While women have actively joined the gender conversation in every walk of life, there continues to be a dismaying paucity of women directors all over the world. In India after Aparna Sen , there was no significant female filmmaker until Nandita Das arrived with Firaaq in 2008. Happily there are women in the millennium making a name as filmmakers in what is clearly a man’s world. Here are my favourites.
1. Zoya Akhtar: Perhaps the single-most influential female director since Aparna Sen and certainly the most prolific. Her oeuvre so far has oscillated from the Bollywoodexpose Luck By Chance to the life-changing Zindagi Na Milegi Dobaara. Gully Boywowed the world. And her debut into the web world with Made In Heaven was just as breathtaking. What will Javed Akhtar’s daughter do next?
2. Alankrita Shrivastava: She came in quietly with Turning 30 in 2011. Nothing there to indicate the explosion that lay ahead. With the powerful Lipstick Under My BurqaAlankrita became the voice of workingclass women all across India who are struggling to make themselves heard above the din of patriarchy.Her brutally frank take on women’s sexuality in Liptsick Under My Burqa, Dolly Aur Kitty Ke Chamakte Sitare and now Bombay Begums may make you uncomfortable. But that’s what cinema must do.
3. Bhavna Talwar: With Dharm in 2007, a hardhitting unsparing treatise on hindutva and the death of secularism, Bhavna continued with her gender-free cinema in the silent film Happy, a resplendent homage to Charlie Chaplin. She is now on to her new dream, a bio-pic on the filmmaker Guru Dutt.Always exciting to see where she takes her creative persuasions.
4. Gauri Shinde: English Vinglish was a turning point for all cinema about the female hero finding her bearings. It really wouldn’t matter if Gauri didn’t make another film . But she followed it up with a sweet temporal rom-com Dear Zindagi bringing together Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt. Life couldn’t get any better.
5. Shonali Bose: I was most impressed to see her film Margarita With A Straw on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of 200 best lgbtq films of all times. I can’t recall any other contemporary director being so honoured. She indeed thundered across the lonely deserts of self-exploration laying bare a soul not afraid to be exposed. Her sophomore venture The Sky Is Pink couldn’t match up to the brutal power of her debut. But I am convinced Shonali’s is a voice that will be heard by the world no matter what she has to say.