Mar 27, 2023By: Srishti Magan
India brought home two Oscars this year for Best Documentary (Short) and Best Original Song. Among the winners is director Kartiki Gonsalves, who won Best Documentary (Short) for her debut film, The Elephant Whisperers.
Gonsalves is part of a small but elite list of Indian directors who achieved international acclaim at their very first try. Here’s a look at some of these directors:
Shaunak Sen’s debut documentary All That Breathes focuses on two Muslim siblings who look after injured birds like kites, who hospitals turn away. Currently streaming on Disney Hostar, it bagged the Best Documentary at both Cannes and Sundance film festivals but lost the Oscar to Navalny.
Chaitanya Tamhane’s directorial debut Court was India’s official entry to the Oscars. The National Award-winning film offered a piercing look at India’s legal system. It won Best Film at the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema and Best Asian Feature at the Singapore International Film Festival.
Neeraj Ghaywan’s haunting look at grief, loss and India’s caste divide, Masaan, bagged two awards—FIPRESCI, International Jury of Film Critics prize and Promising Future prize—at the Cannes Film Festival.
After directing multiple short films, Ritesh Batra made his feature-length debut with The Lunchbox. A romantic drama, The Lunchbox was a box office success that also won the Grand Rail d'Or aka Critics Week Viewers Choice Award at the Cannes Film Festival. It was also nominated for a BAFTA.
Kanu Behl’s directorial debut Titli, a neo-noir crime drama, premiered at the Cannes film festival. It also appeared at several international film festivals, winning eight international awards, including Best Film at the Seattle South Asian Film Festival and Best Foreign First Film (Critics Award) at the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics, among others.
Kukunoor has several internationally acclaimed movies under his name, but he struck gold with his debut feature — Hyderabad Blues which won the Audience Award for best film at the Peachtree Village International Film Festival and the Rhode Island Film Festival.
Indian-American filmmaker Mira Nair was known for her documentaries before she debuted in feature films with Salaam Bombay! in 1988. The film was nominated for a BAFTA, Golden Globe and Oscars. The National Award winner also received the Caméra d'Or (Best Film) at the Cannes Film Festival.