Off late the number of women in the film industry has not just doubled but tripled as compared to the last decade. After all, the ladies of this decade did belong to the generation of ‘you go, girl’ as Anne Hathaway puts it in ‘The Intern’.
Here’s a list of some of the most brilliant filmmakers from India who just happen to be women and are making sure they’re remembered for their intelligence, creativity and journey of evolving as a human.
Ajita Suchitra Veera
Having her first feature film ‘Ballad of Rustom’ be a part for contention for Best Picture at the 86th Academy Awards 2014, Veera has been known for her grand cinematic style, unconventional narrative structures and wild imagination. In 2003, her short film ‘Notes on Her’ was an official entry to the Oscars. Ajita Suchitra Veera, a Film and Television Institute alumnus, is a producer, director, writer, illustrator, and photographer.
Shonali has been known for creating one of India’s most celebrated coming of age story - ‘Margarita With A Straw’. Shonali beautifully follows the life of a young girl surviving cerebral palsy, exploring love, friendships and her sexuality. Her first feature film ‘Amu’ narrated the shockwaves the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 left. Bose has also written the book Amu, based on the screenplay of her film.
An educator, activist and a filmmaker, Sonali Gulati’s award winning documentary film ‘I Am’, throws light on the lives of Indians who’ve accepted, and supported the gay members of their family. The tear-jerking emotional film chronicles her journey back to Delhi, as she confronts the loss of her mother whom she never came out to. The working title of her next project, ‘Indian Patient’, received a Creative Capital grant, a U.S. based award of $40,000. The film will document the dark medical industry that brags about the miracle liquid potion that cures homosexuality in 90 days.
Writer, poet and director, Meghna Gulzar’s latest work ‘Talvar’, which is nothing short of sheer horror created waves in the country and sparked a discussion about the brutal Aushi Talwar-Hemraj murder case once again. Meghna, is currently working on a film based on Neelesh Misra's book, ‘173 Hours in Captivity’.
Sen debuted as a director with '36 Chowringhee Lane', which won her the title of Best Director at the National Film Awards. Since then, the veteran actress has worked on over 60 films, of which 11 haven been written and directed by her. Aparna Sen is a recipient of 8 BFJA Awards, 3 National Film Awards and a Padma Shri bestowed by the government of India.
Nandita Das has acted in over 30 feature films in various languages. Her directorial debut film, 'Firaaq' traveled to over 50 festivals, winning over 20 awards. Nandita has been on the jury of Cannes Film Festival twice—2005 and 2013.
Kagti joined the film industry at 24, as as an assistant director in Rajat Kapoor’s 'Private Detective', which never released. She worked as an assistant director on many movies and debuted as a director with the brilliant offbeat film, 'Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd.' Five years later she bought the suspense drama film, 'Talaash' starring Aamir Khan to the silver screen.
Mohandas began her journey in the film industry as a child artist. After working in several films in the Malayalam and Tamil film industry, Geetu transitioned into a director and ended up receiving two National Awards for her feature film, ‘Liar’s Dice’. The plot follows the story of a migrant labourer who is on hunt for her missing husband along with her 3-year-old daughter and her pet goat.
Previously an ad-film director, Gauri Shinde debuted with the critically acclaimed 'English Vinglish'. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and was a hit in India and overseas. The film swept all the Best Debut Director awards of that year, and also was shortlisted as India's official entry for the Academy Awards in Best Foreign Language Film category.
Director, editor, producer, and screenwriter Leena Yadav, began her journey as an editor for ad films. She debuted with the unconventionally brilliant mainstream film, 'Shabd'. Leena’s first international feature film 'Parched', is an inspirational drama about 4 ordinary women throwing off traditions that hold them in subjection.
Before trying her hand at filmmaking, Nair performed in plays and aspired to be an actor. She explored her talents as a director while working on a college project. Her second documentary titled ‘So Far from India’, was recognized as a Best Documentary at the American Film Festival. Her first feature film 'Salaam Bombay' won twenty-three international awards, and was also nominated at the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. To name a few, her most notable films would be ‘Monsoon Wedding’, ‘The Namesake’, ‘Amelia’ and, ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’. She is currently directing ‘Queen of Katwe’, produced by Disney.
Asthana debuted as a director with the youth film 'Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge'. She even wrote and directed the immensely popular TV series 'Hip Hip Hurray' and the TV miniseries 'Mahi Way'.
Rajshree debuted in the industry as a director and writer with ‘Chaurahen’. The film was complete in 2007, but due to financial issues the film received a theatrical release in 2012. Hence, ‘Aisha’ is widely considered as her debut. Her recent project, 'Biryani' was a segment in the anthology movie 'X: Past Is Present'.
The immensely talented Indo-Canadian director and screenwriter is most known for her Elements Trilogy – ‘Fire’, ‘Earth’ and ‘Water’. Mehta began her filmmaking career making short documentaries, and later flowed into fiction as a screenwriter for children's films. Mehta debuted with ‘Sam & Me’, which won an Honorable Mention at the Cannes Film Festival in '91.
Kiran Rao began her career as an assistant director in the epic film ‘Lagaan’. And, also worked as a Second Assistant Director on the indie hit ‘Monsoon Wedding’. She debuted as a director with the critically acclaimed ‘Dhobi Ghat’.
Zoya began her career as a director by co-directing a music video for Pentagram, called ‘Price of Bullets’. She debuted as a director in 2009, with ‘Luck By Chance’ which was well received by the critics, but didn't generate enough ticket sales. However, her second film ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ turned out to be a huge box office success, the talented filmmaker is currently working on her upcoming project about an underdog Mumbai rapper who addresses oppression, inequality and corruption; the film is tentatively titled as 'Gully Boy'.
Anusha Rizvi debuted with 'Peepli Live' in 2010, a satirical comedy film that explored the topic of farmer suicides, and the attention it received from politicians, the media domestic audience. The film was India's official entry for the 83rd Academy Awards Best Foreign Film category, however it did not get nominated.
Journalist turned film director, Bhavna debuted as a director with the 'Dharm'. The film was critically acclaimed and controversial as well, it premiered as the closing film at World Cinema Section at the Cannes Film Festival 2007. She's currently working on her first International feature, an adaptation of the children's classic novel, Heidi. The film will see Bill Nighy in the lead role.
Honourable mention: -
Paranjpye began her journey in arts directing plays. She later transitioned in to working on award winning films like 'Sparsh', 'Katha', 'Chashme Buddoor', and 'Disha'. Her documentary, 'Choodiyan', on the anti-liquor agitation received the National Film Award for Best Film on Social Issues. In 2006, Sai Paranjpye received a Padma Bhushan, for her artistic talents by the Government of India.