Films are often a reflection of our society but they also hold a mirror to us. It is no wonder then that the good ones go on to show the tragedy and triumph of the human life, thereby influencing all of us in some way. We've handpicked these 20 movies that show the tenacity, passion and undying spirit of its characters which all entrepreneurs can relate to.
Pyaasa (Guru Dutt, 1957)
The film follows the story of a young protagonist who has an undying passion for poetry. He is frowned upon by his brothers, who sell away his poems as waste paper. His poems are quite radical in which he laments about the poor, the destitute, and the arrogance of the rich after the departure of the British from India. It is only after he grows sick of the hypocrisy around him and declares that he is dead, that publishers embrace him and his work becomes famous.
The film's message lies in the protagonist's character and undying passion. His concern for the downtrodden is admirable, especially his love and friendship with a prostitute, who is sympathetic towards him, and assists him in finding a publisher. As the film ends with the protagonist getting all the recognition and publicity he deserved, but him growing disillusioned by the ways of the world, one cannot help but admire how passion and integrity triumphs over success and richness.
Satyakam (Hrishikesh Mukherjee, 1969)
The film is set in the final days of the British Raj in India, as a cohort of engineering students graduate a few months before Independence. The film's protagonist is stubborn and principled. He refuses to compromise when it comes to doing the right thing, and as a result he struggles to cope with the changing times. The film is considered to be Dharmendra's finest acting performance of his career. Director Hrishikesh Mukherjee called ‘Satyakam’ his favourite film. Considering that he has made masterpieces like ‘Anand’, ‘Bawarchi’, ‘Abhimaan’, ‘Chupke Chupke’ and ‘Khoobsurat’, this is a rare feat.
As the film's protagonist moves from one job to another, he rejects all dishonest compromises. He is constantly reminded of his failure, and makes up for it by increasing rigidity about applying his principles in real life. While this leads to the huge number of struggles he faces, we soon associate with the protagonist's flare for rationality and integrity. For an entrepreneur who often faces the same challenges of treading the road less travelled, ‘Satyakam’ is a must watch.
Manthan (Shyam Benegal, 1976)
The film revolves around the story of a vet doctor, who comes to a village with the aim of starting a milk cooperative society for the welfare of the villagers. He receives resistance from a wealthy businessman and the sarpanch of the village. The caste and communal dynamics of the village are also shown. Based on the real life story of Dr Verghese Kurien, the father of the White Revolution in India, the film goes on to show how Amul cooperative was founded.An obvious entry to the list, there is probably no film that explains rural entrepreneurship in a better way. The struggles involved in establishing a rural cooperative, in the backdrop of caste, gender and economic inequality is subtly shown. The helplessness of the film's protagonist is very real, and we rejoice as he goes beyond the accepted norms of business, and works for a setup that benefits the deserving many.
Manzil (Basu Chatterjee, 1979)
The film follows the ambition of an unemployed young man who has dreams of starting his own company. He starts a galvanometer business but the company fails due to competition in the market, eventually burdening him with huge debts. He had proposed marriage to his girlfriend by lying to her, whose father, a lawyer, now sues him for business fraud. The protagonist mends his ways and eventually emerges a winner.
The film teaches us to be ambitious, and follow our dreams, no matter what our economic background and circumstances are. More importantly it teaches us to accept mistakes and failure and learn to move on.
Related read: 11 Indian startups backed by Bollywood celebrities
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (Kundan Shah, 1983)
A dark satire on the rampant corruption in Indian politics, bureaucracy, news media and business, the film revolves around two friends, who are attempting to start their own photo studio. In their first assignment, they are suddenly exposed to shady activists, the corrupt world of Bombay real-estate, political hypocrisy and bureaucratic inaction. They soon get a whiff of a murder, and fight to bring the guilty to light, well, in a humorous way.The film shows everything that can go wrong when one tries to be an entrepreneur, and things don’t work in his favour. Through humour, the film brings out the dark side of India's democratic mercenary. By the end of the film, everyone except the two entrepreneur protagonists is found corrupt. Perhaps the best comedy of errors centred on the idea of starting a business, the film is a must watch for those who haven't. And for those who have, well, weekend is around.
Ek Ruka Hua Faisla (Basu Chatterjee, 1986)
The Hindi remake of Sidney Lumet's ‘12 Angry Men’, the film follows 12 members of a jury who gather in an enclosed room to deliberate their decision on a charge of murder against a young man who has been accused of killing his father. Except the film's protagonist, everyone is convinced of the young man's guilt. The protagonist goes on to convince everyone of the possible innocence of the young man.
The film's greatest triumph is to depict how personal prejudices and biases often affect our decision making. The protagonist's stand against all odds is inspiring and reminds us of the great heroic stories we have always heard – only this time, he seems to be on the wrong side. As the film progresses, we understand subjectivity and learn the importance of conversation and debate in the astonishing human ability of factual decision making.
Ek Doctor Ki Maut (Tapan Sinha, 1990)
The film follows the tragic story of a junior doctor, who discovers a vaccine for leprosy, and the war for recognition that follows. Eventually, two American doctors receive credit for discovering the vaccine. As a final ray of hope, our shattered protagonist receives an invitation from a foreign foundation inviting him to be a part of an eminent group of scientists working on other diseases. He realizes that his research was fruitful, and decides to accept the invitation as he continues to work for the betterment of mankind, and not immediate success or recognition.
The film's primary message is to work for the larger goal and not for immediate perks. The film goes on to make us realize that the world is not always a fair playing ground but it is these few good men, on whose shoulders it stands. Belonging to this small group is greater glory than any recognition can ever bring us.
Lagaan (Ashutosh Gowariker, 2001)
Set in the Victorian era, the film is about the people of a small village who stake their future on a game of cricket against their ruthless British rulers. On one side we see veteran British cricket players, and on the other side are villagers, including the protagonist himself, who have never played the game before.
Cricket takes a back seat in the film, as the plot progresses to teach us to challenge injustice through collective struggle, even in our smallest capacity. The film shows how even the inexperienced, when working for a cause larger than themselves, have the capacity to work in synergy and turn things over.
Swades (Ashutosh Gowariker, 2004)
The film revolves around the issues that development throws up at the grassroot level. The film's protagonist, a bright young scientist working as a project manager in NASA comes to his village, which is heterogeneous, colourful and complex, to find his childhood nanny. The contrast between the highly developed world of NASA, and his world back home in India is seen, and leads to the protagonist's simple yet meaningful quest to generate electricity for his village.The film with its tag-line 'we the people' gives out a strong message that a country's strength lies in its people. Addressing numerous burning issues concerning us today, Swades asks that vital question - 'as responsible and intelligent members of society, what is it that we can do?' The film teaches us to stick to our roots, and work for a better future, a lesson that entrepreneurs must never forget.
Iqbal (Nagesh Kukunoor, 2005)
The film's protagonist - a deaf and mute son of a farmer from a remote village - has a passion for the game of cricket and seeks the tutelage of a washed-up, alcoholic ex-player. The story follows his obsession as he aims to fulfil his dream of playing for the Indian cricket team.
Choosing a career that is already overshadowed by the rich and powerful, the film's protagonist leaves us bewildered as he treads his path with unmatched determination. The film goes on to tell us that heroes are found in the rarest of situations, as our protagonist -- with a strict father, little guidance, poverty ridden background, and physical disability -- goes on to make his dreams come true.
Related Read: 15 Movies That Inspire Entrepreneurship
Corporate (Madhur Bhandarkar, 2006)
The film revolves around two corporate giants who compete in order to recklessly maximize their respective profits, and is based on the 2003 pesticides issue in India, when a Delhi-based non-profit organization published a report finding pesticide levels in cold drinks at levels 30 times that considered safe. The film shows the dirty juncture of business and politics and unveils the games which the men in power play to remain on top, and how it affects the common man.
The only film in this list with a negative message, ‘Corporate’ should be watched to know the dark side of doing business. The film should remind entrepreneurs that all is not well with the corporate sector and why it is important to be ethical, just and honest.
Chak De India (Shimit Amin, 2007)
This sports drama film is about a determined women's field hockey team which wins the world championship against all odds. Through various conflicts, the film explores religious bigotry, the legacy of the Partition of India, ethnic and regional prejudice, and sexism in contemporary India through field hockey.
The film teaches one to go beyond petty differences and work for the larger goal. Team building, planning, coordination, discipline, hard work, strategy, motivation, goal setting, time and stress management are some of the many skills the film subtly teaches us.
Guru (Mani Ratnam, 2007)
Loosely based on the life and times of Dhirubhai Ambani, Guru is probably the most obvious entry in this list. Gurukant Desai is an ambitious middle class boy, who gets married to a rich businessman's daughter, and uses the money he gets as dowry to set up his own cloth business in Mumbai. He pursues success ruthlessly; and smuggles machine parts for his polyester mills, illegally creates goods, and manipulates stocks to make higher profits. The controversial film follows how he uses his skills and ambition to drive this business to creates one of the richest companies in the country.The film is reflective of a man's desire for ambition and success, and how times have changed from the period immediately after the country's independence to the present we live in. As an entrepreneur, Guru is ruthless, manipulative and cunning, but at the same time, he encourages us to believe in our dreams. While the film's protagonist may not teach us about business ethics, it does teach us to be persevering, ambitious and commitment.
3 Idiots (Rajkumar Hirani, 2009)
The coming of age comedy-drama film follows the journey of three friends who question the ways of learning and education in a prestigious engineering college. The film questions the regulated study environment and revolves around the challenges these students face when they try to follow their passion, and learn in an innovative and fun way.
The film is distinctive for featuring real inventions by little known people in India's backyards. The brains behind the innovations were Remya Jose, a student from Kerala, who created the exercise-bicycle/washing-machine; Mohammad Idris, a barber from Meerut district in Uttar Pradesh, who invented a bicycle-powered horse clipper; and Jahangir Painter, a painter from Maharashtra, who made the scooter-powered flour mill. The film questions the idea of students being forced to study in the field their parents want to, in a meaningless routine-bound and regulated way. It also looks beyond classrooms and parents’ expectations and the burdened life students are forced upon. Makes us wonder why so many entrepreneurs were either college drop-outs or bad in academics.
Also read: 10 Bollywood celebrities with social causes
Harishchandrachi Factory (Paresh Mokashi, 2009)
Set in the early 20th century, the film follows the real life story of Dadasaheb Phalke who abandons a well-established printing business and becomes unemployed, struggling for survival. He soon gets introduced to films, and with his hard-working wife and kids by his side, he ventures into a field unknown to his time, and goes on to make India's first feature film, 'Raja Harishchandra', thus becoming the first entrepreneur of the largest film industry of the world today.
Although not exactly a Bollywood film, this Marathi film just couldn't be kept away from the list. In a rare delight where the content and form of a film match to perfection, the humour and light heartedness of the film fits into the character of Mr Phalke like a glove. Following the life of a real entrepreneur, the film shows how the act of film making grips him to the levels of obsession, and how he follows this passion till the very end. It also shows how having a natural foresight and a knack for understanding the future makes a good entrepreneur.
Rocket Singh: Salesman Of The Year (Shimit Amin, 2009)
After obtaining just 39% marks in graduation, Harpreet Singh, who lives with his grandfather, gets employed with AYS Computers as a salesman. He is shunned and mocked by his superiors and colleagues, and soon finds that honesty is not the best policy. He bootstraps his own parallel sales company using his company resources and partners with four other employees from the firm, leading to the creation of a fictitious organization - 'Rocket Sales Corporation'. An entrepreneur is born.Rocket Singh is another obvious entry into this list. One of the most important lessons the film teaches is that success is not dictated by academic excellence. The protagonist's hunger for risks, ability to pick the right people for his team, and his value for his customers is inspiring. The film also teaches us to take failure and unfair remarks, and let our actions do the talking. The film shows that the most inspiring leaders are the most humble ones, and are born in the most unusual circumstances.
Band Baaja Baraat (Maneesh Sharma, 2010)
The film revolves around a girl and a boy, two fresh college graduates who don't know each other, and team up to start a wedding planning business. Although the film's foreground is a love story, the struggles and delusions a startup faces are shown beautifully in the narrative.
The most important message of the film is that entrepreneurs should know how to separate their personal and professional life. The film talks about passion being more important than qualification, and more importantly teaches us to be a team player. Knowing ones customer, business ethics, dreaming big, not bothering about competition, and treating vendors as partners are some other important lessons entrepreneurs can learn from this film.
Badmaash Company (Parmeet Sethi, 2010)
Set in the middle class dynamics of the 90s, the film revolves around four young friends who graduate from college and start a business together. Using unorthodox methods, they proceed to make large fortunes by smuggling expensive foreign goods and avoiding the import duty on them.
The entrepreneurs in the film are cunning, over-ambitious and often funny. It shows how entrepreneurs find their niche market and go on to exploit it. Although the film gives important moral lessons on business principles, the film also raises vital questions of ethical versus unethical in a light hearted manner. The film reminds us of the days when a typical Bollywood villain was a smuggler, which became extinct after ‘smuggling’ became legal post India’s economic liberalization.
The Dirty Picture (Milan Luthria, 2011)
The film follows the journey of an average middle-class girl who wants to become an actor. She runs away to Madras, and like hundreds of other young women, lines up outside studios to try and get noticed. With her plain, next-door-girl looks, she gets ignored but as fate could have it she is given a chance to play a minor role after she manages to sneak into the studios. The amount of effort she puts in her meager side role makes her an overnight sensation.
The biographical drama film is inspired by the life of Silk Smitha, a South Indian actress noted for her erotic roles. One cannot help but notice her passion, even in the smallest things she does. Playing the role of a dancer behind the stars, she overshadows them all and rises to fame. The lesson entrepreneurs must learn for the film is simple even if you are doing the smallest thing do it with passion and give it your best shot.
Special 26 (Neeraj Pandey, 2013)
The film follows the story of a real life group of con artists who pull off many clever robberies during 1980s, and rob famous businessmen and politicians. The group's modus operandi is to pretend to be CBI or Income tax officers on a raid. By intimidating their victims, they make off with black money hoarded away. Of course, the fear of a bad reputation ensures that these victims never file FIRs against the group.Although the comparison between Robin Hood and entrepreneurs is not new, the film stands out simply because of the domain knowledge these con artists possess. Their team work and foresight is also commendable - something entrepreneurs can learn from.
What do you think? Which are the films an entrepreneur must watch? Do add your favorites in the comment section.
- Indian films
- Guru Dutt
- Badmaash Company
- Harishchandrachi Factory
- Ek Doctor Ki Maut
- Ek Ruka Hua Faisla
- Dadasaheb Phalke
- Chak De India
- Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro
- Verghese Kurien
- Sidney Lumet
- Hrishikesh Mukherjee
- Silk Smitha
- Mani Ratnam