Discussion Post: Who Are Your Favorite Indian Director(s)?

I can’t believe we haven’t had this post before! It’s, like, film geek discussion 101! Oh well, better late than never.

Who are the directors you really like and why?

I’ll start! In no order at all:

Anjali Menon: Malayalam industry, female, works as a director and a writer so the narratives of her movies are always just perfectly worked out and in line with the visuals. Recurring themes of male fragility, natural beauty, and food.

Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti: Technically they trade off directing duties film by film, but they always write together and, really, they direct together too. They are maybe the best ensemble directors working today, they pick a setting and then grab a half dozen characters to watch, from the Bombay rap scene to the rich industrialists of Delhi to a bus trip for newlyweds.

Imtiaz Ali: Very odd director, can be off-putting if you aren’t used to him. He is about the internal journey, the magic of coming to a higher sense of self. Often that journey takes place through the experience of falling in love, but it is always about self-realization more than any human emotion.

Puri Jagganadh: Telugu director, EXTREMELY STRANGE. Half his films are brilliant straight through, half his films are kind of a mess. He has this extremely light cynical nihilistic way of looking at movies, very Tarantino, he makes movies that exist in a hyper-real place where they kind of know they are movies.

Gautham Menon: Tamil director, all about the male hero coming of age story (and sometimes female, but I can’t find a copy of that movie so I can’t watch it, grrr!). At first he seems like your standard self-centered male narcessist, but then you see that he wants you to question his hero, to see his flaws. Or, alternatively, that the virtues he triumphs are the small human virtues not the big Male Hero virtues (like, offering to wait in the hallway while the heroine changes clothes without being asked).

I could keep going for infinity, but I am going to make myself stop now. You go! Who are the directors you will track down every movie and get excited when a new one is announced?

34 thoughts on “Discussion Post: Who Are Your Favorite Indian Director(s)?

  1. 1. Zoya Akhtar (of course)
    2. Anurag Kashyap (depends; when he hits the mark the hits it hard and it’s a treat to behold
    3. Shoojit Sircar (criminally underrated)
    4. Sriram Raghavan (just for his last 2 films)

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    • Also (I hope I’m bold enough to say this) Sanjay Leela Bhansali is the most overrated director in Bollywood. Forget overrated; for some of his films I just think the direction is bad. His films tend to be over-dramatic and include far too many (beautiful) songs which are thrust in at random moments.

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      • Oh, I agree! On the companion post to this, “least favorite directors”, Bhansali might top my list. So pretty but no heart.

        On Thu, Jul 30, 2020 at 6:19 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • I don’t know, after Gulabo Sitabo I may be off Shoojit. Sriram Raghavan, I will take all his films! I find them disturbing, but also super well made. Anurag, agree with you including your proviso.

      On Thu, Jul 30, 2020 at 6:14 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. Not a comprehensive list but what I can immediately think of.
    Those with many films:
    1. Sekhar Kammula – No male director understands women better.
    2. GVM – For urban romances
    Those with few films:
    1. Rakshit Shetty – For making Kannada movies so much better
    2. Dileesh Pothan – For capturing people and their lives
    3. Vivek Athreya – For introducing fresh stories
    Those with a single film but I am hoping for more:
    1. Konkana Sen Sharma
    2. Roopa Rao
    3. Mansore
    4. Soubin Shahir

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    • Oooo, yes Sekhar Kammula! I don’t think he is as flawless as some other directors, his endings tend to be a bit slow and then suddenly very fast, and the plots kind of dribble around in the middle. But his touch with female characters is amazing.

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  3. Here is my list of fav directors –
    – Zoya & Reema – of course!
    – Yash Chopra – I love the romance, songs, sentimentality…its just perfect!
    – Karan Johar – Modern-day Yash Chopra!
    – Bhansali – yeah I know people on this blog aren’t fans…but I adore the bejeweled superficial spectacles!
    – Rajamouli – he had me at Eega
    – Vidhu Vinod Chopra – I really like his aesthetic and style – Khamosh, Eklavya, 1942 were wonderful!

    Honorable mentions:
    – Anurag Kashyap – was a big fan when I was an angsty teenager…now I just find his movies dark, depressing and exhausting
    – Imtiaz Ali – love half his movies…hate half his movies…
    – David Dhawan – his movies are just pure gold
    – Subhash Ghai – the cheesy melodrama works sometimes
    – Vikram Motwane – loved Lootera and Udaan…but his style changes so much it’s hard to like everything

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    • Blah, Bhansali! By “some people” do you mean “Margaret”? Honestly, I’m not sure if anyone else likes him because I think I have scared everyone into silence. Maybe you will lead a rebellion!

      Yes with Motwane! He and Pellisery are just freakish in their ability to change style and genre completely film by film. And finally some Karan Johar love! That almost redeems you for me with the Bhansali pick.

      On Thu, Jul 30, 2020 at 7:11 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • I both love and hate Bhansali. I honestly don’t know whether I would call him good at all because it’s 50/50 whether he achieves what he sets out, and often I don’t even know what he’s trying to achieve. Sometimes it doesn’t work for me at all and sometimes I love it!

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  4. My favourite among the ones you mentioned is probably Anurag.I like Zoya’s films,but many a time the script feels a notch better than direction,and maybe I need to see more of her.Imtiaj Ali is perfect for introspective character based journeys.
    I like Bhansali’s aesthetics and his songs(perhaps the most beautifully picturised songs,unfortunately in imperfect films).Frankly I don’t like any of his movies in their entirety,except maybe Bajirao Mastani which deservedly won so many awards that year(it was a year of rather weak films,so competition wasn’t hard),but the cinematography by Sudeep felt like a dream.And I would appreciate his depiction of Ghoomar with the choreography being midway between authenticity and creative liberty,but entirely rooted in the tradition with focus on the festive spirit of dance(having seen others try their their hands at period dramas,I don’t need someone even worse than Bhansali at over-the-top melodramatic films that can barely cater to the aesthetics,let alone story).
    Maybe Anurag and Bhansali should collaborate-story,screenplay and editing with Anurag,visual style and music with Bhansali.

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    • I love the idea of Anurag and Bhansali! Bhansali needs someone to cut through his fantasy and Anurag needs someone to shake him up a bit.

      On Thu, Jul 30, 2020 at 11:11 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. If we’re keeping it to directors that are active this decade it’s honestly quite a struggle because either I need to check out more from a director or the directors whose filmographies I’ve really explored are a mixed bag for me. Mani Ratnam (I feel like this is saying the sky is blue), Nalan Kumarasamy (2 films and hasn’t directed since Kandhalum Kadhanthu Pogum but I fell in love with that movie so much recently and liked Soodhu Kavvum so I feel like I had to include him), Shoojit Sircar (though this might be 50-50), Zoya Akhtar/Reema Kagti

    Directors I need to watch more of and feel that I will like: Motwane, Pellisery, Srijit Mukherji, Sriram Raghavan, Anjali Menon, Aashiq Abu, Nagraj Manjule

    Mixed Bags: Anurag Kashyup, Imtiaz Ali

    I also really like Tumbbad and would like to know what Rahi Anil Barve is up to

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      • Didn’t even know that name either! although I knew his work. Thank you!

        On Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 2:30 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Ha! Agree about Mani Ratnam! I also didn’t include K Balachander for the same reason.

      You listed out some directors I didn’t even know! I had to look up Srijit and Nagraj.

      On Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 2:20 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  6. I don’t think I have any favourites, because when I can notice directorial touches from basically anyone in Indian cinema, it’s inevitably something that really, really irritates me. I love/hate Bhansali and I like Govinda’s brother Kirti Kumar who is excellent, aside from that I like it best when the director is as unobtrusive as possible.

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      • Oh yeah, I have one. Excluding early silent film directors, I’ve probably seen more films by him than by any other director so I have a detailed knowledge of his work, and he can (voccasionally) be really great or (most of the time) a terrible, irredeemable hack. When he tries, his movies are truly massala, with innovative plots and great comedy and characters, and even good pacing (his greatest weak spot imo). When he’s bad, it’s incomprehensible, with a decent plot but ruined by what looks like money concerns, because 90% of the movie is about Shakti Kapoor or Kader Khan and comedy plots that don’t advance anything, messing up the pacing, tone, and characterisation so nothing makes sense anymore, and songs totally unconnected to the movie just thrown in anyhow, and when he finds something he likes he runs it right into the ground trying to get the most out of it. If he’d made about 20% of the movies he’s done, and someone reined him in whenever he got onto a hobby horse, I bet they’d all be great, but he’s made a lot of stuff even I can’t watch. Also his female characters mostly suck and get hardly any screen time, because that all needs to go to Shatki Kapoor and unbearable comedy.

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        • I knew you would have an opinion! And be the only person here who has one. Well, scratch that, has a comprehensive opinion. Like you say, 20% of his stuff is great. And therefore plays on TV and is available streaming and The Young People have seen it and would say “Oh yeah, Dhawan is a total genius always good”. Heck, having only seen Biwi No 1 and Judwaa, I would say that too. Every single Dhawan film I’ve watched is fun and silly and delightful. Only you know the truth and you have a responsibility to educate us!

          On Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 9:01 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • YES EXACTLY! lol mine is the kind of knowledge that only comes from watching 30 of someone’s movies. Anyway, once you’ve seen Coolie no. 1, you will know what I mean.

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  7. In no particular order:
    1. Zoya/Reema!
    2. Meghna Gulzar–I haven’t seen everything she’s done, but Talvar, Dus Kahaniyaan, and Raazi were all really interesting and I think at this point I’d watch a movie because she’d directed it.
    3. Vikramaditya Motwane

    and maybe Soojit Sircar but he’s kind of uneven for me.

    I’m interested to see SLB movies, but I for sure don’t love everything he’s done (Guzaarish, blech).But I do enjoy getting swept away in an extremely expensive fantasy of beautiful clothes and scenery and dancing.

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    • Boy, Zoya/Reema is coming to the top all around!

      Ooo, Meghna Gulzar! That is a good one. Although, she directed Chapaak and neither you nor I felt the need to watch it.

      Okay, you aren’t the person who loves Guzaarish! Someone does though, I wonder who it was?

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  8. Two of my absolute favorite films are Main Hoon Na and Om Shanti Om. What can I say , I watch Hindi films for the escapism. So I have to acknowledge Fatah Khan, even if Happy New Year left me cold.

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    • How did we all forget Farah?!?!? I feel so sorry. Of course Farah!

      On Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 6:40 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • I considered Adi, but he directs so rarely. And Karan seems to be going in a direction where I actually like him less (KKHH over ADHM all day every day). These are the directors where I am absolutely there and excited first day first show anything they make.

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  9. – Karan Johar – Sealed my love with ADHM and K3G and haven’t looked back since
    – Bhansali – I know, I know, don’t hate me! I know it is all fantasy and pretty dance songs, but with great choreography and cultural touches that if used in a better film would make it spectacular, but I just can’t fully hate the guy. Love HDDCS, Ram-Leela, Devdas, Bajirao Mastani, Black; sorta meh on Padmaavat, Guzaarish and find Saawariya merely Ok. I do love all the songs in his movies without question. Many of his works would work better on a stage, especially Saawariya, with some adding of songs and actors being freer from the ‘law of pretty’ imo
    – Mani Ratnam – Because of course
    – Imtiaz Ali – Love all his movies, except the Ranbir ones and LAK 1 which is just dull when I tried watching it again
    – Zoya/Reema – Interesting characters all around and such meticulous work goes into their movies that seeing once is not enough.
    – Meghna Gulzar – Raazi and Talvar are my favourites, Chhaapak is more of a documentary on film rather than a film-film for me
    – Shoojit Sircar – haven’t seen all of his movies, but Piku is just such a perfect movie I get excited to see what he makes even though it might take me a while to watch his movies
    – Vishal Bhardwaj – Interesting take on Shakespeare and I love how he directs people in his movies so realistically, but with still a bit of an edge that makes it interesting. They are somehow artfully realistic and he has done such a range of different kinds of movies from a children’s movie in The Blue Umbrella to a full-blown thriller type with Haider
    – SS Rajmouli – strange no one mentiones him yet, but yeah, because OF COURSE

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    • Are you the first one to mention vishal Bardwaj? If so, good on you! Very fancy pick.

      On Sat, Aug 1, 2020 at 2:43 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  10. I’m absolutely clueless when it comes to directors work because it’s hard for me to separate their work from writers work and dop magic. But from the little I know my favorites are:
    Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Abishek Kapoor and of course Mohit Suri (yes, I know but I just love his style, except Ek Villain, this movie was horrible and I was sick for days)

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    • Ha! Someone just mentioned Rakesh Omprakesh Mehra on the “least favorite” post! Clearly, tastes differ.

      On Sat, Aug 1, 2020 at 5:02 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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