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Saturday, 21 February 2015

The HIndie Awards 2015: Direction Award

The HIndie Awards 2015

The director is the captain of the ship, the man who steers the boat to its final most accomplished form. The director is what I one day aspire to be. 

Below you will see a list of seven of the most fascinating directors making the most fascinatingly varied films from last year. Their works speak for themselves. 

These seven men have either gained a great repertoire of features or are showing signs of becoming the top dogs in the future. They've literally been the force that could make or break the film. 

So let's not waste time and just get to it...

HIndie Award for Best Director

How much more can I say, except for the fact that this year saw quite a few new or sophomore directors take a stand and make some of the most epic films of their careers. A great starting point to go by, such that I feel bad I had no breakthrough director nomination ballot.

Anyways then, here's a look at those directors that made a dent but not a full on impact. 

Abhishek Verman (2 States): Taking an overdone subject that was far too contrived and relied heavily on stereotypes. Verman made a film that was as it should have been, enjoyable and a hell of a lot intriguing. It's not easy making such a simplistic film and leaving your mark, but Verman does in spades.

Vinil Matthew (Hasee Toh Phasee): Turning around cliches altogether is another thing, doing so while presenting such a stark and brilliant maturity is something else. Matthew's debut film Hasee toh Phasee is rom-com type breezy but it is so with an intellect unmatched in contemporary Indian cinema for the youth. It's cucking frazy as they say. 

Vijay Raaz (Kya Dilli, Kya Lahore): He's been in front of the camera a lot of times, but behind it he brings such a heart you can't help but cry at the end of this somber period piece. His work really reveals a pain and sorrow he knows off (whether first hand or second). It's a work he masters. 

Nitin Kakkar (Filmistaan): Somehow Kakkar is so efficient at bringing out the humor off the most tense situations. His construction of the finale is a wonderful nod to buddy classics and a meticulously crafted scene that has you at the edge of your seat. 

Homi Adajania (Finding Fanny): With Fanny, Adajania returns to his roots with great Indie flavor and wicked humor. At the heart of it all is a typical Independent feel good film that evokes such brilliance you can't help but be entrapped by his skewed vision. 

There's even more, but for now check out these top seven sensational nominees...

Anurag Kashyap for Ugly

With Ugly, Kashyap returns to his somber, moody and off-beat humorous beginnings. Crafting his finest and least indulgent film since Black Friday. 

Both as a writer and a director, the fascinating brilliance Kashyap portrays in puncturing tense atmospheres with humor is laudable. The man is a mad genius and despite how dark and dreary his subject matter is, it comes from a true blue heart. 

Kashyap made this film on the basis of his fears as a parent and it shows when he siphones out some of the most malicious and hate-able but complexly defined characters on screen. It's a wonder to behold as he keeps the atmosphere of the film alive, constantly outsmarting the audiences and making a this subject so defining and interesting through his character studies. 

The Kidnapping is just the first brick, that he places to create a rocky building based on his pondering of the dark side of human nature. He is stunningly provocative about these people, the small grudges they hold, of man's ego and eventually of the cost we have to pay for our own selfishness. 

In the most darkest points, in that abyss. Kashyap leaves you finding a light and a tear jerking revelation about our selves that is hard hitting to the core. 

Vishal Bhardwaj for Haider

I'm going to take a little detour first and say this, I had the innate pleasure of meeting Vishal Bhardwaj at my film school for a screening of Haider and he is a supremely humble man. More so, he's a witty fox and a hell of a poet. 

So it's no surprise that his latest, is truly; poetry in motion. 

Haider might just be Bhardwaj's best, in a filmography full of terrific gems. With Haider he probes deep and bravely into an issue that many filmmakers fail to or decide not to look into about Kashmir and its harsh realities. 

He's also proven to be a master adapter of Shakespeare. Bringing his own stem of brilliance to the Bard's work, he really enhances some of the main points of the play with his own plot flourishes that feel unique but true to their roots. Whether it be the Mouse Trap (play within a play) turned into the sensational song Bismil or the 'To be or not to be' transformed into a cry for the families of disappeared victims.

The most commendable is how he juggles these two points and crafts excellent thematic links from his script while shuffling his actors to give the right performance for all this to come through. Themes of ambiguity and perception are spectacularly highlighted by how he pushes his performers like Tabu and especially Shahid. 

It's no coincidence that Shahid's best performances have been under Bhardwaj's tutelage. The actors director always tends to get the right energy out of every unit of his film, making him a one of a kind in this industry. 

Ashim Ahluwalia for Miss Lovely 

Taking a very fluid and unconventional narrative, Ahluwalia turns this experimental film over its head thus earning it that genre tag in the first place. 

He builds and then brings to life and breaks down a world of his own that is as hauntingly real as it can get. He makes genius moves with this independent feature, presenting the kitsch lavish of the sets these people shot in while also hiding enough to give the illusion of a period, not to mention having the picture give that old feel.

It's the genre deconstruction that he does is stupendous. He keeps his frame focused on the details and wrings out performances of varied natures from his actors, constantly and consistently with great result changing the tone. 

He's command over the budget, setting, actors and overall feel of the film really tell you only one thing and that is; that Ahluwalia is a truly amazing director and one worth watching out for. 

Imtiaz Ali for Highway

He might still doll out his romantic movies with their touching and sometime flawed sensibility, but ever since Rockstar; Ali has just provided a little bit extra. 

With Highway, Imtiaz Ali really lets his reigns go thus crafting a feature that lets the visuals do the talking. His greatest achievement is pushing a young actor like Alia to her limits and churning out a masterful turn from Hooda not seen since his D days. 

Yet it's not all that he does. He works with Anil Mehta to really sensationally capture the higher lands of India and in them present a contrasting beauty to his heavy narrative. As a director he pulls back perfectly into his vision of this romance, mining the truths of Stockholm Syndrome. 

His idea of romance has always been fantastic and fascinatingly unreal but believable in how he frames it. Here he takes a brave step and makes you question this love, by separating the characters into individual entities and making a study of their pains and interactions.

His writing faults still persist, but the foundation allows him to really capture his best female character to date on screen and captivate you with a complex emotionality. It undeniably makes for his individually best work to date. 

Vikas Bahl for Queen

Despite it being his second film after the feel good Chillar Party, Bahl's Queen is essentially his breakthrough film. It's catapulted him right to the top where now big time actors and producers want to desperately work with him. 
The most genuine thing that Bahl ever said about his film was this. He never intended to make a film on female empowerment, all he wanted to do was make a film that allowed his protagonist to take a journey like he likes to do. 

On this basis he gave his backing to Queen as producer and director. It allowed him to not make the film overtly preachy on its topic and also be as natural as possible, reflecting this directors own thoughts about women empowerment but importantly about people empowerment. About one person taking a tranformative journey and coming out of it taking a stand. 

It's so beautiful, because he takes this concept and molds it with a screenplay that never threatens to condescend or become a cavalcade of cliches and stereotype for an easy way out. He makes it his mission to make you really enjoy this journey and root for Rani while never really forcing on you the complexities of his characters but making you feel them as part of a normal world. 

It shows the ease with which a director through his medium can speak volumes without having to shout it out on top of the roof or declare with the most overt tools at his disposal. 

Queen might be Kangana's, but it is out and out a Vikas Bahl film and a true triumph for the talented director. 

Rajat Kapoor for Ankhon Dekhi

Dedicated to his mentors Kumar Sahini and Mani Kaul, Kapoor's latest is a great musing on the importance of our experiences forming out decisions and how sometimes we tend to veer off on this with what others say. 

But it's also more than that. 

His film sets him- right back home in the nook and crannies, the chawls and chowks of Old Delhi. It makes for an emotional trip which turns into a touching family drama that Kapoor concocts. At the base is this quirky family and their equally quirky patriarch with his own vision. 

Rajat makes a film that feels standard but in it he find a life. His examination of the simple middle class life and the tight family structure is splendid to see unfold. He directs his pieces in a way making for an organic and authentic narrative that makes you laugh and cry as easily as the other. 

It's a big thank you I would like to give the underrated director for giving the opportunity to an understated actor like Sanjay Mishra with such a stirring role. It's a move that encompasses and completes his terrifically constructed feature. 

Abhishek Chaubey for Dedh Ishqiya

With Dedh Ishqiya, Abhishek Chaubey proves to be a true student of the game and throws himself right into another world from his first feature he'd created. He throws his characters right into a mix of royalty and suave poetry, churning from it undeniably awesome black comedy and thriller vibes. 

Above all else he really gets the women of the Hinterlands, presenting them as the kind of strong characters they are. Trading in the exceptional Vidya for the dynamic duo of Huma Qureshi and the ethereal Madhuri Dixit, he crafts the scripts ideologies into a powerful message on love and freedom. 

He has an iron grip on his material and knows when to really let the film run on the basis of his actors.  He has a great hold over the comedic moments, they are the highlights of his film made right by how long he keeps the viewer engaged to the scene between hitting the punch line for maximum impact. 

The precision of editing and cinematography are superb in his direction, allowing for a justifiably lengthy film and some real old world feel to the textures. Overall Chaubey's sophomore effort is a terrific win for the director. 

If you don't believe me then check out his next Udta Punjab, a stoner film that he is getting to make as the first of its experimental genre in Hindi cinema. 

And the Winner is...

Vishal Bhardwaj for Haider!

So that's it for the final award of the event leading to of course the two heavyweights. The first post will be for Comedy/Musical, since its winner (which you'll know soon enough) is slightly lesser compared to the Drama award winner. 

Up Next: A quirky family fight it off about one mans experiences, A girl takes a journey around Europe to bloom into a strong independent woman, An alien hunts for his ride home only to discover the hypocrisy of religion, Two smart but immature and broken people meet each other on the midst of one's wedding, Five dysfunctional people take a journey to find love, A film buff faces stiff problems when trapped by Pakistani militants and two thieves enter a world of poets, betrayal and romance; The HIndie Award for Best Picture (Comedy/Musical)

'Nuff Said

Aneesh Raikundalia

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