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Fantasy Bollywood Movies – The Best and Worst from Bollywood

fantasy bollywood movies

What comes to mind when you think of fantasy Bollywood movies?

Images of fantasy elements like wizards casting spells are rare in Bollywood movies.

Fantasy as a genre finds very few takers amongst Indian filmmakers. There are many reasons one can attribute for this. Most fantasy movies made in Hollywood are based on epic novel series. The examples are there for all to see – LOTR, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, The Witcher, Jumanji, and so on.

The entire superhero sub-genre which largely belongs to the fantasy genre derives stories from comic book literature. Bollywood doesn’t have any such base of modern literature to make fantasy movies.

Most of our fiction literature is hardboiled reality. The only arena of Indian literature where we see a lot of fantasy is mythology. Calling Indian myths ‘fantasy’ would go against the belief of many hundreds of millions.

Fantasy Bollywood Movies – An Untapped Vein?

At any rate, it is safe to say Bollywood as an industry has underutilized the potential of fantasy movies. Of the top 10 highest grossing films of all time, seven are from the fantasy genre (counting fantasy as sci-fi).

This is enough proof to show there is a genuine liking in the mainstream for fantasy movies. While fantasy Bollywood movies are rare, they’re not entirely non-existent. There are many examples of Bollywood films from the fantasy genre.

Some of them even happen to be good. (!)

List of Fantasy Bollywood Movies (Ranked from Best to Worst)

In this piece, we will cover ten fantasy Bollywood movies for movie buffs to watch. The list of Hindi fantasy films below is not comprehensive. There are many other movies from the fantasy genre besides the ones on the list. However, the Bollywood fantasy movies list below shows some of the popular ones.

1.     Tumbbad

If the world was fair, Tumbbad would be celebrated as a serious milestone in Hindi cinema. Tumbbad came out in 2018 and like most great Indian films, went away from theaters after a short span of time.

Nevertheless, there is little doubting the cinematic brilliance of the horror-fantasy epic.

This Bollywood fantasy movie begins in a small village called Tumbbad.

Without delving too much into the film so as to not give away any spoilers, Tumbbad explores a fictional myth in a village about an ancient goddess who locked up her unruly and avaricious son.

Considering the kind of films Indian audience generally watch, Tumbbad is a different experience altogether. It is dark and brooding, its tone of dread going against anything you’ve watched from Bollywood for the past decade.

As a fantasy movie, Tumbbad doesn’t go crazy like many other Bollywood films from the same genre. It used the fantastical part of the story to actually affect the story, not just make the audience gasp.

The genius of Tumbbad lies in its simplicity. Rather than chasing complicated fantasy elements like many other Bollywood movies, Tumbbad uses a very a relatable human trait to ratchet up the tension in the film – greed.

Personally, I am not a fan of art films. Very often, art films take a lot of luxury in pacing. I like to call it bad storytelling, but that is a personal opinion.

When Tumbbad came out, I avoided seeing the film because of its ‘art house’ labelling in the media. I assumed it was yet another slow movie disguising as an ‘art’ project. However, Tumbbad has the single most important quality of storytelling – it is interesting.

2.     Koi Mil Gaya

Koi Mil Gaya is one of the most successful fantasy Bollywood movies ever made. It borrows its plot from Spielberg’s ET and sets up a film in Kasauli near Nanital.

Koi Mil Gaya remains one of the most successful attempts to make a mainstream fantasy Bollywood movie. Hrithik Roshan stars as Rohit, a mentally challenged man who accidentally uses the scientific equipment of his deceased father to communicate with aliens.

This mistake leads to a series of unforeseen events and changes Rohit’s mundane life forever.

Compared to many other fantasy Bollywood movies, Koi Mil Gaya is a very good film. Although the plot is not original, the director makes enough changes to make the movie interesting and engaging for an Indian audience. More than anything, Koi Mil Gaya has heart. It is a well-made film which borrows from one of the more popular films in Hollywood.

3.     Oh My God

Oh My God may not seem an appropriate addition to this list of Bollywood fantasy films. However, you must remember Akshay Kumar riding his motorcycle down a building and saving Paresh Rawal from a mob of mouth breathing morons.

Is it wrong to say a movie where the only fantastical element is a man playing God belongs to the fantasy genre?

Without getting into the particulars, here are my two cents. Oh My God is one of the better movies on this list of fantasy Hindi films.

Paresh Rawal plays an atheist in this film who runs a business selling idols of gods and goddesses. One day, an earthquake comes and his shop is turned to rubble. Insurance companies refuse to bail him out after the crisis, saying the policy doesn’t protect him from ‘acts of God’ such as earthquakes and other natural disasters.

With nowhere to go, Paresh Rawal decides to sue the party who destroyed his shop according to the insurance company – God.

The film is a great watch, and while it may not have all the elements of a fantasy film, it is still a valuable addition to the list.

4.     Bhootnath

Bhootnath is a decent film. This is an accurate summation of the Amitabh Bachchan starrer.

The main thing working for Bhootnath is its strong cast. Both Juhi Chawla and Amitabh Bachchan turn in great performances and give life to the film. The story is conventional and not very different from many other similar films.

Bhootnath was successful enough to make producers approve of a sequel. Bhootnath Returns hit theatres in 2014, although it didn’t receive as much adulation as its predecessor.

5.     Paheli

Paheli is a very underrated Hindi fantasy film. The actors starring in the film will make you wonder why you never heard of it in the first place.

The cast is loaded with talents like Shahrukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Juhi Chawla, Anupam Kher, Amitabh Bachchan, Sunil Shetty, and the highly underrated Rajpal Yadav. To make this assembly of talent stronger, the film is directed by the legend himself, Amol Palekar.

Paheli explores the story of a ghost who falls in love with a woman whose husband ran away. The ghost disguises as the husband and lives out his romance.

The film didn’t do very well in India but it was a great success abroad. Overall, it was a moderate success. Paheli is not as riveting as Tumbbad or as entertaining as Koi Mil Gaya. Yet, it is a decent fantasy film people should give a try.

Given some of the movies in this list of fantasy Bollywood films that are going to follow, Paheli will seem like a modern classic. Fair warning, we don’t recommend readers to watch any of the movies that follow. They’re in this list of fantasy Bollywood movies on account of belonging to the genre. If anything, their presence here shows the dearth of quality fantasy movies in Indian cinema.

6.     Phillauri

Phillauri is not a bad film. It is a passably good love story with a tinge of fantasy and a dearth of imagination. With a talented actress like Anushka leading the cast, Phillauri fails to use her and never gets off the ground.

The premise of the plot lies in the wedding of a manglik man to a tree. After the marriage is complete, the tree is cut down because this is what happens in such weird ceremonies. The twist in the tale is this – the spirit of Anushka resides in the tree. She takes the poor manglik man for her husband.

Ultimately, Phillauri is not a phenomenally bad movie. It is the type of movie you don’t need to throw a hissy-fit over if you’re friends force you to watch. The concept is not entirely original. Many Indian serials periodically have episodes where some poor woman is forced into a marriage with animals or plants.

The movies previously covered in this list all have a common theme – the script is good enough to carry the message. Phillauri only barely scrapes through as an average film.

7.     Drona

Here’s where the quality of movies on the list of fantasy Hindi films starts falling off a cliff. Drona stars Abhishek Bachchan, a very good actor trapped in this shoddy film which is barely watchable.

Drona is often called Abhishek’s worst film. Considering he did a wonderful film in Guru a year and ten months before Drona, this was a fall from grace.

The main selling point of Drona at the time was the special effects push. However, as is the case with many Indian films, most special effects in Drona didn’t offer anything new. These effects were nearly a decade or two behind Hollywood movies.

Lastly, the one thing that could have saved Drona was pathetic as well. The bland story, unoriginal and unabashedly so, is dreadful. The actors do no favors to the poor script with their bad performances.

8.     Joker

Joker is what happens when mainstream Indian directors decide to write an original science fiction script instead of copying a Hollywood film.

Looking from a distance, Joker and Koi Mil Gaya both talk about the appearance of aliens. Both these films are shot in remote parts of the country. Furthermore, both these films also have bankable actors in their cast.

Yet, Koi Mil Gaya succeeds whereas Joker fails. The former used a tried and tested script, added a little desi flavor, and a few dance sequences. To top it off, it heightens the emotional tension through strong performances.

Joker has none of these things. It did not rely on a tried and tested formula like Koi Mil Gaya. The writers try to dredge up an original story. However, lacking the depth Koi Mil Gaya borrowed from ET, Joker fails and flounders. Akshay Kumar is not nearly as powerful and relatable in his role as Hrithik.

Film buffs in India often use Joker as a bat to beat down the possibility of good fantasy movies in Bollywood. With an IMDB rating of 2.4, there is nothing good that one can say about Joker.

9.     Aabra Ka Daabra

We are officially entering the ‘stupid’ movies phase now.

Aabra Ka Daabra is an attempt to rip-off the Harry Potter series. Far from Rowling’s epic, Aabra Ka Daabra is ineligible for viewing for anyone with more brains than a turnip. In fact, the movie will find a better use for trolling purposes than anything else. College students use it to laugh uncontrollably after getting high (I assure you I am not speaking for experience).

Again, I won’t recommend anyone to ‘not’ watch this fantasy Bollywood movie. However, I will stress this. The only fantasy element in Aabra Ka Daabra is the fact that it was made by people who call themselves professionals.

In fact, you don’t need to hear it from us. Watch Kanan and Biswa talking about this gem.

10. Rudraksh

The wooden spoon in this list of fantasy Bollywood films belongs to Rudraksh. If anyone needed proof that Indian cinema needs better fantasy films, the presence of Rudraksh on this list must do the trick.

Rudraksh received poor feedback from some of the most lenient critics in Bollywood. Taran Adarsh, known for his soft takes, took shots at the film’s screenplay.

The film is about a paranormal researcher visiting India looking for practices science and logic can’t account for (like this film…… I only jest).

Ultimately, the film is about the fight between good and evil. Good wins, because sadness is a currency films don’t deal in.

Also read: What is Speculative Fiction?
Also read: Ten Speculative Books You Should’ve Already Read

(Featured Image Credits: Wikipedia)

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