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Making their cut, & wow

Backed by big production houses, the new breed of filmmakers is experimenting with varied themes13 Oct 2018 | 1:59 AM

Telling different stories in firm and fresh voices are several new directors, who have audience attention and are making the critics sit up and notice them.

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Nonika Singh

Telling different stories in firm and fresh voices are several new directors, who have audience attention and are making the critics sit up and notice them. Look around, and you’ll find that every other hit in the past few years has had the directorial signature of a new entrant. If last year saw Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari winning awards for her second film Bareilly Ki Barfi, more recently film pundits were amazed at the success of debutant Amar Kaushik’s Stree. In 2015, Sharat Katariya surprised everyone with Dum Laga Ke Haisha. His recent second outing Sui Dhaaga hasn’t disappointed either.

Suresh Triveni, who gave us the delectable Tumhari Sulu last year, admits that the timing for new directors making their mark couldn’t have been better. Tiwari feels while the industry is ready to accept new content, so is the audience. She says, “Today’s viewers comprise multiplex audiences, who are exposed to world cinema. They are dictating the change by endorsing films, which are in a different league.”

As hunger for new stories and content with a difference is growing, who better than new voices to fill that yearning. Most of these directors do not hail from the industry. Triveni, who comes from advertising, had been toying with the idea of making a film for long. Often, the outsider tag became both an obstacle and an excuse of sorts not to make one. Finally when he zeroed in on a story of a hausfrau turning into a popular radio jockey, he first had Vidya Balan on board. The producers came in later.

Kaushik faced another dilemma; when he approached producers, they asked about the star cast, and when he sent feelers to the actors, they wanted to know who was producing the film.

Big banner houses and producers like YRF, Dharma Productions, T-Series are willing to back emerging voices. Even late entrants in the industry like Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK are willing to go beyond the tried and tested set of directors.

Amar Kaushik was chosen by Raj and DK for Stree. According to Kaushik, the new filmmakers are not exactly greenhorns or novices. He adds, “These are men and women with years of experience and the necessary skill set who have passed the litmus test too.” For instance, he has been an associate director for 12 years. Even then, he had to prove himself, which he did with his short film Aaba. The film went on to win special jury prize at the Berlin International Festival. Like Triveni, Tiwari too hails from the world of advertising. Says Tiwari, advertising has taught her discipline as well as the ability to communicate with clarity in a short span of time.

Then there is Anurag Singh, who is making the magnum opus Kesari. He has a body of Punjabi films to his credit. The answer to why he may have been chosen for such an ambitious project by a production house as big as Dharma, he feels, lies in many factors. Apart from his obvious talent, the clinching factor may have been the fact that he happens to be a Punjabi and a Sikh, thus more suited to tell the tale of Battle of Saragarhi.

Whatever the reasons, the backing of big producers means a world to aspiring directors. Kaushik says, “A good film can reach viewers only if it is marketed well. Producers here play a significant role.” Triveni views producers not as antagonists but as collaborators, who facilitate the making and projection of the film. Of course, it’s a two-way street. Production houses, too, stand to gain.

According to Anurag, “Till the other day, YRF was synonymous with one name, Yash Chopra, and later with him and Aditya. But things began to change after Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. Today as they are growing exponentially, they have little option but to include more directors in their kitty. Most big directors prefer to work with superstars, and that limits the number of films they can direct. Besides, big stars only do a certain kind of films.”

But in an industry that is essentially star-driven, how seriously are the new directors taken by its cast? Kaushik says the starry tantrum is an exaggerated scare. In reality, stars, and even National Award-winning actors like Rajkummar Rao, look at directors, experienced or debutant, for guidance. Anurag, who is working with Akshay Kumar, swears by the superstar’s professionalism. Surprisingly, Anurag and Kaushik also talk of the unfettered creative freedom that production houses allow them.

But that is not to say their journey is a smooth ride. The biggest challenge according to Kaushik is how to remain honest to one’s voice. For Anurag, the trick lies in the transition of idea on paper to celluloid reality. Indeed, breaking the formula comes naturally to him. Anurag’s Kesari is a kind of film that Dharma Production itself has never ever ventured into.

Tiwari always wanted to create new spaces, new ways of storytelling. In Nil Battey Sannata, she explored a relationship dynamics in the strata we fail to acknowledge in cinema. Bareilly ki Barfi, which she dubs as ‘pure slice of life comedy,’ delves into friendship as well as father-daughter relationship matrix.

Kaushik’s comedy horror Stree is a genre Indian cinema rarely excels in. But if he knew how to churn out a `100-crore film, the answer is in the negative. “If I had set out to do so, perhaps my film would not have even made `15 crore.” Today as he and many others like him have tasted success, he is being told that it has opened doors for many new aspirants. But be it Kaushik or Triveni, they are not on a signing spree but consciously sitting back and taking stock of the situation. Triveni wants to clear the cache of residue of Tumhari Sulu before he begins to give shape to his next film.

The biggest plus of being a debutant is that it comes with no baggage. Now that all eyes are on them, do they feel the pressure?

If Tiwari has always been comfortable in her head, Triveni delineates the difference thus: “When you make your first film, it’s you and you alone who wants to. After one successful venture, the world wants you to. And that can be rather tricky.” For Anurag, the burden to prove himself in Bollywood is no different than finding his niche in the Punjabi film industry.

In the comfort zone or in a diffident space, as Mark Twain said, “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” And what a fine start these directors have made — charting their own paths as well as clearing the way for others. As the number of debutant directors is all set for another quantum jump, get set for many more new voices offering different perspectives.

Making their cut, & wowTumhari Sulu
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