Some people are meant to do what they do, and they’re meant to conquer it for good. These people are known for their extraordinary calibre and their strategic moves which wouldn’t boot the blow. While most filmmakers cut their teeth making short films, the rare gems make a masterpiece, that too at the first attempt. Making a great debut feature is job half done.
It’s quite unusual for a debutant director to make a great feature film, but even if we fail to realize, making your first movie is not just a story of guerilla tactics and credit cards that have reached its upper limit. Boundless in their creativity and ambition, these debut features are a story of how talent and maybe a sheer bit of determination with smart strategies can make a quality film, irrespective of experience.
Here is our list of top 10 Bollywood and Indie (Hindi and English) directors in the last five years who impressed the audiences with their very first film.
Amit V Masurkar for Sulemani Keeda (2013): Amit V Masurkar’s directorial venture ‘Sulemani Keeda’ tells a tale of two struggling screenwriters, played by Naveen Kasturia and Mayank Tewari who dream of making it big in Bollywood. Produced by Tulsea Pictures in partnership with Mantra/Runaway Entertainment, the film makes a projection of their insecurities, anxiety and hopes. After ‘Sulemani Keeda’, Masurkar went on to direct ‘Newton’ that was selected as the Indian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards but was not nominated.
Anand Gandhi for Ship of Theseus (2013): Anand Gandhi marked his debut with the feature film ‘Ship of Theseus’ which examines subjects questioning personality, individuality, truth, virtue, life and death through the journey of a photographer, an ailing monk and an enterprising stockbroker. The film stars Aida El-Kashef, Neeraj Kabi and Sohum Shah and is produced by the actor Sohum Shah. ‘Ship of Theseus’ was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and was declared the “hidden gem of the year” and honoured with the National Film Award for Best Picture. After the movie, Gandhi has produced ‘An Insignificant Man’.
Gauri Shinde for English Vinglish (2012): Gauri Shinde made her directional debut with the highly acclaimed ‘English Vinglish’ which headed the comeback of popular yesteryear actress Sridevi. The plot of the movie revolves around a homemaker who registers in an English-speaking course to earn the love and respect of her husband and daughter who constantly mock her. After ‘English Vinglish’ Gauri went on to direct ‘Dear Zindagi’ starring Shahrukh Khan and Alia Bhat. Before joining the films, Shinde worked in over a 100 short films and advertisements. She has literally ruled the hearts of people in the Berlin and Toronto film festival.
Kanu Behl for Titli (2014): Before directing ‘Titli’ Kanu Behl worked as an assistant director for ‘Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!’ (2008), directed by Dibakar Banerjee. In 2010, he co-wrote the critically acclaimed ‘Love Sex Aur Dhokha’ with Banerjee and was also the Chief AD of the project. His debut film ‘Titli’ is a gem of a movie and we couldn’t love Kanu Behl more for it. With an ensemble cast, the movie is about a dysfunctional family and their quest for a dignified life. Sometimes simple things aren’t simple at all and in fact, they can be pain inflicting, gripping, harrowing, imperative and impressive. The constant reality check in the movie will hit your guts.
Don’t you dare have the guts of not watching the movie?
Konkona Sen Sharma for A Death In The Gunj (2017): Written and directed by Konkona Sen Sharma, ‘A Death In The Gunj’ features an ensemble cast of Kalki Koechlin, Ranvir Shorey, Vikrant Massey, Om Puri, Tillotama Shome, Tanuja, Gulshan Devaiah and Jim Sarbh. The film is set up in the 70s depicting the dynamics of a family and the temperament of a shy boy who uses denial as an escape to reality. The film progresses over a family trip, very subtly bringing forward the concepts of patriarchy and finally ending the vacation with an implosion. The daughter of the veteran filmmaker-actress Aparna Sen, Konkona has received two National Film Awards and three Filmfare awards. She has also written and directed the 2006 short film ‘Naamkoron’.
Neeraj Ghaywan for Masaan (2015): Neeraj Ghaywan beautifully executes the narrative by capturing poetry, reality, culture, lyricism, death and all these details. What would the word Masaan (crematorium) mean in the context of the movie? This movie talks about the town of Kashi which has been entwined with life and death circulation for centuries; and brings out a contrast between existent and non-existent, between what is and what could be, between reality and fantasy, between beauty and filth. The National Award winning director’s first short film was ‘Shorts’ (2011) after which he worked as an assistant director for ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ – Part 1 and Part 2 (2012). Do you really want to miss this winner at Cannes?
Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy for A Billion Colour Story (2016): Debut director Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy’s ‘The Billion Colour Story’ is a movie from the perspective of a child, with the Tamil-Sinhala conflict as the backdrop. A simple tale said through the eyes of an innocent child, the movie mentions all the real elements of the present day world like violence, division, racism and distrust and yet the desperate need for altruism and humanity. The movie reaffirms that the element that we all should seek is honesty and it has its existence despite the chaos. Before entering the films, Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy was a big name in the advertising industry in India.
Ritesh Batra for The Lunchbox (2013): Ritesh Batra’s ‘The Lunchbox’ stars Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, and is produced by Guneet Monga, Anurag Kashyap, and Arun Rangachari in collaboration with various studios including DAR motion pictures, UTV Motion Pictures, Dharma Productions, Sikhya Entertainment, NFDC (India), ROH Films (Germany), ASAP Films (France), and the Cine Mosaic (United States). The romantic drama is about Mumbai’s efficient lunchbox delivery system which accidentally connects a young housewife to an older man as they develop a connection together through notes in the lunchbox. The director’s debut movie premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013 and won Rail d’Or (Grand Golden Rail). Batra also won the Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best First Feature Film in 2014. The film has been called the highest grossing foreign film in countries like America, Europe and Australia. After ‘The Lunchbox’ Batra directed the English-language film ‘The Sense of an Ending’.
Shubhashish Bhutiani for Mukti Bhawan (2017): Shubhashish Bhutiani made his directorial debut in Bollywood with the film ‘Mukti Bhawan’ before which his short film ‘Kush’ which was set against the backdrop of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, won him several laurels. ‘Mukti Bhawan’ stars actors like Adil Hussain, Lalit Behl, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Palomi Ghosh, Navnindra Behl, and Anil K Rastogi in prime roles. The film is based on relationships and family, prominently showcasing the director’s sensibility and craftsmanship. It talks about the lives and relationships that have the biggest influences in our understanding of life. The setup is strange and has very subtly expressed the dynamics of a father-son relationship.
Sudhanshu Saria for Loev (2015): Sudhanshu Saria marked his debut with the film ‘Loev’. Starring Dhruv Ganesh and Shiv Pandit, the film is also written by the director and produced by the Bombay Berlin Film Productions and Saria himself. The film paints a picture of a homosexual relationship between two friends. A story about three men, with two of them a couple, and a weekend trip that makes them look at what love really is. The Indie flick has had positive feedback from Critics and the intelligentsia at various International Film Festivals. Taking into account India’s Criminalisation of same-sex love, it has been hailed as “quietly revolutionary”. The film was acquired by Netflix for an exclusive worldwide release and was debuted on their platform.