Get Ready for a Week of Women!!!!

Oh, this is such a fun idea! A week focused on female directors. A bit different, it doesn’t really work as just reviews (although there will be some of those), more an introduction to these women and their work.

I already know there are some people I definitely want to discuss, but I am sure there are others I will remember and want to talk about. For now, here is a limited list of directors and films (watch the ones in bold). And yes, they are in order of importance. Start by watching all the Anjali Menon movies you can, and then move on. Really, that is just good advice for life planning in general:

Anjali Menon: Graduated from the London Film School finishing with a short film that featured Archie Punjabi (from The Good Wife). Her first full length film is the award winning Manjadikuru, a lovely story of a family reunion through a child’s eyes in a village in the 1970s (it is on einthusan and nowhere else in the entire world, I looked). She went on to write the script for Ustad Hotel (on Hotstar), Dulquer Salmaan’s breakthrough film, a sensitive story of cooking and family on the Kerala beaches. And then Bangalore Days (on Prime), the massive crossover hit film she wrote and directed. Most recently, Koode (on Hotstar), less of a hit than Bangalore Days but I think the even better film. Anjali Menon is arguably the most talented director/writer working in India today.

Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti: Zoya’s a girl, so everyone focuses on her brother Farhan instead of her. But as time goes past, it becomes clear that Zoya is the true heir to her father’s talent. Reema is her partner, creatively officially and (probably) personally as well. The two women make works of art that travel from the Dharavi slums to the 1929 Olympics to the world of Delhi weddings. They look at the world with sympathy and tell the stories they see there with honesty. Watch Luck By Chance to see the price of fame, Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd to see price of marriage, Talaash to see the price of death, Gold to see the price of patriotism, Dil Dhadakne Do to see the price of family, Gully Boy to see the price of art, and Made in Heaven to see the price of wealth. You can skip Zindagi Na Milega Dobara.

Gauri Shinde: Married to a less successful director who gets far more opportunities, Gauri waited for her chance and perfected her art and made her first movie at age 38 and it was perfect, English/Vinglish. Her follow-up film Dear Zindagi was almost as good. She is 45 and her career is just beginning, I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Tanuja Chandra: I like Tanuja partly because she is the quiet unnoticed one in a family of high achievers. And for once, I want her to be noticed! Let her have her own special place! Her sister is Anupama Chopra, her brother wrote Sacred Games. And Tanuja makes small low budget popular (not art) movies with strong female leads. Some of them fail (both creatively and commercially), some of them hit. To see two contrasting hits, look at Dushman with Kajol as an avenging action heroine and Qarib Qarib Singlle with Parvathy as a woman struggling to find love in middle-age.

Meghna Gulzar: Her father is Gulzar, THE Gulzar, Oscar winning lyricist and poet. And her mother is Raakhee, THE Raakhee, beautiful heroine of Kabhi Kabhi, Trishul, and dozens of other 70s hits. And then there’s Meghna. She started as a writer, a poet and a journalist, then transitioned to assisting her father in his films, made two small low budget romance dramas, and finally had her own small critical hit Talwar at age 40. Followed by her massive critical and commercial success Raazi.

These are just the start of the list, let me know if there is any other women director I have forgotten! I almost forgot Zoya until Emily reminded me.

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40 thoughts on “Get Ready for a Week of Women!!!!

  1. Happy to see you doing this. I would add Lakshmy Ramakrishnan who has directed four Tamil movies. She is more known for her acting than the movies she directed but these four movies are gems. Each movie is around a socially relevant issue. Sudha Kongara (Saala Kadoos and its equivalents in other languages) and Ashwini Iyer (Nil Battey Sannata and Barielly Ki Barfi), I feel, also need to be on the list. Oh yes, Revathi too – Though its been a while since she directed a movie, Mitr, My friend and Phir Milenge are really good movies. DesiVolitaire may say more about this but Nandini Reddy has increased visibility of women directors in the Telugu film industry in recent times. Vijaya Nirmala, who passed away recently, was a pioneer in the Telugu cineworld. She directed more than 40 movies in career spanning more than five decades as a child actor, lead actor, and director.

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    • Thank you! I definitely want to talk about Ashwini Iyer and Sudha Kongara, I’ll have to figure out how since they haven’t done enough for a full kind of career retrospective.

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      • I guessed that might be the reason you did them both in the list. May be you can talk about what fresh perspectives they brought with their movies vis-a-vis other more established women directors.

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        • I was also thinking something like “Here are 5 women to watch”. I can definitely do a paragraph similar to the ones in this post on each of them and their films. At the very least I can repost my Bareilly Ki Barfi and Saala Khadoos reviews.

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  2. Taking a much needed break to catch up on DCIB and vacuuming.
    I love Zoya’s work but notice Farhan’s name is frequently alongside hers in the credits. Does she ever work without him?
    Also, I caught a Bengali film last night with an actor called simply Dev. Seems all Bengali movies star either Dev or another actor called (simply) Jeet.
    Dev is lovely to look at and moves with grace but he can’t act for…well, he can’t act. I looked him up on Google and YouTube but there’s precious little except to note he’s the highest paid most popular Bengali actor ever. Wow, if it’s true.
    He has a new-ish film on Amazon or Netflix about husbands escaping wives that sounds dumb. I think I’d like him better as an action hero.
    Can you add anything to his bio?
    Thanks.

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    • I can add nothing to his bio, Bengali film is a closed book to me. But the commentator Miss Briganza knows a lot, she may be able to help.

      Farhan started a production company, Excel Films, with his best friend from college Ritesh Sidhwani. Now that Farhan is off being a rock star or whatever, I think his friend does most of the day to day. Excel produces all Zoya’s films, more like handles the paperwork and stuff for her (the actual money and distribution and so on comes from other larger companies). So I think that is where Farhan’s name consistently pops up next to hers as one of the two executive producers. He also sometimes helps with the dialogue writing, just like Javed will help with the lyrics for her movies.

      On Thu, Aug 1, 2019 at 9:19 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Sorry, I can’t clear this up either. I tend to watch artier films, so if he is the Bengali equivalent of, say, Sid, then I probably haven’t watched him in anything. Doesn’t sound like I’m missing much, to be honest.

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        • I am totally distracted by one small thing, Southern Sid or Dharma Sid?

          On Fri, Aug 2, 2019 at 9:44 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. I love Mira Nair’s work. “Monsoon Wedding” was the first Bollywood film I’d ever seen, and is also responsible for “Mississippi Marsala,” The Namesake”, “Salaam, Bombay!” and “New York, I Love You.”

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    • I am resisting the urge to give a massive lecture on why Monsoon Wedding should not be considered a true Indian film. Because no one likes that person.

      Anyway, I don’t know how I would want to handle both Mira Nair and Gurinder Chadha as western directors who happen to be of Indian descent. I do feel like their public faces in the world helped Indian-Indian female directors break through in a variety of ways. I definitely want to write something on Bend it Like Beckham, even if I do nothing else!

      On Thu, Aug 1, 2019 at 12:04 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Oh I get your point, but consider that Western women of Indian descent presented India to a Western world and created interest in Indian films. I know they did, for me – after watching “Monsoon Wedding,” I got a copy of K3 from the local Indian restaurant, and I was truly hooked. Mira Nair created an interest for me and I ran with it.

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        • Hmm. I have a lot of thoughts on this, and now I am thinking that this should be the topic of my post on Mira Nair and Gurinder Chadha, why they are important although they are not Indian directors.

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        • I don’t know, for me that isn’t my definition of Indian film, not so much that it accurately shows the culture, but that it follows the standards and practices of this particular film industry. But you have inspired me to write a post! This solves how to handle these two very very important Indian heritage female directors without lumping them in with Indian trained female directors.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Just curious, since I can’t listen to the podcast, do they deal with the actual filming style or just the content of the film? Is it about how it captures Indian film or captures Indian life? If that makes sense?

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      • They talk about content, capturing Indian life and how they think it is a perfect film. And they ONLY talk about Indian movies – they are two young women who married and moved away (so NRI), but one is from Southern and one is from Northern India. They mostly talk about older movies so I was surprised to see this movie but it was in their series on Indian Family Movies. Based on every other movie in the series, they consider it Indian.

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          • I really think you should listen to the episode before disagreeing — not sure why you can’t access the podcast. But … they are the Indian audience. 🙂

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          • I can access it, it’s just that I am at work right now so I can’t listen.

            On Thu, Aug 1, 2019 at 1:48 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • A quick second thought – I mean under the guidelines I seem to understand you applying, then would Piku be considered Indian? Or The Lunchbox?

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          • Those films are considered part of the “parallel cinema” movement. Artists trained in the Indian tradition who are consciously trying to make something a little different than the mainstream offerings.

            The reason I don’t include Gurinder Chadha or Mira Nair as Indian directors is that the texts they create, while familiar to an Indian audience and representing Indian culture, are not in the style of Indian films. Indian cinema has its own language, its own style. I’m not sure I can explain this exactly, but for now the closest I can come is to think of it like an Indian heritage ballet dancer who has choreographed her own dance telling a story from the Ramayana. That is nice, and we can find her interpretation of the Ramayana original and relevant, but her being Indian heritage and doing a dance on an Indian topic, does not change the fact that she is doing ballet rather than Bharatnatyam. Does that make sense?

            On Thu, Aug 1, 2019 at 1:50 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Ah yes. Like saying an indie mumble-core movie is Hollywood. Totally makes sense. And, though I like all those I mentioned, the ones I go for most are the real Indian movies. The others I sprinkle through my regular viewing because they are good, but I crave the real thing! 🙂

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          • Oh, yeah! Sorry I was unclear, on my tablet. Mr. and Mrs. Iyer is an Indian film and Monsoon Wedding is not. I was just thinking about other kinds of hybridity which are interesting to me, anyway. I’ve just been cleaning and trying to think of other movies that are made with Western audiences in mind—Sacred Games? Made in Heaven? You would think MNIK but it isn’t. I know you have other fish to fry with the women directors at this moment. Totally looking forward to it.

            Off to give my lack of information on Dev, the very famous mystery man of Bengali film.

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          • Oh yeah, I was thinking the same kind of things! Or what about the English language Indian movies? Like Mitr, My Friend? I still consider them Indian, just as I consider the primarily Hindi Monsoon Wedding to be American. And then the real challenge, what about Shekhar Kapur? Or Vidhu Vinod Chopra? How do you decide when their work crosses from Indian to American? It’s one of those things where I definitely know it, but I can’t easily define it.

            On Fri, Aug 2, 2019 at 9:40 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Haven’t seen Monsoon Wedding in a bit, but I think what differentiates it is not the authenticity of the portrayal but that it’s presented for a Western audience. Like, there’s a brief exchange about differences between Bengalis and Punjabis to explain about Punjabi weddings. Doesn’t make it necessarily a non-Indian movie though. One example of a movie like that made in India by a totally Indian director (Aparna Sen) is Mr. and Mrs. Iyer. It was made mostly in English, and there is a bit of explaining about things an Indian audience would know (why a Brahmin woman doesn’t want to drink from the water bottle of a Muslim man, why a guy in a turban needs to find a Sikh husband for his daughter, why when you are looking for Muslims on a bus you first ask them their names and then have them drop their pants). I don’t think it’s meant to be primarily for non-Indians but I think Aparna Sen wanted it to have universal appeal.

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          • I like to keep things simple, if it wasn’t made within the Indian film industry (meaning cast and crew and studio were Indian), and wasn’t released in India, I don’t consider it an Indian film. From what I can see, Monsoon Wedding was never even submitted to the Indian censor board, let alone released in theaters. And Mira Nair never worked in the Indian film industry, and the rest of the crew were all western. Interestingly, the scriptwriter did transition to Indian film later, she went on to write some stuff with Bardwaj Rangan. Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, on the other hand, had a completely locally trained crew and local production house, and went several rounds with the censors before getting an Indian release.

            Now, unrelated, there was a Bengali film question somewhere on this post, request for more info on the actor Dev? Obviously, I know nothing.

            On Fri, Aug 2, 2019 at 8:42 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • (I posted my last reply in the wrong place and now I’m lost and don’t know where to reply). Interesting questions! I’ve only seen Sheehan Kapur’s western movies,and I really need to branch out! Also, I must confess I’m ignorant of why VVC belongs in this category?

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          • VVC’s first movie was some short film that was at the New York Film Festival and nominated for an Oscar. And then he made an American version of Pinjar set in the American west with Vincent D’Onifrio.

            And I am POSITIVE, you have seen Shekhar Kapur’s Indian movies, because he made Mr. India. You have seen Mr. India, right? If not, do that immediately!

            On Sun, Aug 4, 2019 at 5:43 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Thank you so much for introducing me to this podcast. I haven’t started listening yet, but just their list of episodes makes me think that I will love it. I have already downloaded the entire first season.

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      • I’m so glad! I don’t know most of the movies they’ve discussed but I love their conversation. They have given me such an insight into Indian culture also, which is invaluable in watching these films. The few I’ve seen that they’ve discussed have been spot on and really insightful. Also they’re fun. 🙂

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  4. The Lunchbox is an excellent Indian film that is accessible to the Western market, and I’d say the same of Piku. They don’t have the dancing and songs of the traditional Bollywood films, yet they seem to embody traditional values of family and caring for others. I can’t remember the name, but that film about the two children looking for a cure for blindness from Shahrukh Khan would be another film of that type.

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    • I considered her, but I don’t know if I can learn enough about her. Although I could always throw her in with the other directors that I can do a few sentences on even if I can’t manage a real post.

      On Thu, Aug 1, 2019 at 6:35 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. Nandita das . Both her films were technical master classes bt sadly didn’t work with masses.
    Konkan sen sharma death in the gunj might be treated best film of last decade.it was that good.

    Ashwini iyer bareilly ki barfi is luuuuuv.

    Farah khan she is a female who has cracked masala genre.

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  6. What about Farah Khan? She is arguably the female director with the biggest mainstream hits. I don’t think you could talk about female directors in Indian cinema without mentioning her.

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    • Oh yeah, I’ll definitely be including her in some way shape or form. But I wanted to list out these folks so people have a chance to see their movies. I’m guessing everyone has already seen Farah’s movies!

      On Fri, Aug 2, 2019 at 3:04 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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