Bollywood’s usual recipe for commercial success is simple: add multiple stars in a weak story, get them to do some extraordinary stunts and finally spice things up a bit with item numbers featuring Sunny Leone and Yo Yo Honey Singh. What you’ll get is a box office record-breaker. Depressing, but true.

More and more filmmakers in Bollywood today are leaning towards this mainstream formula for success. As a result, some of the better offbeat movies that are released go down the sinkhole, unnoticed by the audience at large.

But even in these seemingly hopeless times, there are some rare brave souls in Bollywood who haven’t given up and are constantly making an effort to raise the bar. Here are 12 offbeat movies that have done that.

1. Udaan

Kids are generally forced by society to take the conventional path in their careers — engineering or medicine.

However, children in this age, are not surrendering to societal norms and are working towards their dreams. But, as we know, no matter how certain and passionate the kids are, some parents are just extremely hard to please.

The movie explores the reality that some dreams need to be fought for, even if its with your own family.

In the film, Rohan is expelled from his boarding school and is left with no other option than to return home to his strict and uncompromising father and a 6-year-old half brother. Rohan loves writing and telling stories. But his tough-nut father forces him to take engineering classes instead. This discord in understanding soon evolves into serious enmity.

Unable to bear his insensitive father’s principles, Rohan decides to fight back and then ultimately flee from the stringent clutches of his father and follow his dream to be a writer.

2. Mumbai Meri Jaan

Many films have explored the traumatic details of a terrorist attack. How the bombs explode, how people bathe in blood and wail in helplessness. What we never had was a film that reflected the impact of an ambushed city on its everyday people. Do they just wake up the next morning and go to their jobs pretending that’s everything’s fine?

Mumbai Meri Jaan explores this grim picture, of paranoia, fear, doubt and powerlessness. The film shows the distorted state of Mumbai after a series of bombs explode in train stations throughout the city.

Rupali, a news reporter, is coping with the death of her fiance. Meanwhile, Suresh is struggling with his financial woes and has become a paranoid, overly suspecting all Muslims. Sunil, a policeman working on the case, is frustrated by the state of corruption that’s crippling the entire system.

3. Stanley Ka Dabba

Getting children to act is always a huge task for filmmakers. Their attention spans are short, their curiosity is often overwhelming. But for someone like Amol Gupte, the director of the film, it’s an innate passion.

The film is about a talented kid named Stanley who is famous among his peers and teachers for his impressive creative skills and wit. His only problem? A ravenous Hindi teacher who forcefully eats his student’s food and Stanely, being the one who never brings his own food, faces his wrath and is forbidden from entering his class.

But wait, why doesn’t Stanley bring his own dabba? A question that will keep you hooked on the movie till the end.

4. Khosla Ka Ghosla

We’ve all watched movies that revolve around drug mafias and gangsters. Most of them are serious and intense. But can you imagine a mafia story that’s ridiculously funny? Khosla Ka Ghosla is that movie.

Khosla Ka Ghosla is a story about a land mafia lord who steals the plot of an innocent and dysfunctional middle class family and uses his power and control to keep their mouths shut. Kamal Kishore Khosla, the original owner of the house, is a simple man with simple tastes. Kishan Khurana, on the other hand, is a wicked man who likes to allure himself by stealing plots from humble families.

So does this family also end up getting subdued by this powerful land mafia? Find out how the members of this dysfunctional family unite and work out a badass way to get their land back.

5. Dhobi Ghat

We usually expect the top stars of Bollywood to only do commercial flicks — either a movie that’s over-the-board romantic or a movie that’s action-packed till the film ends. But this one’s a bummer to those expecting the usual offering.

Dhobi Ghat is a movie starring Amir Khar and no, this is not any of those heavy-grossing movies that you see breaking box office records every Friday. Then, what’s this film really about?

Well, it’s about Arun, a reclusive artist and his creative process of making art — what inspires and moves him to paint.

The story begins with Arun moving into a run-down flat in the older part of Mumbai, an area close to dhoobi ghat. While unpacking he comes across the video diaries of a former tenant. The content in the film fascinates him to an extent that he’s rushed with ideas to start his new painting.

6. Dor

In an age when religion, community and gender battles still form the “breaking news” section for media, Dor propels us to ask a thought-provoking question: Can we ever be more human in our approach to life?

The film does this through the story of two women — Meera and Zeenat.

Meera is young woman who becomes a widow and is trapped by tradition after her husband dies in a car accident that was allegedly caused by his Muslim roommate — Zeenat’s husband. So Zeenat now faces the daunting task of saving her husband who’s on trial for murder. Will Zeenat find Meera?

And more importantly, will Meera find it in her heart to forgive Zeenat’s husband?

7. Phas Gaye Re Obama

When recession hits, it has a domino effect. The explosion starts at one part of the world and spreads across to the other parts, and before you know it, everyone’s facing its crunch. Sounds more like a documentary plot than a film? Now imagine the impact of recession on a group of bankrupt kidnappers.

Phas Gaye Re Obama is a hilarious story about a group of kidnappers who are finding it hard to keep up their demands of ransom in a financially deprived India. In the film, an NRI named Om, whose business is wiped out by the recession, is kidnapped. Bad luck for the kidnappers as the businessman cannot afford to pay any money they’ve asked for.

8. Peepli Live

Farmer suicide is a serious problem in our country. Getting people’s attention to this grave issue is a huge task. The grim reality of the problem often pushes people away because they can’t face or digest the seriousness.

Peepli Live successfully highlights the issue and brings it to people’s notice by giving it a comical twist.

Natha, who is on the verge of losing his family’s farm, arrives at a unique solution to his financial predicament: suicide. The confidence and inspiration to take this unsound decision is drawn from the Indian government’s policy of paying hefty amounts to the families of farmers who commit suicide.

But soon before Natha realizes that he has found the solution to all his life’s miseries, a journalist comes to know about his decision to commit suicide, and before he knows it — the poor man is thrust into the center of a media circus.

9. Iqbal

Every Indian, at least once in his life has dreamt of playing for the Indian Cricket team. Thing is, it doesn’t matter if it’s being played in open stadiums or on unsurfaced roads, cricket is a sport the country cherishes regardless of the drawbacks in infrastructure. Iqbal is a film about this unifying spirit of cricket.

The movie is a simple tale of an 18-year-old Iqbal, son of a farmer with a dream to play for the Indian Cricket team. But there are a few problems — he belongs to a poor family, has no support from parents and worst of all, is dumb and mute. Despite these obstacles, Iqbal wouldn’t give up. He practices bare-footed under the burning sun, every single day.

Iqbal doesn’t stop dreaming.

Then during one practice session, he meets Mohit — a fast bowler who’s had the same dream once but failed. Inspired by his knowledge and expertise in the sport, Iqbal pesters Mohit to train him.

10. Aamir

Given a choice between killing your family or a random group of strangers, what would you choose? Would you kill the strangers and save your family? Or, save the people and kill your family? And yes, strictly, these are the only two options you have.

In the film, the protagonist Aamir, a young doctor who returns to India from London ends up in a death trap. He receives a call that leads him through the hard-core Muslim dominated areas of Mumbai under the threat of his family being killed if he doesn’t deliver a certain red briefcase to its destination. Aamir in the end is left with one daunting choice to make: Who should he save?

11. Shor in the City

City life is chaotic. Thousands of people and their stories collide with each other every now and then to form more and more stories.

Shor in the City, as the name itself suggests, is a film about the deafening noise of events in a city.

The director breaks the plot into stories of three people — Abhay is an NRI aiming to start a small business in the city amidst the chaos of getting logistics in place. Another is a cluster of three people — Tilak, Mandook and Ramesh, who carry out eccentric activities to earn quick money. The third is the story of Savan — a teenager with the irrefutable passion to play in the T20 cricket team.

12. Mai, Meri Patni, Aur Woh

A sense of awkward embarrassment consumes men when women tower above them. Especially for men from small towns, a loser-like status tags along when this happens, seemingly threatening their manhood.

Mai, Meri Patni, Aur Woh reflects this male problem in a modest and unpretentious way.

The plot of the film revolves around an odd couple — Mithilesh and his much taller, and more attractive wife Veena. Like one would expect from any middle class man, Mithilesh hates being towered over by Veena. His anguish soars even more when a new neighbour Akash — Veena’s childhood friend— arrives. Unlike Mithilesh, Akash smokes cigarettes, swigs whiskey on the rocks, plays guitar and writes romantic poems. Not surprising that Veena is impressed by his talent and skills. Overloaded with envy and discomfort, Mithilesh fears his marriage might come to an end.