One would be lying to themselves if they said that Bollywood has had no impact on their lives. The movies big and small have played a major role in showing us the realities of our times or to help us imagine the way our cities are shaping. The fact that architecture and films deal with the visual communication of things is what makes films and architecture so close to each other. Unlike reality, architecture and cinema have the ability to take audiences away from reality and films are a great medium for architects to learn this from. While watching a film we are engaging most of our senses and hence although we see a 3-D space in 2-D we tend to visualize that space better. 

The following is a list of films that architects must watch based on how they have managed to show Indian cities and how they have shown the power of architectural space intertwine the stories they say. The architecture in films is extremely important as they help us understand where the story is taking place and the context of the story. It is impossible for films to be placed in a void. 

1. Pather Panchali (1955) Dir. Satyajit Ray

Words would never do justice to this timeless class of Satyajit Ray. Pather Panchali is the first movie of the Apu Trilogy. Apart from the incredible story of Apu, the story tells the struggle of a villager in taking up his aspirations. The film is immensely popular for the fact that despite the low budget to make the movie, the film accomplished to tell the story so beautifully.

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Pather Panchali ©IMDb

2. In Which Annie gives it those ones (1989) Dir. Pradip Krishen

We have all heard stories of seniors failing to complete the architecture course. Annie or Anand is a boy who has been failing the final year of architecture for 4 years now. The story revolves around the scenes of a typical architecture institution where they discuss projects of urban nexus, housing and urbanization. Written by the renowned booker prize winner, Arundhati Roy. This film also received the national award for best film in a foreign language. The film gives a nice nostalgia trip to those who have finished their college and for those who haven’t seen what an architecture/ design college works, this movie certainly is a glimpse of that.

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In which Annie gives it to those ones ©AA Conversations

3. Do Bigha Zameen (1953) Dir. Bimal Roy

Do Bigha Zameen is a classic example of a movie that talks about urbanization. The film is directed by Bimal Roy. This movie talks about a man and his quest to save his land from the ‘Zameendar’ from buying his land to build a mill. The film is very appropriate for the time it has been made as there was a drastic shift in the development of the village. The transitions between the city and the village have been shown beautifully in this movie. The movie also shows the struggles of the protagonist to make ends meet as he moves to the city.   

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Do Bigha Zameen ©Wikipedia

4. Swades (2004) Dir. Ashutosh Gowarikar

The story of Mohan, a project manager at Nasa who comes back to India to take his nanny who took care of him called Kaveri Amma back to the United States with him. The story starts with Mohan trying to find Kaveri Amma and persuading her to leave India and lead a better life with Mohan in the U.S. travels through the canvas of Indian Villages. The story shows the village of Menawali in Maharashtra as a village in Uttar Pradesh in the story. The story deals with a lot of landscape around the village and the functions of the village. We get to see the various problems the village faces, the issue of electricity and the lack of certain resources. The house in which Kaveri Amma and Mohan live in India is shown to be a beautiful vernacular house with a courtyard. The various houses shown in the movie show distinct characters according to the story narrated. This is a nice film to watch for architects to reflect on the varied landscape and functions of villages in India.

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Swades ©Cinestaan

5. Padmavati (2018) Dir. Sanjay Leela Bansali

Sanjay Leela Bansali, known to be a master of sets in most of his previous movies, seems to have perfected the art of set design in this movie. The set design done by Siddhart Tatoskar for this movie is truly lifelike and well detailed. The camera angles and movements enhance the level of detailing and the beauty of the story. The film is a reflection of the Maratha style palaces. Although a lot of period films manage to build sets to reflect the palaces and their grandeur. The sets in this movie have been found to be well detailed and beautiful.

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Padmavati ©Business Standard

6. Khosla ka ghosla ( 2006) Dir. Dibakar Banerjee

A lot of people may not agree with being a movie architect must watch, however, this is a movie about a land dispute between two individuals. The comic takes on the issue of real estate and is something to make us laugh about. The movie is not very architectural in the sense of aesthetics and ‘beautiful’ sets but this movie will certainly give the viewers a good laugh about the real estate issues from back in 2006.

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Khosla ka ghosla ©mad about

7. Bahubali (2015) S.S. Rajamouli

India’s most popular movie and the highest-grossing movie is not the reason for architects to watch this movie. The graphical representation and use of VFX and tools as the design has made this beautiful image of the city the story takes place. Usually, a lot of Indian movies do not play with VFX and graphics as somehow they miss the note, however, Bahubali has proven the strength of Indian creators, and the sense of graphic designs and animation almost creates the kingdom in which the story is taking place.

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Bahubali ©YouTube

8. Gully Boy (2019) Dir. Zoya Akhtar

One may find this to be not architectural in nature, however, the cinematography and the way the movie progresses plays an incredible dialogue with the story. The story of Indian underground hip hop and a story of rags to riches is shown incredibly by the cinematographer where we see Murad from the slums and then we see the dynamics of the cityscape throughout the movie. Even between Murad and Saffina (his love interest), we find that even though both of them are poorer, there is a slight difference where Saffina seems to be better off as shown in the scene below.

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Gully Boy ©YouTube

9. The Namesake (2005) Dir. Mira Nair

Namesake is a movie about moving continents. The movie is seen from the eyes of Gogol Gangul. Based on the award-winning book “The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahari, this movie shifts from Kolkata to the USA and back to Kolkata, and along the way we find Gogol to take up architecture. The story talks about the cultural differences in India and the west and how one aspires to go to the west. The story shows the timelessness of Indian households and the ever-growing and evolving cities of the USA. The story is a breeze to watch and although the architecture isn’t distinctive the back and forth adds a lot of the economic and urban issues of these cities.

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The Namesake ©Pinterest

10. Wake Up sid! (2009) Dir. Ayaan Mukharjee

This movie is undoubtedly known to be an ode to the city of dreams, Mumbai. The movie shows a young boy trying to find his career and in the midst of a personal crisis as he walks out of his rich dad’s business. ‘Wake up sid!’, has been a movie to show the artistic nature of the urban city of Mumbai. The movie is a good watch to see the characters walking through the city, hustle, and bustle. The fact that a movie can pay tribute to a city or place is captured beautifully throughout this movie. Also, one can also never ignore the fact that we would always love to have a house like that of Aisha’s. 

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Wake up Sid! ©iDiva

These are the top 10 movies I would recommend for any architect to watch. I’m sure there are many more movies but if one has to ever start, these would be a nice way to begin your movie watching endeavors with an architect’s perspective. 


Sreenidhi is a young architect learning to combine the knowledge of architecture with writing. She is a pass out from Institute of Architecture and Planning, Nirma University and has varied interests in the field of Architecture. Her primary interests revolve around sustainable design techniques and the relationship between cinema and architecture.

1 Comment

  1. Padmavat didn’t have Maratha type palaces but Rajput architecture depicted through its sets.

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