It captures a realistic portrayal of young people.
Coming-of-age films are all about life lessons and hidden meanings, but which films truly capture the South Asian coming-of-age experience?
Bollywood and the British Asian film industry offer a wide range of coming-of-films that appeal to young viewers.
Many of these films deliver tales of friendship, love, and growth that resonate with South Asians all over the world.
DESIblitz brings you 10 of the best South Asian coming-of-age films that you should put on your watchlist!
Millennials will be hooked by the latest heartfelt coming-of-age movie Polite Society, which will release in cinemas on April 28, 2023.
The director of the Channel 4 series We Are Lady Parts, Nida Manzoor makes her debut feature with Polite Society with promises to be a comic-book style movie that touches viewers’ hearts.
The coming-of-age action-comedy film centres around a young Indian girl named Ria Khan (Priya Kansara), who dreams of becoming a stunt woman.
When news of her sister’s engagement turns her world upside down, she embarks on a mission to stop the wedding.
The bond between sisters Ria and Lena Khan (Ritu Arya), is at the heart of this coming-of-age film as the theme of South Asian sisterhood is sure to relate to many viewers.
Bend it Like Beckham
Bend it Like Beckham is a quintessential coming-of-age film for many British Asians as its narrative reflects a lived experience for many British Asians battling a dual identity.
The hit British-Asian film, directed by Gurinder Chadha, tells the story of a young Indian girl Jess (Parminder Nagra) whose dreams of becoming a professional footballer clash with the traditional values of her Indian family.
Not only is the film significant as a cultural phenomenon for British Asians but it also holds great significance for representing women in sports and breaking barriers when it was first released.
The legacy it has as a coming-of-age film, breaking barriers and representing South-Asian women in sports is simply paramount and is worth the watch if you’re looking for an uplifting film.
Wake Up Sid
Wake Up Sid is the perfect coming-of-age film for anyone looking to watch a film that captures the challenges of transitioning from adolescence to adulthood.
It captures a realistic portrayal of young people in contemporary India.
The film tells the story of a reckless, carefree, and wealthy young man, Sid Mehra, (Ranbir Kapoor) as he navigates his potential and purpose in the world.
The coming-of-age flick explores themes of self-discovery, maturity, personal growth, and the path to becoming an adult.
Directed and written by Ayan Mukerji, the film also stars Konkona Sen Sharma who plays an ambitious writer named Aisha and famous Bollywood stars Anupam Kher and Supriya Pathak who plays Sid’s parents.
Rang De Basanti
Rang De Basanti, translated in English as ‘Paint it Saffron’, is a key coming-of-age film that combines elements of friendship, patriotism, social responsibility, and political corruption.
The film follows the story of a group of university students who assist an English woman in making a documentary about the freedom fighter Bhagat Singh and the Indian independence movement of the 1920s and 30s.
In embroiling themselves in the making of the documentary, the students find themselves delving deeper into historical events and embarking on a revolution themselves.
The heartwarming coming-of-age film highlights the power younger generations have in effecting change and is worth the watch.
Anita and Me
Anita and Me is one of the most underrated coming-of-age British Asian films and is based on the novel written by actor and writer, Meera Syal.
The film plunges viewers into the life of a British-Punjabi girl, Meena (Chandeep Upal) whose seemingly ordinary and mundane life is turned upside down when she meets her blonde best friend, Anita (Anna Brewster).
Belonging to the only Punjabi family in Tollington, Meena feels caught between two cultures, a feeling many British Asian youngsters will have experienced growing up in England and Anita is everything she wants to be.
This coming-of-age film captures the sense of belonging and identity many young British Asians have experienced growing up in England.
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is one of the highest-grossing Bollywood films of all time and is the film to watch if you’re looking for a coming-of-age tale of friendship, love, and travel.
The Bollywood film follows the story of four friends, Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor), Avi (Aditya Kapur), Aditi (Kalki Koechlin), and Naina (Deepika Padukone) who embark on travels together on a journey to find themselves as they enter adulthood.
Not only does the film exhibit the spirit of friendship whilst travelling together but it captures the essence of youth culture alongside a healthy dose of romantic tension by capturing a young love story between the leads, Bunny, and Naina.
This film has particularly resonated with young-adult viewers who relate to the film’s exploration of the conflict between the characters’ adolescent aspirations and societal expectations and is worth the watch.
If you’re looking for a coming-of-age film that captures the tumultuous life of a young woman as she navigates love, life, and ambition, then look no further than Dear Zindagi.
The Bollywood coming-of-age film follows the problematic and troubled life of a young cinematographer, Kaira (Alia Bhatt), who upon meeting Dr Jehangir (Shah Rukh Khan), gains a new perspective on life.
In facing the problems in her romantic relationship, the main character Kaira embarks on a tumultuous journey of self-exploration which may resonate with many young viewers.
The film teaches viewers very important lessons about coming to accept the imperfections in life and many other life lessons that are imparted through Kaira’s journey and the wise words of Dr Jehangir.
Like many coming-of-age films, 3 Idiots is a film that captures the essence of friendship and humanity in your youth.
3 Idiots follows the story of old friends, Farhan (Madhavan) and Raju (Sharman Joshi) as they embark on a journey to find their long-lost friend Rancho (Aamir Khan).
However, the film flits between past and present as the friends reflect on their college days with Rancho and recall how he has shaped their lives and outlook on life.
Aamir Khan wows in this film, taking on a role that resonated and inspired viewers when the film was first released as his character battles through the trials and tribulations of a harsh education system and an even harsher world.
Dil Chahta Hai
Dil Chahta Hai is a coming-of-age Bollywood must-watch if you’re looking for a film that combines the power of friendship with age-old romantic tension.
The heartfelt coming-of-age film follows the romantic lives of three inseparable childhood friends, Akash (Aamir Khan), Sameer (Saif Ali Khan), and Siddarth (Akshaye Khanna), all of whom have just left college.
However, the inseparable nature of these characters’ friendship is tested as they embark on their love lives with wildly different approaches.
The film is worth a watch, especially with your college pals as it shows friends overcoming various obstacles in life as they transition from students to adults.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
Coming-of-age friendship movies never go out of style and that is certainly the case with the hit adventure film, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara follows the story of three long-time friends, Kabir (Abhay Deol), Arjun (Hrithik Roshan), and Imraan (Farhaan Atkar) who reunite for a bachelor party road trip across Spain.
On their road trip, the friends learn to reconnect and reform the bond they once had whilst undergoing some important self-realisation.
The film is known for its excellent cinematography and the wonderful portrayal of the bond between three friends and is worth watching with your best friends.
Coming-of-age films offer unique perspectives on the experiences of young people.
That is not to say that these films don’t also offer insight into the joys of youth and the wonderful experiences individuals embark on whilst growing up.
They divulge a variety of themes including identity, sexuality, mental health, relationships, and societal expectations.
These films shine a beacon of representation onto the South Asian coming-of-age experiences across different pockets of the community from British South Asians to those living and growing up in India.