India has always seen a strong patriarchy in its culture and society, where even our beloved B-town was no exception. Believe it or not, there was a time when Bollywood was a male-dominated industry where direction and technicalities were only for the men. However, long before the term ‘feminism’ was booming across the internet and netizens started trolling the pseudo-feminists, there have been many Bollywood female directors (whom we prefer calling filmmakers) who stood strong and made quite a statement through their inspirational work. This Women’s day, we took a chance to celebrate some of these powerful female directors who are leaving a mark on the society and making the cinema world a better place!
Sen is an Indian filmmaker, screenwriter and actress who is known for her work in Bengali cinema. Believe it or not, she is the winner of three National Film Awards and nine international film festival awards for her direction in films. While Aparna Sen has majorly worked with a Bengali Cinema, we all acknowledge her for her directorial 36 Chowrangi lane, 15th Park Avenue and Mr and Mrs Iyer.
Most known for her bold Elements Trilogy, Fire (1996), Earth (1998), and Water (2005), Deepa Mehta is an Indo-Canadian film director and screenwriter. She also made ‘Midnight’s Children‘, which was based novel of the same name by author, Salman Rushdie. She also made a few documentaries including At 99: A Portrait of Louise Tandy Murch (1975) and Traveling Light (1986) and English-language films set in Canada, including The Republic of Love (2003) and Heaven on Earth (2008). She also directed Om Puri starrer Sam & Me and Randeep Hooda starrer Beeba Boys (2015). Mehta received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts.
This Indian American filmmaker, owns a production company, Mirabai Films which specializes in films for international audiences on Indian society, whether in the economic, social or cultural spheres. Among her best-known films are Mississippi Masala, The Namesake, the Golden Lion-winning Monsoon Wedding and Salaam Bombay!, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. She has been awarded at several film festivals for her work including the Padma Bhushan by Govt. of India in 2012.
The only daughter of lyricist and poet Gulzar and actress Raakhee, Meghna Gulzar is an Indian director of Hindi films. Most-known for her 2008 Noida double murder case based directorial Talvar where she captured the essence of the story just right, Meghna has also directed some others including Filhaal (2002), Just Married (2007) and a short film “Pooranmasi” for Sanjay Gupta’s Dus Kahaniyaan. Meghna Gulzar’s next directorial venture is titled Raazi starring Alia Bhatt and Vicky Kaushal.
This brilliant actress who gave the powerful performances in films such as Mr and Mrs Iyer, page 3, Lipstick Under My Burkha, Omkara to name a few, made her directorial debut with ‘A death in the Gunj‘ in 2017. The film was critically acclaimed and won her the best director award at the New York Indian film festival and also in the MAMI film festival. Konkona is also a recipient of two National Film Awards and four Filmfare Awards.
This daughter of lyricist-screenwriter Javed Akhtar and screenwriter Honey Irani and the sister of actor-director-singer Farhan Akhtar is also herself a director and a screenwriter. Zoya who was seen portraying a small role in Mira Nair directed Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love, has herself directed movies such as Luck by Chance (2009), Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011) and Sheila Ki Jawani, a segment of Bombay Talkies (2013) and Dil Dhadakne Do (2015). She also has co-written Talaash (2012) alongside Reema Kagti. Akhtar has won a Filmfare award for her direction of the film Luck-by Chance.
Aspiring to become a film-maker since her college days, Gauri interned with documentary director Siddharth Kak and after that started working with advertising agencies like IBW, Bates Clarion and Lowe Lintas, where she met R. Balki. Her short film Oh Man! (2001) was selected for the Berlin Film Festival. But her highly acclaimed feature film English Vinglish (2012), marked her directorial debut which made her feature in the Financial Times 2012 list of ’25 Indians To Watch’ and also on Rediff’s list of ‘Bollywood’s 5 Best Directors of 2012.In 2016 she also directed Indian Hindi-language coming-of-age drama film ‘Dear Zindagi’ which was also written by her.
8.Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari
Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari is an Indian filmmaker and writer. After working in advertising for several years, she made her debut by directing the 2016 comedy drama Nil Battey Sannata. The film garnered critical acclaim and Tiwari went on to direct it’s Tamil remake entitled Amma Kanakku. She had previously served as the Executive Creative Director at Leo Burnett before she moved on to pursue a filmmaking career. Tiwari won the Filmfare Award for Best Director for the 2017 comedy Bareilly Ki Barfi.
This A-list actor & director has acted in more than 40 feature films in ten different languages. Das has been acclaimed for numerous performances, including in Fire (1996), Earth (1998), Bawandar (2000), Kannathil Muthamittal (2002), Azhagi (2002), Kamli (2006), and Before The Rains (2007). She marked her directorial debut with Firaaq (2008), which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, travelled to more than 50 festivals, and won more than 20 awards. Das has been honoured by the Government of France with the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) and she is the first Indian inducted into the International Hall of Fame of the International Women’s Forum. She will next be seen donning the hat of a director for Nawazuddin Siddiqui starrer Manto.
Reema Kagti has worked as an assistant director with many leading directors including Farhan Akhtar (Dil Chahta Hai, Lakshya), Ashutosh Gowariker (Lagaan), Honey Irani (Armaan), and Mira Nair (Vanity Fair). Reema marked her directorial debut with Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. in 2006. Her next neo-noir film, Talaash, was a suspense drama starring Aamir Khan, Rani Mukerji and Kareena Kapoor. She has been an associate with Excel Entertainment since its inception, as she has assisted both Farhan and Zoya Akhtar in all their films and commercials to date. In June 2016, she started filming Gold, a film about India’s first Olympic gold medal after its independence. The film stars Akshay Kumar, Farhan Akhtar and Kunal Kapoor who were trained in field hockey by former India captain Sandeep Singh.
Apart from this list, there are also other female film-makers such as Sai Paranjape and Vijaya Mehta and many more whom we salute this women’s day and celebrate their influential and dynamic contribution towards the Indian cinema.