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.