Best debutant directors of 2019

Contrary to belief some really remarkable directors like Aditya Dhar (Uri), Sandeep Vanga (Kabir Singh) were not debutante. Here are the first-time directors of 2019

Best debutant directors of 2019
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Subhash K Jha

Contrary to belief some really remarkable directors like Aditya Dhar(Uri), Prakash Kovelamudi(Judgemental Hai Kya) and  Sandeep Vanga(Kabir Singh) were not debutants. Not technically speaking.  The real firs timers also held their own and created quite an impression. Here goes with a pat on the back for the first-time directors of  2019.

1. Shelley Chopra Dhar:  So okay. The first mainstream  Hindi film about same-sex love(Sonam, take a bow) had its flaws. It was way too ahem ahem, too coy about its bold theme. But  Vidhu Vinod  Chopra’s sister dared to go where no man(or woman) has gone before in Ek Ladki Do Dekha Toh Aisa Laga.  Bolo, Kaisa Laga? Brave and beautiful this film should embolden other bolder explorations of alternate sexuality in our cinema. This one does seem a little chaste, the closest the same-sex lovers come to physical intimacy is a clinical embrace.  But hell,  it is nonetheless a big leap ahead for our cinema as far as matters beyond the heart are concerned.

2. Laxman Utekar:  Lukka Chuppi may not be the greatest of comedies about a messy live-in relationship. But hell,  it worked. Audiences were charmed. Director  Laxman Utekar who has done the lucid cinematography in  Gauri Shinde’s English Vinglish and  Dear Zindagi has a keen eye for smalltown quirks. He gets the mood right especially in the frequent aerial shots of the smalltown rooftops. But the stellar supporting cast  is frequently let down by the persistent attempts to make them seem chronically hyper. Do these people have to say or do something all the time?

3. Behzad Khambatta: After assisting Umesh Shukla on the irreverent Oh My  God! Behzad Khambatta in 2019 wrote and directed  Blank a  fast-paced thriller about a  human bomb with a memory loss. First-time director  Behzad Khambata has no patience with flab. There is not an ounce of superfluousness in the storytelling. Blank is that rare kind of thriller where the city never sleeps. The restless edge provided to the plot is directly traceable to the ceaseless action that underlines  Mumbai’s tormented topography. R Dee’s cinematography prowls the city without losing sight of the plot on hand. The film is designed like an impossibly swift rollercoaster ride. Events unfold in a stream of fast-flowing incidents. There is always room for the unexpected in this expertly crafted anti-terror actioner.


4. Akiv Ali:  Unabashedly, dedicated to amplifying the central conflict in the love triangle featuring a  middleaged man, his newly-acquired girlfriend and his sensible wife, De De Pyar De creates a vivacious afterglow in its exploration of a dead marriage. The fires that  Rakul Preet Singh’s booze-friendly bartender’s role kindles in the past-his-prime hero’s life may seem a little far-fetched. But director Akiv Ali works on making the relationship seem predestined rather than predesigned. You may wonder why any sane man would make a move away from a  wife as focused and calming as  Tabu. But you can’t judge the protagonist for his choices in life.

5. Vandana Kataria: Noblemen takes us into another kind of grim and horrific reality. While campus bullying is an easily identifiable scourge of our social system, just how deep it runs is put forth by debutante director Vandana Kataria in a film that spares us none of the trauma and horror of a gentle soft gay  15-year old grappling with a school of homophobic bullies.

6. Shilpi Dasgupta: In Khaandaani Shafakkhana an anonymous woman comes to a courtroom and speaks of a husband whose  ‘balloon’ had no ‘gas’ until he visited the notorious Baby Bedi’s sex clinic. Sex is a tricky subject in Bollywood, especially when you want to make it palatable to a non-adult audience. Debutante director Shilpi Dasgupta succeeds in giving the sex-talk a goofy yet sober spin. However, sex talk lacks the  ‘it’ quality. The narrative structures itself as a coming-of-age saga.

7. Prashant Singh: After assisting Aanand Rai, Singh directed his first independent film Jabariya  Jodi which was not liked by too many. But the film’s original rustic energy cannot be doubted. The film wraps its head in a swirl of mischievous mayhem, making the whole cult of anti-dowry groom-kidnapping syndrome seems like a cauldron of conflicts simmering in a scintillating seductive stratosphere. The director knows how to control mob incidents. He plunges into rumbustious wedding events to wiggle out the ironies that control such festive opportunities.


8. Jagan Shakti: Having assisted R Balki and his wife Gauri Shinde Jagan broke free with Mission Mangal about a bunch of feisty women flying a rocket. Inspiring, yes. But in an uncomfortably perspiring way. Mission Mangal, based on  a true and truly commendable mission to launch a rocket into Mars, tried very hard to tick all the  right boxes in the manual entitled  ‘How To Get  A Tax Exemption For Your Film.’ It addresses the question of India’s national and international pride. It speaks about empowered women balancing personal life with its mission to orbit India into Mars.

9. Raaj Shandilya: There is something inherently amusing about people being forced into roles that they were not born to play, Ayushmann Khurrana has lately mastered the art of being cornered by a corny karma….Or, if it not his karma then someone close to him, like his Dad in Badhaai Ho who impregnates his mom at an age when parents are supposed to go on teeth yatras. In Dream Girl ‘Quality Hero’ Ayushmann’s father (the very talented Annu Kapoor) plays a father who embarrasses his son by falling in love with a coquettish suggestive voice. That the phone friend happens to be his own son moonlighting as a call-centre phone-Fatale, is supposed to raise the laugh bar by leaps and bounds.

10. Tushar Hiranandani:  Based on the life of two real-life champion sharpshooters Saand Ki Aankh really comes alive when the two ladies are at tournaments facing smirks and jibes. Guided by their incredibly devoted and supporting coach, Chandro and Prakashi are all blazing guns and belatedly claimed glory. Eventually, the temptation to preach about the plight of gifted rural women who often end up smothering their true instincts and burning them in the kitchen chulha, gets the better of the narrative’s more delicate ambitions. Nonetheless, the film is remarkably strong in conveying the sense of emasculated power that women with outstanding talent feel in a patriarchal community.

11. Abhishek Pathak: In Ujda Chaman debutant director Abhishek Pathak handles his cast well. Most of the actors leave a lasting impression. The film says a lot about body shaming without diving into the deep end. Pathak keeps the proceedings equanimous and agreeable even while letting us know that there is more to a marriage than meets the aisle.

12. Gopi Puthran:  In Mardaani 2, the taut and diversion-free screenplay moves at breakneck speed even as the villain’s audaciousness crosses all limits. But somewhere I felt this film was motivated not by its concern for rape victims in our country, but simply to give Rani Mukherjee a chance to beat the male-dominated profession at its own game. I felt Mardaani could have gone a lot further if it had not chosen to be a film that talks to us about a sick society without providing any healing remedies.

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