Somewhat surprisingly, India (and Ancient India for that matter) isn’t a particularly common setting for international entertainment. Perhaps in part, because Bollywood and related entertainment thrives on its own, we don’t tend to see a huge selection of internationally produced films, shows, or games set in the country. Examples do accumulate gradually over the years, however, to the point that by now there may be a few more than some people realize.
Best International Pop Culture Set in India
This is our look at some of the best international entertainment set in India, or India of the past.
There has long been a debate about the version of India portrayed in Slumdog Millionaire. Basically, there are inaccuracies, if not in a factual sense then in a tonal one. Depicting Mumbai slums in an almost fairy tale-like manner, for instance, didn’t make everyone happy. That said, the film did expose many parts of India to an international audience and also used a cast largely of Indian actors or those of Indian descent. It is the only film to do these things and also win an Academy Award, and for that, it needs to be mentioned as perhaps the defining internationally produced piece of pop culture about India of the century so far. On top of everything else, it’s a very creative and enjoyable film.
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles
The Assassin’s Creed video game series if famous for trotting not just around the world but through time to different chapters of human history. For instance, the franchise’s last major title took it to ancient Egypt, and a new game released this month tackles classical Greece. The series also has smaller sub-games along the way, such as the Assassin’s Creed Chronicles series, which did pay a visit to India. Specifically, the games visited mid-19th century India and a war between the Sikh Empire and the East India Company. Naturally, it’s all more than a little sensationalized, but the picture of the country at that time is actually quite vivid.
Lion is another major film and in fact, another one that stars Dev Patel (who had his breakthrough in Slumdog Millionaire). A site comparing history and Hollywood demonstrated that it actually tells a fairly accurate tale of a young Indian boy who gets separated from his family and winds up so lost that he is put into a sort of orphanage and then foster care. Ultimately adopted and taken to Australia, he dedicates his young adult years to find his family. The film is split between India and Australia, but gives arguably a more accurate picture of the country than Slumdog Millionaire, depicting everything from rural slums to beautiful country to crowded cities.
Rich Wilde & The Pearls Of India
This is another video game and a fair simpler one than Assassin’s Creed Chronicles. But a site showing off the best games in this popular genre – that of casino-style slot gaming – does include Rich Wilde & The Pearls Of India on its front page. The game follows a fictional explorer on a journey into what appears to largely be a fictional land. However, in a very vague sense, it does speak to some of the more mysterious histories, deep jungles, and historic structures of the country.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a sort of happy-go-lucky film, but in a sense, it may actually be the best example of pop culture on this list for international travelers considering India. That’s because it’s actually about a group of retired British people traveling to India to stay in what they believe is a luxury hotel. They wind up initially unimpressed with the hotel but charmed more than anything else by some of the culture of the surrounding area (and the underlying charms of the venue). As you may guess, Mr. Patel stars again!
To mention one more gaming example, Sid Meier’s famous Civilization series shouldn’t be forgotten. Over the years this series of global conquest strategy games have grown more and more sophisticated, and in doing so it has strived to show civilizations accurately. As a result, India and every other mainstay in the Civilization games are represented quite faithfully in terms of geography, natural resources, and even cultural, military, and religious tendencies.