Search these out on DVD online at Netflix or IndoFilms.com. If you have an Indian store in your area, be sure to ask for the “original” (that is, nonpirated) version and insist on subtitles. For a list of Indian stores and theaters across the U.S., check the yellow pages listings at Sulekha.com.
1. “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” (“Something Happens!”), 1998 Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol and Rani Mukherjee in a love triangle with genuine heart. The theme song is so catchy that it’s become Malaysia’s unofficial national anthem. Go figure.
2. “Zubeidaa,” 2001 Based on the true story of an extraordinary young Muslim woman who defied tradition to marry a Hindu prince in the 1930s, this film earned honors for its star Karisma Kapoor and supporting actress Rekha. Gorgeous period music and costumes.
3. “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham” (“Sometimes Happy, Sometimes Sad”), 2001 Unflinching melodrama and lavish dance numbers from one of the most powerful star casts in recent memory: Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan, Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol and Kareena Kapoor. A few truly awful moments, but some glorious dancing makes up for them. Ask for it by its nickname, “K3G.”
4. “Dil Se” (“From the Heart”), 1998 Manisha Koirala is a suicide bomber and Shah Rukh Khan is an intrigued journalist. It’s not as outlandish as it sounds, though; stirring music and dance sequences are perfectly captured by master cinematographer Santosh Sivan (director of “The Terrorist”). Directed by Mani Ratnam.
5. “Asoka,” 2001 After “The Terrorist,” a critic’s darling and festival favorite, Santosh Sivan decided to try his hand at Bollywood fare. This film, based on the life of India’s first Buddhist king, makes a powerful statement on nonviolence. Oh, and Kareena Kapoor looks great in a wet sari, too.
6. “Devdas,” 2002 Shah Rukh Khan chews up some lavish scenery as the doomed, alcoholic lover Devdas, whose family forbids his love affair with Paro (a luminous Aishwarya Rai).
7. “Mughal-e-Azam,” 1960 This tale of a Moghul prince and his love affair with the beautiful slave girl Anarkali is expressed beautifully with poetic Urdu dialogue and enhanced by Naushad Ali’s classically inspired songs. A tragic gem.
8. “Kaho Na Pyar Hai” (“Tell Me You Love Me”), 2001 The mass hysteria that surrounded the debut of muscular actor Hrithik Roshan was a pop-culture phenomenon. When you see him dance to “Ek pal ka jeena,” you’ll understand why.
9. “Awara” (“The Tramp”), 1951 Raj Kapoor’s touching portrayal of a Chaplinesque figure who turns against his family is set to memorable, bittersweet songs that remain classics today.
10. “Lagaan” (“Land Tax”), 2001 Aamir Khan is a proud villager who stands up against the British in this Academy Award-nominated film. This one’s also at Blockbuster.