Bollywood's Five Best Directors Of 2012
An infallible radical, a sincere first-timer, men redeeming themselves by craft, and one who does it by scale.
The directors on this list have but one thing in common: they made us sit up and take notice.
Here are, as they would say at the Oscars, the five nominees:
Dibakar Banerjee, Shanghai
The most consistently progressive director in Hindi cinema today, Banerjee has followed up three very different triumphs -- Khosla Ka Ghosla, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, Love Sex Aur Dhokha -- with a fourth.
Shanghai is the kind of film that justifies even the vile word 'remake' as Dibakar adapts the Greek novel Z into a very Indian tale, a grim, grimy story about the surprisingly fine line between development and encroachment.
The filmmaker keeps things dark, thoughtful and thrilling, all while shepherding his perfectly picked actors toward performances we didn't think them capable of.
Image: Emraan Hashmi and Abhay Deol in Shanghai. Inset: Dibakar Bannerjee
Gauri Shinde, English Vinglish
English Vinglish is a simple story that shies away from the spectacular, creating a relatable (and wonderfully warm) protagonist who delights in the smallest of victories.
The film is never maudlin, never too mushy and always just the right amount of sincere.
It might look like a deceptively easy film to make, but making us care (and cheer) for a situation this basic takes a great deal of magic.
Image: Sridevi in English Vinglish. Inset: Gauri Shinde
Sujoy Ghosh, Kahaani
Calcutta is showcased gorgeously but without touristy eyes, peopled by a uniformly phenomenal cast of actors.
And the characters are pulp perfect: a pregnant protagonist frustrated by the city's inability to say her name right; an assassin unlike any other; a young, honourable cop who speaks to his mother every day.
It's a labour of love, this film, one that pays tribute to Ghosh's cinematic gods.
Image: Vidya Balan in Kahaani. Inset: Sujoy Ghosh
Anurag Basu, Barfi!
There has, thus, been much plagiarism, which is why it will be hard to appreciate or evaluate Barfi! as a cinematic accomplishment, or as a script.
But as far as the craft of filmmaking goes, Basu must be lauded for the way he created a miraculous little world for his characters and made us believe.
It is a film that wears melodrama lightly yet effectively, and is fabricated with heart.
Image: Ileana and Ranbir Kapoor in Barfi!. Inset: Anurag Basu
Anurag Kashyap, Gangs Of Wasseypur
But what can't be faulted is Kashyap's ambition to tackle a sprawl that huge, to starlessly make a two-part epic that is, without a doubt, unlike anything Indian cinema has seen before.
A sensational soundtrack, madcap characters, a script likely to make many queasy: these are just the highlights in an uneven cinematic landscape.
What stands out is the man who made it.
At a time in our cinema where the biggest budget films are those made on assembly lines, it's heartening to watch one director whose reach exceeds his grasp.
Image: Manoj Bajpayee and Tigmanshu Dhulia in Gangs Of Wasseypur. Inset: Anurag Kashyap