The spotlight is on India as Victoria & Abdul hits cinemas. Starring Judi Dench as Queen Victoria, the comedy drama centres on the true – and surprising – friendship that grew between the Queen and her Indian servant Abdul Karim.
Our relationship with the Indian subcontinent and its culture and customs has inspired numerous films set in India. We’ve selected six of our favourites.
And you can see our full collection celebrating India in film and television
Hugh Bonneville stars as Lord Mountbatten, Queen Victoria’s grandson and the last Viceroy of India, in this revealing look at life inside the official home of British rulers in India. Set during the Partition of India in 1947, Mountbatten is charged with the task of working out how to hand back India to its people.
Gurinder Chadha’s critically acclaimed film demonstrates the huge gap in India between the rich and poor, with Mountbatten and his wife (Gillian Anderson) living upstairs in Viceroy’s House, with 500 Hindu, Muslim and Sikh servants living below them, downstairs.
Danny Boyle’s blockbuster won a staggering eight Oscars in 2009 and newcomers Dev Patel and Frida Pinto became superstars overnight. Slumdog Millionaire is a heart-warming tale of how one orphan boy from the slums came to win India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
Combining feel-good jollity with the gritty realism of the brutal poverty faced by many in India, Slumdog Millionaire is an emotional roller-coaster ride. The film was so successful, it was known to have boosted Indian tourism, and led to controversial “slum tours” being created.
The much-revered Ben Kingsley starred as the title character in Richard Attenborough’s acclaimed biopic of the Indian leader , which swept up eight Oscars in 1983. Gandhi was shot on location around India, and featured many of the stunning original locations where the real events in Gandhi’s life took place. Co-stars include John Gielgud, Candice Bergen, Om Puri, Edward Fox and Trevor Howard, Roshan Seth, Daniel Day-Lewis and John Mills.
Gandhi is today regarded as one of the greatest biographical, historical and cultural films to have ever been made about one the most iconic figures in history.
With it’s wonderful ensemble cast, including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie and Tom Wilkinson, this is feel-good comedy gold at its most charming. The story follows a group of British pensioners who move into a retirement hotel in India, only to find their new home is not as luxurious and relaxing as they were led to believe.
This culture-clash comedy is both touching and enlightening, as we watch the different characters learn to throw of their early sceptism to fully embrace their new Indian lifestyle. The film is set in a real-life hotel in India, the Ravla Khempur, and the vibrant cities of Jaipur and Udaipur feature heavily.
Based on the acclaimed novel by E. M. Forster, and shot on location across India, David Lean’s Oscar-winning A Passage to India takes place during the early days of the Indian independence movement and focuses on the clash between British colonisers and their Indian subjects before independence was fully realised..
Peggy Ashcroft leads an all-star cast, including Victor Banerjee, Alec Guinness, Judy Davis and James, in the story that focuses on cultural mistrust when a young English woman accuses an Indian doctor of sexually assaulting her. The subsequent trial leads to tensions surfacing between the Indian population and British colonialists.
Based on the classic children’s book by Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book follows a young boy called Mowgli, raised in the Indian jungle by wolves. During his adventures, he meets a colourful cast of animal characters including the ferocious Bengal Tiger Shere Khan, lovable bear Baloo and his companion Bagheera, the panther, and the formidable giant orangutan King Louie.
Although we’ll never stop loving Walt Disney’s animation, the 2016 live-action remake also captures the heart of the original. With convincing voice acting from the likes of Ben Kingsley, Indris Elba, Christopher Walken, Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson, and a fantastic early performance from young Neel Sethi as Mowgli.