Five Indian movies on substance abuse

The world of psychedelics through Indian cinematic lens


March 20, 2019

/ By / New Delhi

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With a lot of movies based on the theme of substance abuse, here is a list of some of the Indian films that showcased not just the social and political aspect of psychedelics, but the perspective and psyche of the person involved.

The psychedelic staircase paving the way to the realms of metaphysical cosmos and otherworldly trance has always fascinated a lot of members of the human race. Be it poetry, prose, music, theatre, paintings or other art forms, the mysterious yet alluring universe of drugs has always managed to make its presence felt and cinema is no different.

Some of the great cinematic pieces crafted in  Hollywood like Less Than Zero, Trainspotting, The Basket Ball Diaries, American Psycho and Pure among others have had touched upon the topic and won the audience, in the past. The Indian film industry began its experimentation with this particular genre from the ’70s and since then has presented the world with some of the finest performances through the frame of the silver screen.

Though a lot of Indian movies have brushed around the topic, they have had analysed the genre via the lens of crime stories, suspense thrillers, drama and comedy.  Charas (1976), Janbaaz (1986), Dum Maro Dum (2011), Go Goa Gone (2013), being the perfect examples. In such a scenario, some of the Indian cinematic productions scrutinising the topic through the point of view of the person surviving this “high” world and presenting before the world their psyche and experiences are worth mentioning. Here is a list of five Indian movies that lent audiences the shoes of those trapped in the bizarre yet frenetic world of drugs.

Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971)

Hare Rama Hare Krishna released in 1971 is the first Indian movie on drug abuse

The cult classic of the ’70s, Hare Rama Hare Krishna is the story of a girl from a broken family who sought refuge in the world of narcotics. Fighting the past of a disturbed childhood, loneliness and agonies of life, the colourful world of hippies seemed to be a sweet release to her. Set up in the backdrop of Kathmandu, the movie was first of its kind in India. Soon the track Dum Maro Dum became the youth anthem. The title of the movie wittingly makes a subtle hint towards the International Hare Krishna Movement of the ’70s that fascinated a lot of hippies. The analogy between the bliss of devotion to Lord Krishna and the ecstasy of LSD as suggested by some, who had experienced both, is quite interesting.

Dev D (2009)


Dev D presents alcohol and drug abuse from the point of view of a heartbroken lover

This modern adaptation of Sharad Chandra Chattopadhyay’s famous novel, Devdas, by Anurag Kashyap takes a deep plunge into the dark frenetic world of alcohol and drugs from the point of view of a hopeless and heartbroken lover. The movie inevitably revolutionised the way drug and alcohol abuse is perceived by the Indian audience.



Pankh (2010)


Pankh is the story of a young boy masquerading as a girl by his mother to bag roles

Story of a young boy masqueraded as a girl by his mother for getting roles, Pankh is an unusual and bizarre cinematic creation that touches upon a number of themes such as drug abuse, gender identity, oedipal issues, imaginary friends and loneliness, to name a few. The psychologically scarred protagonist living most of his life under the influence of drugs happens to have just three friends; two turtles and an imaginary girl. The movie though not appreciated much by the masses has been applauded for the courageous portrayal of such a sensitive issue.


Shaitan (2011)


Shaitan is a story of five filthy rich friends whose lives revolve around drugs, sex and parties

Brilliantly cinematographed, the storyline of Shaitan revolves around a group of five friends who happen to be filthy rich spoilt brats. Caught up in the world of drugs, sex and parties the movie takes an interesting turn when they commit a crime accidentally, succumbing to the power of narcotics. The movie bagged a lot of appreciation for a creative and intriguing portrayal of drug menace and its consequences.


Udta Punjab (2016)


Udta Punjab gives a gut-wrenching peek into the havoc caused by drug menace in Punjab

The latest film to be added to the list is Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab. The movie gives a peek into the frightening dystopia that has taken over the land of five rivers. This gut-wrenching portrayal of the drug menace talks about various aspects ranging from the mafia to rehabilitation and of course, the dark platter it brings before the sufferers.



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