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Friday, 10 February 2017

HIndie Awards 2017: Best Director

Best Director

Motion Picture

Once again what this year excessively and exclusively proved is that new filmmakers around India are gathering a storm in providing exciting ideas and content.

[This bears well for someone like me looking towards the future]

Even directors on this top five list are barely breakthroughs themselves where as others are or have reinvented themselves within this decade after huge lull periods, crawling out the woodwork.

It's a showcase that despite of pitfalls, content is slowly conquering the Hindi film industry and that filmmakers are truly becoming the masters of their own ship.

Let us discuss our nominees for a moment;

Nagesh Kukunoor for Dhanak-After toiling with years of uneven films since his relatively stronger earlier success, Kukunoor is back in the game with Dhanak, his first nomination of hopefully many.

Abhishek Chaubey-Nominated in 2015 for his sublime work in Dedh Ishqiya, Chaubey is once again at the helm with the controversial Udta Punjab

Had there been a breakthrough director nominee ballot in 2015; Nitesh Tiwari would have been up there for his work in Bhoothnath Returns, so he's here now.

Hansal Mehta is a former nominee for the 1st Official HIndie Awards for Shahid, is his second time round lucky?

Finally Shakun Batra would have broken through in 2013 for his efforts with the genuine Ek Mai aur Ekk Tu.

As for the past winners, let's see what got them to the ball...

Vikramaditya Motwane for Lootera, 2014
Vishal Bhardwaj for Haider, 2015
 Meghna Gulzar for Talvar, 2016

The first was an adaptation of an O Henry short into a soothing romantic ballad mixed with a heady sense of history. The second win was for another cinematic gem based upon Shakespeare's works with a moving political commentary on the Kashmir situation. The last inspired by true event turns out to be a sharp and smart examination on the CBI and the judicial system as well as the advent of media trials packaged in an interesting story straddled by an intriguing protagonist.

So whose year is it this round, we already know whose it isn't...

Gauri Shinde for Dear Zindagi-She just barely misses the cut with another smartly directed film that is possibly relayed from experience allowing for a breezy yet intimate portrayal.

Anurag Kashyap for Raman Raghav 2.0-Kashyap could at this point direct a low budget grungy and disturbing film in his sleep, possibly making it easier to take him for granted despite what he makes is a terrifying picture with some interesting dynamics between the protagonists and a cocktail of subtext to boot.

And now onto the nominees...

Nagesh Kukunoor for Dhanak

What a comeback for Kukunoor.

Despite Dor and Iqbal being his finest films, some might forget that Kukunoor is a stellar director of children and childrens films, crafting the cult classic Rockford.

In Dhanak he formulates a fantasy like narrative of a journey built on hope when young Pari decides she will take her blind brother Chotu to Shah Rukh Khan [her favourite superstar] who can help restore his eyesight. The film isn't necessarily based on a child's baseless fantasy, rather she sees a poster of Khan's drive to provide eye operations for those who were blinded not by birth but otherwise.

It is these fine tuned details that ground the film and play up to the intelligence and wonders of these two children while also retaining their honest to goodness naivety. This comes to fore through their journey for example when Chotu and Pari meet a wandering hippie singing English songs and inadvertently ends up insulting the prideful Chotu when he cannot sing in English; Chotu instead belts out a smooth rendition of 'Duma Dum Mast Kalandar' to the travellers surprise, there are threats abound including child kidnappers and then there are even blind seers who understand more than just seeing.

It's a rich journey made all the sweet by the small things and cinematic flourishes, including the small things that are the lead younglings; stirred to fine and mature performances by an alert filmmaker.

Abhishek Chaubey for Udta Punjab

On paper Udta Punjab might seem a bit preachy in its agenda, sketchy with characters and most importantly convenient in its plot beats; but that's when a fine filmmaker like Chaubey proves his unrelenting mettle.

He makes this agenda and exciting and ironically intoxicating, dreary looks see into the rapidly deteriorating effects on not just the people but Punjab. With sketchy characters he fleshes out a harsh morality play that comes to terms with those deserving to suffer and eventually enhancing their arc towards an eventual ray of hope, he also flourishes by bringing together one of the strongest ensembles this decade and extracts some sublime performances. Finally the convenient plot beats, the easy moments where our protagonists meet and more importantly their reconciliations with their demons are cinematically stitched together with an aware form of editing that crafts an ethereal link between them especially the lead protagonists.

With Udta Punjab, the hype may be too much to live up to but what Chaubey does is craft another fine piece that utilizes some smart elements of comedy, builds a new angle of as well as enhances [upon a cinematic notion of] Punjab that you are instantly immersed in it.

The man is Vishal Bhardwaj's protégé and one can see why.

Nitesh Tiwari for Dangal

Notice how Dangal is nowhere near the Best Picture nominees and you'll see a films screenplay that squanders the narratives potential.

Then watch the film and realize as you literally hit the edge of your seat, every single time the fight sequences come into play. Why is that?

Two word; Nitesh Tiwari.

With Dangal, Tiwari proves his prowess on a whole other level. His masterpiece is of course the blisteringly crafted wrestling sequences which in an inspired moment are crafted whole unlike most sports films that would look to make montages of it.

Speaking of which, Tiwari well aware of the rustic elements that embody small town India directs the songs with a smart balance between the new age and classic mainstream especially aware of his little characters, thus giving us a childish desi rendition of the sports training montage with the delightful Haanikarak Bapu and its complementary Dhakad Girls.

As for the actual Dhakad Girls, whether their young raw performers or the elder sparkling debutantes, Tiwari plays well to their strengths having experience with young performers from his past films, forcing them to match up to the rigorous sequences and the staggeringly powerful Aamir Khan.

Returning back to the wrestling, consider the sequence between a seething and newly arrogant Geeta [Sheikh] and hurt but stubborn Mahavir [Khan], Tiwari packs this with everything the film is about and the dynamics and conflicts explode on screen in one of the finest scenes of the year.

Mind you in a film crafted with possibly the finest first half of the year because Nitesh Tiwari is the true champion of the Dangal.

Hansal Mehta for Aligarh

Sensitivity has been the key to Hansal Mehta, some of the finest filmmakers are those that are not only well aware of a social conscious but also are privy to the human experience enough so to create a searing intimate portrayal of life and people.

Mehta with his last three films, especially Aligarh has turned into a such filmmaker while the world around him crumbles. Aligarh's poetic beauty stems from Mehtra's intense understanding of Prof. Ramchandra Siras. The film might relay the pains of the reinstating the archaic laws against homosexuality, but Mehta's film isn't sternly focused on that larger picture though the subtext builds to it.

Rather Mehta's focus reigns into a budding friendship backed by an indescribable understanding of what makes Siras the kind of individual and mind you individual is a key word; that he is. It's the intriguing way he builds up things that makes Aligarh a gem; from meticulously crafting the visual palette of the film as a constricting small town measuring the every move of the protagonists to the easy non judgmental details that make Siras affable and the enhancing the notion of homosexuality, sexuality and love in general as something abstract and irrational and irrevocably beyond labels.

Thus at the end turning the poetic intimacy of Aligarh into a triumph of Hansal Mehta's humanistic sensitivity and experiences. Here is a man slowly becoming one of India's finest modern filmmakers.

Shakun Batra for Kapoor and Sons

Batra's greatness is presented in his tendency to merge his influences with his inspirations, a filmmaker with a westernized bent specifically giving off the feel of a peak Woody Allen; Shakun Batra mixes this with a very rooted and intriguing look see into middle/upper middle class Indian families.

This becomes the base of his very realistic and relatable portrayal of family strife within some volatile characters that could be part of any family. Held up by three secrets and five [+2 supporting] characters and their myriad of individual relationships and complete dynamics to create a picture that relies on Batra to move these pieces towards satisfactory conflict and an eventual satisfying conclusion.

Batra misses out on the latter due to scripting faults, however as an intuitive filmmaker he still manages to create sparks out of his material because not only is he well aware of the strengths of his cast but the also his cinematic capabilities to visualize as a leader of his team.

So the film takes a natural blend of cinema verite and adds in a hefty dose of stylized Dharma feel to make a film that not only sparkles but sparks as well, especially in the fine form with which he orchestrates the main conflicts.

This handling of the pieces in his game, make Shakun Batra an enviable chess master without ever making any of the movement feel inorganic.

It's poetry in motion, is what it is and like any family it is imperfect with a hint of some hiccups that never threaten to sink his ship.

And the Winner is...

Hansal Mehta for Aligarh!!!

Redemption for 2014!!! Hansal Mehta wins the big one giving Aligarh a huge boost towards the Best Picture contention. 

Up Next: A family reunited is a family full of secrets is a family re-crumbling,  A young woman goes to the depths of her past to find reconciliation with her life thanks to her quirky therapist, A Mother moves mountains metaphorically to able to better her aloof daughters life but their enemy Maths stands in the way, Two young children push forth on a fantastical journey so that the strong girls sharp but blind brother can get his eyesight back from her idol; the King Khan and Finally a relentless but slightly self absorbed yet mature musical aficionado finds a passion far greater with an as musically in tune excitable singer...these are the Comedy/Romantic/Musical Best Picture Nominees

'Nuff Said,

Aneesh Raikundalia

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