New Direction: From Shashank Khaitan to Omung Kumar, freshers who made a mark in 2014

  • Prashant Singh, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Dec 22, 2014 10:57 IST

This year, Bollywood saw an influx of fresh, young talent make a mark. And it wasn’t just actors who ruled the roost. Fresh directors — debutants or one- or two-films-old — also won over the box-office with their latest offerings.

Abhishek Varman hit bull’s eye with 2 States; Sabbir Khan launched Tiger Shroff and raked in the moolah with Heropanti; Vikas Bahl’s Queen ran to full houses for weeks; and these are just some examples of what could only be termed as a good year for young directors.

"People are always looking for good content — whether it’s a new idea or a time-tested classic told with a fresh approach," says Sabbir, whose second venture was completely different from his directorial debut, the big-budgeted Kambakkht Ishq (2009), which failed to do well at the box-office. "This time, I wanted to do something out of my comfort zone, and Heropanti excited me as it reflected my generation. Every aspect of the film came easily to me," he says.

Other directors also ventured out of their comfort zones. For instance, former art director Omung Kumar showcased Priyanka Chopra as the real-life boxing champ Mary Kom. "A film centred on sports, and that too on a female boxer, broke a lot of myths. When Mary Kom came out, people asked, ‘Why didn’t we think about it?'" says Omung. He feels, "Fresh minds get new ideas on the table and help move Bolly-wood in a new direction."

Thanks to these ‘fresh minds’ at work, Bollywood saw nearly a dozen successful films, including a `100 crore grosser (2 States). That’s probably why top producers such as Karan Johar, Ekta Kapoor and Aditya Chopra are backing a number of new minds.

The Grand Debut

Even as young directors seemingly ruled the box-office in 2014, another debutant’s film turned out to be the year’s biggest blockbuster. Sajid Nadiadwala, who donned the director’s cap for the first time with the Salman Khan-starrer Kick, delivered a winner as the film made Rs 230 crore at the box office (India figures as reported). "I feel happy that I made my debut, and a successful one at that, in a year when my seniors (young directors) also did exceedingly well. After all, they are my seniors as far as direction is concerned," says Nadiadwala.

Shashank Khaitan, who directed Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, is thankful for the support of B-town producers. "These success stories will encourage more producers to bank on young directors. This year, Karan backed Vinil Mathew (Hasee Toh Phasee), Abhishek Varman and me. But if we hadn’t delivered at the box office, he’d have been sceptical about backing young talent again," says Shashank.

Ekta Kapoor also produced Bhushan Patel’s Ragini MMS 2, while Chopra produced Ali Abbas Zafar’s big-budget, Gunday. Divya Khosla Kumar delivered a sleeper hit with Yaariyan that had no popular names in the credit roll.

So, what makes these fresh minds tick? "If I have nothing new — either a novel storyline or a clichéd script with a new vision — to offer, no one will take interest in me," says Shashank.

Sabbir, too, feels that their fresh perspectives give them an edge. "People could relate to my film’s story as it was told from a contemporary point of view and through characters that we can relate to today," he says.

However, trade experts feel that the rise in young talent is due to fewer people taking up direction. "First, we don’t have too many directors. Second, if directors like Rajkumar Hirani or Imtiaz Ali go on to become popular, they then only work with top stars. In that case, producers have to rope in new directors, and the ones who have proved their worth will be in demand," says trade analyst Amod Mehra.

Director Omung Kumar

Summing up, Omung puts things in context, saying "Ultimately, it’s showbiz. So, as a director — fresh or old — I have to deliver at the box office."

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