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13 Indian Films That Were Way Ahead Of Their Time

Queue the ones you haven't watched for the weekend.

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1. When Fire (1996) brought women's sexuality to Indian cinema in a different way.

Kaleidoscope Entertainment

While the sexualisation of women has always existed in Bollywood, Deepa Mehta's Fire explicitly showed a lesbian relationship between a young woman and her older sister-in-law. The film was met with both praise and outrage.

2. When Filhaal... (2002) handled the taboo topic of surrogacy.

Dharma Productions

When her best friend miscarries and is told she can never conceive a child again, Sia, an unwed woman, offers to be a surrogate mother to her and her husband's child. She goes through many struggles, including opposition from society, her family, and her boyfriend.

3. When Masoom (1983) explored the struggles of a child born out of wedlock, and the theme of adoption.

Bombino Video Pvt. Ltd.

A man finds out he has an illegitimate son, Rahul, whose mother has died. He brings him home to his wife, Indu, and their daughters. Masoom explores the complicated relationship between Indu and the child who reminds her of her husband's infidelity.

4. When Taare Zameen Par (2007) began discussion about developmental disability.

Aamir Khan Productions / Via

Ishaan, 8, is under severe pressure from being unable to do well in school. His new teacher diagnoses him with dyslexia and helps him and his parents deal with it. It remains Bollywood's most popular film on the subject of children with developmental disabilities ever.

5. When Salaam Bombay! (1988) gave the world a peek into the lives of street children in Mumbai.

Cinecom Pictures

Salaam Bombay! revolves around the life of Krishna, a street child. Along with his personal story, the film progresses into themes of drug addiction, child labour, child trafficking, prostitution, and criminal injustice towards the underprivileged.

6. When Aastha (1997) showed how financial pressures lead a housewife into a trap of prostitution.

Aarohi Film Makers

Mansi is trapped into sex work by her friend. When her husband's humble earnings aren't enough, she makes it a regular thing to provide comforts for her school-going daughter. Aastha was one of the first few films to show a woman's extramarital sexual relations, and the pressures of consumerism on the housewife.

7. When Margarita With A Straw (2014) brought to the cinema the sex lives of people with disabilities.

Viacom 18 Motion Pictures

Laila, a college girl with cerebral palsy, is wheelchair-bound and on a journey to discover her sexuality. She realises she's bisexual. The film explored a theme never really explored before in Bollywood.

8. When Chameli (2004) gave us a positive, detailed look into the life of a sex worker.

Pritish Nandy Communications

A distressed man meets a prostitute at a railway station, and goes from shaming her completely for her work, to accepting and respecting. It changes his outlook on life.

9. When Water (2005) handled the topic of sati and child marriage at once.

Fox Searchlight Pictures

An Indo-Canadian film, Water focused on the lives of Hindu widows, and the rescue of a child widow. Deepa Mehta faced a lot of criticism from the right wing in the making of the film, and so it had to be shot in Sri Lanka instead of India.

10. When Mera Naam Joker (1970) showed a fully nude woman.

R. K. Films

The film revolves around the life of a circus clown. The nude scene features his childhood teacher, whom he had a crush and who inspired him to make the world laugh. The scene is iconic for being one of the first nude scenes in an Indian film ever.

11. When Bombay Boys (1998) revealed a young, sexually liberated gay culture in India.

Kismet Talkies

The level of profanity and homoerotic overtones earned the film critique in the country. It was said to portray an "Americanised India". The main characters (three NRI men) are also seen making money by working at a strip club.

12. When Julie (1975) shed light on unwed motherhood, and inter-religion marriage in India.

Vijaya Productions Pvt. Ltd.

Julie, a young Anglo-Indian Christian girl, gets pregnant by her Hindu boyfriend. Her mother is anti-abortion, and Julie is taken to a remote area for the length of her pregnancy. At the end of the film, the two convince their stubborn religion-conscious families and get married.

13. When Komal (2013) tackled the subject of child sexual abuse.


The 10-minute film centres around Komal, a happy little seven-year-old. She is sexually abused by her dad's friend. The film focuses on the importance of sex ed and "bad touch" education at school, and post-abuse counselling. Komal is the first animated Indian film on the subject.