Amazon Prime doesn’t exist just to satisfy your inner shopaholic. Its video platform offers everything from star-studded original shows to a vast library of classic films and TV, including Bollywood. Amazon Prime Video also has a stealthy variety of documentaries and docu-series that are worth watching. There are plenty of options to pick from to get your South Asian fix, from Hari Kondabolu‘s take on Apu to travelogues about India.
1. “The Story of India”
In this six-part PBS series, historian Michael Wood visits archeological sights in the country, recounting tales of India’s first civilizations. He moves on to the age of Buddha, the impact of the Roman empire, India’s golden age, the rise of the Moghuls, and to more recent times of British Raj and the Indo-Pakistan separation. Its a literal walk through history through the lens Wood provides with his expertise.
2. “Mother India: Through the Eyes of the Orphan”
Capturing the life of 25 abandoned, orphaned children who live along the railways of South India, this documentary gives us a glimpse into their difficult livelihoods. Created by David Trotter and Shawn Scheinoha, “Mother India” shows the two bonding with the kids as they interview them about sleeping on the streets, the hardships they face including drug addiction and sexual abuse, and whatever hope they may have to overcome it all.
3. “Mystic India”
This 40-minute documentary is the perfect way to engross in the Indian culture and traditions through a unique perspective 12-year-old Neelkanth, who grew up to be Swaminarayan, an Indian leader and yogi who preached the Hindu practices of non-violence and dharma. “Mystic India” is directed by Keith Melton and produced by the BAPS Charities, a charitable organization with Swaminarayan temples across the globe, including cities in New Jersey, Georgia, Texas, New York, Illinois, Delaware, Florida and more.
4. “My Name is Salt”
Farida Pacha’s award-winning documentary film is about a family living in the barren Rann of Kachch desert in Gujarat, India and their stolen moments of joy in the midst of all the difficulties of harvesting the salt crystals. The film is a total slow burn, one that pays off immensely as you inch towards the end of it. Pacha spent around two years in Gujarat, following nearly 40,000 families who migrate to the desert for eight months every year to harvest salt with all the dedication they can muster without spending too much time worrying about the meager wages and scorching heat.
5. “The Problem with Apu“
This fantastic, much-debated documentary gave Hari Kondabolu and several South Asian-Americans an outlet to finally release 29-years worth of pent-up frustration about “The Simpsons” character Apu Nahasapeemapetillon and all the stereotypes he comes with. Kondabolu speaks to South Asian-American actors, fellow comedians, and even the former surgeon general to get a better understanding of how Apu factored into their lives and dual identities while growing up in America.
6. “A Suitable Girl”
This documentary follows three Indian women - Amrita, Dipti, and Ritu - who are at the perfect marriageable age. They’re either reluctant to wed or desperately want to a husband. Its essence lies in girl power, whether it’s on or off screen because directors Sarita Khurana and Smriti Mundra capture the many layers of this institution in all its glory while busting stereotyped about arranged marriages.
7. “Secrets of the Taj Mahal”
Let’s face it, when most people think of India, they automatically picture the grand Taj Mahal in their head. This National Geographic documentary expands on that thought, wanting to educate viewers about the meaning of the monument, delving deep into intricate architecture as well as why India’s ruler of the time Shah Jahan built this as a memorial for his dead wife, Mumtaz.
8. “Legendary Cities”
Globe-trotting while couch-surfing? If that’s your dream weekend, then this docu-series is the perfect fit for you. Each episode looks into different cities like London, New Orleans, Athens, Florence to see what makes them tick. The reason this show bodes well is that it does a good mix of famous cities and lesser-known wonders like India’s very own Pondicherry, located in the country’s extreme South. “Legendary Cities” digs deep into how the culture and architecture of Pondicherry was influenced by the French.