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9 Indian Directors We Want To See More Of

9 Indian Directors We Want To See More Of

promising indian filmmakers

Over the course of the past decade, Indian cinema has indelibly morphed into a novel beast. Despite still being distinguishable, the line separating ‘mainstream’ from ‘arthouse’ has experienced a paradigm shift. Many factors are at play here. In large part, this is a product of the meteoric rise of OTT platforms; it is simple economics: competition forces an increase in quality. Accompanied by rising public demand and appreciation for nuanced regional content, it is evident that the country’s filmmaker-audience dynamic has mutated. As a result of these interactions, Indian cinema has been treated to a host of promising, fresh filmmakers. The pandemic’s mandatory stay-at-home orders present a disguised opportunity for viewers wishing to expand their experiences beyond the usual. We’re here to help. Here’s a look at 9 Indian directors whose work we’ve admired but wish to see more of:


1) Nagraj Manjule

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This Solapur-born director is the mind behind the highest-grossing Marathi film of all time – Sairat (2016), a love-story which struggles to transcend casteism. The film received massive critical appreciation, notably receiving a lengthy standing ovation at its 66th Berlin International Film Festival premiere. Sairat has been remade multiple times, most visibly by Bollywood, into 2018’s underwhelming, sanitized Dhadak. His filmography’s impressive beginning was through 2013’s Fandry, which won the Indira Gandhi Award for Best Debut Film of a Director at the 61st National Awards.

Nagraj’s films are borne from his own experiences of growing up as a Dalit in rural Maharashtra. His 10-minute National Award winning short film Pistulya too, reflects his own struggle for education. Manjule has often cited Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar as a huge influence in his decision to make films revolving around caste.

The director possesses total command at grabbing his audience’s attention, by throwing hyper-realistic characters into a whirlpool of social prejudices. His Bollywood debut starring Amitabh Bachchan (Jhund) was scheduled to release on May 8, this year, after suffering multiple delays. Sources assert a selling of rights to streaming giant Amazon Prime. It will be very interesting to see Manjule grapple with the change.


2) Shimit Amin 

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Drifting to a more commercial space, comes Indian director and editor Shimit Amin. Casting our memory back, the latter half of the 2000s were absolutely owned by this man. His trinity of varied successes would be very hard to compete against even today: 2004’s Ab Tak Chhappan starred a phenomenal Nana Patekar with a strong supporting cast and plot; 2007’s Chak De! India helmed by a fine Shah Rukh Khan, captured the imagination of the entire country and won multiple awards; Ranbir Kapoor’s cult classic Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year (2009) disappointed at the box office, but the disappointment is directed more at Indian audiences than at the filmmaker.

The previous decade has seen the filmmaker barely engage in any captivating projects. His credits include editing The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012), and serving as a consultant on 2013’s Shuddh Desi Romance. Several projects have not come to fruition, but it would be great to see more from the filmmaker in the coming year.


3) Konkana Sen Sharma 

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This is a name not foreign to most audiences. Daughter of filmmaker-actress Aparna Sen, Konkana’s acting credits are primarily rooted in Indian arthouse and independent films. However, she has given brilliant performances in popular films such as Omkara (2006), Life in a… Metro (2007), Luck by Chance (2009), and Wake Up Sid (2009) amongst a multitude of other projects.

2016 saw the St. Stephen graduate’s debut directorial venture, with the beautiful A Death in the Gunj, currently available on Amazon Prime Video. Glued together with a perfect cast, Konkana’s restrained command of mood and adept creation of milieu is a pleasant surprise. Her primary focus is still on acting. She would only direct another film “when she feels about a subject or script very strongly”. If her debut is anything to go by, her next feature will be mandatory viewing.


4) Neeraj Ghaywan 

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Brought up in Hyderabad to Maharashtrian parents, Ghaywan’s most critically acclaimed project is the beatifully woven tale of Masaan (2015). The film is probably one of the best Indian cinema has produced in the past decade, rightfully bagging the FIPRESCI prize in the Un Certain Regard category at the Cannes Film Festival. Written by the inimitable king of satire Varun Grover, the film can (and must) be viewed on Netflix. It is helmed together by deep performances from Richa Chadda and Vicky Kaushal. On a small trivia note, Ghaywan recently revealed that he received a congratulatory mail from American legend Martin Scorcese after he watched the film.

Having assisted Anurag Kashyap on projects such as Ugly and Gangs of Wasseypur, Ghaywan moved on to making short films and writing screenplays. His 2017 film Juice, starring Shefali Shah and Manish Choudhary, fittingly puts everyday misogyny in its place. It is available on YouTube. Most recently, he also co-directed 8 of the lukewarm Sacred Games Season 2 episodes. Nonetheless, whenever his next feature film is released, it will be something I personally jump to watch. I highly recommend this man’s short films and Masaan, to see a master at work.


5) Achal Mishra 

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A recent debut release on the brilliantly curated film library of MUBI India drew my attention to a very composed 22-year-old filmmaker, a quality often found lacking in that age bracket. Achal Mishra’s Maithili-driven Gamak Ghar (2019) is an ode to his upbringing in Darbhanga, Bihar. The film’s protagonist is a rural house, and through 3 different timelines, explores its birth and decay, simultaneously examining the lives of the people associated with it.

The stunning cinematography, extremely patient editing, non-actor performances, and enjoyable experimentation with aspect ratios all combine to lend this film a deeply authentic and moving feel. The idea of a once-bustling village home silently crumbling under the stress of urbanization, inherently possesses something very moving about it.

With a deep passion for films from an early age, Achal earned the opportunity to work on films such as Meghna Gulzar’s Talvar (2015). His skill comes as no surprise, after understanding the extensive catalogue of cinema and literature that he has consumed at such a young age. His future work will definitely be something to watch out for.

Here is a wonderful interview with Achal Mishra, recommended for any young filmmakers.

Where to watch Gamak Ghar: The film is available for viewing on pay-per-view platform ‘Cinemapreneur.’


6) Meghna Gulzar 

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Speaking of the magnificent achievement that is Talvar, it would be remiss if this list didn’t include the multi-talented Meghna Gulzar. Akin to Shimit Amin, the past 5 years have belonged to Meghna’s acclaimed trinity of projects: Talvar (2015), a sensational and critically-acclaimed fictional account of the Aarushi Talvar case that took the country by storm; arguably Alia Bhatt’s finest performance till date has been in Raazi (2018), a very engaging political thriller which won Meghna a Best Director award at that year’s Filmfare Awards; 2020’s Chhapaak was mired in an undertone of criticism, but was widely loved by audiences despite mixed reviews from critics.

The writer, director, and producer’s work is promising, to say the least. Her next film features Vicky Kaushal, who she previously worked with in Raazi. It follows the life of military officer Sam Manekshaw. The film has not entered its shooting phase due to the pandemic, but will definitely draw audiences (hopefully) to the cinema.

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7) Umesh Kulkarni 

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This 43-year-old FTII alumnus has already cemented his place in the Marathi industry, but isn’t talked about enough in the conversation surrounding important and relevant filmmakers in this country. His brilliant Vihir (2009) establishes beyond doubt that he is one of India’s most gifted filmmakers today. It’s a polished, elegant, and deeply philosophical coming-of-age film, that explores the concept of death through a sweet, young boy’s eyes. Sudheer Palsane’s soothing cinematography is one of the biggest achivements of this film.

Other essential watches of Kulkarni include Valu: The Wild Bull (2008) and Deeol (2011). I was introduced to his work through his enigmatic diploma short Girni (2006) at college, and was immediately lured into the worlds he builds as I watched more of his work. Certainly, someone to expect great things from in the future.


8) Raam Reddy 

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Born in Karnataka, this 30-year-old director, writer, and photographer is an alumnus of St. Stephen’s and Prague Film School. Reddy has just one film under his belt, but what a film! Thithi (2016), available to watch on Netflix, is one of the most well-crafted films that has emerged from the south in recent years. Using a cast of non-actors from Karnataka’s Mandya district, the film tells the story of 3 generations of men reacting to the death of their 101-year-old patriarch, affectionally nicknamed ‘Century Gowda’ by villagers. Despite being labelled a drama, it is a peculiarly funny film, held together by a very strong plot at its core.

In February 2016, the director was included in Forbes’ “30 under 30” list. A very young filmmaker with a brilliant command of language, visuals, and tone, is indeed a rarity. Raam Reddy is someone to not forget in the years to come.


9) Lijo Jose Pellissery 

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Speaking of revelations from the south in recent years and trinity-achievements, it would be criminal to not discuss critically acclaimed independent filmmaker Lijo Jose Pellissery’s films. Despite having directed films such as the black comedy satire Amen (2013), and written-directed Double Barrel (2015), the filmmaker’s best was yet to come. The crime-gangster film Angamaly Diaries (2017), 2018’s satire Ee.Ma.Yau, and 2019’s explosive Jallikattu, have branded Pellissery as one of the best voices in the country to look forward to. All of the films are available on Amazon Prime Video, and must be watched to understand the filmmaker’s prowess.

He’s cited his influences in foreign virtuosos such as Quentin Tarantino, Francis Ford Coppola, and Akira Kurosawa, as well as domestic cinematic heavyweights such as Padmarajan, and K.G. George.

Trivia: His early films had established actors in the lead roles but the aforementioned Angamaly Diaries marked a change where almost the entire cast were newcomers with 86 new actors making their debut. The film is simply worth watching because of the triumphant 11-minute one-take climax.


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