These are the best Indian shows on Netflix to add to your to-watch list.
Bollywood and South Asian movies have been known all around the world for their vibrant storylines, romances and dramatic family moments, and unique scenarios that lean into the tropes of the subcontinent, but Indian television is highly underrated. While North American and English television has been increasing the number of Desi characters who are protagonists, South Asian entertainment continues to innovate and receive more accolades year after year. With the 2023 win of RRR, a South Indian movie, at the Golden Globes and the continued success of Bollywood, it seems like the world is ready to embrace Indian entertainment.
Hindi-language shows have been a staple in India for many years now, but streaming platforms have given creators and writers a new platform to test their content for a wider audience. Netflix, for example, has been tapping into the potential the region has to create original content that not only is high quality, but also very entertaining and compelling. That said, these are the best Indian shows you can watch on Netflix right now.
Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian and non-white person to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, is one of the most celebrated writers in contemporary Indian history. His stories are the pride of Bengali literature, and when he was alive during the early-1900s, he was one of the most celebrated writers on the planet. In 2015, Stories by Rabindranath Tagore, which was produced in Hindi, not Tagore’s native Bangla, sought to adapt several of Tagore’s short stories and novellas for the screen. Two to three episodes were dedicated to one story each, set in the city of Kolkata in West Bengal, with original music and a soundtrack composed for the series. Stories by Rabindranath Tagore is a blast from the past with its old school charm of Bengali life during the early 1900s, as well as the classic stories of Tagore.
Bombay Begums was created by Netflix to be a web series in 2021, and was created by Alankrita Shrivastava, who is well-known for her film Lipstick Under my Burkha. The television series focuses on the lives of five women living in Mumbai, all of whom come from very different walks of life. There is a commonality between them though: they are ambitious and chasing after their dreams. Each of their stories tells a different aspect of life in modern urban India, but also from the perspective of women just trying to survive and make it in these situations. The series was slightly controversial upon its release due to its themes and topics.
Released in March 2020, She features the strong woman lead. Bhumika Pardeshi is a constable in the Indian Police Force, and, at the start of the series, she joins the Anti Narcotics Group. She comes from a poor background, and while she has to pose as a sex worker in Mumbai as a part of her job now to catch a drug lord, at home her husband is an alcoholic. She wants to get a divorce and is in the process of doing so, but at the same time, she has to support her family members because she is the only one bringing an income home. The show was renewed for a second season, which was released in 2022.
The miniseries Ghoul was the second Netflix Original from India and is set in a distant future. Fascism is commonplace in this future, and the protagonist, Nida, has just been recruited to help aid the government. She is a loyal soldier in the eyes of those in power, and she believes she would do anything to protect the leadership. But when she is assigned to interrogate one of the country’s biggest terrorists, Ali Saeed, she realizes he isn’t human. What happens next places Ghoul in the realm of horror and supernatural shows, but with a twist due to the political undertones of the show. The show was inspired by actual torture and events that happened in the wake of 9/11, such as the situation in Kashmir.
A romantic comedy, Little Things originally was released on YouTube. After the success of the first season on the platform, Netflix bought out the franchise and produced three more seasons, wrapping up Little Things after four seasons. Dhruv Sehgal, who also created the series, and Mithila Palkar star as two young people living in Mumbai. They are a couple who live together, and many of the show’s episodes explore the anxieties and everyday experiences they face. The show cycles through many different crises, ranging from social media and the fear of not doing enough, as well as what it means to be a young adult trying to pave a career for themself. With how few characters and the time constraint of working with five to ten episodes in a single season, Little Things relies on its performances and simplicity to stand out.
Leila was adapted from a novel of the same name by the Indian author and journalist Prayaag Akbar. The novel, which was successful with critics, won several awards in its native country. In Leila, it is the 2040s, and the nation the story is set in has deep segregation built into its architecture and society. Shalini and her husband live well with their daughter, Leila, but one day, after swimming in their pool, rogues attack them, killing Shalini’s husband and taking Shalini with them. Now forced to live in a re-education center, a new law passes that takes away mixed-race kids. Because her husband was Muslim, Shalini begins to live in fear for her daughter and decides to take matters into her hands.
Kota Factory, which is named after the city of Kota, finds its protagonist in Vaibhav. He has just moved to Khota and enrolls in school there, despite it being in the middle of the academic year, and is told he will be put into a certain class rank: A10, the last batch of Prodigy classes. In the city of Kota, education is a priority, and coaching centers are commonplace. After trying to resist his original placement, Vaibhav studies hard and experiences life in a competitive academic environment. His goal is to get into one of the top universities in the country, but, as seen by his experiences and the other students attending his school, getting there will not be easy at all. A third season is currently being developed for Kota Factory.
Masaba Masaba has had two seasons so far and has the mother Neena Gupta and her daughter Masaba Gupta portraying themselves. The show is written by Sonam Nair and Nandini Gupta, among others, making this a potentially intimate but fictionalized look into the lives of Neena and Masaba, who is a fashion designer in India. The story is highly scripted and dramatic for the intent of being a show, not a complete biopic, and it shows from the scenarios the two go through. Masaba navigates her love life throughout the series, and the everyday struggles of mundane existence while being a designer.
Canadian director Richie Mehta came up with Delhi Crime, which is based on the 2012 Delhi gang rape, where a young woman was fatally assaulted, in the first season. The show’s second season focuses more on the underground gangs that exist in India. However, in the first season, the story tracks the tragic crime that happened in Delhi and the aftermath. The police investigation into what happened is focused on throughout the episodes, as well as the search for the perpetrators of the crime. In season 2, the police are trying to uncover the truth behind murders happening in the area.
Sacred Games was Netflix’s first original series out of India, and it was based on a novel by Vikram Chandra. The crime thriller, which heavily leans into neo-noir territory, focuses on a police officer in Mumbai who resents his job because of the sheer amount of corruption he has witnessed during his time in the force. One day, he receives a call from a missing gangster that says he has only 25 days to save the entire city. It is now up to this one disillusioned officer to try and get all the pieces of the puzzle together before it is too late, and the violent underworld rises to seize the day.
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