending and peaking. An adrenaline-fueled celebration of bros being bros being absolutely bonkers. A true blockbuster and spectacle in every sense of the word, there is no other cinematic experience this year that comes close. If you want to celebrate the triumph of light and goodness this Diwali, look no further than the biggest and grandest cinematic celebration of the year.
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