In the latest edition of our Home Theatre series, we look at Indian movies about the demographic most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus pandemic: the elderly.

Many of them have succumbed to Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Others are trapped in their homes, unable to move around for fear of getting sick or because they are too feeble to manage on their own. Our list of 12 films is dedicated to the silver-haired generation, because of whom we exist, and who deserve our love and empathy at this terrible moment in our history.

In keeping with the spirit of the series, there are feelgood films as well as feelbad ones, adorable grandpas and grannies alongside cussed older specimens – as rich and varied as life itself.

Sandhya Raagam

Sandhya Raagam (1989) has all the hallmarks of the Balu Mahendra movie: intimate camerawork (by Mahendra himself, and in black and white), naturalistic acting, and an evocative sense of a time and a place. Chokkalinga Bhagavathar brilliantly plays an old man who moves to Chennai from his village after the death of his wife. His host is his impecunious nephew, who has a pregnant wife and a daughter. Although the old man makes himself useful, he ends up becoming a burden on the family.

There is no judgement in this portrait of a twilight existence and the pressures of urban living, only the sad realisation that elders in India have to fend for themselves.

Where to watch: A non-subtitled print is out on YouTube.

Sandhya Raagam (1989).

Also read:

Home theatre: Before that aerial video, these films captured Mumbai’s love for movement and activity


Marathi acting great Mohan Agashe plays a Sanskrit professor with Alzheimer’s disease in Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukhtankar’s deeply affecting film. The professor loses his bearings after he pursues a pet elephant on the street, causing his distraught daughter (Irawati Harshe) to comb the streets and old age homes of Pune in pursuit. The working-class elephant owners care for the old man and prove that empathy is often found in unusual places.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video.

Astu (2016).

Also read:

How Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar have kept their directorial partnership going for 30 years


Satyajit Ray’s diamond-sharp study of fading aristocracy centres on a stunning performance by Chhabi Biswas. He plays the aging Bishwambar Roy, a near-bankrupt but fully imperious landlord whose determination to maintain his pride leads to a grand folly with tragic consequences.

Folded into Jalsaghar (1958) is a commentary on the patronage of the classical arts by the landed elite. Bishwambar insists on hosting singers and dancers in his crumbling mansion’s music room even though he can barely afford to. His upstart neighbour can ladle out the cash, but doesn’t have the eye or ear to fully appreciate the splendours of kathak or the nuances of Hindustani classical singing. The nouveau riche can help these delicate art forms survive, but only the connoisseur can lend them vitality, the movie suggests.

The opening music, which warns of the impending storm, is by Vilayat Khan, and Begum Akhtar, Waheed Khan and Roshan Kumari are among the classical greats who ensure authenticity and beauty on the soundtrack.

Where to watch: Hoichoi, Airtel Xstream.

Jalsaghar (1958).


In Madhumita Sundaraman’s moving comedy-laced drama, a bewhiskered gent runs away from his family when he learns of their greedy ways. The 80-year-old Karuppu Durai (Mu Ramasamy) takes the help of eight-year-old orphan Kutty (Nagavishal) in fulfilling his bucket list (it includes dressing up like the Tamil movie star MG Ramachandran and reconnecting with his childhood sweetheart). Their feelgood journey folds in many truths about the needs and desires of the elderly and the inevitability of death.

Where to watch: Netflix.

KD (2019).

Also read:

‘KD’ movie review: An 80-year-old man and an eight-year-old boy go on a life-altering adventure

Victoria No 203

The 1972 movie has younger actors – Naveen Nischol, and Saira Banu, the latter drowned in soft lighting – but the scene-stealers are two veterans. Ashok Kumar and Pran rustle up a delightful bromance in Brij’s fast-paced caper Victoria No 203. Raja (Kumar) and Rana (Pran) are bumbling career criminals who stumble up on big game – a stash of diamonds hidden somewhere in a horse-drawn cart in Mumbai. The anything-goes plot is filled with convenient contrivances, and most of the throwaway humour is supplied by Ashok Kumar and Pran, who turn out to be softies despite their mercenary ways.

Where to watch: Click on this YouTube link.

36 Chowringhee Lane

Aparna Sen’s stunning debut from 1982 stars Jennifer Kendal as Violet Stoneham, a single Anglo-Indian teacher counting down the days in Kolkata. William Shakespeare and her cat, Sir Toby, prove to be more dependable than her former student and her boyfriend, who use her apartment for their dates but turn out to be ingrates.

Where to watch: YouTube.

36 Chowringhee Lane (1982).

Also read:

‘36 Chowringhee Lane’: The movie where it all began for Aparna Sen


Bengali acting legend Soumitra Chatterjee has played his share of silver-haired gentlemen facing the difficulties of old age. Among Chatterjee’s recent successes is Bela Seshe (2015), in which his character decides to divorce his wife of 49 years. In Tapan Sinha’s Atanka (1986), Chatterjee is Sudhanshu, a teacher who witnesses a murder committed by one of his former pupils. The student terrorises the teacher and his family to prevent him from approaching the police, and the old man is torn between fear and moral duty.

Sudhanshu’s travails represent the problems of Kolkata’s middle class in the 1980s. The lessons of a just and equitable society have been forgotten, political violence lurks at street corners, and the words of poets and intellectuals ring hollow.

Where to watch: YouTube.

Atanka (1986).


Before Atanka, Mahesh Bhatt’s Saaransh (1984) examined the attempts of a Gandhian school principal to make sense of a world in which amorality and violence have replaced decency and calm.

Gutted by the death of his son, Pradhan (Anupam Kher) and his wife Parvati (Rohini Hattangadi) decide to kill themselves. Divine intervention arrives in the form of their tenant Sujata (Soni Razdan), who is pregnant with the child of the son of a thuggish politician. Age is merely a number for Anupam Kher, who convincingly plays an old man with an upright spine.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video, Airtel Xstream.

Saaransh (1984).

Also read:

‘Saaransh’ revisited: ‘The ‘watershed’ that set Anupam Kher on the road to success


Shyam Benegal’s Mammo (1994) is part of a triptych of movies written for the director by Khalid Mohamed. Mammo was followed by Sardari Begum (1996) and Zubeidaa (2001). All the films explores the lives of Muslim women who venture beyond the social restrictions placed on them.

In Mammo, Farida Jalal is perfectly cast as the feisty woman who refuses to let her circumstances curb her enthusiasm. The Partition marks and mars Mammo’s life – she migrated to Pakistan with her husband after independence but returned to her sister Fayyuzi (Surekha Sikri) in Mumbai after his death. Mammo has a temporary visa on which she gets repeated extensions because of a kindly police inspector. When he is transferred, she is deported to a country she doesn’t recognise as her own. Mammo, however, is unputdownable, giving the younger generation lessons in survival, resistance and hope.

Where to watch: Cinemas of India.

Mammo (1994).

Bhuvan Shome

Uptal Dutt is a delight in Mrinal Sen’s 1969 movie. Dutt plays the titular character, a crusty Indian Railways officer in his fifties who is softened by Gouri (Suhasini Mulay), whom he meets during a hunting expedition. Bhuvan is transformed by Gouri’s innocence, the abundance of nature, and the possibility of new beginnings, whatever a person’s age.

Where to watch: YouTube.

Bhuvan Shome (1969).

Also read:

Mrinal Sen on his acclaimed film ‘Bhuvan Shome’: A ‘burlesque and inspired nonsense’


Saeed Mirza’s elegy to secularism is set during the run-up to the destruction of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, by Hindutva mobs. The film is named after its teenaged protagonist (Mayuri Kango), but the most memorable character is her bed-ridden grandfather, played by acclaimed Urdu poet and lyricist Kaifi Azmi. He personifies the value system that was destroyed along with the mosque and represents the end of a whole way of life.

Azmi wrote some of Hindi cinema’s most famous songs, and Naseem was his only film role. It remains one of the sharpest casting decisions ever made in Indian cinema.

Where to watch: Cinemas of India.

Naseem (1995).

Ankhon Dekhi

Another stubborn old man, this time one who decides that he will believe only what he sees with his own eyes. Sanjay Mishra is Bauji, who develops a philosophical bent in the autumn of his life that threatens his ties with his immediate family and his younger brother. Rajat Kapoor’s 2014 movie is packed with clearly etched characters and solid performances. Another character is the Old Delhi neighbourhood, whose winding pathways and wisened ways allow Bauji’s dreams to take flight.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video.

Ankhon Dekhi (2014).