Cracking The Hollywood Code: Indian Filmmakers

Directors like Shekhar Kapur. Mira Nair and M. Night Shyamalan are one of the few globally famous filmmakers of Indian descent. But there are other filmmakers of who have also cracked the Hollywood code and earned international acclaim with their cinema.

Cracking The Hollywood Code: Indian Filmmakers Cracking The Hollywood Code: Indian Filmmakers Source : straight.com


It is not that Indian filmmakers are any less skillful than their American counterparts, but the dearth of Indian filmmakers working in Hollywood is due to the already established Indian film industry. The filmmakers that are working in indie-scene slowly integrate into the mainstream and those who don't choose to work in the same fashion. But there are filmmakers who successfully made the big jump. Most recent example is Ritesh Batra, whose first film The Lunchbox was critically acclaimed and was also screened at Cannes Film Festival in 2013. Batra released two films in 2017-The Sense of an Ending starring Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling and Our Souls at Night starring Jane Fonda and Robert Redford. Former is a British-American co-production and the latter was released by Netflix.



M. Night Shyamalan was born in Mahe, a town in Puducherry but he grew up in USA. He made his first film Praying with Anger at the age of 22. He made four (including his screenplay credit for Stuart Little) very popular and commercially successful films-The Sixth Sense, Stuart Little, Unbreakable and Signs in a productive four-year period which were all positively reviewed by the critics, unlike the films that followed later-The Village, The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth which made a lot of money but at the expense of mixed reviews from the critics. With The Visit and Split, Shyamalan again came back to form as both the films did well in the box-office as well as the critical reception aspect. However, his latest film Glass did good business but failed to impress the critics.


Mira Nayar: The director of Salaam Bombay! and Monsoon Wedding, famous for her thought provoking and powerful cinema from a ‘female gaze' perspective. Her films are realistic and are not marred by any gloss and sentimentality. The Indian-American independent filmmaker Mira Nair is famous for her provoking cinema throughout the world. She won the Audience Award and Golden Camera at Cannes Film Festival for Salaam Bombay in 1988. It was also nominated for Oscars, Golden Globe and BAFTA awards in Best Foreign Language Film category in 1989 and 1990 respectively. Her film Monsoon Wedding won the Golden Lion award in 2001 which remains the only award for India apart from Ray's Aparajito in Best Film category at Venice Film Festival. It was also nominated at 55th BAFTA awards for Best Foreign Language film. She won the British Independent Film Award (BIFA) for Best Foreign Language Film. She also received a TIFF nomination in 2001 for Monsoon Wedding and again in 2016 for Queen of Katwe.


Shekhar Kapur: One of the most versatile Indian filmmakers of all time; his filmography includes Bandit Queen, Elizabeth, Masoom and Mr. India. Kapur is credited with launching the career of Cate Blanchett who is now considered one of the greatest actresses of all time. Bandit Queen is one of India's most acclaimed films internationally for its stark and disturbing portrayal of Phoolan Devi's real story. Although the Indian censors and Devi herself protested to the film's graphic content, it proved to be a commercial success.


Deepa Mehta: She is an Indo-Canadian film director and screenwriter, best known for her Elements Trilogy, Fire (1996), Earth (1998) and Water (2005). She is known for her rich, complex explorations of the cultural taboos and tensions at play in Indian society. Due to its lesbian content and its commentary on the rights of women, Fire caused a lot of controversy in India, particularly among Hindu fundamentalists who pressured the government to ban the film. Earth that centered on the politics of land and nationalism, it was set amongst the catastrophic turmoil that accompanied the 1947 partition of India from Pakistan. Water, the trilogy's last installment, focused on the politics of religion. Earth was submitted by India as its official entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and Water (2005) was Canada's official entry for Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (making it only the third non-French-language Canadian film submitted in that category). The Oscar nominated film was written by Anurag Kashyap and it featured Indian actors like Lisa Ray and John Abraham.


Asif Kapadia: Asif Kapadia is a British filmmaker of Indian descent. The Academy and BAFTA Award-winning filmmaker is known for his visually striking films exploring characters living in timeless, extreme and unforgiving landscapes. His early films include The Sheep Thief (1997), winner of the 2nd Prize Cinéfondation for Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival, and The Warrior (2001), winning the BAFTA Award for Best British Film 2003. Kapadia directed the documentary film Senna (2010), based on motor racing legend Ayrton Senna, which won the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary, the BAFTA Award for Best Editing and the World Cinema Audience Award Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival 2011. His 2015 documentary Amy about the singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse overtook Senna to become the most successful British Documentary of all time, winning numerous awards including an Oscar, a BAFTA and a Grammy for best documentary. His initial movie inspirations were from World and international cinema, Kapadia says the US director Spike Lee's movie, Do the Right Thing, the Vietnamese drama Cyclo and Robert Bresson's A Man Escaped were favourites. Explaining his decision to take on Senna and Amy, Kapadia says: "The subjects have to come with questions for me. I don't necessarily want make films where I start off as a massive fan. I like to learn along the way, like the audience. I need to be intrigued by the character. With both SENNA and AMY, Many people knew the ending, the thing I'm interested in is the journey, how and why did their lives go the way they did?"


Gurinder Chadha: She became a filmmaker of international repute when her film ‘Bend It Like Beckham' opened to rave reviews all over and received a Golden Globe nomination. Her latest film Blinded By The Light has garnered worldwide critical acclaim. Before that, she made Viceroy's House which tells the story of India's partition from a humane point of view. She also directed Bhaji on the Beach, Bride and Prejudice and Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging. The common theme among her work showcases the trials of Indian women living in England and how they must reconcile their converging traditional and modern cultures. They address many social and emotional issues, especially ones faced by immigrants caught between two worlds.



Dylan Mohan Gray: He is Mumbai based award-winning Indian and Canadian filmmaker, best known for the documentary feature film Fire in the Blood. The film first grabbed eyeballs at the Sundance film festival where it was screened in the World Cinema Documentary competition section. Since then it has garnered massive critical acclaim and has been broadcasted on various leading news channels across the globe. Fire in the Blood is a shocking exposé of how pharmaceutical companies use patent law to keep profits unconscionably high even at the expense of peoples' lives. An intricate tale of "medicine, monopoly and malice", it tells the story of how Western pharmaceutical companies and governments aggressively blocked access to affordable AIDS drugs for the countries of Africa and the global south in the years after 1996 - causing ten million or more unnecessary deaths. It is also the inspiring story of the improbable group of people who decided to fight back. Shot on four continents and including contributions from global figures such as President Bill Clinton, Bishop Desmond Tutu and economist Joseph Stiglitz. He is currently in post-production on an international film about global health and human rights consisting of portraits of five people working at the vanguard of these issues in Guinea, Hungary, India, South Africa and Spain.


Tarsem Singh: The Jalandhar born filmmaker is renowned for his unique visual style has received praise from critics. Tarsem's feature film directorial debut was The Cell (2000), starring Jennifer Lopez. Tarsem's second film, The Fall, debuted at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival and was released theatrically in the United States in 2008. His third film was 2011's Immortals which earned $226 million at the box-office. He directed an adaptation of the Brothers Grimm story of "Snow White", called Mirror Mirror (2012) starring Julia Roberts and Lily Collins which earned $183 million.


Honorable mention: Pan Nalin is an Indian filmmaker. He comes from a fine arts background and he also studied Design at the National Institute of Design. Nalin is best known for directing award-winning films like Samsara which has an elegant look at sex and spirituality; Valley of Flowers, and Angry Indian Goddesses which is a female buddy movie with a fresh, realistic portrait of women in India today. His debut film, Samsara went on to win awards like "Grand Jury Prize - Special Mention" at AFI Fest and "Most Popular Feature Film" at Melbourne International Film Festival in 2002.


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