I have been asked this question before and I have had my own suggestions. But its my turn now to ask this from all of you. If you have to choose one Indian movie (not necessarily Hindi) to watch with some of your non-indian (mostly american and chinese) friends, then which one would you suggest. In fact, give me as many suggestions as you can. I'll try and pick one. Remember, we are going to watch it with subtitles. So, some of the constraints are:
1) It should be reasonably famous (so that finding a DVD with subtitles won't be too difficult).
2) Its strengths shouldn't be lost by translation into english or when seen with subtitles. for example, a movie whose charm depends on the language/dialogues (Dil Chahta hai, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro and in fact most comedies) would be a no-no.
3) It shouldn't be so dependent on any aspect of the culture of the country that even a brief pre-movie explanation isn't enough for these non-indians to enjoy the movie. (Lagaan is probably one such movie, though I am not very sure. So is Iruvar probably.)
4) preferably not excessively long.
5) preferably not a copy/remake/inspired by a famous international movie (Sholay would be ideal had this constraint not been there).
So, what do you think? As of now I am inclined to choose Satya. In fact it seems to be the only movie that satisfies almost all these criteria. Other options that I can think of are Iruvar (except that I'll probably have to explain some things before the movie starts), Guide, Kannathil Muthamittal, Roja, Lagaan. RV suggested Monsoon Wedding though I personally didn't think it was all that great. Moreover, I don't think its "Indian" enough. Any classics probably? Kaagaz ke Phool/Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam? Though at least the latter will have the "seeped in culture" problem.