Six Classic Indian Coming-Of-Age Films

A still from Aparajito by Satyajit Ray
A still from Aparajito by Satyajit Ray

“Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique experience, but there’s a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.” 

― Chbosky 

The transition from adolescence to adulthood is usually speckled with an enormous amount of friction. It’s often difficult to express because it may be deeply internalised in some individuals but the sheer depth of its metaphorical value has made it a favourite topic to be covered by cinema, and till date, filmmakers across the board have attempted it all.
They’ve chronicled everything from the superficial angles to the far more poignant moments that are hard enough to witness, let alone ahowcase cinematically. While legenary films like Richard Linlater’s Dazed & Cofused or Stephen Chbosky’s ‘The Perks Of Being  A Wallflower’ have all dealt with the theme interestingly, closer to home, some Indian filmmakers have approached the subject beautifully, through their own unique lens. Homegrown curates seven, shining coming-of-age Indian films.

I. Aparajito, Satyajit Ray

The second movie in Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy, Aparajito is the sensitive portrayal of the moment that maturity bemoans a young boy, and he must shed his naive innocence. Upon his father’s death, young Apu insists on going to school, and with that education, moves to the city of Calcutta from his village where his mother stays.
The village life presents a starkly unexciting picture to the young Apu coming to terms with the big world of Calcutta. His longing mother takes ill and succumbs to the pain forcing Apu to return, and let go one last time. This movie marked the growth of Ray’s central character Apu, and its realistic portrayal won it many accolades.

HG Loves: Ray’s stark, monochrome shots that juxtapose the complexity of his subtle characters.

II. Dil Chahta Hai, Farhan Akhtar

Never before had a coming of age tale been done with the same sense of realism as Farhan Akhtar’s debut venture, Dil Chahta Hai. The story of three friends, with three contrasting personalities, under the illusion of everlasting friendship, and the change in their interpersonal relationship, set against the backdrop of a modern city life resonated with youngsters across the country. The theme that everyone must attain certain level-headedness and a non-judgemental attitude came at a crucial time when the country was grappling with regressive notions about societal behaviour.

HG Loves: The relevance and relatability of one of the more realistic films to come out of Bollywood.

III. Lakshya, Farhan Akhtar

Farhan Akhtar clearly knows how to do coming of age best. His story about a lazy, procrastinating and disobedient guy who joins the army on a whim, and deals with the sudden responsibility imposed on him, coupled with great music earned him serious credibility from audiences and critics alike. Not to mention, he gave us Hrithik Roshan’s most earnest performances till date, making for a movie that forced you to grow with it.

Also, Preity Zinta’s seriousness and ambition with regards to her career gives us, for probably one of the few times, a female lead who stresses on the importance of her work more than all her life factors that might pull her back. Commendable and extremely progressive.

HG Loves: The film’s unabashed attack on previously accepted industry norms that were both cliched and sexist.

IV. Wake Up Sid, Ayan Mukherji

The first half of Ayan Mukherji’s breezy debut was not a unique back story. Rich, pampered kid in college, unmindful of what is provided to him, compulsive talker with no sense of wisdom, who eventually fails his final examinations. What happens thereafter gives a unique, untheatrical development that the Hindi film industry is not often used to.
Boy meets girl, but not the breezy kind. Instead the female lead is the ambitious kind, with her head firmly on her shoulders, who teaches him a thing or two about shouldering responsibility. The absence of forced melodrama makes Wake up Sid an extremely pleasant watch, and the lead’s coming of age is strongly believable.

HG Loves: The absence of forced melodrama. 

Wake Up Sid

V. Udaan, Vikramaditya Motwane

Vikramaditya Motwane’s debut film about a troubled relationship between a young boy, romanticised by the idea of poetry, and his strict, tyrannical father who entrusts him into engineering, all the while dishing out unfatherly behaviour towards him and his younger brother earned rave reviews at the prestigious Cannes festival that year.  Upon reaching boiling point, the boy comes of his own, assumes responsibility of himself and his brother, and walks away, head held high. The lack of melodrama, and the grip on reality makes Udaan one of the finest pictorial representations of a strained parent-child relationship.

HG Loves: The incredibly poignant storytelling that never once depends on cliched tools to get our attention and ultimately, makes us feel something real.


VI. Rockford, Nagesh Kukunoor

Rockford, till date, is probably the most earnest Indian movie about pre-teen school life. Nagesh Kukunoor helmed this story about a young brahmin boy enrolled in an all boy convent school in 1999, but the beauty of this film is that it stands eternal since the issues it covers are real and close to life. First crush, teacher reverence, jealousy, and the realisation that all that happens may not always be fair, stands true even today. The movie is honest and its close-to-life approach has made it an indie classic.

HG Loves: Can’t remember what it was then but now, it’s all about the nostalgia for us!

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